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Farewell to Four Magistri

At the end of June, four teachers who have served Pingry for 25 years or more—members of the Magistri—will retire. We thank (pictured from left) Patti Euwer P '97, Rich Freiwald P '03, Norm LaValette P '04, and Matty Yorkshire for their years of dedication to the School and its students.

Patti Euwer P '97, Lower School Teacher who has taught Grade 3 for 33 years, retires after 34 years at Pingry (she taught Grade 2 her first year).

Among her initiatives outside the classroom, during her first year at Pingry, in partnership with then-Grade 2 Teacher Virginia Nazario P '90, '94, Mrs. Euwer helped inaugurate the Mitten Tree—a mainstay of Pingry's holiday traditions that involves Lower School students from Kindergarten through Grade 5 donating new mittens, hats, gloves, and scarves to children in need. As they are collected, the items are hung on trees displayed in the Corvino Commons and tacked on a painted mural tree. "This was a tradition at the school I used to work at," Mrs. Euwer said in a story on Pingry's website. "When I arrived at Short Hills in 1986, I thought, 'Wouldn't it be fun if I could get the kids involved in it here?'"

Also outside the classroom, Mrs. Euwer had a hand in creating the Lower School garden. "I'd like to think of myself as [Lower School Science Teacher] Heather Smith's sidekick in getting the garden rolling," she says. "Heather wanted the garden to be more than just a place to grow things—to make it 'kid friendly' as well as an 'outdoor classroom.' We did many things collaboratively in getting things ready . . . And the garden has certainly grown and evolved over time."

Mrs. Euwer also introduced the interdisciplinary State Project to third-grade social studies students as a way for them to learn about a state while developing their research and writing skills (the project now includes more of the written word, such as letters to governors and tourism departments). "It is pretty incredible what these fabulous third graders are able to produce," she says.

A recipient of the Herbert F. Hahn Junior Faculty Award (1997), Woodruff J. English Award (2002), and The Albert W. Booth Master Chair (2016), Mrs. Euwer is grateful for the past three-plus decades. "It has been both an honor and a privilege to teach and work beside the students who walk into my classroom each year. I believe we learned and grew together . . . My students became my family, I always told them that I have very high expectations for them, and they always rose to the occasion."

Rich Freiwald P '03 (or "Frei" as many of his students affectionately call him), Upper School Visual Arts Teacher, retires after a 32-year Pingry career. While best-known for teaching Clayworking and Sculpture, Mr. Freiwald led other arts classes during his time at Pingry, including Art Fundamentals, Advanced Topics in Art, Graphics (printmaking and graphic design), Metalworking, and Photography, and he oversaw portfolio development for students working on 3D artwork. Outside the classroom (or studio, as it were), he helped construct sets for the Drama Department, spent 11 years as Blue Book photographer, and advised two student clubs, the Make a Wish Foundation as well as Potters for Peace (pottery sold to benefit the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and, in more recent years, Cancer Support Community).

As many in the community know, Mr. Freiwald loves researching and experimenting with the chemistry of glazes. What many may not know is that he has devoted much of that energy to researching and developing luster glazes, and in retirement he looks forward to writing a book that focuses on European luster glazes around 1900.

Students, faculty, and staff were accustomed to seeing Mr. Freiwald in his iconic blue ceramics apron, which he wore inside and outside of the 3D Studio that he designed. He describes that studio—a gift to Pingry, in Mr. Freiwald's name, from the family of former sculpture student Jamie Johnson '98—as "one of the greatest, most humbling honors bestowed on me. Getting this space, and understanding that the School was supporting the arts, was tremendous." Mr. Freiwald not only designed the room, but also selected its location on the bottom level of the Hostetter Arts Center. He cites two other gifts that he says "transformed the program": a gas kiln from the Flowerman family and the building to house it from the Westerhold family. The kiln introduced reduction firing, resulting in a wider variety of colors than oxidation firing. "These were cases of former students [Seth Flowerman '04, Zac Flowerman '07, Dylan Westerhold '10, and Tommy Westerhold '16] and their families understanding a need and connecting with each other to build the program."

