Elementary School

HCCS Alumni

70th Anniversary

Visiting Alumni Speakers

Fall semester 2010 saw our first HCES Visiting Alumni Speakers. Thirty-eight alumni who graduated between 1947 and 2000 returned to HCES to talk with first through sixth-grade classes. They were delighted to speak with current students and reconnect with the school. Many of them told us, that while they held the school, as it was when they attended, dear to their hearts, they were glad to see what it was like today. Thanks to the PTA, a few left wearing HCES caps with pride. Below is a summary, in order of appearance, of those first talks. Since then, we have welcomed back well over 100 alumni to the classrooms. Alumni are invited to come back one morning during the fall and/or spring semester to be Alumni Speakers sharing their experience on a broad range of topics. Look for our invitation in your inbox or drop us a line and let us know you are interested in participating.

Past Speakers

List of 12 items.

  • Daniel Seltzer ’76

    ...an entrepreneurial information technologist, came to talk to the fifth grade about technology and the telecommunications business. Presenting an interesting perspective on the evolution of the computer, he pointed out that when he started working with computers, as a fourth grader at HCES, they were an exclusive piece of technology but they were wide open to development and limited only by the imagination of the user. Today computers are ubiquitous but the software on them limits what the user can do. It is important to think about the shift from using computers to make things (in the old days) versus using them to browse/watch/buy things now, he said. Computers have gone from being more open and raw to being more closed and polished. He encouraged the students to think of all the things they could make with computers and all the places that the technology is present. Using a smart phone and a Web app, he also showed us a recent bike ride he took through a map, a series of photos and a set of physical data such as length of time and speed he was traveling.
  • Blake Eskin ’88

    ...the Web Editor for The New Yorker, spoke with third graders about the evolution of The New Yorker and the publication of journals in general. He discussed the need for fact-checking in reporting: even if you think you know the facts, he said, it is important to check them from a reputable source because what you read “somewhere” could have been incorrect. He spoke about the differences between a paper publication, which requires time to reach its readers and requires a second issue to correct errors, and the immediacy of a Web-based publication, where the pages can change each time you look at them. Although we can now take the Internet with us, he said, the fact that a paper copy is portable and impervious to signal availability and battery power, makes it a clear favorite with readers of The New Yorker -- for now.
  • Jordan Wouk ’60 and Josselyne Herman-Saccio ’85

    ...both work in the field of volunteer organizations. After posing a question to their fourth grade audience --why might people not able to take care of themselves and their environment -- they received many great answers. They discussed the need to band together to tackle large problems, pointing out that while we can do many things on a personal level, we sometimes need to do things as a group or organization. They then engaged the students in a conversation about the ways in which they can participate in volunteering in their communities and the world at large. The ideas included helping the environment, making healthy personal choices and participating in available programs. They also encouraged everyone to come up with new ideas to reuse, reduce and recycle. Jocelyn, who has spent the past 12 years as a personal manager for actors, writers, directors and recording artists, has been active in fund-raising for various non-profits and education programs. Jordan, a Central Park volunteer, comes from a long line of HCES graduates; he also shared the graduation certificate, from the 1930s, of his mother, Joy Lattman.
  • Paula Feder ’47

    ...is a writer of children's books (“The Feather-Bed Journey”) and a retired elementary school teacher. Paula had the second grade enthralled with a story she wrote when she was 8 years old. Curiosity, she told them, is at the root of a writer. While sharing a couple of her illustrated children’s books, she discussed plot development and use of imagination as she retold the stories. She asked the children to participate in creating a story from ideas they came up with on the spot. Think about everyday places and things but look at them from a new perspective, she said. The class came up with excellent suggestions and worked together to weave them into a story involving a building, gravel and ice cream.
  • Seth Greenberg ’69, Kysha Harris’89 and Jackie Goldstein ’06

    ...came as a group to talk to the fourth grade about the culinary arts. To be in the food business, they all agreed, you have to love food. The hours are long and the work is hard, but the rewards are delicious! Seth is a baker, owns a business and teaches. He waxed poetic about the chemical reactions possible between flour, butter, eggs, and perhaps some cream. He also pointed out that if we were to eat only local food, we would not be able to eat chocolate. Kysha, who owns a personalized cooking service and is a culinary producer and food columnist, commented on the diversity of jobs that exist in any industry a student chooses. Jackie is a recent graduate of Emerson College and her passions lie in the food industry. With some experience in public relations she is seeking to find her niche in this diverse world. This range of alum from '69 to '06, at different points in their careers, brought a unique opportunity to the students and to the conversation.
  • David Rapkin’56 and Mark Kondracki ’84

