Monday, February 20, 2017

(Did that get your attention?)

Career Corner---calling all ANIMAL lovers!!!!!

BC Students-
It's not too early to start thinking about a topic you might want to explore for the 4th quarter research paper. Many many students through the years have expressed their desire to find a profession that somehow deals with animals.
This led me to contact Brett DePoister, another one of my Holy Guardian Angels students who also is a Central Graduate.

Brett now lives in AUSTRALIA
(no, I didn't go there, but maybe some day...)
but he kindly answered the questions I emailed him.

I was planning to paraphrase his responses, but he did such a wonderful job himself, I didn't feel the need to alter a word.

Here's Brett, and his interview:

1. First, what exactly were the animals that used to live in your bedroom at your old house?

This is not a very easy question to answer as there were many!  Anything that most people consider creepy and crawly was in my bedroom!  It all started when I was in kindergarten - with newts, which are aquatic salamanders from there the collection grew and I had iguanas, skinks, geckos, chameleons,  tarantulas, mud puppies, frogs, and the list goes on….  The collection got to the point where I literally had no room in my bedroom.  At one point I was sleeping on the couch in the living room because of such a large collection.  My very supportive parents allowed me to refurbish our basement into a “reptile and amphibian breeding facility” so I could return to my room!

2. When did you graduate from Central?


3.What was the title of the science fair that led you to the National Fair? (Any details about that ....)

I attribute much of my success and where I am today to the required science fair projects at HGA and CCHS.  I embraced my love of frogs, interest in science, and school requirements to develop a research project that examined the world-wide problem of abnormalities in frog populations.  Ultimately frogs are like the canary in the coal mine, and they are bio-indicators of the environment. Large population declines and abnormalities (such as extra legs, not enough legs, multiple eyes, etc) were being found worldwide.  The cause was not known, in many areas pollution was suspected to be the problem. My parents were always supportive in my interests and at the age of 15 allowed me to travel to Australia by myself to work in a lab that was trying to discover what was causing these problems. During my stay there I developed my science fair project which received international attention:  presented at two International Science and Engineering Fairs, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize sponsored by the Royal Family of Sweden,  and the Intel Science Talent Search.

The title of my project was: “The effects of Zinc and Diazinon on the Embryonic Development of Xenopus laevis” Here I looked at two common environmental pollutants (zinc used in many industrial manufacturing products and batteries and diazinon is an insect killer) on the development of a frog – in summary they are bad!

4. Where did you attend college? Major? Year of graduation?

I attended Stony Brook University in New York on a full scholarship. My major was biology with a minor in neurobiology gained through completing research in nerve regeneration in zebra fish.  I graduated in 2003.

5. What was your first position after college?

Career choice after college was not a straight forward path.  During college I became involved in a start-up company that created customised software for science college professors and also provided tutorial services to college students. After I graduated, I put my love of animals on the back burner and devoted my time to this company. Entrepreneurship, the hope of being the next Google or Facebook and billions led me down a different path – the reality of working for a start-up company is long hours and depending on the funding no pay. I persisted for over three years, even working night jobs loading Fed Ex trucks to the pay the bills – there was always light at the end of the tunnel of making it big but we never got there. My, now wife, also worked for the company, when we were on our honeymoon we had a major life evaluation and decided to pull the plug on the start-up company.  My love of animals and science prevailed and I decided to apply for veterinary school – this too was not a straight forward path.  Long story short two months after our honeymoon we packed up our bags and dog and moved to Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands in the Caribbean to attend St. Matthew’s School of Veterinary Medicine. After a year of study and lots of SCUBA diving the opportunity to move to Australia arose and in 2008 I returned to Australia to study veterinary medicine at Murdoch University in Western Australia. 

6. I feel like you always knew what you wanted to "be" even in middle that accurate? Is the position you have now close to what you envisioned?

I really am living the dream.  I always wanted a profession that I worked with animals, especially the unusual ones. My current role as a veterinarian for The Aquarium Vet allows me to look after and care for all of the animals that have been a lifelong fascination. 

7. (I'm getting a little ahead of myself). Where do you live now? For how long?

I currently live in Melbourne, Australia. I have been in Australia for just over nine years now.  I arrived on a student visa, after my wife completed her masters in Australia we qualified for permanent residency, and in 2016 my wife and I officially became citizens of Australia.   America and Australia relationship allows dual citizenship, so we are still also US citizens, along with our two children we have eight passports so when travelling I feel like we are in the Bourne Identity!  

