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So far The Ancona School has created 179 blog entries.
18 05, 2018

Join us for the End of Year Celebration!

By |2018-12-17T11:31:59-06:00May 18th, 2018|Parent News|0 Comments

Monday, June 4, 2018 from 3:30-6 p.m.
at the Ancona School Outdoor Learning Space and Gym 

Please join us as we kick off a new tradition with our new End of Year Celebration!

We will mark the end of the school year with lots of cake; present the Harelik Award for Outstanding Volunteerism to Penny Cato and Colleen Sims; and celebrate John Zurbrigg, Christina Kuszewski Rouches, Anne Kenealy, and Kirsten Dolan as they begin their next adventures.

A scrap book for each departing teacher will be available in the gym during the event, as well as in the Main Office starting May 29 for those who cannot make the party. We hope that you will share pictures, memories, and well wishes of these beloved members of our community.

At 5:30 p.m. we will gather in the gym to present the Harelik Award and to toast our departing teachers.



3 11, 2016

The 2015-2016 Annual Report

By |2018-12-17T11:32:38-06:00November 3rd, 2016|Parent News|0 Comments

We are thrilled to share the 2015-2016 Annual Report with our community. From building the Outdoor Learning Space, to introducing Ari Frede as the new Head of School, 2015-2016 was a big year! Thank you to all the parents, students, faculty, staff and friends that make this school thrive, you make our school shine.

If you have any questions about the Annual Report, please contact Laurie Ortega-Murphy, our Marketing and Communications Manager.

Click here to read the report >>

20 10, 2016

Help Ancona Grow

By |2018-12-17T11:32:38-06:00October 20th, 2016|Parent News|0 Comments

Dear Friends,

Thank you to those of you who joined us for Ancona Day! We were thrilled to celebrate our wonderful community with over 200 Ancona families and friends.

Today, we ask you to support Ancona’s Annual Fund.

Your contributions make Ancona the remarkable place that it is. Your support allows our students to receive an outstanding progressive education in a school whose commitment to diversity and social justice matches the values you have for your family. Your gifts allow us to hire and retain dedicated, compassionate teachers who nurture and inspire our students in a warm, caring environment.

We are very grateful that our parents, grandparents, alumni, faculty, staff, former families, friends and neighbors support the Annual Fund every year. Over 300 donors make gifts to Ancona every year.

So, what does the Annual Fund do? Annual Fund gifts are directed to wherever the opportunity is greatest, allowing Ancona to pursue exciting options for learning, to provide financial aid for families who need it, and to give the school the ability to respond to unanticipated needs and challenges. The Annual Fund keeps class sizes low, allows our music, art, library and Spanish programs to thrive, preserves awesome traditions like camps, and protects our commitment to economic diversity.

Last year we broke a record for parent participation with 66% of parents supporting the Annual Fund. And for the first time, we beat the national average for schools our size.

Already this year, 75 of our 194 families have given to the Annual Fund. If 53 more families give, we will match last year’s strong performance. If 80 more families give, we would be able to boast 80% parent participation in the Annual Fund.  When we do that, you’ll hear shouts of joy from me and our teachers from blocks away (not to mention that would put us in the upper echelon of all independent schools and would be an extremely powerful recruitment tool)!

If you are able, we respectfully ask that you consider making a tax-deductible gift of $500 or more to the Annual Fund. If that is not possible for your family, please consider making a gift to the Annual Fund at a level that is comfortable to you. As you can see, participation is key! Click here to give now.

Thank you sincerely,

Ari Frede

Head of School

13 10, 2016

Ancona Launches New Curriculum Guide!

By |2016-11-18T10:38:28-06:00October 13th, 2016|Parent News|0 Comments

Our new curriculum guide gives current and prospective community members an opportunity to look at what we teach, and how we teach, at each of our different grade levels. The curriculum guide provides an aerial view of learning at Ancona in all of our disciplines—providing a clear picture of how teaching and learning is constructed at our school. This guide is intended to be a living document that will evolve with the ever-changing needs of our students. Our commitment to responsive education rooted in the whole child is one of our greatest strengths as a school. Our guide provides an elucidated view of how content and pedagogy intersect to ensure Ancona students are equipped to transform the world around them.

At Ancona, we believe children are innately curious and creative learners, and that the teacher’s role is to help transform the energy they bring to school into a force that can move the world. Because our goal is to empower children to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable world, we keep these values at the heart of everything we do while assuring that children develop the understandings, competencies, and strategies they need to thrive as life-long learners and agents of change.