    ...both work in the audio book business. Speaking to fifth graders, they discussed the nuts and bolts of audio book production. David, spoke from the point of view of a director, noting that it is his job to help the reader release the story from the page. He outlined the director's role in making the heart of the text clear to the performer and helping him or her understand the nesting arcs of meaning, rhythm and feeling that inform each sentence, paragraph, section, chapter and ultimately, the entire book. And all this should be achieved without overwhelming the reader with too much information. He also discussed questions like whether to use one voice or many and how to get the best possible performance from the reader. He also shared some practical tips such as wearing loose soft clothing and sitting very comfortably, to eating a Granny Smith apple to clear mouth sounds. Mark discussed the various technical considerations. He drew a picture of his recording studio, which is suspended on rubber pucks and has three layers of plywood insulated walls. He showed the students a microphone baffle and demonstrated how it reduced the sound of air coming out of their mouths. He also talked about sound effects and their role in telling the story, an addition to an audio book not available on paper, which can support the story in a dramatic way.
  • David Strait ’81

    ...is a paleoanthropologist who studies the evolution and functional anatomy of humans and other primates. He kept a fifth-grade science class riveted as he showed a row of human skulls that he set out one by one on a table. With each one he discussed the characteristics it displayed to show the evolutionary stages in the development of the human skull. He discussed time-line adaptation and tool use in early humans. He answered questions about opposable thumbs and manual dexterity. He also conducted a demonstration, with the aid of a volunteer, of the gait caused by the straight angle of the thighbone in apes as opposed to the sloping one in humans. Bipeds of all sorts were next on the agenda. He also encouraged the students to line up and touch the human bones that he brought with him. Someone remarked that they could go home and tell their parents that they had touched a human bone and then gone to lunch.
  • Rosaly Roffman HCHS’ 55

    ...a Professor Emeritus of Mythology and Folk Tales came to a 3rd Grade classroom. She began her visit with a discussion of the distinctions between Myth and Legends, Folk Tales, Tall Tales and Fairy Tales. She had a visual presentation of various mythical creatures to illustrate these ideas. The students had a lot to say on the subject and had obviously read a great many of each. She talked about the fact that every culture has its own mythology, much of which comes from the physical nature of the surroundings in which they live, but incorporate some ideas that are global. The sky and clouds being examples of some things that feature in many different tales. She told the story of Orpheus, with illustrations of various paintings, and how his skills as a musician changed the mind of a god. She discussed how the message of love and loss has been so powerful, that Orpheus has come to represent the beauty of music in much of the world. The class finished with the students illustrating the story on an image of a Greek urn.
  • Margo Amgott ’69, Laura Antar ’79 and Lela Mayers ’80

    As professionals in the field of physical and emotional development, these alumnae met with the sixth grade to talk about what goes on in the body and mind of an adolescent. Although an impossible task not so long ago, they were able to shed quite a bit of light of the subject with the aid of neuro-scientific and medical research. The question they posed was: “What do I wish I had known in sixth grade?” To answer that question, they used visual presentations that show how the synapses of the brain change with age, how behavior changes with hormonal surges and how relationships change over time and with maturity. They also discussed with the students differences that exist across the broad range of what is considered typical and how to notice something outside the typical range. The conversation pointed to friendship and emotional connections as one of the most important indicators of mental health.
  • Harold Koenigsberg’57

    Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, along with his assistant/daughter, a third grader herself, displayed MRI images and spoke about the functions and basic anatomy of the human brain. The third grade students were fascinated by how an MRI captures images and how doctors use these images. They were also impressed with the mechanics of the MRI, especially the importance of not bringing anything magnetic into the MRI room and what happens if you do. After a lengthy discussion, the students had the opportunity to handle a model of the human brain.
  • Marisol Rosa-Shapiro’97

    ...is a director, producer and a creative assistant to Jujamcyn Theaters. She made a dynamic presentation to the sixth grade detailing all the creative roles that work together in producing a theatrical performance. After describing her journey in theatrical arts, she gave the students the opportunity to share their experiences and theatrical dreams. She also reinforced the idea that one does not have to be onstage to have a “starring role” in any production. Creativity and artistry play a major role in all aspects of the theater. Her presentation set the stage for the announcement of this year’s sixth grade presentation, “Seussical the Musical.” Stop by to see it on Wednesday, May 25 at 10 a.m.
  • Sascha Segan ’86

    ...is a Web journalist who writes about cell phones for
    PCMAG.com. We asked him to tackle the subject of cellphone security with a sixth-grade class. The discussion was lively and informed on both sides. Our students can more than hold their own in discussions of the various features of handheld smart technology. What Sascha added to the conversation was the how and why of wireless communication. He pointed out the permanence and portability of messages both texted and recorded, and the various advantages and pitfalls that come with having instant access to a wide audience. The students had a lot of questions about this technology and how it might develop.

