Class of 2015!
See MS entry for speech excerpts! 

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 June 15, 2015


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Coming Up at Hilltop
Lost & Found
SummerFun Soccer Camp
Toddler Room
Birch & Willow Rooms
Middle School
Coming Up at Hilltop
SummerFun camps run Monday, June 22nd
Friday, July 31st!

For those of you who like to plan ahead, check out the 2015-16 School Calendar here.

Have a great summer!

Tiny House Update
Libby Bennett, Dev. Director of Groundworks Collective (formerly Morningside Shelter) drew the winning ticket at the Strolling of the Heifers two Saturdays ago. Our lucky winner, Marilyn Aronoff donated the house back to Groundworks for use as a client counseling room. We were able to give $1500 to Groundworks as well. Hilltop netted about $5000 from the raffle, which will be added to our financial aid program.

Tamara, Josh Davis, Groundworks Exec. Dir. and Tiny House winner, Marilyn Aronoff

The Last Day of School:
Bead Ceremony & Field 


Graduation items and Lost & Found- COME AND GET IT!

Thanks to all the stalwart parents who helped out at Graduation with delicious food and lots of elbow grease! 

All of the leftover dishes, baskets, trays, etc. are in the lobby of the Lower School building. Please come and claim these items by the end of the day this Friday, or they will be donated.

The same goes for the MANY lost & found items we have accumulated over the past months! Please come and get your stuff by the end of the day on Friday!

SummerFun begins June 22nd!

We are looking forward to seeing all of our campers on Monday, June 22nd! 

We still have some spots in a few of our camps - we are especially looking to fill up the Soccer camp for the 9-12 year olds! Please tell your friends and families about SummerFun at Hilltop! 

Find out more about SummerFun on our website.

Toddler Room

September 2014

June 2015

Lucas (who was not here for our June photoshoot) 
works with crayons

Look how much we have grown this school year! It has been a year filled with growth of all kinds. Whether adjusting to the routines of the school day, engaging in language lessons, learning to use the toilet, preparing food for snack or working in the sandbox, we have shared many joyful moments as a class. We thank the community for helping make this such a successful first year of the Toddler Program. Happy Summer! 

Ellie and Hannah 



Birch and Willow Rooms

This past week, the Willow and Birch Rooms celebrated the end of the year with special watermelon snacks to say goodbye to the Olders. During these celebrations, the Olders received well wishes from the rest of the class and told us what they were excited about for next year. At the end of the celebration, our Middlers were introduced as next year's Olders! These small classroom celebrations both gave our Olders closure on their Children's House experience, and helped our younger students say goodbye and get ready for their new roles next year.  

During this celebration, the Birch Room also said a different kind of goodbye to Natalie and Malika, while the Willow Room said goodbye to Senji, Avery, and Sunday, who will all attend new schools this fall.

On Thursday, the whole school celebrated with field day games and a bead ceremony. During the bead ceremony, all the children "moving up" received a bead necklace from the children in their new class. The Children's House Olders began the celebration by walking in with candles and leading our first song! 

Have a great summer!

Cheryl, Jonathan, Rebecca, Serina, Mariam, and Jaime

Lower El


Hello Everyone,

We spent our last week engaged in all sorts of happy tasks. Andrea Burke, James's and Pete's mother (and Patrick's wife) visited us to share her knowledge of planting. Andrea has a PhD in plant breeding and a degree in horticulture, and has been the caretaker of the beautiful plants that have graced the Lower El classroom all year. With her supervision, the gardeners of Lower El filled our two raised beds with flowers and vegetables that will await them upon their return to school. Many thanks to her for helping make our wish for more gardening space a reality!

Our other special parent guest was Dave Cohen, Ely's dad, who stopped by with his electric assist bicycle to give a presentation on bike safety. Aided by his trusty assistant Ely, he taught us about the importance of wearing a helmet in good condition, making sure your bike chains are lubricated, and your tires are filled enough, but not too much. One of the many interesting facts Dave shared with us was that people in Denmark do not wear helmets. Theirs is such a bicycle culture that there are many bike pathways throughout their cities and towns, and people know the rules of cycling. Since most young and beginning cyclists bike on sidewalks here, Dave warned us to check for opening car doors. Equally important is bright clothing while riding in the street. Lastly, the type of fuel you put into cycling is so important. Dave encouraged everyone to eat really well before going on a long bike ride, so that you have the energy to pedal and the mental alertness to watch out for hazards.  Hopefully your children will enjoy many hours of fun on their bikes this summer. Thank you, Dave, for an exciting presentation and a display of that cool kickstand!

