Congratulations to Poly’s Class of 2020 Cum Laude Inductees

Congratulations to the 21 Poly Upper School students who are being inducted into the Cum Laude Society.

In 1906, Poly became the fourth school to join this prestigious national scholastic honor society, which numbers over 250 member schools. Strong academic performance, as measured by grades and a student’s academic standing, is the overriding criterion for selection. Students must also exemplify the ideals of the Cum Laude Society.

Their teachers have shared comments about this year’s inductees, who are great examples of the diverse, multi-talented members of the Class of 2020. Please join us in congratulating:

Channing Austin ’20 

“Grace runs through Channing,” said World Languages teacher Maite Iracheta.  “It takes a bright and generous young mind to also be brave in a world in dire need of humanists. For two years in a row I’ve had the honor to work with Channing in what seems to be more a lab of thoughts and future plans than a Spanish classroom. Language is a tool, not an end in itself, and he knows how to put it to service. With utter humility and kind heart, his statements in clear and concise Spanish have been consistent: we need to help others. Intelligence means nothing, hard-work means nothing, talent is a waste land, unless they are directed towards the common good of our society and our world.”

David Bogner ’20 

“David has never been afraid to ask for help,” said Computer Science teacher Ben Farrar, “and he was a mainstay in office hours throughout AP Computer Science A last year. However, unlike many, David didn’t really want someone to guide him to the answers. He knew that he had the capability to get there by himself, so long as he could explain his thought process to someone. By the time May rolled around, I would not even need to interject if he made a mistake; it would be noted and fixed simply by bouncing it off a willing listener. Being able to self-reflect in this manner is a crucial skill when dealing with large, complex systems with many interconnected parts, and David has developed that ability at a pivotal time in his academic career. Watching David’s growth last year was a point of pride for me and the entire department. He has truly come into his own as a student and as a programmer, and I am thrilled to see what he will accomplish in the future.”

Jackson Brace ’20

“In the second year of the AP Physics sequence, students are challenged to focus their attention and reason on the physical nature of the microscopic and the invisible,” said Joe Fallica, Upper School science teacher. “Jack approached the challenge with sophistication, finding the strands that connect Newtonian principles to the chaotic behavior of fluids and gases. Jack applied abstract thinking to work out the physical arrangement of electric and magnetic fields, applying methods from advanced calculus to determine the result of their interaction. In each of these areas of study, Jack spoke with precision, always; whether explaining a phenomena with confidence, or digging deeper by asking a question full of humility, Jack had an experienced tone and a sharp sense of concision.”

Jared Brandman ’20 

“I want to start by commending Jared’s work ethic, sense of responsibility, and commitment to learning,” said Susan Beiles, Upper School history teacher.  “He never lost a beat despite the enormity of the physical and emotional strain of extracurricular commitments, such as preparation for Upper School musical production. That maturity and ability to assign priorities enabled him to find success.  He told me on a self-assessment that the first weeks of Advanced Placement United States history stretched him intellectually. To his credit, Jared quickly adjusted to the fast pace, dense and voluminous reading, and new expectations. He said he began the course “searching for a good grade” but completed the year with “genuine excitement about history.” Not surprisingly, he achieved a ‘4’ on the AP exam.”

Rebeka Cabrera ’20 

“The two highest compliments I can pay to students are a) that I have learned as much or more from them as they from me and b) that they challenge me in such a way that I have to stop and think about what they are saying,” said English Department Chair Peter Nowakoski. “Both happen often enough to make teaching the joy it is, but seldom does one student do both as regularly as Beka this year. So often in our class discussions I would realize that the conversation had shifted from the Socratic dialogues I prefer in advanced English classes to moments when her voice would clearly and meticulously lay out a well-defined but nuanced reading of a particular poem or passage that seemed to stop time and ask us all, students and teacher alike, to reconsider what we had been thinking. In my case, I have taught some of these works many times, read criticism on them, and developed my own well-articulated take on them, so much so that I take them for granted a little. Rebeka woke them up for me and reminded me to look at Faulkner, Morrison, or Achebe with fresh eyes and renewed interest. Lest I sound too much as though Rebeka’s scholarship forces us all toward intense scholarly inquiry alone, it’s also important to note that she tempers it with genuine humor. Beka appreciates the power of humor to convey ideas. She understands that wry irony lends an edge to social commentary just as much as gentle humor makes the exchange of opposing ideas more palatable. I am certain that her keen intelligence and wit will serve her well in college and beyond.”