List of 11 items.

  • Deborah Moldow ’60 and Rabbi Sari Laufer ’90

    Building a culture of peace is a lot of work, as the students in a second grade class learned from these alumnae. Peace requires understanding and much thought, they explained; it is not simply the opposite of war. Peace is a standalone idea, one that can be a way of life or a life’s goal, they added. We can work for peace all the time and in many little ways in our own lives. One concept they gave that helped illuminate what working for global peace feels like was a story by Rabbi Laufer, of Congregation Rodeph Sholom. She told of a piece of paper with an image of the world on one side and a human face on the other. When torn into small pieces, it is easier to put the image of the face together than the image of the world. Deborah, the representative of the World Peace Prayer Society to the United Nations,brought a “peace pole” with her and we all recited the inscription with the class, “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in Japanese, Spanish, English and Hebrew. At the end of the session the class held a minute of silence in honor of world peace.
  • Andrew Obus ‘93

    ...a mathematician and NSF Post Doctoral Fellow at Columbia University, brought his passion for mathematics to our fifth graders. He started by having the students work on simple and then more complex mathematical problems. It was a lively problem-solving session, with students excitedly waving their hands to share their answers. After illustrating some mathematical proofs, Andrew presented a mathematical problem that has not yet been solved by mathematicians, and in true HCES fashion, this motivated the students to begin working on possible solutions. One fifth grade student became so intrigued by the presentation that after weeks of electronic correspondence, Andrew now comes to HCES to mentor the student in math.
  • Martha Hodes, Nicole Morgenstern, Sarah Schulman, Tiana Wimmer, and Peter Yawitz ‘70

    These five alumni attended an assembly and then stayed to chat with fifth and sixth grades. They told the school how close their classmates have remained even though some live in New England, the Midwest, California and Hong Kong. In fact, many of the Class of 1970 were in town that weekend for their 40th reunion. The five alumni discussed what it was like to grow up in New York in the 1960s and about their experiences going to elementary school in the college building on 69th Street. They also talked about their career paths, which range from global communications and diplomacy to corporate finance, social history, higher education, musical theater, and playwriting. The current students had many questions about the alumni’s experiences at HCES and about their lives today.
  • Lois Kahn Wallace and Wendy Weil '51

    Not only have these alumnae known each other since infancy; they are also both literary agents. Talking with a class of third graders, they described the ins and outs of book publishing. They passed around some examples of corrected manuscripts, galleys and books that have each has represented. The students learned about selling book rights for hardcover, paperback, and ebook publication, as well as movie sales. They said that sometimes they sell work to publishers from a magazine article or a book proposal.
    They discussed all the ways in which one can write, and what a vast selection of subject matter there is. If you have a good idea, you can likely write a book on the subject. They shared their love of books. They spoke about how much they like being the first person to read a book when it is completed. Although they attended HCES when it was at 68th Street (Lois brought a 1945 photograph of their class assembled on the roof), Wendy shared memories of horseback riding at the Squadron A Armory here on 94th Street. The NYC mounted police used to stable their horses in the basement. There were indoor polo matches open to the public Friday evenings in an arena in the building.
  • David Sipress ’58

    ...has published over 350 cartoons in The New Yorker since 1998. His work has appeared in Time, Playboy, Men's Health, Reader's Digest, The Washington Post, and many other publications. With students in a fifth grade class, David talked about how to create cartoons. He showed a presentation of his work that illustrated the main points of his conversation. The power of the pen was illustrated in a cartoon of three or four pen-and-ink figures scratched out, the last of whom is saying to the pen looming over him, “Please don’t cross me out!” He demonstrated how he completes an idea and comes up with a caption. The students then took turns to draw cartoons and to suggest captions. Together they drew a picture of a chicken with a head that looked like a pickle, a man stood pointing at it saying, “You are in a real pickle.” Although it was a light-hearted session it was clear to everyone that drawing cartoons is a lot of work, and one has to be very observant of life and able to illustrate the human condition. The sheer numbers of cartoons it takes to be a success in the field was awe-inspiring.
  • David Bodnick '85