We maintain that all disciplines of study contribute significantly to the intellectual, emotional and physical well-being of children: engaging in scientific inquiry, developing an aesthetic sensibility, mathematizing the world, being literate in every sense of the word, and leading a healthy lifestyle are all equally important. We also hold that these disciplines are best developed through integrated, contextualized and experiential learning experiences. Through these approaches to learning students become aware of the big ideas that run through the various subject areas and become able to approach real-world problems both critically and collaboratively.

Click here to explore our online Curriculum Guide >>

4 10, 2016

Ancona Day 2016

By |2018-12-17T11:32:39-06:00October 4th, 2016|Parent News|0 Comments

October 16,  2016 12 – 3 pm

Come one, come all to our third annual Ancona Day celebration. Students, faculty, administrators, supporters and friends of Ancona are invited to an afternoon of food and fellowship! Barbecue will be provided by Chucks Southern Comfort Cafe, with fun fall activities for all ages. The OLS, including the Farm, will be open.

Ancona Day is free of charge but to help us plan for food, please register for the event.

To volunteer for the event click here. 


29 09, 2016

Ancona Announces Arts Partnership with Court Theatre

By |2018-12-17T11:32:40-06:00September 29th, 2016|Parent News|0 Comments


The Ancona School is excited to announce a year-long arts partnership with Court Theater. The partnership includes programing for students, parents, families, and teachers.

The foundation of our Court partnership is a 7th and 8th Grade curricular unit on the Harlem Renaissance that focuses on African American artists working in Harlem during the 1920s and 1930s. This unit is centered around Court’s production of Pearl Clege’s play Blues for an Alabama Sky. Our 7th and 8th grade students will attend a design presentation and read-thru of the script by the cast, a technical rehearsal, and a student matinee performance. The show’s director and a scholar from University of Chicago will visit our 7th and 8th grade students at Ancona twice during the process to discuss the play. Our students will create an original piece of art or an interpretation of a piece from the period as a culminating project.

The 1st and 2nd Grade students will be studying nationwide Renaissance movements, with a special focus on Chicago, and using their studies as a theme for the African American Assembly on Friday, March 3, 2017.  Later that month, the 7th and 8th grade Performing Arts students will stage and host a Harlem Renaissance themed cabaret, “Blues for an Ancona Sky,” on Thursday, March 23, 2017. All are invited to attend!

In the Spring, students across Ancona will help to publish a booklet about the Harlem Renaissance that features art, poetry, and music from the time period along with student writing about the works. This booklet will be take-home piece for all families so they can explore the material at home.

In the coming weeks parents will receive an invitation to see Blues for an Alabama Sky at Court. This “Ancona Night Out” will feature a pre-show dinner and discussion with a member of the show’s artistic team. After the talk, everyone will head to Court to see Blues for an Alabama Sky as a community.

Special thanks for Chip Bamberger and Martha Van Haitsma for their vision and generosity that made this partnership possible.

15 09, 2016

Curriculum Connection: The Outdoor Learning Space

By |2018-12-17T11:32:40-06:00September 15th, 2016|Curriculum Connection, Experiential Learning, Families, Parent News|0 Comments

It takes a lot of people to build a garden. In fact, it will require the help of every man, woman, and child in the Ancona community for our new garden to bloom to life.

We called the first event in the garden’s life, held on Saturday, August 27, a “farm raising,” borrowing the iconic rural image of neighbors coming together to build a barn. It’s fitting we borrowed a metaphor, because we are literally borrowing everything else, too–including the time, talents, and tools of many generous people.

Over 30 parents and children came out in the rain and mud to lift, build, fence, and plant.

More than a few parents have since approached me and apologized for missing that event. “We’re so sad we couldn’t attend the farm raising,” they say.

“No worries,” I reassure them. “The farm raising isn’t over. The farm raising is now. The farm raising is always.”

There will never be a time when something isn’t being planned, built, or retrofitted for the garden. That’s the way it is with gardens and with agriculture in general. They are chronically improvised ventures requiring constant improvement.

Many community members have found other ways–other days–to share their time, talents, and tools. Parent Sarah Dunn, an architect by trade, has shepherded the garden from sketches toward reality. Kids in the summer eco camp built prototypes of raised beds. Haun Saussy, a new parent, donated a nifty, almost-new wheelbarrow. Radiah and Ben Smith-Donald donated stumps to serve as seats.