On Thursday morning at 11, we heard speeches from our Olders, Ally, Annelise, Ava, Ben, Ellie, Ely, James, Leo, Marian, and Sam. Younger friends helped set up chairs outside, next to our greenhouse. Our group of ten took their seats as their class sat on the grass, facing them. One by one, they stood up and shared their prepared speeches about their first days, highlights of their Lower El careers, and the hopes and plans they have for their futures in Upper El. Many said they were scared to come to Lower El at first; some worried that they wouldn't make friends, or that the work would be too hard for them. Hearing them speak, it was difficult not to reflect on the one, two, or three years they had spent in our classroom without feeling touched. After a round of applause, their Middler friends presented them with the beautiful terra cotta pots they had painted and filled with flowers. Included in this ritual were Oscar and Silvia, two of our friends who will be heading elsewhere next year. Our classroom community was all the richer because we had these twelve children in it. We will miss them, and we wish them all the best!  

Finally, we want to share some parting words with you, that are not our own (you've gotten enough of those!):

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

By William Martin, The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents.


Enjoy a safe and relaxing summer.

Kerstin and Patrick

Lower El graduates with their farewell flower pots.

Upper El

In Upper El, as in the other programs, we have an in-class ceremony for students moving on up to middle school. The 6th grade graduation is something of a sacred event between students moving up, their younger peers, and their teachers. The event has its own traditions established over the years and anticipated by each group of graduating students. We want to share with you some of our traditions and this year's highlights. In addition to copies of two of their speeches below, also see photos of both our ceremony and our recent 3-day trip to Farm and Wilderness.


Some highlights of our ceremony included:

  • Each sixth grader gave a speech, offering highlights from each of their years in Upper El, thanking those who have influenced and helped them, and offering funny and memorable anecdotes.  Poignant moments of insight were blended with humor.  
  • Each departing student donated a book to the class. 
  • The sixths gave an individual "power" to each of the remaining students. For example, Solomon was given the power to be chess king. 
  • Younger students presented diplomas, home-made graduation hats, and a collection of hand-crafted gifts to each graduate. 
  • Tom sang "In My Life" and accompanied this on piano. 
  • Dan read two poems. 
  • Jen dedicated a punctuation mark to each student, and explained how the symbols represented special qualities of the students.  Alex was presented a  hyphen for being someone who joins people together as friends. 
  • Mason presented a one-man rendition of a conversation between Tom-Dan  (complete with coffee mug and glasses) as seen through his fourth grade eyes. 
  • The graduates flash-mobbed the class with confetti, music, strobe light, and general mayhem.


Graduation Speech

Leah S-S

My memories of Upper El will always be punctuated with plays, chocolate protests, Pinnacle hikes and three-day trips, Math Sequence lessons, Seminar essays, and my least favorite, the dreaded artifact works. But what I will remember most about Upper El are two things: the teachers and a sense of teamwork and belonging.


First, the teachers.


I can't imagine any teacher besides Dan doing hip-hop in the circle or talking to my mom for half an hour - no less - about the food in Rhode Island while almost drooling on her car.


And what about the time last year when Jen bought us Oreos after we went shopping for the three-day trip? It was pretty noble.


And I can't think of Tom without thinking of his puns, so bad that they're funny, or imagining him saying "dweep" while making weird motions in four-square.


My point is that our teachers are, as Tom would say, "unique, just like everyone else." They know us well, and vice versa. We're lucky because we have teachers who interact with us as equals. They're not condescending. They let us help make decisions and they ask us our opinion. Now I'm sounding preachy, so I'll share another anecdote that I can't imagine happening with anyone else: Does anyone remember the time that I accidentally called Tom "mom?"


I said earlier that the other thing that I would remember most about Upper El was the sense of teamwork. Sure, we have our moments of exclusiveness or teasing, but doesn't everyone? I realized that on the three-day trip, we really pull ourselves together. In the kitchen, for instance, on Thursday evening, when Tom's advisory was making stir-fry, I had a few idle moments and noticed some major teamwork going on. People were asking others for instruction, offering advice, and offering help.  People that you'd never see together in the classroom were teaming up on difficult jobs. It got very emotional. Just kidding, blame the onions.