    ...creates Web-based software and came to a fourth grade class to discuss what steps are needed to create an interactive website. It all starts with a good idea. Once you have a clear sense of your idea, he said, your journey has begun. You then need to research your idea to see what's out there -- is it just like someone else's, or does it stand out from the crowd? The next step is to design the website and give it a name and to imagine the user experience even before the site is created. This is important in order to make sure you are programming the right thing. Programming is the crafting of the computer instructions and algorithms that determine what the site will do and how, to turn your good idea into reality. Once your website seems complete, you must test it in many ways, with many types of computers and Web browsers, and with new users, to make sure it works well. You can alter the site depending on the feedback. Finally when you launch the site, you will need to get publicity -- mainly by sharing your site with friends, bloggers and journalists so they can recommend it; by advertising; and by working toward a viral marketing model. The process of development, feedback and editing was familiar to the class, and the interactive nature of the Internet made this conversation interesting.
  • Charles Ardai ’81

    ...an entrepreneur and writer came to share his experience with a fifth grade class. For Show and Tell he bought copies of a selection of different school newspapers that he started in fourth grade and continued to publish well into high school. As a student he started newspapers about anything that interested him. He outlined what steps it might take to get a paper published at school. Think about what interests you and what you would like to read about, he said. Once you have settled on a topic of interest, see if you can find others who are also interested, an inquiry that will also serve as a clue if something will be popular. This group of like-minded students can serve to provide the critical mass and the hours of work needed to follow a newspaper project thorough to completion. Papers need writers, editors, art directors and publishers; there is usually too much work for one person. This approach, of following an idea to conclusion, and involving other people along the way, is a key to being an entrepreneur.
  • Jim Brudney’61, Naunihal Singh ’82, and Tyreta Foster ’83

    ...agreed to talk about the law, personal rights, the constitution and social responsibility to a sixth grade class. While the conversation touched on these topics it ultimately centered on contracts and what constitutes a legal agreement between two parties. The students were interested in how the law views a contract involving an illegal activity; how binding an agreement is if is not written it down; and who is more responsible for keeping an agreement between people of different ability or power, for example between an individual and a company or institution, or between an individual and their teacher. There was a lively discussion of many legal issues about arrangements that people make with each other both in everyday examples and in some very complex examples the students came up with. There was show of hands and a fair percentage of the class thought that being a lawyer would be interesting because they like to debate issues.
  • Susan L. Schulman ’56

    ...brought her more than 30 years of experience as a theatrical press agent to our aspiring sixth grade performers. She described some of the projects and productions that she worked on and after many student questions about the world of theater, Susan had them generate ideas about the best ways to publicize theatrical events. Then the talk shifted to the target audience for different types of performances and the best ways to spread the
    word (advertise) to specific audiences. The conversation ended with a list of possible ways to publicize (advertise) this year’s sixth grade production. These ideas were quickly adopted by the 6th grade PR team for the 2011 HCES production of "Seussical the Musical".
  • Rose Fox ’90

    ...book editor for Publishers Weekly, became an instant hit with the second graders when she told them that she gets paid to read and that her home is like a library. She talked about how a book gets published and showed them a manuscript page with editorial marks, the same page in its final stage in the book and different stages of the cover art. She discussed the important elements in a book review with the use of the following mnemonic: the AEIOU of book reviews -- Audience, Expectation, Importance, Opinion, and Unusual. She explained how they need to ask the following questions in order to write a thorough book review. Who’s your Audience? What did you Expect before you started the book? What did you find were the most Important parts of the book? What is your Opinion of the book, and why? What makes the book Unusual? After Rose gave a few examples, the students had the chance to review a recently read book. As part of the second-grade language arts program, and shortly after Rose’s visit, they wrote their own book reviews. The teacher also shared the AEIOU of book reviews with the HCES faculty.
  • Eve Sicular ’73

    Music class with the first grade was a treat when Eve came to HCES. She played recordings of a number of her band's klezmer songs to students and demonstrated dance steps and drumbeats found in the music. While they danced she also told them to listen for instruments playing a solo, using posters of her band to show them the images of the instruments as they listened to the sound. Some of the songs were in Yiddish, and she talked about the origins of Yiddish. The students listened for Yiddish words as she played songs for them. Eve also discussed the cultural traditions that travel through immigration and family traditions of different students' families.
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