Alumnae Calendar

Though Julia Saltzman '17 graduated in early June, she still managed to wow speech and debate judges on behalf of Laurel in Birmingham, Alabama where, as one of 250 qualifiers, she competed at the National Tournament in late June. As a member of Laurel's Speech and Debate team for four years, Julia was a three-time State qualifier. She capped off her Speech and Debate career at Laurel with six rounds of speeches at the National Tournament. Her stellar performance propelled her into the quarter finals, making her one of the top 60 Extemporaneous speakers in the country. recently highlighter her accolades in its Chagrin Falls Community Blog. You can read the update here.

Ann V. Klotz was recently quoted in Crain's Cleveland Business regarding the Mastery Transcript Consortium, a group that wants to rebuild how high schools record their students abilities and achievements and, in turn, upend how colleges and universities evaluate their applicants. Laurel School is a member of the consortium and Ms. Klotz is quoted saying, "It's been a long time coming in this country for significant education reform. We want to be on the ground floor with something that has the potential to make real lasting change for our kids." The article states that "How this transcript of the future might look is still in the works, but the idea is to develop one that signifies the complete "mastery" of a specific skill. Rather than be organized around a specific academic department, the mastery transcript model is organized around performance areas — like leadership, communication, ethical decision-making, etc. The performance areas and credit standards would be tailored to the individual crediting school, but the idea is to create a consistent format across schools." Read the full story here.
Lisa Damour, Ph.D., Director of Laurel's Center for Research on Girls, authored two pieces featured in the New York Times this month. The first, titled "Asking Girls and Boys, What Would Wonder Woman Do?" highlights the importance of "making Wonder-Woman a full-family experience." In her column Lisa states that the film "can open conversations with our children about how they might use their own influence. Would our daughters and sons stand passively by if they saw someone being bullied? Or would they use their own power to stick up for those who have less of it?" Her second column, titled "No, Your Teen Doesn't Hate You. It's Just Summer," explains how teens need to have alone time. She states that "Teenagers are charged with the impossible project of becoming independent while still sleeping under our roofs. To accomplish this paradoxical task, they distance themselves psychologically in order to prepare to part physically." Her column goes on to state that complaining isn't unusual, teens generally do hear their parents despite eye rolls, and the quirks don't generally last.

The Top Workplaces 2017 was recently issued by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Laurel was included among the top 50 companies (150-499 employees) on the list! In addition, Ann V. Klotz was included in a story that accompanied the list, which offered advice on leadership versus "just being bossy." Ann is quoted saying, "Not everybody needs to be a stand-on-the-table leader who gives orders and makes a lot of noise. What I try to do is set an example that everybody needs to really choose their abilities, and not be afraid of or apologize for the abilities that don't come naturally. We put a lot of pressure on kids to do everything well, to check all the boxes, when they can excel in different ways." She goes on to say that "Leadership isn't always about being the boss; leadership is about shining the light on other people." Click here to read the full story.

Laurel Seventh Graders took a field trip back to the year 600 A.D. when they spent their last two weeks of the school year on a simulated archeological dig that took place at the Butler Campus. It was there that the students made discoveries about the Whittlesey  tribe -- Paleo Indians who lived along the Cuyahoga River from 600-1000 A.D. Reporter Lynn Ischay with the Plain Dealer paid a visit to the site to learn more about The Dig and what they were uncovering. Her resulting story, "Laurel School Students Dig Archeology" featured an album of photos that helped show readers how impactful outdoor learning can be for students. 

Carrie Ruhrkraut, Grade Seven team leader and Middle School math teacher was included in the story stating, "This is the culmination of their Humanities program. We debated the use of Native Americans as mascots, from their perspective as seventh graders. After they unearth this Whittlesy site, we'll talk about whether or not their perspectives have changed." The reporter commented that "While on the site, the girls were in constant motion, kneeling on the wet sand, carefully scraping or brushing layer after layer, in search of clues to the Whittlesy lifestyle. They worked with their partners, screening bucketsful of sand, then running to help another student plot the location of her find on the 2x2 grid." Click here for the full story.

When the Chagrin Valley Times visited LaureLive on June 11 reporter Ryan Dentscheff noted that "unlike many multi-day music festivals across the county, a noticeable portion of the guests were children." When he sat down with Laurel Headmistress Ann V. Klotz to discuss the two-day festival and Laurel's involvement in the event, Ms. Klotz stated that "We did not want to be Bonnaroo. We wanted to be something that you could bring your primary school aged children to. That was important to us and important too that there be things for little kids to do because it's a drag if you come to something and there's nothing for your children." Ann also commented on the variety of the vendors at the event, all of which are local. "I believe that each of us in this region of the country needs to invest in Cleveland and in Northeast Ohio, and this is part of our making a contribution -- bringing great music, a cool event that we don't have anything quite like it and showcasing our incredible campus." Click here to read the full article. The Cleveland Jewish News also paid a visit to the festival and spoke with Rachael Grossman '17 who worked closely with Elevation Group, who partnered with Laurel to produce the event. The story titled "Student Help with Production of LaureLive 2017" can be found online.

