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Interviews & Speakers

Quarantine Interests and Hobbies


May 31, 2021  / Elise Gresham

When the stay-at-home orders began back in March 2020, I was ready to discover new genres of music, take a deep dive into iconic artists and bands,

and find connections in new music. People who’ve known me for a long time  know that I’ve always loved music. It’s my favorite form of expression. However, I realized during quarantine that I had only really listened to musical theatre and pop, and guilt surrounding my invariant palate drove me to try new genres. Since the beginning of quarantine, I’ve added singer-songwriter, indie, rap, jazz, classical, folk, grunge, rock, and even some country to my repertoire. It's especially amusing to think about how at the beginning of quarantine I was making fun of my parents’ taste and now I’m listening to their top artists and bands. It seriously made me wonder though, how many people out there discovered something new over quarantine? So, I asked some of my friends and teachers if they had started a new activity or hobby over quarantine, and their responses were surprising.


Rally Costen ‘24  was the first person I interviewed, since he’s been one of my closest friends since 7th grade. Now, Rally and I have never had the

friendship where we have a never ending list of interests and topics to talk about. Rally’s favorite subject is math, whereas I definitely prefer English. Our taste in movies, TV shows, and music couldn’t be more different. In fact, it’s probably for the best that we’re not in the same room together when talking about our favorite and least favorite movies, TV shows, and music. That's why I initially was surprised and delighted to find that he had stepped out of his comfort zone to enjoy new music too. However, I was confused and disappointed to discover what his “expansion of music” meant.

“I wanted to expand upon my music taste and have been listening to ‘The Lorax’ soundtrack,” Rally said. “I know it’s an odd choice, but I have listened

to it multiple times and have memorized almost all the songs and am proud of it.” As he was telling me this, I was so curious to know what his appeal was to such a specific soundtrack. Why had “The Lorax” made his time in quarantine enjoyable?

“Well, at the beginning of quarantine I watched ‘The Lorax’ movie, and then I listened to the soundtrack,” Rally said. “I just thought there were so

many good tunes. I downloaded it and listened to it on repeat for like three hours every day. The music is fun and it made me want to get up and dance each time I heard it.” Although I would never listen to “The Lorax” soundtrack in my free time, I understand the stimulation, enthusiasm, and thrill that comes with listening to a new album for the first time. Finding good music is like the equivalent of making a new friend.


I talked to another friend who seemed to be benefitting from the thrill of a new hobby. Zoë Macgill ‘22 added new houseplants to her initially small

collection over quarantine.


“I have taken in lots more house plants since quarantine started,”  Zoe said.  “I had one at the beginning of quarantine and now I have eight. I just lov

taking care of them, and it brings me so much serotonin.”

Zoe also mentions that social media had a huge influence on her decision to take care of plants in the first place. She wanted to create a similar model

to the rooms she’d see on platforms such as Instagram.


“I saw some pictures on Instagram of other people who have lots of plants in their houses, and it looked so gorgeous,”  Zoe said. “I wanted to

replicate that. I started moving plants in my house into my room, so I could be the one responsible for them. I also began asking for plants as gifts, and my grandma gave me more. It kind of just spiraled into this big obsession.”


In addition to Zoe Macgill, I found a teacher who has also found joy in decorating and caring for nature. I talked to Mr. Serr, upper school math

teacher, about his newfound joy in rock gardening.


“Well, I had the circle of rocks that I'd gotten from Morefield Mines around 15 years ago around one tree,” Mr. Serr said. “What I ended up doing is

sprucing it up. I put lava rocks in between the rocks and then put some mulch here and there. So that was kind of a project around the house. That's one thing I probably wouldn't have done if it wasn't for COVID, because I had such time on my hands.”

I next talked to Mrs. Freed, Upper School Curriculum Dean, to see how  quarantine treated  her and her family.


“During quarantine, I started cooking with my daughters,”  Freed said. “It was so fun to be able to teach them, see their joy in successfully completing

a recipe on their own, and hand over the reins...errrr...spatula to the girls so that I could have a break! The Freeds will definitely continue to cook together!”

The next person I interviewed, Mrs. Householder, an Upper School science teacher, definitely had a reaction worth mentioning, although she didn’t

exactly try a new hobby over quarantine.