Anyway, I think it's amazing that we always manage to get all of the meals done on time. But we always do. See what I mean about teamwork?


A sense of belonging is another thing that rises on the three-day trip. For me, shivering and playing cards at 5:30 in the morning is hard to do without feeling like you belong. Also, if I didn't feel completely at ease with the people around me, I wouldn't have been running around armed with brooms and shouting, "Young man, you are in trouble with the FBI!" in a really bad southern accent at boys who are six months older than I. Upper El is a good place to know that you belong in, even if temporarily.


In Upper El, I've learned more than math and grammar and Latin. I've learned to, quote, not sweat the small stuff and that sometimes you just have to let go. I've learned to expand my circles of friendship, to critique myself and others, and that it's best to just go with the flow. I've learned that positivity is the best option and that if I want help, I should stop whining. Immediately. That one's for you, Dan. 


Now for some parting advice: if you want chocolate, rave about classical music to Jen, laugh at Tom's very bad jokes, and praise Dan's Lindy hop. Who knows, maybe you'll get your longed-for sweet. Thank you everyone for a great Upper El experience.



6th Grade Farewell

Tula Campman


Walking into a new classroom as a fourth grader was terrifying.  It didn't help to have two tall men walking straight for me, one in a blue cardigan smiling like his life depended on it, the other in hiking boots humming Mozart. This was my first impression of Dan and Tom.


But as I grew accustomed to the classroom and the new teachers, I began to enjoy it. It didn't take me long to fit in. Of course I stayed close to my fellow fourth graders, but I began to understand what was expected of the students and how much I could tease Dan before he completely lost it. The work had increased a lot from third grade, so I had to be very organized with my time, something that was often hard for me.


But as my fifth grade year rolled around, work became easier to get done. Luckily, Jen speed-walked right in and became my personal work organizer. I still had my close friends but I began to spread out more and became more open to the people around me.


But of all the years so far, sixth grade has been the best. I was ready for the responsibility of being a role model and a leader of our class. I became much more open with all my classmates and I realized that opening myself allowed so many more amazing people I never had noticed to stand out. It gave me a chance to know and understand those around me. By helping others I earned their respect.


I want to thank everyone in Upper el for making my experience here amazing, and my family for supporting me and getting me here every day of my life. I will miss Dan's frequent dancing, and tormenting him with cups, hair touching, nicknames, repetitive talking, and worst of all, men's cologne. I will miss Jen's amazing piano playing, and of course it wouldn't be an Upper El speech without mentioning Tom's corny jokes. I grew more here than in the rest of my life. I conquered so many fears, I learned to be a leader, and I even learned a bit of math on the way too.  Upper El didn't just teach me, it gave me an opportunity to improve and be a good person. Sixth grade made me a leader; Upper El made me who I am.


Upper El Graduation

Farm and Wilderness Trip



Middle School 


Our final week at school:


Three days in Upland: practicing speeches, dodging the rain, the final night walk, singing all the songs past midnight, falling asleep with the Heffalumps, a thoughtful and beautiful final seventh grade community ceremony. A day of preparation, field day, and the always touching bead ceremony with the youngest adorning the oldest with their beaded necklace of transition. Finally graduation day itself: joy, tears, courageous and moving speeches, and a bounty of celebration and gratitude, a night to savor.  




Middle School Graduation speech excerpts


It was seventh grade, and I sat on the rock in the sunny clearing on my quarter acre Upland plot and listened. I felt the warmth of the September sun, I heard the leaves rustling, and I watched a chipmunk scurry across the ground; I was surrounded by life in a moment of perfect calm.


It was spring, and we slipped and climbed over large rocks covered in moss as we followed the path of the river. We stopped to measure the slant of the river, touch the different types of sediment, collect and measure rocks of all sizes, and pick up the trash floating downstream. And as we felt the water running through our toes, we began to understand what a watershed was.


On our River of Spirit odyssey, as we sang in churches and synagogues of Boston, we let our voices blend together and rise up to the ceiling. In that moment, it didn't matter what we were singing about, or even what language we were singing, it just mattered that we were singing together.

