Outdoor learning is expanding on Pine Crest School’s Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale campuses allowing students and faculty to enjoy the countless benefits and lasting impact of outdoor education and play.
Mrs. Janice Reich may not have taken a traditional path into teaching third grade on Pine Crest’s Boca Raton campus, but it is one that is unique and marked by true dedication and service. Born, raised, and educated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Reich attended Temple University where she majored in accounting as an undergraduate.
In 2019, Pine Crest faculty, staff, and administrators created and finalized the School’s strategic plan to be executed over the course of the following five years under the leadership of President Dr. Dana Markham ’18H.
By: Spencer Davimos ’22
Mr. Andrew Schwartz has been a member of the Pine Crest Upper School Science Department since 2007. Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mr. Schwartz had not considered a career in education until serving as a teacher’s aid as a graduate student. Now, after 20 years of teaching, Mr. Schwartz can’t imagine doing anything else!
I sat down with Mr. Schwartz to learn more about his teaching career and what he loves about being an educator at Pine Crest.
Spencer Davimos ’22 (SD): Did you always want to be an educator? Did you have a career doing something different before you started teaching?
Andrew Schwartz (AS): I never really thought about teaching until I spent time as a teacher’s aid in graduate school teaching a zoology lab. I was struck with how rewarding it was to help students learn the biological concepts I found so interesting. After three years of doing research for my master's degree, I realized I didn't have it in me for another four years of field and lab work to get my doctoral degree. When I moved to South Florida, I needed a job and took a position teaching seventh grade science. This was quite an adjustment and much different than teaching college students. I found this experience very challenging, and immediately I knew that if I was going to continue my teaching career, it needed to be with older, more independent students.
SD: What brought you to Pine Crest and how long have you been teaching here?
AS: After my first teaching job, I moved to another local school where I taught high school biology. I stayed there for four years honing my craft and gaining valuable experience in the classroom. During that time, I was working at Pine Crest Summer Camp waiting for an opportunity to join the Pine Crest faculty. That opportunity came in 2007 and I jumped at it. The rest is history.
SD: Have you always enjoyed the sciences? What drew you to teaching biology as opposed to the other sciences?
AS: It has always been biology for me. Going back as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated with the natural world. In my elementary school yearbook, I wrote that I wanted to be an underwater shark scientist. I never thought about teaching biology but I knew that biology had to be part of my life. I entered college as a pre-veterinary student but quickly realized that medicine wasn't for me. I enjoyed learning and doing research, but I just wasn't into medicine. I minored in chemistry and after graduating from college, I thought about working in a lab. I ultimately went to graduate school to earn a masters degree in biology.
SD: What do you love about science and biology in particular?
AS: Science, especially biology, is amazing! Learning about how the universe works (physics, chemistry, biology) fascinates me. The quest for knowledge is never-ending; answers to questions only beget more questions. There is so much still to discover about the natural world and how organisms function, and I love that I get to be part of this discovery.
SD: What do you enjoy most about teaching high school students?
AS: High school students are the perfect blend of child and adult. Pine Crest Upper School students, in particular, are well-read, well-traveled, and quite interesting. You can have an intelligent conversation with them about everything from sports and current affairs to genetic engineering and astronomy.
SD: What has been one of the highlights of teaching at Pine Crest?
AS: I can't pinpoint one specific highlight, but working at Pine Crest has given me the freedom to grow as an educator and scientist that I'm sure I wouldn't have had at another school. We have so much autonomy in the classroom, support from administration and parents, and almost unlimited access to resources. Coupling that with smart, dedicated colleagues makes coming to work such a rewarding process. So many people are miserable in their jobs, hate getting up in the morning, and are just going through the motions. Since I started teaching at Pine Crest, I've never felt that way, and I'm so thankful for that.
SD: What are your hobbies beyond teaching in the classroom?
AS: I like going to the gym, riding my bike, and running. Fitness and health are very important to me. I love fantasy football and all things Philadelphia. I enjoy cooking and reading “nerdy” science books.
SD: What would students be surprised to learn about you?
AS: I wrestled and did gymnastics as a kid (through high school) and can probably still do a couple tricks if my old body would let me.
SD: Do you sponsor any clubs at Pine Crest? What do you like about working with students in this capacity?
AS: I was asked this year to sponsor the Middle Eastern Heritage Club. Not sure how I fit in, but I am happy to help in any way I can. I was also the sophomore class sponsor for years. As I said previously, our students are great, and being able to interact with them in different capacities (club sponsor, coach, etc.) helps to build strong relationships that are important to them and to me.
SD: What is the most gratifying part about being a teacher? What has been your proudest moment?
AS: The most gratifying part about being a teacher is knowing that you are contributing something positive to society. Seeing the wonderful things our students accomplish in college and beyond and knowing that you've had a part in it, even if it was a very minor part, is extremely fulfilling.
Upper School Science Instructors Megan O'Brien, Andrew Schwartz, and Michelle Santarelli ’89
In the early afternoon of January 6, 2021, students in Mrs. Trish Everett’s Post-Advanced Placement (AP) Political Science Seminar cast C-SPAN to the smartboard and began watching the joint session in the U.S. House of Representatives chamber. As lawmakers made their way through a count of Electoral College votes in alphabetical order by state, students were enthusiastic about experiencing their classroom lessons coming to life.
It has long been said that adversity does not change who we are — it reveals who we are. This year, our lives have been disrupted in countless ways by economic instability, social unrest and the COVID-19 global pandemic.
As class begins each day at Pine Crest, you will see a Lower School classroom in their morning meeting connecting through song or engaged in activities like mindfulness stretching.
Summer is right around the corner, and it is the perfect time for teachers’ reflection, professional growth, and the chance to dive into a good book. Inspired by Pine Crest School’s 2019-24 Strategic Plan, “The Future is Here,” this year’s faculty summer reading supports themes that are reflected in the overarching, guiding question:
Pine Crest School received three Anatomage Tables recently.
Anatomage Tables are virtual dissecting tables that are generally used by medical schools such as the Mayo Clinic to allow medical students the opportunity to perform virtual autopsies. One Table is located in an Upper School Huizenga Family Science Building classroom. The additional Tables are located in the Middle School life science classrooms — one on the Boca Raton campus and one on the Fort Lauderdale campus.
Middle School at Pine Crest is home to new virtual reality (VR) equipment, which Pine Crest Computer Science and Technology faculty are using to teach students how to create their own virtual experiences and to influence others’ perspective.
“More content is being released and is increasingly available and accessible, and VR and augmented reality (AR) devices are becoming more effective,” said Mr. Sean Tibor, Pine Crest Computer Science and Technology Specialist. “By the time our Middle School students go to college, they will need to know how to use this equipment and feel comfortable using it.”
The terms “VR” and “AR” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.
“The difference is that AR takes information around you and fuses the world you are in with additional data or information — think Pokemon Go,” said Mr. Tibor. “VR is about immersion and perspective. It overlays virtual items or instances on top of the real world. The benefit of VR technology is that it can change our perspective from a few different axes: distance, time, scale, and the forthcoming, human perspective."
Delving into these axes, Mr. Tibor shared how using VR technology is not limited to one course or subject.
Pine Crest formed the School’s first-ever Lower and Middle School FIRSTⓇ LEGO LeagueⓇ (FLL) competitive teams four years ago, and since then, the Panthers have formed eight teams who have made their mark on the South Florida region.