First Grade Meets Real-Life Changemakers: Part I

On January 20, First Grade teachers Jared Hubbard and Catherine Yoon kicked off a two-part series featuring change-making Lower School parents!
Infectious diseases doctor, researcher, and educator Dr. Debika Bhattacharya (Ayan P.’s mom); Department of Water and Power Commissioner, Nicole Neeman-Brady (Theo B.'s mom); and Financial Cybersecurity Expert Cora Quon (Ethan Q.’s mom) all shared with our students how their childhood passions blossomed over time and lead them to the exciting careers they have now. Each panelist was asked to answer the following questions:

  1. What is your name and what do you do?
  2. What were your interests/passions as a kid?
  3. How have you been able to use your passion/ talents to do something meaningful/make a difference in the world?
  4. What is one challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
  5. What is one fun fact about your job?

During Dr. Bhattacharya’s presentation, she shared with students that from an early age she developed a passion for reading, investigating, Justice League superheroes, and acting. As an adult, all of those passions have largely influenced her motivation to not only research and understand infectious diseases but also better understand how they affect communities differently. She also shared that her love for acting has resulted in her love to speak and educate others about her findings.

During Ms. Neeman-Brady’s presentation, she shared that she has always had a passion for math, and encouraged students to embrace math because it essential to much of what we do in everyday life. Ms. Neeman-Brady walked students through the work she does with the Department of Water and Power, and even shared some amazing safety tips on what to do when you encounter power lines in your community!

Finally, during Ms. Quon’s presentation, she educated our students on what a bank is and how cybersecurity is essential to keeping banks (and their customers) safe. She presented her work in such a clever and age-appropriate way by creating an exercise that correlated sensitive personal information to special jewels hidden in a castle, the kids had loads of fun with this one!

Following their thoughtful and engaging presentations, students had the opportunity to ask the panelists questions, and as you can imagine, there were quite a few endearing and hilarious moments captured. Read below for some highlighted excerpts.

How long have you been in your jobs?
Dr. Bhattacharya: 20 years
Ms. Neeman-Brady: 20 years
Ms. Quon: 11 years in cybersecurity, 20 years total as a professional.

Do you have any other jobs aside from what you shared with us today?
Ms. Neeman-Brady: Yes, I do have other jobs. I am on the Board for the L.A. Public Library where I help make sure we get books in the library...but another job I have is being a mommy to Theo and his brother and sister and that is by far my favorite job!
Dr. Bhattacharya: Yes, I have two other favorite jobs. The first is to be mommy, like Ms. Neeman-Brady also said, the best part of my day is when I get to snuggle with them! And another job I have is that I get to sit on an advisory panel where we get to decide the best treatments and the best ways to treat some infections...and the work that I do is to help people get the treatments that they need.

What was your favorite food and dessert when you were a kid?
Dr. Bhattacharya: My favorite food is a dish from India called “posto,” which is a curry made out of seeds and potatoes, and my favorite dessert is anything with chocolate!

(for Ms. Quon) Has anyone been able to get the information you’re trying to keep a secret?
Ms. Quon: No, thankfully we’ve been able to prevent that from happening!

(for Ms. Quon) Does anyone else in your family know the codes that you know?
Ms. Quon: No, I never ever share that information with anyone!

Ha, we all got a kick out of that last question!
A Horse With No Name No More
from the 2018-2019 Meridian 

After the school rebranded a few years ago, Athletic Director Angela Brown felt that something was missing. While new uniforms were donned for the first day of school, new signs were hung around campus, and a new website launched to accompany refreshed marketing materials, the font-forward design left something to be desired when it came to truly raising team spirit to the power of Mirman. 

In a school where more than half of the student body participates in some form of competitive athletics, and on a campus where a significant expansion created pristine courts and fields upon which one can cheer on several teams on any given day, Brown saw opportunity and sensed desire to elevate the program. After working with Jenn Salcido, Director of Marketing and Communications, and Noah Kaufman, Director of Advancement, the school’s branding was expanded to include a strong, confident (though K-8-appropriate) steed. New universal uniforms, sweatsuits, and swag followed suit. 

“It’s a truly exciting time for athletics at Mirman,” said Brown. “It’s a sense of pride that you can see and feel. It’s almost like we’ve arrived. You could have taken a snapshot of the students in their old uniforms, and then with their new ones with the names on the back. It’s a rallying cry. You can see the pride on their faces.”  

