The student-run newspaper of Westridge School for Girls, Spyglass strives to build community and evoke empathy through the medium of journalism. Comprised of passionate student writers, editors, designers, managers, and leaders, Spyglass is dedicated to ethical reporting that amplifies our unique voices to inform, entertain, and forge connection in the Westridge community and beyond.

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The student-run newspaper of Westridge School for Girls, Spyglass strives to build community and evoke empathy through the medium of journalism. Comprised of passionate student writers, editors, designers, managers, and leaders, Spyglass is dedicated to ethical reporting that amplifies our unique voices to inform, entertain, and forge connection in the Westridge community and beyond.

Spyglass

The student-run newspaper of Westridge School for Girls, Spyglass strives to build community and evoke empathy through the medium of journalism. Comprised of passionate student writers, editors, designers, managers, and leaders, Spyglass is dedicated to ethical reporting that amplifies our unique voices to inform, entertain, and forge connection in the Westridge community and beyond.

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All School Read Features Guest Speaker Tom Allard, Poet and Storyteller

Grace+F.+Tom+Allard+%28seated%29%2C+Fiala+P.+%E2%80%9827+%28right+of+Mr.+Tom+Allard%29%2C+Sarineh+G.+%E2%80%9828+%28right+of+Fiala%29%2C+and+Kara+Ramirez+%28right-most%29+inside+the+Hoffman+Gymnasium.
Grace F.
Grace F. Tom Allard (seated), Fiala P. ‘27 (right of Mr. Tom Allard), Sarineh G. ‘28 (right of Fiala), and Kara Ramirez (right-most) inside the Hoffman Gymnasium.

When asked what the All School Read means to him, 7th grade English teacher John Cross paused briefly before he replied, “It’s a way to build community through a shared text. I think that’s the heart of it—the community building experience.”

On January 31, Westridge students and faculty gathered in the Hoffman Gym for the All School Read, an annual event when the whole school reads a shared text chosen by Westridge’s English Department. 

In the past, the English Department has organized events like assemblies or even theater productions depicting the text to celebrate. This year, the English Department chose the poem “What I Believe” by Native American author Kimberly Blaeser. Guest speaker and storyteller Tom Allard was invited to read and speak at the assembly. 

Tom Allard is a Middle and Upper School Performing Arts teacher at Polytechnic School in Pasadena and a member of the Loyal Shawnee band of the Cherokee nation. Kara Ramirez briefly introduced Mr. Allard, who visited the previous year’s 8th grade class. Sarineh G. ’28 spoke about the 8th grade class’s experience with their Native American Unit, and Fiala P. ’27 spoke for the former 8th grade class, noting that “through Mr. Allard’s stories, we learned to write our own personal stories, our own unique experiences.”

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After reading the poem, Mr. Allard highlighted storytelling and its significance to human civilization in his own poem: “39,000 years ago, deep in the secret folds of some distant mountain cave, there was a little bit of a splash of human self awareness…with that very first painted handprint on the wall. SMACK! RE-VO-LUTION! Tagging that cave wall was the beginning of narrative art…It was the first poetry: ‘I am. I am me. I am alive and I’m gonna be alive and until being alive is what I used to be. And someday you will see I was.’ Within the we—many. Amongst the us—similarity.”

The piece was not new to the 8th grade, who read “What I Believe” in the fall, as part of their Native American unit. Ms. Ramirez said she chose “What I Believe” because “[she] loved this [poem]…it says a lot about life, and it says a lot about this author’s philosophy—but it also has just some beautiful imagery and beautiful juxtaposition in it…To me, it speaks about grief, and that it’s possible to move beyond that.”   

Ms. Ramirez brought the piece to the English Department as a possible text, as she believed a Native American author was an important voice to have represented. She said, “That’s a voice in our curriculum that isn’t prominent.”

Upper School English teacher and Department Chair Tarra Stevenson said, “This tradition of oral storytelling, in some ways, is not as celebrated as it needs to be. And we want, as an English department, to celebrate storytelling of all sorts.” In response to the English department’s decision to invite Mr. Allard, Abigale H. ’25 said, “I thought it was really cool how they brought in somebody who is a Native American. It’s something I hadn’t experienced before…I think in general it was a great All School Read.” 

 

Suggested Reading: MLK to Malala: A History of Westridge’s All School-Read

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Grace F., Staff Writer
Grace is a freshman and is in her first year of writing for Spyglass. She spends her free time making art, staring at her birds, and drinking somewhat nutritious energy drinks.

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