8. Where do you work? What do you do?

I work for The Aquarium Vet and we provide to veterinary care to public aquariums, research facilities, and government controlled fish import facilities. I am primarily based at Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium in city centre Melbourne. 

9. Is there a typical day for you?

Driving into work I never know what my day is going to be like. At the aquarium I look after all the animals from small one inch fish, three metre sharks, our 16.5ft and 1700 pound saltwater crocodile, and king and gentoo penguin colony. Day to day I provide preventive medicine – i.e. keeping the animals nice and healthy and preventing disease.  I also play a role in maintaining the welfare for all the animals held in a captive environment. I am also involved in developing reproductive techniques in sharks – with the ultimate goal of protecting wild shark populations, which unfortunately are experiencing rapid population declines. I also look after and rehabilitate sea turtles that are found sick in the wild in Victorian waters. 

10.What is most rewarding about your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is helping the animals. At the end of the day that is why I went to vet school, directly related is educating the public. Many of the animals that I look after and love, are not perceived in the same way by the vast majority of the public. Sharks, crocodiles, spiders, snakes etc are such amazing creatures and are so important to our ecosystem. Teaching the public to appreciate these animals and protect the environment they live in is rewarding.  

11. What are the biggest challenges?

In vet school we received a very through education on how to treat a dog, cat, horse, cow, chicken, etc.  Treating animals outside of the norm comes with its own challenges – especially those that are not terrestrial and live underwater.  Aquarium vets are constantly presented with challenge that we need to come up with solutions.  Very often we cannot open up a textbook for the answer.

12. Do you envision something else in your future?

Nope.  I really am living the dream.

13.  How did you meet your wife? Where did you get married? Your children's names and ages?

I met Ada in college at Stony Brook University. We had mutual friends throughout school, but during our senior year we were in the same sign language class (language requirement) and the rest is history. She has been so supportive with my career path. She encouraged and supported our international moves while at the same time studied and worked on her own career – she received her masters and CA in accounting and now works in resourcing for an international accounting firm. We now have to children, Tyler – my birthday buddy (same birthday as mine) and will be three this year, and Viera is 1.5 years old.

14. Do you have any advice for students who want to explore your field?

Get involved. The animal industry as a whole is a very completive industry – there are a lot of people that want to work with animals. Veterinary school is very competitive, not only do you need the grades but you need to show initiative. Vet schools want candidates that have been involved – volunteer at your local veterinary clinic, wildlife rehab centres, participate in school projects.  Don’t look at the science fair as a burden – embrace it and come up with a project that you are passionate about!  

I knew Brett since he was younger than you, freshmen. He really did know what he wanted to do even then. The lesson learned, obviously, is that you CAN achieve your dream. Notice his advice: Get involved, show initiative, volunteer, and see school projects as opportunities to learn.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Love in your heart isn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away. – Oscar Hammerstein II

It's been a week of hearts, love, and friendship....the perfect conclusion is to present true poems from the heart of two of my students.

Ben celebrates the presence of love/friendship in his life in "City Lights"

"City Lights"

Sitting on top of the city
With the girl of my dreams
The city lights are gleaming brightly
Just like her eyes

She's just as pretty
As the night sky above
I get lost in her eyes
Like I get lost in the stars

The beautiful view of the city life below
Sitting next to the most perfect girl ever
Makes a picture perfect spot
For a picture perfect shot

                   By Ben Villareal

Sometimes love is just beyond our grasp as Christian expresses in " Love is A Fleeting Dream"

Christian Nguyen. 

Love is a Fleeting Dream 

I have looked at you a thousand times

with the same foolish look.

It seems as though from my heart there is something that you took.

Why did you mesmerize my mind,

tantalizing throughly to the extent of tears?

You gave me Hope of placating my serious infatuation,

but like a beautiful marble statue, turn me away.

Yet I press on, yearning for any chance of interaction.

Your smile hammers at my heart.

Years have passed, I still feel the unattainable desire.

You entice me in my loneliness.

I suffer, waiting for my unrequited love

to be purged from fountain of reason.

Your hair, an ocean of gold,

laughs at my poverty in appearance.

Reality, my cold master, seems to hound me,

turning me back to my monotonous toil.

I lose Hope of ever conquering your passion.