“I wish I had a new hobby, but I wasted my time watching Schitt's Creek,” Householder laughed. “That got me through. Yeah. I should have picked up

a hobby, but I didn't, I mean I exercised a lot. That's good. Though that’s something I would have done anyway. I don't know if I did something that I wouldn't have done. Just watched Schitt’s Creek and exercised I guess.”              


 Lastly, I  talked to Mr. Gallo,  another Upper School science teacher. Mr. Gallo had a completely different outlook on my question, and found deeper

meaning behind what time spent in quarantine meant for him and his family. 

“Over quarantine, I started spending a lot more time with my family,” Gallo said. “I think it's sort of made me realize, I know this sounds weird, but I like

them, you know, like that. I want to do a better job of spending more time with them consistently, even once this is all over, I think I still want to spend an appreciable amount of my free time with my family. Just whatever we're doing, puzzles or video games or watching TV. I just like the extra time.”

It was pleasing to find that so many people had some sort of outlet during times of hardship, loss, and desolation. Whether it was music, taking care of

plants, decorating, watching a favorite TV show, exercising, or spending time with family, people found ways to carry on with their lives and make the best out of a tiresome situation. It wouldn’t even matter if nobody changed their hobbies, but what does matter is a human's ability to persevere in spite of their given circumstances.

Ms. Greenlee Interview. 


May 31, 2021 / Gates Fox, Kate Harrison, Hayden Ashworth, Adhya Yaratha, Hailey Wharram

Q: What do you teach and how long have you taught at Steward?

A: I teach Honors Biology and Non-Honors Biology for 10th graders and Environmental Science and AP Environmental Science. I have been teaching these classes for 25 years and I started in 1998.


Q: What job would you have if you weren’t a teacher?

A: I would probably want to be some kind of researcher, maybe entomology. Really anything that involves observing nature and taking data would be interesting to me.


Q: What are your favorite foods?

A: Apples; they are the perfect fruit: sweet, crunchy, and they can be baked. 


Q: What was the hardest class you took in school?

A: In high school it was calculus, for college, it was organic chemistry, and for grad school, Biochem was difficult. That’s why I am a bio teacher; chemistry and math weren’t my favorite.


Q: What is your favorite weekend activity?

A: I really enjoy kayaking, going to a park with a river, and taking walks in the woods. I really enjoy the outdoors.


Q: What are your favorite teaching memories?

A: I like to think back on when the entire class would laugh at something that happened. I especially liked it a few years ago when my environmental science class made a video on recycling which was very funny. 


Q: Why did you start teaching?

A: Everything just lined up for me. I taught a little in grad school, I love to research, and with all the changes in the education field that happened it was something that really interested me.


Q: If you could go to one place in the world (assuming COVID was not an issue) where would you go?

A: New Zealand. I think  the landscapes and ecosystems are beautiful. The food is also very good, and the people seem very friendly. 


Q: What is the best advice you have been given?

A: I think it would have to be to not take everything so seriously and to persevere through hard times.


Q: What can you tell us about the environmental club?

A: I started the club when students came to me wanting to make a difference. My hope is that the kids learn how what they do affects natural systems.

Q: Which moments/accomplishments are you proudest of from your time at Steward?

A:One accomplishment I am really proud of is starting the Steward bluebird trail, a program where we have created homes for nesting bluebirds (among other bird species) all around the Steward campus. 

Additionally, I am really proud of being the first ever sponsor of the Steward Diversity Club, especially when I had the opportunity to help students coordinate their very own Day of Silence back in 2011. A movement originally started by a student at UVA in 1996, the now nationally recognized Day of Silence was created to honor the silenced victims of anti-LGBTQ+ bullying and violence. Although the prospect of observing a Day of Silence at Steward was initially met with push-back by some members of the community at the time, the observance of such a monumental day ultimately helped propel the community forward towards becoming a more inclusive and diverse environment. I am proud that I was able to help students find their voice.

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A tale of 2 fathers.


February 12, 2021 / Gates Fox, Adhya Yaratha, and Hayden Ashworth



Mr. Gallo is the Physics and Junior Seminar of innovation studies. He is also very involved in different clubs and is the sponsor and runs the robotics team. 


Q: How long have you worked at Steward?

A: I have worked at steward for 8 years 


Q: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A: Food, all of it. However, if I had to pick one I think a nice pan-seared steak with a creamy pepper sauce with appropriate side


Q: What is your greatest accomplishment?