The next installment of the ongoing farm-raising is a harvest fete, set for Wednesday, October 19, 3:30-6:30 pm. All are welcome. We won’t have as many crops this year as in future ones. Still, we should celebrate the garden’s first harvest while continuing its construction.

As before, this event will be a collaborative effort. Faculty and families are loaning cider presses. The pre-primary students will pick apples for pressing. Ari is bringing a guitar (and expects you to bring instruments, too). Kathy Yates has offered daffodil bulbs. We need folks to put in next year’s garlic and spread mulch.

These kinds of pay-it-forward zeitgeist suggests how the garden will and should work, that is, as a joint venture of many hands. E pluribus unum hortum.

Students often ask me about the possibilities of raising live animals in the garden. When are the chickens coming? What about the pigs? They are eager, understandably so, for the garden to arrive, shiny and complete as a holiday package.

Yes, I explain, there will be animals, (though not pigs), but first there must be plants, more beds, tables and benches. Before they raise chickens, they must, like Thoreau, raise beans–and carrots, and tomatoes, and squash, and  . . . And before they raise beans, they have to help build a bean bed. The garden isn’t just a place; it’s a process.

So the building continues. Do you have benches or an old picnic table? A stack of old bricks or pavers? A trellis? Hand tools? Stumps? We can use them. We can use you. Whatever your skill or resource, it can find a place here in a former parking lot on South Kenwood Avenue.

Out of many, one garden.

Chris Weber

Outdoor Learning Specialist

1 09, 2016

Welcome Back Ancona!

By |2018-12-17T11:32:41-06:00September 1st, 2016|Curriculum Connection, Diversity and Social Justice, Experiential Learning, Genius Of Children, Love of Learning, Parent News|0 Comments

On August 27th I had the pleasure of participating in Ancona’s Farm Raising. From hauling lumber with a three year old, to shoveling soil into garden beds with grown-ups, I had the opportunity to speak with the entire spectrum of the Ancona community. While talking with a new parent at Ancona, I was struck by his enthusiasm and joy for our school. Even when the conversation led into other areas of our lives, he always brought the conversation back to Ancona and what an amazing connection his family felt with our community.

With so much stress in our lives, I am always happy to hear that Ancona brings joy into parent’s lives by providing an excellent education to our students. This education goes beyond the academic and brings the whole world to the classroom. An Ancona education intentionally fosters community, tackles issues of social justice head on, and brings student voice to the forefront of any discussion.  From day one, our teachers are educating our students to bridge the gaps that society has made. Where society separates, Ancona unites. As we start this school year,  I would like to take this opportunity to share how community, social justice and student voice are present at Ancona and why these hallmarks make us shine so brightly in Chicago.

This is a learning environment for children to learn who they are as individuals, who they are as a member of a group, and who we all are as a community. Children call their teachers and administrators by first names. They begin each day with a handshake as they enter the school and over the course of the year this tradition allows them to get to know all of our faculty. Advisors start each morning with a group conversation that establishes a sense of camaraderie that feeds into the learning for the rest of the day. This commitment to the joy and fellowship in learning is seen across the school. A long-time teacher once chided me for wearing a tie because the teachers here must always look ready to get on the floor and play with children on their level. While I’ve come to learn how to incorporate my tie into play, the sentiment from that conversation has stuck with me: educators at Ancona are fully present.

It is through this lens of community that our students understand social justice. Ancona educates children who will defend human rights in the face of a society that seems to revel in dismantling of them. Throughout my time here I have seen students march for equal access to healthy water, participate in reenactment scenes from the civil rights era, and research gun violence statistics. Last year, after researching water access for the Social Justice Data Fair, one of our eighth grade students became passionate about helping with the crisis in Flint, Michigan. With the help of family and friends, he created a campaign to help bring water to families in Flint. Classmates collaborated to design posters, family member drove the water out, and donations were secured from every quarter.  Parents at Ancona marvel at how their children’s learning is so often tied to illuminating greater problems in our society. Our student’s assign their imaginations to contemporary problems and their solutions fill us with admiration and hope.

Both community and social justice at Ancona are grounded in the elevation of student voice. When children choose their own work, they enact their best learning. The dignity of work is a Montessori principle: Children choose their work in a classroom according to what fulfills them. As they grow, they choose a balance of things that help them mature as learners. From engineering sound amplifiers, to building model bridges, to forming government policy recommendations, teachers provide complex sophisticated problems with multiple outcomes and students extend themselves to apply what they know to design solutions. Ancona students are innovators, collaborators, researchers, designers — they are problem solvers, they are “workers,” creating and fulfilling their own vision, then sharing that work and fulfillment with everyone around them.

