Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to last week’s Gala! It was so wonderful to spend an evening with people who believe in the power of our small but mighty school, in the superpowers our teachers possess, and in the superheroes we send out into the world. All of you ensured that our Financial Aid program is fully funded next year!
There are many individuals to thank for making sure our event was super fun and a financial success! I look forward to thanking all of you in person! Sending a special shout out to all those who contributed desserts for the dash, and wine for the grab, parties and adventures for community fun, a place to stay for our Heads or Tails winner, and incredible tickets to see Hamilton for a last minute surprise live item!
Thank you to our Gala Class Reps – Diankha Linear P’21, Christy Gardiner P’20, and Martha Jacobs P’19. Thank you to the FFA for rallying desserts, wine, and RSVPs! And a special thank you to sixth grade parent Marta Falkowska for helping us streamline and coordinate all things Gala.
To our Board Advancement Chair Jen Winter, for securing a photo booth for the event and for getting on stage to update all of you on our new digs! And thank you to our sponsors, Windermere Mount Baker, Brighton Jones, Lenati, Dreaming Tree Wine, and Roslyn Brewery!
Ms. Mutschler was our faculty speaker…and her speech was epic!
I can think of three times in my life when someone besides my mother has told me that I’m making a mistake. When this happens, I’ve learned to listen. My call to action as an educator happened 13 years ago when Patti called to tell me that I was making a mistake. I was 24 years old, I wore pigtails every day, and had showed up to my interview in a polka dot dress. As Patti told you, when she called to offer me the job, I turned it down. Although I had the necessary training and passion, I worried that I wasn’t the right person or that I couldn’t live up to the expectations. I felt like an imposter.
I was young, inexperienced, and completely intimidated. I told Patti I was going to work an administrative job in an office instead. Patti asked me to reconsider. She told me that I could choose that path, and I would be fine, but I would not be challenged. My skills as a teacher would go to waste. Hearing that someone saw something in me, and inviting me to take a leap of faith was just what I needed. I reconsidered.
So began my training as a teacher at L-Dub. As it turns out, college only prepares you for so much. The real training happens in the classroom with real students, real challenges, and real problem-solving. In my first few years of teaching I faced many obstacles, and I made many mistakes. Yet, with clear mentorship and investment in my powers, my confidence grew.
After ten years of teaching Art and then Humanities, my interest in teaching began to shift. Like Patti had it done with me, I wanted to invest in other teachers and support the work they were doing to meet the challenges they face. I got my Masters, and today I support our teachers as the Dean of Teaching and Learning.
I admit that standing up here, talking about my self-doubt and vulnerability, is not a comfortable experience. But I share my story with you because this is the same lack of confidence, this feeling of being an imposter, that we know girls face today.
I’m going to take a leap back into this idea of a superhero.
So, why does the world need superheroes?
Superheroes are everyday people possessing superhuman powers. They are dedicated to protecting the public and battling supervillains.
Superheroes exist as a literary archetype because universal themes of good and evil speak to all of us. The origins of telling stories about ordinary humans with superhuman qualities can be traced all the way back to 2000 BCE in ancient Mesopotamia with The Epic of Gilgamesh. You might not know that comics were popularized in the United States in the 1940s by Jewish artists who were writing about the horrors of the Holocaust and Nazi genocide.
Early comics told stories of Wonder Woman, Batman, the X-men, and Captain America fighting the ultimate evil: racism and supremacy. A superhero always fights against evil, and the sense of “good” and “bad” is always clear.
I’d like to tell you how the teachers – and especially those at L-Dub – are modern day superheroes. Follow me through this analogy: teachers fight the “evils” of society today. But, our teachers aren’t fighting Lex Luthor’s immeasurable ego and criminal mastermind or Dr. Doom’s thirst for world domination. Our teachers are working to empower students to obliterate the obstacles they – and girls and women in general – face in society today as they take their place at the table and fight to be cast in leading roles.
Just last year, Forbes magazine polled women who are top business and career coaches. They identified 15 challenges women leaders face today. While aspiring to be CEO isn’t the career path of every woman, we know that equity in leadership lends itself to better problem solving, collaboration, and negotiation. Yet, movement in the upward trend of women securing top leadership roles is slow. Forbes found that women in leadership today face a range of challenges:
Take a look at this list with me. What stands out to you? What stands out to me is that whether in the C-Suites of Fortune 500 companies or hallways lined with red-lockers in a Seattle middle school, our students face these same challenges. The 24 year old version of me faced these same challenges. #10: tackling imposter syndrome? I know that one too well.
