Mid-Shore Education: Ben Dize Reflects on 50 Years of Teaching


While undoubtedly many teachers on the Mid-Shore have celebrated 50 years or more in educating our young people in the region, it is hard to imagine for more a diverse background than Ben Dize.

Ben has had the unique experience of teaching in the Kent County Public Schools system for 30 years,  and then immediately followed that up with now 20 years at the Gunston School outside of Centreville. All in the field of art education.

During those five decades, Ben has been a careful observer of the benefits and sometimes challenges that come with both public and private education, but even more so with the impact that art education has on young people.

The Spy drove over to Gunston a few weeks ago to spend a few moments with Ben to record his reflections on education and his love of teaching.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Gunston School please go here

Gunston’s Model UN Team Competes in NYC


Gunston’s Model United Nations Club attended the National High School Model United Nations Conference in New York City in the beginning of March. Gunston students Nick Lee, Sam Umidi, Drew Seaman, Nick Kellogg, Areopl Bai, Andrew Amygdalos, Henry Shifrin, Peter Sharpless, Lydia Davis, and Colin Lang were led by faculty advisors Michael McFarland and Kellee Webb.

Over 1,300 high school students from across the country and around the world attended this four day exercise in diplomacy and international affairs.  The final meeting took place at the United Nations building in the General Assembly Hall which has seen many historical moments over the past seventy years.

At Model UN conferences, students participate in simulations of United Nations sessions, debating, negotiating, caucusing, drafting, and voting on resolutions that address world problems. Gunston students represented Denmark in debates on major issues facing the world today, including international cybersecurity, terrorism, child soldiers, and the status of indigenous communities. In their committees, students worked to pass resolutions to address these issues in the same way the United Nations does today.

Gunston’s Robotics Team Competes in FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifier


The Gunston School Robotics Team competed in the FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) qualifier at the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) STEM Action Center in Columbia, Maryland on Sunday, February 3. The team finished the first phase of the competition with a record of 4 wins and 1 loss ranking 4th out of 23 teams, the best performance to date for a Gunston robotics team. This is the fifth year that Gunston has participated in the FTC program.

The team of seventeen students, mentored by Dr. Ken Wilson and led by FTC veterans Brynne Kneeland and Drew Seaman, designed, built, and programmed a robot to meet the challenges posed by this year’s game. They created an engineering notebook that described their strategy, proposed designs, and described problems that the team overcame along the way. At the competition, the students had to describe and defend their design in front of a panel of engineers. Real world engineering challenges like FTC teach students to follow the engineering processes that they will use in their future careers.

Front row L-R: Drew Seaman, Brynne Kneeland, Cedar Foster, Henry Shifrin, Will Newberg; back row L-R: Sebastian Borland, Josh Sanford, Daniel Ye, Robert Crow, Jimmy Zhao and Allen Wang.

The competition is divided into two parts: autonomous (the robot is controlled by a program) and driver controlled. This year the competition had a “Mars rover” theme. The robotic rovers start out hanging on to the side of a lander module. The rover must descend from the rover, sample minerals, drop a team marker into a depot, and park in a crater.

Gunston’s strong, consistent performance during the first phase allowed Kneeland, the team captain, to invite two other teams to form an alliance for the semi-final elimination rounds in the afternoon. She chose teams from Quince Orchard High School (Montgomery County Public Schools) and the Pasadena, Maryland Robotics organization. Although the alliance was eliminated during the semifinals, the team returned to Gunston proud of their effort and committed to improving their robot before the next tournament.

Gunston will compete again at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, Maryland on February 17.

Dize Celebrates 50 Years in Teaching


Surrounded by paintings, pottery, and wood carvings, Ben Dize helps students with landscape sketches of the Gunston campus. A few feet away, the whir of the pottery wheel and the buzz of wood-carving instruments hum in the background. For twenty years, Mr. Dize has been a fixture at Gunston as the Art Department Chair, but this month is special—Dize celebrates a career milestone of 50 years teaching art.

Ben Dize receives accolades from his student advisory group.

“I like to say that Ben is both the oldest and youngest teacher we have at Gunston,” shared Headmaster John Lewis, “he brings decades of experience to the classroom, but he still maintains the passion of an excited, newly-minted teacher.” Dize began his teaching career at Mount Hebron High School in Howard County on February 3, 1969. From there he taught for the Kent County Public School system for thirty years. Gunston was fortunate enough to have him share his creativity and passion for art beginning in 1999.