Bailey Chapin ’20 

“It has been a joy teaching Bailey this year,” said History Department Chair Maggie Moslander. “Thoughtful, diligent, and deeply committed to the study of US government and politics, Bailey models the kind of classroom citizenship that we hope to see from all of our students. Bailey’s ability to bring her classmates into a conversation is remarkable; she has a way of asking questions and amplifying her classmates’ points that made all of our class discussions this year more fruitful. Bailey is a quiet force, able to make a well-substantiated argument or press a point while still conveying her respect for her peers’ points of view and her genuine desire to learn from them. She was a model citizen of our US government and politics class, and I look forward to seeing her continue to develop her political voice in college!” 

Ivanna Druzhinsky ’20 

“Ivanna is a deeply thoughtful student, one whose careful observations of US politics elevated our class discussions throughout the year,” said History Department Chair Maggie Moslander. “Her written work demonstrates a keen mind able to identify patterns across texts, and she writes in a clear, straightforward way that belies the complexity of her arguments. In small group work, Ivanna is a calming and moderating presence, always pushing her classmates to consider a point more fully or to be more careful in their argumentation. And she does all of this with good humor and a love of the process of learning that characterizes the work of a true student. It has been a joy to teach her!”

Katherine Futterman ’20 

“As I sat down to write something about Katie,” said English Department Chair Peter Nowakoski, “I couldn’t decide what I wanted to focus on. On the one hand, she is a brilliant writer—as we expect from an Editor-in-Chief of The Polygonand uniquely skilled at crafting beautiful sentences to express beautiful thoughts. On the other, she speaks clearly and directly and gets right to the heart of the matter in class discussions. The two are by no means exclusive of one another, but I certainly didn’t want to emphasize one at the expense of the other. Katie is skilled at the craft of scholarship to the same extent as she is clear in her thinking. Beyond those two, and the way in which she resolves them, is in her leadership. As a seminar participant, as an editor, and I am sure in other classrooms and other activities, Katie takes the lead. Too often, we confuse passivity for scholarship when it is in fact active. Katie does not confuse the fact that a discussion takes place seated around a table with the misunderstanding that it lacks energy. Quite the opposite, by leading conversations, by expressing her important ideas eloquently, and by sharing her energy with others, she calls her interlocutors to follow her lead in the pursuit of knowledge.”

Chris Hadley ’20 

“Chris has been a delight to teach in AP Art History,” said Visual Arts Department Chair Laura Coppola ’95. “From the physical to the virtual world, Chris’s insights into art, culture, politics, and history have profoundly deepened our class’s understanding of art history. A truly intellectually curious person, Chris always sought to contextualize his learning by researching, probing and questioning well beyond the scope of our course. Chris is an artist and an historian and has made my engagement with the subject I am passionate about even more exciting.”

Spencer James ’20

“Spencer, you are a leader in many senses of the word,” Said Carmel Larose, Upper School English teacher.  “Your writing is excellent whether it be for the argumentative essay or the personal narrative. But it is your ability to always seek out the balanced perspective when others settle for simplistic solutions that makes you an outstanding student. Your honesty and clarity of thought make your work exceptional. Congratulations on being inducted into the cum laude society.”

Brittany Jones ’20 

“Pre-Calculus class could never officially begin until Brittany entered the room,” said Math Department Chair Maria DiCarlo P ’23. “Each day upon her entrance, Brittany would offer a facetious comment about the previous night’s homework, and that comment would serve as a springboard for a vibrant class discussion of mathematical concepts. Brittany revelled in a stimulating round of mathematical discourse with her classmates, and of course took great pleasure when I ruled in her favor. From polynomial functions to logarithms to an in-depth study of trigonometry, Brittany mastered all of the topics we explored. Brittany’s enjoyment of engaging in mathematics made teaching her and her class an absolute pleasure. I know she will continue to be a seeker of knowledge and truth in her college years and beyond.”

Leo Jordan ’20

“Leo, your work in our Black Power and Black Arts course was superb,” said Upper School history teacher Alex Carter. “Your ability to critically assess historical moments, situate those moments within a complicated context, and present unique perspectives truly display the brilliant student that you are. Bravo on your Cum Laude induction!”  

Alexis Peetz Alio ’20 

“Whether it is in the Spanish or AP Psychology classroom, on stage, or as the leader of Poly’s UNIDAD, Alexis exemplifies intellect,” said Upper School teacher Ron Sarcos. “Every interaction with Alexis is a meaningful and thought-provoking one. Truly committed and unafraid to understanding our human condition. As a Venezuelan compatriot of his, I am proud to share kinship and to be represented by an admirable scholar and kind human being like Alexis Peetz Alio.”

Celia Penny ’20 

“Celia, you have been an impressive student since we began working together in the 9th grade,” said English teacher Carmelo Larose, “diligent and often willing to challenge those around you. But what stands out to me the most is that somehow your great ambition never dulls the empathy you feel for others. You possess a unique combination of enthusiasm and integrity that have made you a shining star in the classroom. Congratulations on being inducted into the Cum Laude society.”