So what are L-Dub teachers doing to prepare students for these barriers, or better yet, to eliminate them for this generation? Every day, our teachers help students recognize the strength of their voices. Every day they use their powers to foster the L-Dub sisterhood where students celebrate each other’s successes rather than tear each other down. Teachers create an environment for students to stand in their success when they finally solve that algebraic equation, defend their claim in Socratic seminar, or take a bow on stage. They teach our students that “fail smart, often, and hard” will make you strong. Our teachers instill in our students the superpower of resilience. Of curiosity. Of kindness. Of discovery. Our teachers are sending their students out into the world to see to it that everyone – not just those with the loudest voices or the most power – is treated equally.
We know our students deserve a place at the table. We know their voices matter; but most importantly, we teach them that this means nothing unless they believe this is true for themselves. Confident, kind, happy, and strong in mind, body, and voice, we invest in our students’ powers. We call them to action. L-Dub teachers in this room tonight remind us that resilient, compassionate, brave, confident girls and women are dangerous...to oppressive structures. They should be feared. At L-Dub, our teachers are causing some good trouble.
Had I spent three years at L-Dub, I know my 24 year old self would have said “I ACCEPT!” when Patti offered me the job.
Vivian Sohn ‘18 was our student speaker, and she spoke to the superheroes she encountered at L-Dub, and the superhero she became…
Hello Everyone. I’m Vivian Sohn, L-Dub Class of 2018, and currently one of the founding freshman of The Downtown School. L-Dub has been an incredible part of my family’s life since 2011 when my sister, Emmy, started 6th grade here. My dad coached the volleyball team and my mom was on the board for several years. My entire family loves L-Dub. But I want to talk to you about what it has meant to me.
I have always wanted to be a superhero.
However I became truly obsessed at the age of nine when I saw The Avengers for the first time. I was fascinated by the different powers that could make all their problems disappear.
I wanted to deflect bullets with bracelets and rescue kids from burning buildings. I wanted to always know the right thing to do. I wanted to be invincible.
I began to dream in comic book strips, spending all my time fighting alongside my favorite heroes, Captain America, Loki, Black Widow. What would Percy Jackson do became what would Peggy Carter do. When I could choose between our scary, overwhelming world and one where billionaires have iron suits and raccoons could talk, I always chose the latter.
Then I came to L-Dub, and boy did all that change.
Suddenly my heroes were in the next classroom instead of a world away.
On a sixth grade backpacking trip, I sprained my ankle halfway between camp and the bathroom. In the safety of daylight we had naively decided that the best place for the restroom would be through an obstacle course of uneven ground and decomposing logs. So, at four in the morning, I sat there crying, convinced my ankle was broken. My campmate Amelia woke Ms Jenny up and together they came to rescue me. Step by step they led me back, half carrying, half dragging. We got to camp and Ms Jenny wrapped up my ankle, making me laugh through the pain, and I felt safe. A superhero had saved me.
My heroes stayed up late answering emails and grading work. My heroes drove busses full of screaming girls. My heroes told us to project and to protest, to refuse to be timid. My heroes told me that they were proud of me and told the rest of the world the same. My heroes were my teachers, my mentors, my L-Dub community.
In eighth grade, I spent months preparing to break my board. As the date of my belt test inched closer and closer, I worried more and more, so I sought out the advice of one of my superheroes. The one who started an all girls school in a church basement, teaching every class, including martial arts. She told me that every one person has the strength to break a board. Choosing to believe in that strength, in yourself, even when it seems impossible, that’s what allows you to succeed. I broke the board on my first try.
After I graduated, I found myself in a new world – one that sometimes feels scary and overwhelming. But I know what to do.
I attend the Downtown School, the first “micro school” in this state; a small no-frills offshoot of Lakeside, where it is up to us – the inaugural students – to make it what we want it to be. Here, I channel my L-Dub heroes and take action: Now I’m the one staying up late writing emails, starting clubs, managing the chaos of putting on a school play, helping people when they need a hand, and speaking out about the injustices I see. It’s a lot like L-Dub. I’m still learning through mistakes, developing critical thinking, and adapting to changing circumstances. But I have the powers to handle it.
I want to thank my L-Dub teachers for being the mentors everyone needs. Thank you for the pep talks and applause. Thank you for the advice on every subject imaginable. Thank you for the hard truths and soft hugs. Thank you for a new definition of superhero. because, now I know I am a superhero, too.
And it’s not just me. Every girl who has walked through the halls of signature red lockers is a superhero. Because of L-Dub, we know we have strength within us. We ripple through this world, ready to change people’s minds, teach them to protest, and we refuse to be timid. Because of the people in this room tonight, we can make a difference, even when the situation seems impossible.
So teachers in the room, please stand! Thank you for being our superheroes!
And finally, the video…our L-Dub Superheroes!