To celebrate Dize’s milestone, the entire student body, faculty, staff and past co-workers gathered to praise and honor Ben Dize. When asked what he enjoyed most about his career, Dize replied, “Seeing apprehensive students transform into artists”.

Former Gunston student and Emmy Award recipient, Rita Baghdadi summed it up best, “Ben Dize is an incredibly talented artist, and one of the most influential teachers in my life. I learned a lot of valuable lessons in Ben’s classroom, most importantly to not take things so seriously! We always had fun, no matter what. By showing me how to think critically about art, and encouraging me to experiment with my own creativity, Ben taught me how to embrace my own unique style, a reminder I hold very dear to this day. Thank you for being you, Ben!”

Gunston Opens New Student Athletic Center and Expands Athletic Offerings


Gunston recently cut the ribbon for its new student athletic center—Heron House. Overlooking the Corsica River, Heron House involved a major conversation and expansion of the former Headmaster’s residence, which has been transformed into a 3,000 square foot facility that includes a fitness/workout space for all students, team rooms, provisions for environmental teaching and learning, and event facilities for Gunston’s nationally competitive crew and sailing teams.

“Heron House reflects the essence of our waterfront campus, and the vision of our Board of Trustees to convert Heron House for athletic use was tremendous, especially with nearly 40% of our student-athletes competing in waterfront athletics,” said Jon Mellinger, Gunston’s Director of Athletics.

Gunston’s trustees, coaches, and building committee, join Headmaster John Lewis, SGA president Caroline Roser, and Athletic Director Jon Mellinger in cutting the ribbon on Heron House, the new student athletic center.

With Gunston’s enrollment growing to over 200 students, the school will also be expanding athletic offerings. The addition of Heron House will facilitate the growth of four new athletic offerings—triathlon and softball will make their debut in the spring of 2019, while golf and cross country will launch during the 2019-2020 school year. All four of these sports will utilize existing campus facilities as well as wider community facilities.

“We’re very excited about these new additions,” said Gunston’s Headmaster, John Lewis. “Between the athletics and admissions departments, we’ve spent a lot of time and energy thinking about our areas of strength and potential growth within athletics. We’ve generated a lot of excitement amongst the student body and I am excited to see these offerings take shape.  We’re also excited about the high quality coaching that these sports will enjoy. Our Athletic Director Jon Mellinger is a former collegiate runner at St. Lawrence, and is currently a nationally competitive triathlete.”

Gunston supports 17 interscholastic programs and 7 fitness programs for its student-athletes—requiring all students to participate in two seasons of athletics each year. These offerings will help expand an already robust offering to reach additional areas of interest and potential competitive success.

Gunston Athletes Honored


On Thursday, November 1st, Gunston student-athletes from field hockey, sailing, soccer and rowing gathered to honor the accomplishments from the fall season. All three field sports made the playoffs and the girls’ varsity soccer team made the Northern Maryland Soccer League finals. Our waterfront teams earned accolades from the MDISA (sailing) and the King’s Head Regatta. These results capped a successful fall season for the Herons. Headmaster Lewis delivered high praise for the programs success and continued growth while Director of Athletics Jon Mellinger provided exciting news about new programs on the horizon as well as challenging the student-athletes in attendance to elevate their peers by taking leadership roles. The fall season ended on a high note which has set the bar for the winter and spring seasons.

Pictured ESIAC/NMSL Award recipients. L-R: Sam Umidi, Cole Evans, Will Urquhart, Luke Stehle, Megan Prochaska, Sydney Nittle, Lydia Davis, Becky DeFino, Claire Johnson, Annabelle Gillespie, Reagan Gessford, Cedar Foster. Missing Olivia Hershey and Natalie Cockey.