Yet, you ceaselessly pervade my mind.

With your scarlet red lips and charming laugh,

I would find my life worth living.

You are a fleeting dream, lost in the abyss of time.

How can I Hope to love one with a heart of ice.

If only the fleeting dream would pass,

I would wake anew.

Should I give up my love?

Your deep blue eyes have lost their luster.

Should I turn to you again?

You leave me in perpetual despair.

Should I leave my love?

You don't even know I exist.

My love for you may only be a fleeting dream.

I'm sure that ALL readers, younger or older, teenager or beyond, can relate to these sentiments..maybe try penning one yourself.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Warning! That teacher may one day be your friend
(or what I learned from
 Friar Lawrence and the Nurse)

(photos from the Frank Zeffirelli's movie)

This week I had the amazing opportunity to view Romeo and Juliet at the Media Theater in Media, PA. It was one thing to have the chance to see a live performance of my favorite Shakespeare play, it was another thing to see it while my students are reading it with Mr. Olivard...and it was the BEST thing because I had the chance to see it due to a friendship with a former student, Deanna Stephan.

I was Deanna's 7th and 8th grade English teacher at Holy Guardian Angels School! I say that with an exclamation point, because I think that's pretty incredible. I remember Deanna back then---I actually remember a really nice writing assignment she composed based on the prop "Describe your favorite walk" when she provided clear imagery about a walk in San Francisco with her parents---the smell of the sourdough bread still comes to mind.......

Deanna, a Central Catholic (class of 1999) and St. Joe's University grad, took those skills and used them as she began her career as an English teacher in the Philadelphia Public School System. She currently teaches 9th and 12th grades at Garnet Valley High School in Glen Mills. When she heard I was on sabbatical, she offered me a day of observation, and a second day of chaperoning the play. Needless to say, I happily agreed.

It got me to thinking about friendships, young and old, and I often discuss friendships and age with my students. Romeo and Friar Lawrence were friends, as were Juliet and her Nurse, with  many years between them. Some of my best friends are people 20 years my junior and 10 year my's nice. I think we all should be careful not to overlook these surprising relationships in our lives.

Deanna Stephan and me at intermission. We laughed because it looks like the play is Romeo and Deanna!

And the play.....

Well the play (directed by Bill Van Horn) far exceeded my expectations. The cast was wonderful, but let's face it, if the title characters aren't engaging to the audience, then you don't have a play. Romeo was played by Brandon O'Rourke, and a young actress named Lexi Gwynn portrayed Juliet. I have seen many productions, but this was the first I have seen that the actress matched Juliet's age, or at least close to it. Juliet is young (''She hath not see the change of fourteen years") and Lexi, born in 2002, is fourteen. Perfect!

Lexi and Bradon/Juliet and Romeo
(Thanks to Roger Ricker from Media Theater for suppling the picture)

Curtain call (no pictures during the performance)
The characters were in a somewhat modern dress.
Scaffolding was nicely used for the balcony, Juliet's bedroom, Tybalt's perch to watch Romeo at the feast, and the crypt.

As I was walking out of the theater
I noticed a young girl sitting on a stool lacing up her hightops. I wasn't sure, but I thought, "What do I have to lose?" I asked her..."Are you Juliet?" Surely she was! I got a little starstruck and asked for a selfie and an autograph. At the rate she's going, I may have a valuable picture when she makes it big!

Me and Lexi!

BC students, if you are interested in a singing/acting career, check out her website for inspiration. She won the 2015 Broadway World Award as Best Actress for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.

So that was my time with Romeo and Juliet, walking in with an old friend and making a new one.
BC students, I can't wait to hear about YOUR R&J experience!

Tomorrow is Stanza Saturday--I have 2 student poems about love <3

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"Art thou gone so? my lord, my love, my friend!
I must hear from thee every day in an hour..."
--Juliet to Romeo 
Act 3 Sc 5
Without a doubt, this is one of the saddest scenes in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, because it is, although they do not know it at the time, the last time the two lovers will speak. Romeo has just been banished from Verona for killing Juliet's cousin, Tybalt. He must leave, but he has the assurance from Friar Lawrence that he will be able to return one day to his love. Juliet wants him to write to her every day.