A: I think keeping Jake, my son, alive for 8 years would have to be it as he seems like he will become a good person and a positive influence on the world when he gets older.


Q: What made you want to become a teacher?

A: It was by accident, I was going to work with nuclear weaponry, but before I could start, 9/11 occurred and the project got shut down. A friend of mine said they got into teaching and I decided to do it for the interim and I ended up really enjoying it.


Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world assuming no COVID, where would you go?

A: Okinawa, Japan- for the food.

Mr. Young is the Global Studies, AP World History, and Government Economics teacher. He also helps students further their academic careers through his involvement with the Richmond Forum.   


Q: How long have you worked at Steward?

A: I have worked at Steward for 6 years.


Q: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?

A: Pad thai definitely. 


Q: What is your biggest accomplishment?

A: Being a dad to my son Parker.


Q: Why did you become a teacher?

A: My mom, aunt, and other family members were teachers and I was inspired by them. I also enjoy coaching and was interested in coaching high school students in volleyball.  


Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world assuming no COVID, where would you go?

A: Anywhere in Asia but, specifically south Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, etc)

a story never forgotten.


December 9th, 2018 / Hailey Wharram

On October 22nd, 2018, myself and many other Steward upper school students and faculty members had the incredible privilege of hearing Dr. Roger Loria speak about his personal experiences while growing up as a Jewish boy during the Holocaust. After just having read and been deeply moved by Elie Wiesel’s Night, an autobiographical account of Wiesel’s life in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, I felt so overwhelmingly honored to be able to hear from another Holocaust survivor, and this time in person.


He began his presentation by providing some background information about the beginnings of World War II and the Holocaust, in case there were those in the audience who were unfamiliar with the details of these historical events. In doing so, he shared with us some truly startling statistics about the Holocaust, revealing that an estimated 6 million Jews, 3 million Polish, and 500,000 LGBTQ+ individuals were killed during these horrific times. These statistics chilled everyone listening to the bone.


After this preliminary portion of his presentation, Dr. Loria then began to delve more into his own personal story by showing us photos of his family members, such as his father, mother, aunts, and uncles. He told us that he was so incredibly thankful to have pictures of his family, because many other survivors are not as fortunate. He also shared with us that he will forever be indebted to a kind Christian women who selflessly risked the endangerment of her own life so that he could have these photos today. As soon as these pictures were shown, Dr. Loria revealed that he was the only survivor from his father’s side of the family to survive the Holocaust. This immensely heartbreaking sentence sparked a noticeable pause within the crowd, a deafening silence as everyone listening thought of their own families and just how blessed they were to have them in their lives.


Dr. Loria then told us the story about the time in which he first encountered the Nazis as a young boy. According to his recollection, he had been playing with some rocks outside when he saw a car pull up next to his house. The Germans came out from these cars, entered the house behind him in which his mother was currently located, and began cursing at the women in the kitchen. With the Germans temporarily distracted, Loria’s mother managed to sneak outside, grab her son and run for her life into the woods. She learned many years afterward that all of the women in that kitchen ultimately died in concentration camps. After fleeing and narrowly escaping capture, Dr. Loria said that he then traveled around Europe with his mother for a long time, desperately trying to outrun their seemingly inevitable fate of ending up in a concentration camp like the women in the kitchen.


Something that remained consistent throughout Dr. Loria’s utterly inconsistent upbringing during the Holocaust was his hope for a better future. In his eyes, this better future which he imagined was dependent on the Allies, specifically America, coming to rescue him by winning World War II, something evidenced by a picture that he showed us of himself during this time in which he was seen hopefully waving an American flag. Eventually, after many long and treacherous years, this wish finally came true for Dr. Loria, with the war finally coming to an end. However, this was after the loss of the majority of Dr. Loria’s family and his once beautiful, childlike innocence, making the win hardly feel like a victory.


Yet despite the immense sadness of Dr. Loria’s presentation, the most impactful part of his speech was his final message of love and peace. Even after all of the hardship and the suffering that Dr. Roger Loria has experienced in his lifetime, he still chooses to have an optimistic outlook on life, something which I found very inspirational. It is an outlook on life that he urged us to adopt as well, claiming that as long as you are continuing to be kind to others, you will always feel a sense of warmth and fulfillment in your own life, knowing that you are indeed making a positive difference on the world around you.