What we want for our children is what we want for society – to feel supported by a community, to share in the work of equity and engage with life’s puzzles by leading solutions. Ancona is proud to be a space that fosters this hard work and acts as a “third place” — a place between home and work where your family learns and grows together. Thank you for becoming, being or remaining a member of the Ancona School! We are powered by the genius of children. We are powered by you. We can’t wait for this great year ahead!

Ari Frede 

Head of School

19 08, 2016

Auxiliary Program Changes 2016-2017

By |2018-12-17T11:32:41-06:00August 19th, 2016|Parent News|0 Comments

Welcome back to Ancona Auxiliary Programs!  The Auxiliary Program team just wrapped up a fantastic summer of camp and we’re looking forward to After School, Before School, and Ancona Extra!

Auxiliary Programs provide meaningful activities for 1st – 8th graders beyond the classroom. Blending rich community partnerships with dedicated Ancona staff and faculty, our Auxiliary Programs extend the mission of the school through student-centered activities and experiential learning.

After School program highlights for the 2016-2017 school  year include building robots with Robot City, learning jazz, modern, ballet, and West African dance with Hyde Park School of Dance, and chess instruction from the Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation. 

Changes in Auxiliary Programs: 

Chess class will be held at Ancona on Friday afternoons from 3:30-4:30pm. Parents will register their child directly through Renaissance Knights Chess using a link on Ancona’s website. A Renaissance Knights instructor will be at Ancona to teach a high quality program on Fridays from 3:30-4:30pm each week. For students who enjoy chess but who aren’t seeking a formal program like this, our After School instructors are available to play and guide students in an informal setting using Ancona’s chess boards and pieces. Informal chess pick up games are included in the After School fee. Students who seek a rigorous, high quality chess program should register with Renaissance Knights. Students who are not registered for After School but who attend Renaissance Knights chess class will not be charged for After School unless they’re not picked up when class ends at 4:30pm. The drop in rate for After School is $35/day. If students want to stay past 4:30pm, parents should register their child for After School by purchasing tickets online.

Makers class will be led by staff from Robot City Workshop. Makers class will be offered on Wednesday afternoons from 3:30-4:30pm and this class is included in the cost for After School. Students must sign up for Makers class at the beginning of each session and students should plan to attend each class for that session since each week will be building on the next.

  •  RCW Fall Session dates 14 weeks: Wednesday, 09/7/16 to 12/21/16 (no school – 11/23, 12/14)
  •  RCW Winter Session dates 12 weeks:  Wednesday, 01/11/17 to 03/29/17
  •  RCW Spring Session dates 9 weeks:  Wednesday, 04/05/17 to 06/07/17 (no school – 04/12)

Music Classes (Piano and Guitar) Functioning similarly to chess, parents will register their child and pay for music lessons on the Ancona website.

Children who are not registered for After School but who attend music lessons will not be charged for After School unless they are not picked up following a lesson. If students want to stay after their music lesson ends, they will be charged a $35 drop in fee for After School.

After School Drop In Form Students who drop in to the After School program will be charged $35/day and their parents will be presented with a form to sign at pick up acknowledging the drop in date and fee. A copy will go home with parents and a copy will be retained at school for our records. Parents may pay at pick up using a check or credit card. Parents will be encouraged to purchase After School drop in tickets online.

Sign Out Sheet Each day when an adult picks a child up from After School, that adult will sign the child out on a form that will stay at school for our records. Similar to the guest sign in/sign out sheets in the front office, this paper form will ask for the date, the time of pick up, the child’s name, and the adult’s name. This form will help the Auxiliary staff to  track a child’s attendance in After School while also capturing the name of the adult picking up.

Ancona Extra will only be offered on Parent Teacher Conference days (9/30, 11/18, 11/28, 3/24, and 4/7). We are not offering Ancona Extra on any other school days off. Ancona Extra will include improv, science, and theater workshops held at the school. More information will be available soon. 

Before School is a calm, multi-age atmosphere in the morning overseen by pre-primary faculty where students prepare their own breakfast in the auxiliary program kitchen. To participate in Before School, 1st-8th graders must arrive between 7:15 a.m. and 7:45 a.m.

Before School Schedule

7:15 a.m. – 7:45 a.m.Breakfast Preparations – everyone helps!