ESIAC All-Conference
Will Urquhart – Boys Soccer, Luke Stehle – Boys Soccer, Cole Evans – Boys Soccer, Megan Prochaska -Girls Soccer, Sydney Nittle – Girls Soccer, Annabelle Gillespie – Field Hockey, Becky DeFino – Field Hockey, Claire Johnson – Field Hockey, Lydia Davis – Field Hockey

ESIAC Honorable Mention
Sam Umidi – Boys Soccer, Natalie Cockey – Girls Soccer, Reagan Gessford – Field Hockey

NMSL All-Conference (Soccer)
Megan Prochaska – Girls Soccer, Sydney Nittle – Girls Soccer, Natalie Cockey – Girls Soccer, Cedar Foster – Honorable Mention, Olivia Hershey – Honorable Mention

Girls Soccer
MVP – Megan Prochaska, MIP – Ashley Escobar, Coach – Cedar Foster

Boys Soccer
MVP – Jude Smith, MIP – Henry Sheets, Coach – Max Brady

Boys JV Soccer
MVP – Leo Santoboni, MIP – Kenneth Bonuccelli, Coach – Ben Cunningham

Field Hockey
MVP – Annabelle Gillespie, Becky DeFino, MIP – Sheila Groz, Coach – Erin McDonald, Ellie Wilson

MIP – Lydia Periconi, Jack Pigman, Coach – Katie Easter, Max Scott, Josh Campbell, Isabella Santoboni

MVP – Severin Schut, MIP – Phebe Wood, Coach – Marion Riddle

Thirty Gunston School Students Honored at National Honor Society Induction


On Friday, November 2, thirty students were inducted into the National Honor Society at The Gunston School. The National Honor Society (NHS) is a prestigious organization for students in upper grades, which requires them to hold a them to meet rigorous national and school standards in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character.

The inductees, their parents, and current NHS members gathered in the Susie Konkel Atrium for breakfast, pictures and celebration before the induction ceremony that was held in the Field House. Welcoming remarks were made by Headmaster John Lewis, who spoke about the importance of pursuing the four key National Honor Society values: leadership, character, service, and scholarship.

Following Mr. Lewis’ remarks, the keynote address was delivered by alumnae Ms. Laura Woods ‘11. Ms. Wood graduated from Rhodes College in 2015 with a major in Environmental Studies and a minor in Economics. After college, Ms. Wood came back to the Eastern Shore in the hope of applying her degree where she grew up. She worked first on a 45 ft wooden yawl sailboat, XAPA, then in January of 2016 she started at the Sassafras River Association (SRA) as an administrative assistant. In January of 2017, Ms. Wood  started working at the Chester River Association as an Office Manager, while continuing with SRA as well. In January of this year the two organization merged, along with the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, to form ShoreRivers. Ms. Wood now serves as a Watershed Coordinator and manages the Marylanders Grow Oysters program for the Chester and Corsica, organize shoreline cleanups with local groups, monitor agricultural restoration projects, and support our Riverkeeper programs.

Photo: Front row L to R: Frankie Fisher, Cedar Foster, Joey Zhuo, Cynthia Yang, Grace Holmes, Lynsey Hildebrand, Nina De Angelo, Katie Schiwy, Eily Ashley, Natalie Cockey. 2nd row L to R: Laura Wood, Katie Moreau, Anna Wolf, Paige Murphy, Areopl Bai, MacCallum Borghardt, Cotter Buckley, Erica Reece, Isabella Santoboni, Mason Rudolfs, 3rd row L to R: Will Gibson, Wyatt Howell, Will Newberg, Allen Wang, Lily Judd, Nick Kellogg, back row L to R: Max Gaspers Scott, Peter Sharpless, Owen White, Sam Umidi, missing Andrew Amygdalos

Ms Wood spoke fondly of her years at Gunston where she had ample opportunities to direct her own learning and explore a myriad of interesting and relevant topics with caring teachers committed to the success and growth of all students. Ms. Wood encouraged the NHS members and all of the students to embrace the learning opportunities available to them here. Ms. Wood also shared her deep appreciation for our local watershed and how much she valued Gunston’s past, current, and future commitment to environmental education and sustainability.  She stated her hope for the future of the Chesapeake Watershed “… to see healthy waterways that can support the ecosystems and industries that rely on them—and to see collaboration between policy, environmental organizations, agriculture, watermen, and landowners to get us there.” She closed with heartfelt congratulations to the newly inducted members of NHS.