It reminds me of the modern day song, "Daylight" by Maroon 5:

Here I am waiting, I'll have to leave soon
Why am I holding on?
We knew this day would come, we knew it all along
How did it come so fast?
This is our last night but it's late
And I'm trying not to sleep
'Cause I know, when I wake
I will have to slip away
And when the daylight comes I'll have to go
But tonight I'm gonna hold you so close
'Cause in the daylight we'll be on our own
But tonight I need to hold you so close
Ooh whoa, ooh whoa, ooh whoa
Ooh whoa, ooh whoa, ooh whoa
Here I am staring at your perfection
In my arms, so beautiful
The sky is getting bright, the stars are burning out
Somebody slow it down
This is way too hard
'Cause I know, when the sun comes up
I will leave, this is my last glance
That will soon be memory
(A-Z Lyrics)
The idea of sending letters as a means of communication is slowly fading away; however, in Verona , Italy, the tradition continues. Each year more than 6,000 letters addressed to Juliet pour in from around the world with tales of love and love lost. Juliet has become the go-to-girl as an expert in all things romance.
The letters began arriving in the late 1800's, but it wasn't until the 1930's that Ettore Solimani, the caretaker of Juliet's grave, began to gather the letters and reply to them. Today, the women of "Juliet's Club" answer the letters on a full-time basis. The responses are all hand-written and are answered in the language in which it was written.

Today Giovanna Tamassia is the Juliet Club manager. The pictures show postmarks from around the globe.

With all this faith in Juliet, it makes a person wonder---were Romeo and Juliet real? The Montecchi and Cappelletti families were families in 1302 in Italy. Dante Alighieri was the first person to write about the rivals. In 1530 the novelist Luigi Da Porto continued the story in a book, and that plot was used by Matteo Bandelllo, and that work was translated into French. Arthur Brooke then turned the novel into verse, and THAT was the inspiration for William Shakespeare, who wrote the most famous love story ever told in his play Romeo and Juliet in 1569.
(Who can resist a good love story?)

As a comment on the end of the play (no spoilers--Shakespeare tells the audience what happens in the prologue) I always talk with my students about how a theme can be misunderstood. The two lovers commit suicide so they can be together.
CLEARLY this isn't the answer.
That's why I like the idea of writing to Juliet...sometimes if one is troubled, all it might take is a letter or a kind friend to express one's feelings---in other words, talk about what is on your mind. Sometimes just putting the words out there can be healing.

On that Note, my words and wishes on Valentine's Day day go to all the people in my life (family, friends, students, colleagues) who I love and make me feel loved each day.


The Juliet Club.” The Juliet Club, 14 Feb. 2017,
Goldberg, Melissa. “Love's Labor.” Oprah, Feb. 2017, p. 24.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Meow..... It all started with Snowball

If I am being honest...
I have to admit that when we lined up to come into the Hemingway House I was just as excited to see the cats as I was to learn more about the author. Obviously other people feel the same way because the first sign posted is :

It was a good reminder, because they are hard to resist!

It all started with Snowball, a gift to Hemingway from a sea captain friend. The cat had the trait of polydachtalism, a congenital physical deformity having extra (in this case) toes. Not all the cats have this trait, but they all carry the recessive gene that accounts for the number of cats walking around looking like they are wearing mittens.

Currently there are 53 free-roaming cats on the grounds of the homestead---and believe me, they are everywhere! My first encounter was in Hemingways's bedroom. As the tour guide was attempting to point out the rare antiques of the room , up jumped not one, but two pet kitties!
The tour guide jokingly said he might as well quit talking because everyone was just looking at the cats and not listening to him! (Guilty as charged....)

This was just the beginning of the cat search, although no real search was needed.
Showing off the toes
I think his name is Harry

Evidence that this is cats' stomping grounds!

 This is Lucille Ball. The tour guide was proud to know that she is 8 months old and that he was present at her birth.

The cats are well cared for with constant health care and vaccinations.

 This guy was in the gift shop--just jumped right up and started his snack. (The cat bowls are for sale, of course!)

She was napping in Hemingway's writing studio, the one converted from the carriage house.

Not sure of his name, but I'm calling him Santiago, asleep, dreaming of the lions..........

Hemingway had this to say about cats:
"A cat has absolute emotional honesty; human beings, for one reason or another, hide their feelings, but a cat does not."

With all the cats in his life, I think we can say this is an expert observation!

I cannot end this blog without paying tribute to the cat in my life...

Coming's Valentine's Week, perfect time to review a Romeo & Juliet production! spotlight and poems of love and friendship <3