7:45 a.m. – 8:05 a.m. Family Style Breakfast

8:05 a.m. – 8:20 a.m. Clean up and go to classrooms

We hope you’ll join us in Auxiliary Programs this year! To sign up for After School, Before School, or to purchase drop-in tickets, please visit our page on the Ancona website. 

Amy McFadden

Director of Auxiliary Programs

5 08, 2016

New Employees for the 2016-2017 School Year

By |2018-12-17T11:32:43-06:00August 5th, 2016|Parent News|0 Comments

Nancy Nassr is our new Assistant Head of School. Nancy has been working in schools for well on two decades, having earned degrees from UIC and Columbia University. Most recently, she served as Associate Director/Assistant Principal at Chicago Quest charter school where she led technology integration and mentored teachers. Nancy is a progressive educator whose teaching philosophy is firmly rooted in issues of social justice and transformational education. For Nancy, teaching and learning are deeply personal—education is about constant self-reflection and growth; to learn is to be open, and to lead is to also follow. In her previous role, Nancy worked diligently to create unique pathways for student learning by using games and game-like learning principles to engage both students and teachers alike in design and inquiry-based thinking. Perhaps her most impactful work with teachers has been designing and leading professional development with a focus on creating contextualized learning spaces that generate powerful learning experiences for students. Nancy won us over with her friendly, empathetic approach, and her attention to building strong relationships. This summer Nancy is completing her Masters in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University.

This position replaces the Director of Teaching and Learning. We reimagined the role as Ancona shifts focus from building curriculum to building family relationships and supporting teachers. Nancy will be an excellent ear for parents who want to share their thoughts about classroom experiences and the school’s approach to education.

Heather Black-Alexander is a new Head Teacher at Ancona this fall, leading a 3rd-4th classroom where she will work with longtime Ancona Assistant Teacher Scott Roberts. Heather comes from Chicago Public Schools’ A. N. Pritzker School as a 4th grade teacher specializing in math. Originally from Hyde Park, she studied in Virginia and Philadelphia. After receiving a Broadcast Journalism degree, she pursued her Master’s at Drexel University in the Science of Elementary Instruction. She went on to teach 11th and 12th Grade Psychology at an English-speaking school in Puerto Rico before moving back to Chicago, where, over the last eight years, she has taught primary and middle school grades. Heather is deeply collaborative; she recently worked with a librarian and 3rd grade gifted teacher to develop rich projects for her students, such as studying Aztec history for the school’s Festival of the Arts. She is thrilled to return to Hyde Park and to become a member of the Ancona family

Liz Garza is the new Assistant Teacher in Jenny Hempel’s 1st-2nd Grade class this fall. Liz has been an important member of Chicago’s high-flying Namaste charter school as a Dual Language Social-Emotional Learning Teaching Assistant with a focus in Art Therapy and Cultural Awareness. She has specific experience working with kids who need personalized attention in order to build stronger and more trusting relationships in the classroom. Liz has witnessed a rise in the academic progress of these students because of the trust they shared. She is excited by opportunities to apply her art therapy background, as well as her knowledge of peace circles, restorative justice, and conflict resolution in a progressive environment.

Chris Weber is Ancona’s first Outdoor Learning Educator. Chris will put our new garden to good use both as a learning space for children and a way to tie the community together. He will be implementing the curriculum that our faculty committee worked so hard on this year. Chris is an experienced horticultural educator who has held positions at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Alcott Elementary and the Cook County Forest Preserves. A former journalist, he has written about plants and agriculture for a wide variety of publications. His current favorite crops are potatoes and garlic. He lives near Ancona in Hyde Park.

Quierra Stuckey will be our new Executive Assistant to the Head of the School. After five years of working in Chicago Public Schools, Quierra is excited to join a school that takes a different approach to learning and fosters student’s individual talents. She graduated from DePaul University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice Administration.

During her free time, Quierra enjoys spending time with her family, listening to music, swimming, and watching her beloved Chicago Bulls. She believes that laughter is the best medicine. Quierra looks forward to cultivating strong working relationships with all members of the Ancona School community.

Rachel Bomher is joining the Ancona community as our Learning Specialist. She received her undergraduate degree from Marquette University, double majoring in Elementary Education and History. After graduating in 2013, Rachel attended DePaul University where she attained her master’s degree in Special Education.  She has worked in several different elementary classrooms in and around the Chicago area and is passionate about serving as an advocate for students with special needs.  Rachel is looking forward to being a part of the Ancona family.