Finally, everyone could don uniforms featuring their own names writ large. Everyone except, of course, the horse. Everyone knew we had a mascot — you’d see the nameless Mustang trotted out for the occasional assembly or championship bout — but nobody really knew the mascot. 

What if the community could help change that? 

Last fall, Brown and her colleagues in the Physical Education department introduced a contest at an all-school assembly. The objective: not only to name the Mustang, but to tell the mascot’s story. Over the course of a 6-day cycle, ballots were collected from every grade level in both divisions. With Salcido’s help, Brown and Assistant to the Athletic Director Alyssa Woods tallied the results. 

The judges carefully considered the entries, assessing them on an unwritten rubric including points for overall catchiness, gender-neutrality, universal appeal, and other considerations. As the dust settled, one clear winner emerged: Rider. In retrospect, it seemed rather obvious. The school had only recently unveiled its Core Values (Responsibility, Integrity, Discovery, Empathy, and Resilience). And as equine monikers go, Rider makes a certain degree of sense. The name was revealed with much aplomb at an all-school assembly, with Rider trotting out on stage to show off a newly-minted personalized jersey. 

The winning entry belonged to Room 4L students Victoria A. and Amelie S., who soon revealed that they had a little help from their friends, specifically former Room 4L co-teacher and current Librarian Allison Sparks. 

“We had just had a community circle in class talking about the Core Values,” said Sparks. “This was something new to me as a new member of the Mirman community. When I asked the class out loud if they’d considered Rider for the Mustang name, a few of the students wanted to suggest it.” 

“I laughed it off and dismissed the idea,” Sparks admitted. “I thought that since it had come from an adult, it wouldn’t count. But when I saw how excited they were when they submitted it, I knew the name rang true. It really came out of an ‘a ha’ moment we had together as a class. 

“It relates so much to our school and Core Values and helps us make sure we’re always doing the right thing,” said Victoria A. of the new name. 

“It’s amazing to be part of our school history,” added Amelie S. 

The two girls, who themselves represent Mirman on the basketball court and soccer fields as part of the Room 4 teams, admitted that, like many great ideas, their first iteration didn’t ring quite as true. “I think we wanted to do mustard,” said Victoria. 

“Or mayonnaise,” said Amelie. 

As it turns out, most things do get better with teamwork. 

Like any ballot box, this one was not without its curiosities once opened up. Here were a few of the voting trends: 
  • More than a few students wanted to name the Mustang after themselves or their classmates 
  • One entry suggested “Vegan” 
  • “Uncle Grandpa” popped up more than a few times, much to the confusion of one judge. It was revealed upon further investigation that this is in fact an affectionate nickname for Coach Allen Foster. 
  • Regarding “The Mysterious Moose:” decidedly not a horse, but good alliteration. 

A Biography of Rider 
By Victoria A. and Amelie S., Room 4L 
(with editorial assistance from an anonymous magazine editor) 
Once upon a time, a beautiful horse was born. He* shook himself and stood up, curious about the world around him. He began to walk through the forest, stopping every so often to grab some fruit from a tree. After a while, he came upon a group of two little girls and their teacher walking through the woods.

“Hi horse! What’s your name?” the little girl asked. 

“I don’t have a name, actually. What’s yours?” the horse answered. 

“Woah, I can actually understand you,” said the little girl. “That’s so cool!” 

The girls and their teacher spoke with the horse a while longer, introducing themselves and getting to know each other. They wondered aloud why the horse didn’t have a name. 

“I just haven’t thought of one yet,” he said. “I’ve only just been born!” 

The trio brainstormed about names for a while, but then got sidetracked with what they all wanted to be when they grew up. “Do you have any ideas,” asked the teacher?” 

“I want to be a head of school!” one of the girls said. “And my school will need to have Core Values, but I don’t know what those should be.” 

“Maybe I can help you,” volunteered the horse. 

“You need to have responsibility,” began the teacher. “And integrity.” 

“And empathy for other horses!” said the horse. 

“We’ll need to discover things along the way!” said the other girl. 

“And you’ll need some resilience,” the horse finished. 

Suddenly, the trio and the horse looked at one another. “How would you feel if we called you Rider in honor of those core values?” asked the teacher. 

By now, you know how this story ends — happily ever after, surrounded by the cheering crowds. 

*while Rider is a male horse in this story, we know from his biographers that he really can be any gender! Everyone can and should be able to identify with Rider. 
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