~Izzy Snyder


Hilltop Middle School is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I have been transformed. It started the first week of school when we went to Upland. My mind was flooded, thoughts that I couldn't comprehend were everywhere. I realized that I am a part of something so much bigger than what I could fully understand. I felt that I was exploding with self expression: poetry, journaling and painting. There was something inside of me that felt so right. It was there, in the woods, I felt a deeper connection to myself and to others. I know not everyone feels the same way about being in nature, but for the first time this did not bother me. I discovered that my friends, teachers, and classmates respect my differences and opinions. 

~Bella Bonneau


Each piece of my experience taught me a lesson I will hold dear forever: the quadratic formula, five paragraph essay structure, standing where Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth led many in the Civil Rights struggle. Each piece of knowledge or experience I have gained has been woven into a chrysalis. Memories, feelings, encounters, inexplicable discoveries: steam rising in the crisp air of the morning from my hot cocoa at Upland, discovering how the removal of cat tumors fits into the greater Brattleboro community, the constant joking banter I share with my teachers, young Alabama children's arms wrapped around my neck. It is not just facts or lessons I have gained here, it is experiences, relationships, fascinating connections of how we live, all stitched into creating the whole of what I have become. Every color painted onto my wings, from minuscule realizations to obvious encounters, has changed me as a human in this world.

       ~Greta Wolfe


I think for most of my life, I've always been a wanderer. I was able to realize that about myself and keep wandering because of the feeling of acceptance I had during my time at Hilltop. That's what reminded me of one of the earliest memories of when I arrived here. It took place in fifth grade during recess on the playground. I had decided for the first time to get in line to play four square. I waited a really long time and didn't know any of the rules. When it was finally my turn I stumbled up, and the ball came at me, and I whacked at it, and someone said, "Archer you're out," and that's when I walked away toward the back of the line, and soon I started crying. I was crying because all the memories from fourth grade of people saying things like, "Hey Archer, you are such an idiot, it's hilarious," and another time saying, "Do you think in one hundred years Archer will ever be smart?" or, "He needs to go to the pound so somebody can pound some sense into him," came flooding back. But instead of laughing at me for crying, someone asked me if I was ok. They told me how they got hit in the face with the ball the first time they played that game. Everyone was so kind me and tried to cheer me up, make me feel better, and gave me the signal that it was the right community for me...

I think it was in third or fourth grade [at another school] when I was given a small writing assignment. The prompt was that I was supposed to write what I wished I could have more of in school. And what I wrote was that I wanted more opportunities to be creative. I said that because I just felt really tired of walking in single file lines and sitting at a desk and filling out little story problem sheets. But later, in my 7th grade year [at Hilltop], I was really frustrated with how vague the assignments I was getting were. I felt really angry at the fact that I had so many choices. I thought it was too hard. I felt like I just wanted to do normal school work. And then I remembered that same writing assignment from so long ago, and it reminded me of how I had wanted so badly to do something in school that could go in many directions, and how I have always wandered away whenever I could because in school I felt so deprived of a chance to do that, and now I was frustrated that I had gotten what I wanted. It's basically like driving down the highway and being so tired of following directions that you take the road map you had in the passenger seat and tear it up and crumple it into a ball and roll down the car window and throw it out onto the street, then later when you're lost, being mad that your GPS broke.

To the people who helped tell my story, Dan, Tom, Nora, Paul, and Finn, I would like to say thank you and goodbye.

~Archer Parks


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Community News


Hilltop Middle School Alum Zeb Hathaway is singing with Village Harmony again this summer and he and his family are arranging a potluck dinner and housing for the night of their concert in Brattleboro. They will be performing at the Center Congregational Church at on July 23rd at 7:30PM.

Village Harmony is a Vermont-born and based organization founded by Larry Gordon nearly 26 years ago. Today, they have camps all over the world and directors who come from all over to teach teens songs and community traditions from diverse cultures. This particularly session will perform South African songs and dances, Balkan and Georgian songs, and American Shape Note and Renaissance pieces. For more information about Village Harmony, see
If you can host a couple or a few singers and/or provide something for the pre-concert potluck, please contact Kathleen Hathaway at 
[email protected].

CPR and Pediatric Frist Aid Training session at Hilltop

Saturday, July 11th, 9AM-3:30PM

Rescue, Inc. will be offering a CPR and Pediatric First Aid course for parents. The course is $40 per person. If you are interested in attending, please contact Kathryn Einig (Willow Room parent.)


Hilltop Montessori School