To highlight the core values of NHS, four candles were lit by current members, as senior and NHS president Megan Prochaska spoke about the meaning of each value. NHS Secretary Marisa Pisapia read each inductees’ accomplishments as they were called up one-by-one, to receive a certificate, pin, and rose, and to sign their names into the NHS registry. To make them official members of the society, current members pinned the inductees with a pin bearing the NHS logo and the pledge was recited, led by Megan Prochaska. Mr. Michael Kaylor, the NHS advisor, concluded the ceremony with high praises to the students for their accomplishments.

We congratulate this year’s NHS Chapter Officers and Inductees.


President: Megan Prochaska, Vice President: Davy Song, Secretary: Marisa Pisapia, Treasurer: Anneliese Clair


Nick Basham, Karen Chen, Shiloh Clark, Becky DeFino, Cora Duncan, Katie Easter, Cole Evans, Menel Harris, Leah Hellwege, Phin Howell, Claire Johnson, Camy Kelly, Nick Lee, Ellie Merton, Paige Murphy, James Pratt, Caroline Roser, Drew Seaman, Elena Sherman, Nellie Stup, Cynthia Yang, Vickey Zhou


Andrew Amygdalos, Eli Ashley, Areopl Bai, Mac Borghardt, Cotter Buckley, Natalie Cockey, Nina De Angelo, Frankie Fisher, Cedar Foster, Will Gibson, Lynsey Hildebrand, Grace Holmes, Wyatt Howell, Lily Judd, Nick Kellogg, Katie Moreau, Paige Murphy, Will Newberg, Erica Reece, Mason Rudolfs, Isabella Santoboni, Katie Schiwy, Peter Sharpless, Max Gaspers Scott, Sam umidi, Allen Wang, Owen White, Anna Wolf, Cynthia Yang, Joey Zhuo

Gunston’s Annual Bull & Oyster Roast was a Huge Success


On Saturday, October 13, The Gunston School held its annual Bull & Oyster Roast & Alumni Reunion. Nearly 240 parents, trustees, alumni and friends gathered on Gunston’s campus for this event to support the school in its largest fundraiser of the year. Guests mingled, enjoyed shucked and steamed oysters, and tried their luck on silent auction items that were generously donated by local businesses and Gunston families.

The evening was a huge success—over $100,000 was raised through sponsorships, silent and live auction, and ticket sales.  In keeping with tradition, the Live Auction was interrupted midway through for “Raise the Paddle.” The proceeds this year will be matched by a generous grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation and used to fund a new 15 passenger van t0 be used for Chesapeake Watershed Semester, as well as transportation for student trips.

Parent volunteers take a moment to smile for the camera. Left to right: Laura Chester, Donna Roser, Keith Willett and Nicola Daniel.

The lucky winner of this year’s Live Auction Item raffle was Casey Santora P ‘21 ‘22! The Santora family will be vacationing in the Outer Banks over Gunston’s spring break, thanks to our donors Steve and Jennifer Salos P ‘22. Other live auction items included vacations to Deep Creek, Jamaica, and Nova Scotia, as well as a signed Paul Reed Smith guitar.

“The generosity of our parents and friends is truly extraordinary, and this generosity translates directly into a stronger educational program for all of our students,” said Headmaster John Lewis.

Local businesses were key to the success of this auction. Over 200 businesses, community members, and families from throughout the Eastern Shore and Annapolis donated items, and made financial contributions to this year’s fundraising event.

Headmaster John Lewis greets the audience.

Gunston would like to extend a special thanks to our sponsors:

Title Sponsor—KRM Construction

Grill Master Sponsor—The Gunston School Board of Trustees

Prime Sponsors: Caesar Guerini—Deirdre & Wesley Lang P ‘22, The Star Democrat, DataLink, Intown Management—Gigi & Steve Hershey P ‘21, Ashley Insurance—Jack Ashley, Friends of Gunston, Shore United Bank, Gillespie & Son—Julie & Todd Gillespie P ‘20, P ‘22; Gillespie Precast—Karen & Jim Talbott P ‘20

Choice Sponsors: Callahan’s Gas—Dana & Mark Callahan P ‘22, Dogwood Acres—Audrey & Kurt Reichardt P ‘21, Freestate and Son, Inc., IT Direct—Bess & Ralph Riddle P ‘21, Karen & John Morrison P ‘18, Gunther’s Electric, Inc.—Trudy Schiwy P ‘19, The Ward Family P ‘21 (2)

Select Sponsors: Attraction Magazine, The Country School,Ben & Karen Dize, Ecotone, Inc., Friel Lumber Company—Gina & Jay Friel P ‘22, Mary B. Hoff, Kent School, L & S Bus Service, John and Laurie Lewis, Betty & Roger Mooney GP ‘07, ‘09, ‘15, ‘19, Colleen Moran P ‘20, Impressive Printing, People’s Bank, Radcliffe Creek School, Shepherd Plumbing, Mara & Walt Schmittinger P ‘16, Tri-Gas & Oil Co., Inc., Whitten Group Insurance.

