Category Archives: Upper School

US English Teacher Leaves the Classroom for the Commons

By Kyleigh Lewis

One of Oak Hall’s Upper School (US) teachers has left the classroom to join the Learning Commons team. English teacher Paul Mucci changed positions at the beginning of this school year to work as a Learning Specialist.

In his 33 years of teaching, Mucci is still somewhat new to Oak Hall, starting here three years ago. “The first year was eighth and ninth, then all ninth last year and now here in the learning center,” he said.

Mucci, originally got his degree in English so he could attend law school. However, after getting a job at the Boys Club (now known as the Boys & Girls Club), he realized how much he enjoyed working with children. “Instead of applying to law school, I applied to graduate school to get my degree in education because, I just liked working with kids,” Mucci noted.

Working with kids for so long has given Mucci an understanding of how rough times can affect people. While he taught, he grasped to the fact that teachers may not always know what is going on in the life of their students. Knowing that every child is unique and has their own struggles made it easier for him when students took out their aggression on him. “Sometimes if kids don’t perform well or [don’t] have the best attitude, it may not be because of my class, subject, or me. It could be caused by things like not getting enough sleep, being hungry or going through a break-up,” the veteran teacher said. “I really had to learn not to take things personally. That I’d understand there are other things going on and that has helped me deal with people.”

With Mucci changing his career to a learning specialist, he expressed that working in the Learning Commons has allowed him to continue helping students learn a particular subject or help find new study habits; so, he never stopped being a teacher. As to why he changed his career, he elaborated that he wanted to try something different and challenge himself while still doing what he loves.

Mandatory Study Hall for Freshmen Disappears

By Ava West

To the surprise of many Oak Hall Upper School (US) students, freshmen no longer have to attend study hall their first semester. Instead, they automatically have a free period. The US administration researched data and grades from previous freshmen classes and found that “most freshmen use free periods at least partly to study and get ahead,” explained Upper School Director John Perlette. While many US students participate in after school activities, the new freedom is encourage to be used to get ahead of their homework.

“When I was a freshman, [mandatory study hall] was very beneficial because when freshmen first come to the Upper School they don’t know what to expect,” said junior Major Collins. Defaulting to study halls isn’t necessary for all students as most already use the free period to see teachers and study independently. Study halls are mandated for students who need a little bit of guidance and help to get on top of their grades. When interims are sent by teachers to parents for students that have earned a C- or below in a class, Oak Hall’s Learning Center team are made aware of the situation. If a student has two or more grades of a C- or below, a mandatory study hall is put into place. In addition, if a student is failing a class, they are also put into a mandatory study hall.

When freshmen had study hall their first semester, it wasn’t as structured as the current study hall is. “When I ran study hall as a teacher I would say ‘Listen, you have work to do, and I have work to do if you are getting my attention, you are not doing the right thing’. That is not a supportive environment for students to earn their way out of study hall and I’ll be the first to admit that,” Perlette stated. The Learning Center also provides a consistent, concentrated study hall environment for students who need the extra help.

Spanish Students Head To Conferencia

Since November, a select number of students taking Spanish have been practicing for Conferencia, a state-wide competition where students perform a two minute impromptu speech, 10 students act in a play, and six students recite poetry…all in Spanish. With a maximum of 16 students competing, Oak Hall is hosting this year’s competition in Orlando. The competition, which starts on Thursday, March 8, goes into the weekend.

In addition to the aforementioned categories, schools can compete in auxiliary events. These events aren’t factored into the overall score, but do have first, second, and third place standings. Oak Hall students have prepared two songs, one dance, one poster, one physical scrapbook, one digital scrapbook, and a t-shirt design to show off their school, and Spanish, spirit.

    Seniors Sadia Rafa and Sophia Santelices perform the song they are singing in the competition

    Over the past five years, Oak Hall’s Spanish program has won first place twice (2019 and 2020), and third place (2022). The competition in 2021 was cancelled due to COVID. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be able to compete at such a high level against schools larger than Oak Hall. For one final practice, the students hosted a performance at the Upper School Learning Commons on Monday, complete with costumes and perfection. Spanish Teacher Krystal Serrano has complete faith in her students and believes they will do well in the competition. “They’ve worked hard and I’m proud of them,” she said.