Over the past three decades, many of Mr. Freiwald's students have been accepted to and won awards in "Fresh Perspectives" at the Morris Museum, an annual, juried exhibit of artwork by New Jersey high school students. For his part, Mr. Freiwald won a National Endowment for the Arts/Council for Basic Education Grant to introduce interdisciplinary teaching in art and chemistry; received the Herbert F. Hahn Junior Faculty Award (1999), The E. Murray Todd Faculty Chair (2001), and The Albert W. Booth Master Chair (2012); and he was the dedicatee of the 2003 Blue Book. "It has been an honor to share my life with, and be part of, the Pingry family."

Norm LaValette P '04, Upper School German Teacher, retires after a 41-year Pingry career that has also encompassed the instruction of teaching skills. He is best known for his time in the classroom, including 22 years as Head of the Language Department (1995-2017), when teachers began to lead language trips more frequently. For the past three years, he continued to teach and served as Instructional Guide, offering advice or assistance on pedagogy to many teachers.

Since his early Pingry days, when he had only 40 students across five classes and was tasked with expanding the German program, Mr. LaValette has remained grateful to two groups: his colleagues inside and outside the Language Department, for their guidance, and his first students. "I was really ambitious," he recalls. "I'm sure many of the students taking German would say that I accompanied them on every step of their academic journey, from Middle School to senior year. I wanted to empower them. I was a very demanding teacher—probably too demanding—but they allowed me to push them, and I think they understood my intent."

Instructional skills have been a passion of his since the 1980s; in the summer of 1986, Mr. LaValette led the first of what would become annual four-day workshops for teachers new to Pingry. This endeavor can be traced to David Wilson '59, Headmaster from 1980-1987, who enabled Mr. LaValette and other teachers to attend the Academy for the Advancement of Teaching and Management in Raritan. When Mr. Wilson announced his departure from Pingry, Mr. LaValette was concerned about being able to continue the training, so Mr. Wilson asked him to begin a workshop at Pingry. The new Headmaster, John Hanly (who was involved with NJAIS), attended the entire workshop prior to the start of his tenure, wanted it to be ongoing, and was receptive to Mr. LaValette's idea of inviting new teachers from other independent schools. With the addition of then-English Teacher John Platt as co-leader, the event became what continues today as the NJAIS Instructional Skills Workshop.

"John and I would reveal instructional skills that might enhance their toolbox, but the teacher—as a professional decision maker—would purposefully elect to pull a skill out of the box to enhance a lesson," Mr. LaValette says.

In athletics, since 1980, he served as Head Throwing Coach for the Boys' Varsity Track and Field Team (that team started with one thrower, Jim Peters '80, and expanded to nine) and, since 1997, for the Girls' Varsity Track and Field Team. From 1985-1987, he was also Head Coach of the Boys' Varsity Basketball Team.

Mr. LaValette was the inaugural recipient of The Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr. '44 Chair for History and Literature (1989) and also received The Albert W. Booth Master Chair (2010).

Matty Yorkshire, Grades 4 and 5 Spanish Teacher, joins the Magistri and retires upon the completion of her 25th year—she spent more years teaching her native tongue at Pingry than at any other educational institution during her 46-year career, which spanned elementary, high school, and community college. Over the course of her Pingry tenure, Mrs. Yorkshire taught Grades 1-5 (since 2015, Grades 4-5) and oversaw Foreign Language Week for roughly a decade, excited to see the students' active participation in learning about other cultures.

"I love to teach young minds because they are fascinatingly open to speaking a new language while being so curious about the associated cultural differences," Mrs. Yorkshire says. "Many students were intrigued with learning the language firsthand from someone who speaks [it as their native tongue]. I do not consider myself to be a public speaker. However, my students made it easy for me to be proud of the language."

Recipient of The Albert W. Booth Master Chair (2008), Mrs. Yorkshire treasures her meaningful relationships among faculty and students, and one of her fondest rewards has been to witness her students' continued successes in Spanish on the Basking Ridge Campus.

Contact: Greg Waxberg '96, Communications Writer, Editor of The Pingry Review