We are also very grateful to the Gunston Parents’ Association, Gunston’s faculty and staff, and the 2018 Bull & Oyster Roast Committee Chairs—Karen Talbot P ‘20, Jill Meyerhoff P ‘11 ‘13 , Gigi & Steve Hershey P ‘21, Audrey Reichardt P ‘21, Stacey Sharpless P ‘20 ‘22 , and Trudy Schiwy P ‘19 who worked tirelessly to create a spectacular evening.

The Gunston School Launches Innovative New Program, the Chesapeake Watershed Semester


On a perfect summer evening in August, the launch of the Chesapeake Watershed Semester was celebrated with a gathering of students, families, partners, and supporters.  With a warm welcome by Gunston’s Board Chair, Jim Wright, and inspiring words by Headmaster John Lewis, Gunston formally launched the first cohort of the program with full enrollment of 13 students.

Director, Emily Beck, says “We’ve designed and built an educational program that is immersive, rigorous, and place-based.  The watershed’s 64,000 square miles forms our classroom with students completing five weeks in the field during the semester. Over the course of the fifteen-week semester, students will weave together science and public policy, time in the lab and in the field, and direct action with reflection. The semester concludes with students presenting their independent research and action projects at a regional symposium. We fully believe that today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and that it is critical to engage them in an educational experience that is equal to the challenges of their time.”

Pictured L-R: Caroline Taylor, Caroline Roser, Katie Schiwy, Nick Kellogg, Yanni Harris, Camy Kelly, Zachary Goss, Phil Ashley, Brooks Armstrong, Keller Evans, Mason Rudolfs, Menel Harris, not pictured – Cole Evans

“The Chesapeake Watershed Semester is a powerful opportunity to expand our educational paradigm and offer students a 21st Century learning experience that empowers them with real-world knowledge, critical thinking capacities, and leadership skills” she adds. “The restoration and sustainable management of the Chesapeake Bay is a litmus test for humanity’s capacity to maintain ecological harmony, and The Chesapeake Watershed Semester seeks to provide students with the intellectual, social, and leadership tools to successfully respond to these challenges. It is a unique opportunity for highly motivated high school juniors or seniors to join a talented community of learners who will immerse themselves in the study and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay for one semester. Through dynamic and diverse field-study Expeditions, students travel the region meeting with stakeholders and conducting research. While in residence on our waterfront campus, students take honors and AP level classes while maintaining an intense, hands-on engagement with the natural environment.”

Such a rich and robust program would not be possible with the support and inspiration of our program partners! Our partners in designing and launching the program include the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Sultana Education Foundation, Washington College, and the Harry Hughes Center for Agroecology.

Semester schools are inspired by the collegiate “semester abroad” program; designed and adapted for high school students. Though not widely known, semester schools have been around for several decades. Semester schools offer a full semester of academic credit as well as a wealth of knowledge and new experiences for students who return to their four-year institutions upon completing the semester. Each program offers a unique curriculum and learning environment.

Beyond the academics, semester schools offer motivated students powerfully transformative experience. Students who attend semester schools develop poise, grit, and a firm sense of self; all hallmarks of 21st Century education. Indeed, colleges view a student’s decision to attend a semester school highly and reflective of the students maturity and college readiness.

The Gunston School has established itself as a regional and national leader for environmental teaching and learning with its annual Chesapeake Bay Studies week of field courses, successive Green School certifications, its unparalleled 35-acre waterfront campus on the shores of the Corsica River in Centreville, MD, and finally with the launch of the Watershed Semester.

To learn more about the Chesapeake Watershed Semester visit www.chesapeakewatershedsemester.org or call 410.758.0620

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