With many survivors of the Holocaust beginning to pass away due to old age, now, more so than ever before, it is imperative that we make active efforts to hear their stories so that we may never forget them. As the last generations who will ever be able to listen to their experiences firsthand, we need to cherish the time we have left with these heroic men and women, committing their stories to paper in addition to memory so that future generations may be able to listen them as well.


Additionally, we must take Dr. Loria’s message of spreading kindness to heart if we hope to enact change in the world we see around us. On a planet that too often choses cruelty over love, we must do everything we possibly can to tip the scale in the other direction. Whether it means doing something small like opening the door for someone or something big like fundraising for a cause that you are passionate about, these acts of kindness do add up and they can make a difference, even if it might not be evident at first glance.


Dr. Roger Loria is a man who inspires me to use my voice to promote love and positivity. His incredible life and his message of spreading love and positivity in spite of life’s most insurmountable obstacles will never be forgotten. He is the embodiment of inspiration, persistence, and courage, and I am truly honored to have been able to listen to his story.

ten feet tall.


November 24th, 2018 / Libey Eynan

Brandon Farbstein is a public speaker from Richmond, Virginia. Last year, he came to Steward to speak to the middle school. At a young age, Brandon was diagnosed with a rare form of dwarfism. At his public high school, he was the victim of severe cyberbullying. He ended up having to leave his school, and finish high school online. Now, he is helping other people overcome difficulties and living life to their full potential. At just the age of 18, he recently published his first book, Ten Feet Tall, which is now available for purchase on Amazon.

Brandon talks about being 3’9” tall in a world that can be sometimes be insensitive to those who are different from the status quo. He shares about his difficulties and how he overcame it all. He explains how until the age of 15 years old, he let his suffering lead him, causing him to feel invisible. After leaving school, he started to embrace who he was and transform his challenges to move forward. Brandon decided to stop being a victim and start being a victor. He talks about embracing his own story and not getting stuck in his own struggles.


Ten Feet Tall is full of inspiration, hope, and ways to improve your life. Each of us have personal struggles and areas of growth, fighting battles that we can overcome. This book is about improving your situation no matter what life throws at you. It's a book about life, adversity and not letting circumstances define the rest of your life.  Thank you, Brandon Farbstein, for not only being an inspiration to your audiences everywhere, but also for showing us how to be the masters of our own ship, and using your story to positively change the lives of so many students.


Caroline willhite '18, 

senior lifer. 


February 15th, 2018 / Kendall Shamus

What is your favorite memory from your 13 years at Steward?


That’s really hard to answer because so much has happened here in 13 years. I would say my favorite memory was walking down the colonnade this year at convocation with my Kindergarten buddy, Finley. I saw how far I had come and it was bittersweet because it was the last time I walked down the colonnade since I started at Steward.

Which teachers (to name a few) from each division of the Steward School have had an impact on your time at Steward?


Mrs. Saunders was my first grade teacher. She was wonderful and taught me patience and kindness. This same year my aunt passed away, and Mrs. Saunders came to the funeral for me and my mom. I saw then, how close the community at Steward is and I realized how truly amazing the community is.


In middle school, Mrs. Raggi was my advisor for a year at Steward and I have kept in touch with her even after she left to stay home with her kids. I always felt comfortable talking to her about anything and she helped me gain confidence in myself.


In the Upper School, Mrs. Freed is my favorite person ever. She is like my mom and best friend. I can talk to her about anything and I don’t know what I will do without her next year. She has taught me to be patient, kind, and hard-working.

What will you miss the most?


The relationships with students and teachers and the community of Steward. I feel so comfortable on campus and everyone genuinely cares about me and my plans for the future.


Which year of high school has been your favorite?


So far, senior year has been my favorite. I feel so close to others in my class and I am so excited that we can experience college acceptances together! I can’t wait to go on many more adventures with the class of 2018.  


What is some advice you’d like to leave behind to the upcoming seniors and underclassmen?


Take each day as it comes. I know some days are tougher than others but there is always someone who cares about your well-being. Every teacher wants to see smiles and laughter and happiness throughout the student body. Try to focus on the little things that make you laugh or that are significant, because before you know it, you’ll be walking down the colonnade for the last time wondering what ever happened to the years.

My friends!
Upper School love!
Post-show dinner!
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