    Good luck Eagles!!!

    Black History Month: How and Why we Celebrate

    By Brody Beaupre

    February 1 marks the first day of Black History Month nationwide. “Negro History Week” was first founded in 1926 by Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, it evolved into Black History Month. This month was officially christened by President Gerald Ford in 1976. By celebrating this month, it has helped bring forth awareness to all the inequalities and discrimination Black people faced and continue to face in life and in history. Black History Month was put in place to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” Ford noted. The presidents have also given every Black History Month a theme. This year’s theme is “Black Resistance” because “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms and police killings,” according to the ASALH. These themes help us to make sure we know what we celebrate and why we celebrate it. 

    How Oak Hall is celebrating Black History Month

    Oak Hall is so thankful to have guest speaker Clint Clarke speak to the Upper School students on Feb. 2. about his personal life and his work at Walt Disney World. Clarke is the Senior Audio System Designer, Legacy Award Winner, and does Disney Live Entertainment. He has done so much work for Walt Disney World (Orlando), Disneyland Paris (France), The Disney Cruise Lines, and Shanghai Disney (China). He also has done lots of work for the Florida Gators both when he was a student and now with his company, Triple C Productions. Outside of all his amazing work in the audio world, he is also an all around great guy. He is always doing what he can to help others and is a bright spot in so many people’s lives (mine included). I am so excited for him to share his personal experiences and his insight/information on Black History Month. (Also shout out to Ms. Spencer and the Black Student Union for making this happen).

    New US Club Aims to Uplift Teenagers

    Club meets Friday mornings from 8 – 8:25 a.m. in US Room 4

    By Amelia Chen

    A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Soie Haberman, and I started the Women’s Club for Oak Hall’s Upper School as a way to empower women, spread awareness, and build confidence in teenage girls.

    This idea blossomed from the Middle School club we, along with Laurel Gurley, had previously created to achieve the same goals. During our time having the club in Middle School, we neither had the time nor the resources to do all the things we wanted to do. The Upper School paved the way for us to achieve this. 

    First, we knew we had to find a sponsor and we couldn’t think of anyone better than Ms. Palmer who teaches, among other classes, our AP Government and Politics class. She enthusiastically agreed, thrilled at the idea that it would be a heavily student-run club. From there, all we needed was the administration’s approval. We met with Mr. Brown, the Assistant Director of the Upper School, who supportively approved our club, giving us the ability to finally start.

    Part of starting the club would include appointing officers and gaining members. Appointing officers wasn’t very difficult given the fact that many freshman girls already desired to be involved. Haberman and I already had decided because we started the club, I would be president and she would be vice president. Isabelle Watson, Mackenzie Rowe, and Kaitlyn Lee immediately asked to participate as officers. Because of their delightful enthusiasm and passion to be a part of this club we immediately agreed to appoint Watson as secretary, Rowe as social media coordinator, and Lee as treasurer. Gaining members was slightly more difficult but by spreading the word by mouth and social media we were able to start our club with 18 members including the officers.

    The main purpose of this club would be to spread awareness of the issues of sexism and hopefully decrease the sexism that occurs around us. “I really want to change the atmosphere for Oak Hall, and I feel like this would be a good club for just changing how everybody gets along,” Haberman said.

    Not only did we want to create this club to create a good environment for teen girls, but we also wanted to make this club inclusive. This wasn’t just exclusive to girls but also allowed boys to be part of it. We also want to help the women’s community around us by hopefully participating in drives and helping in any way we can.

    Overall, we believe by making the effort to have this club, we can make a change not just in the school but in the greater Gainesville community. The best way to make a difference is taking action, not just standing by and doing nothing. We are hoping to do that with this club. We are thrilled to have more members join as the year goes by!