Nicholas Perez ’20

“It speaks most eloquently of Nick that I run into him as often in the English or History hallways as I do in the Maker Space or at a piano, because he is as passionate a seeker of knowledge as I may have ever met, and his passion drives him wherever he finds something to learn,” said English Department Chair Peter Nowakoski. “There is very little—if anything—that escapes his interest. In its worst form, such wide-ranging curiosity can render someone a dilettante, but Nick is no dilettante. Instead, he pursues his passions with his full attention as he finishes a project as he does at the beginning, and his profound insight and thoughtful ability to ask important questions sustain the depth of his thinking. It is a rare sign of maturity in a young person to understand that the real satisfactions of scholarship result from that kind of sustained interest. And yet, he combines those deep satisfactions with youthful energy and curiosity that leads him to new interests. The two are a formidable combination. But that is not all. Nick complements his desire to learn with what must be a desire to write—what else could explain that while he is a prize-winning English student, he also codes and has taken up sonatas, as I understand it. Language might be the first writing, but Nick is seeking out as many avenues into expression, into writing, as he can find, and even though I can’t speak as well for the code or the music as I can for his prose, I can tell you that he is a great writer: clear, expressive, and as capable of stunning direct-ness as of complex nuance.”  

Jessica Rose ’20

“Jessie has impressed me since the first days of the term with her level of preparation and dedication to Mandarin class,” said World languages teacher Kai Kang. “Her admirable determination in mastering Mandarin always conquers any challenges that come her way. Her willingness to use sophisticated and rich grammar and vocabulary in projects, and to bring Chinese language alive in and out of the classroom, is phenomenal! I am genuinely proud to see how much Jessie has developed as a Mandarin speaker. Her pure dedication and firm determination of mastering the Chinese language make her a role model to her peers. I feel very lucky to have Jessie in my class and wish her the best in all her future endeavors and academic career!”

Ilene Tisnovsky ’20

Ilene is, without a doubt, a born-neuroscientist,” said Upper School teacher Ron Sarcos. “In AP Psychology, one could always rely on Ilene’s vast knowledge and disciplined preparation in biology and physiology to cross-reference a difficult or complex concept. As if that were not enough, Ilene combines an ironclad commitment to better understand the human mind and behavior with superb emotional intelligence and overall humanity way beyond her years.”

Haleigh Twomey ’20 

“Haleigh is among the most astute and sophisticated historical thinkers and writers I’ve ever taught,” said History Department Chair Maggie Moslander. “She is always the student who can calmly walk her classmates through difficult concepts, or who poses a question that forces the class to more closely examine a text. She models excellence in the study of history in every way, and I’ve never seen her have an off day. She is thoughtful, generous with her peers and teachers, and elevates any conversation of which she is a part. I feel so grateful to have been her teacher!” 

Emily Weinstein ’20 

“Emily started off her Poly computer science career by requesting to move ahead to more advanced courses and committing to the work required to do so, and is ending it as one of the strongest programmers to ever go through our program,” said Computer Science Department Chair Charles Polizano P’18. “Emily is one of those students who pushes you as a teacher to constantly learn and grow and bring your best into the classroom each meeting. Emily’s work consistently demonstrates a beautiful combination of her amazing creativity and her proficient programming ability, with every application telling a story from its documentation through its execution. Emily excelled in each computer science course, consistently developing work that exceeded expectations, and continuously pushed beyond any limits she thought existed.”

Kayla White ’20

“Kayla White is one of the strongest students I have had in the Introduction to American Sign Language class, said World Languages teacher Angela Gittens P’23. “She signs with the accuracy and speed of an advanced signer, and I hope she continues building this much-needed skill set in college. As the captain of the Step Team, Kayla finds a natural balance to lead with both humility and discipline and sets a fine example for the students who need to perform her choreographies. I am proud to say that I taught Kayla and I will truly miss her pleasant smile at Poly!”

Julia Zrihen ’20 

“I do not know if a few words can do Julia Zrihen justice,” said World Languages teacher Victoria Abdulahad. “When I think of  Julia, I think of wit, a sensitivity to details, diligence, and an outstanding intellect. The French expression vouoir, c’est pouvoirwhere there’s a will, there’s a way—comes to mind. In the case of Julia, an unshakable will is complemented by authentic passion and substantial talent. In every regard, she has refined her linguistic skills. She is fully dedicated—head and heart—to mastering the French language and appreciating the many cultures it connects. Even as she ends her high school career in the strangest of classrooms, a computer screen, Julia continues to pursue the beauty and power of words and language.”