"There are glamorous aspects to putting on a music festival—like booking bands—and some less-than-glamorous aspects—like determining how many Porta Pottys you’ll need," reported Andrew Cass of The News-Herald, who visited with a few Laurel students and staff on day two of this year's LaureLive. The story highlight's the partnership Laurel established with The Elevation Group, whose owners taught a semester-long elective where students took away lessons that go far beyond music. Antonina (Nina) Schubert '17 states in the piece that she has "Always had a passion for music. Seeing how something like this is put together is really cool. It’s a behind-the-scenes look.” Doing her Senior Project with The Elevation Group, she was able get an even closer look at the process, working side by side with the owners. Olivia Savona '19 shadowed the stage manager during the festival. That job gave her a better appreciation for what goes into a concert. She had the opportunity to speak to someone working the lights, getting an inside look at what they do. “It’s a lot more than just music. There are bits and pieces that can interest anyone," she was quoted saying.

The Plain Dealer also paid a visit to the festival. Laurel Headmistress Ann V. Klotz is quoted in the piece stating, "Music with a Mission ties into Laurel's mission to inspire each girl to fulfill her promise and to better the world. I love what LaureLive offers our girls, who are given the opportunity to learn about and participate in the process from start to finish and take that experience with them once they leave the walls of Laurel."

WOIO paid a visit to LaureLive on Saturday, June 10 and saw firsthand how Laurel students played a role in the production of the two-day music festival taking place at Laurel's Butler Campus. Danielle Vinokur '17 was interviewed about her experience and was featured saying, "We saw press releases being written, we went to interviews with radio stations, so it was really cool seeing everything going on." Rising Junior Brynn Pierce '19 was also interviewed about what she has learned. "I've learned everything, from how much it costs to put on something like this to all the little details we have to pay attention to, to make everyone happy at our concert. It's awesome. I think that this is a good way to see whether or not you might like the music industry."

Trey Wilson, Laurel's Director of Strategic Partnerships, and Headmistress Ann V. Klotz were also on camera for the story. Ms. Klotz stated, "I am so excited that this festival gives the opportunity to put real-life learning into action for our girls. For them to be both entrepreneurial and think about their creative side is a pretty amazing opportunity at Laurel." View the full story online here.

The buzz around the second LaureLive, taking place June 10-11, 2017, started early this year when the Chagrin Valley Times wrote a story titled, "Laurel Students Behind Scenes of Music Fest." The article highlights the elective roughly 25 students chose to take that kicked off in January where they met each week with the owners of Elevation Group, the production company Laurel partnered with to put on LaureLive. The class focused on all aspects of producing an event of this magnitude--from securing and working with talent to merchandising, insurance and permitting. The class looked at all aspects of production and LaureLive weekend is the culmination of those efforts, where the students all will have the opportunity to participate in a hands-on way. The article quotes Trey Wilson, Laurel's Director of Strategic Partnerships, who states that "This isn't happening in a vacuum. They're not just jumping in and doing one weekend without thinking of the preparation that went into it. They get a broad overview from people that have genuine expertise and during the weekend, they will have a way to engage in the event itself. From where I sit, that's a really effective model." Molly Easly '17 and Rachael Grossman '18, both of whom have been working closely with Elevation Group outside of the class, are also featured in the article talking about their role in the event and their take on the overall experience. 

Additional media highlights of Laurel students and their participation in LaureLive appeared in, where Peighton Taylor '18 was interviewed and the Cleveland Jewish News.

Laurel Headmistress Ann V. Klotz sat down with Micki Byrnes, President and General Manager of WKYC Channel 3 - Cleveland, for a “Square Talk” segment that aired on May 14. Ms. Klotz addressed the topics of girls and math, women and STEM careers, and the growing strength of all-girls’ schools throughout the country. View the full interview here.

Alumnae Spotlight

alumnae spotlight banner

Alumnae Spotlight showcases amazing Laurel women and the paths they have charted since graduation. Whether they are doctors, designers, artists, authors, scientists, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, engineers, pharmacists, or civic activists or volunteers, Laurel women inhabit nearly all careers and corners of the world helping to make it a better place. Our alumnae and the journeys that they have taken speak to the essence of a Laurel education and what makes this School and the community of women who call it their own distinctive. This space highlights their fascinating lives and the mountains they continue to move.

If you would like to be featured in our Alumnae Spotlight, or know of an alumna who might, please email Megan Findling.

August 2017 Alumnae Spotlight

Rachel Koelliker Vanek ’76

Rachel Koelliker Vanek ’76 epitomizes Laurel’s call to service. As an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner at University Hospitals, she helps patients navigate some of their most difficult times. And it’s not just her patients who benefit from Rachel’s care and medical expertise. Rachel’s compassion and understanding inspire her to care also for her patients’ families. She strives to help them “gain a nugget of joy” amidst the stressful times. Her life could have led many places, but Rachel’s love of helping others steered her towards a field where she values the impact her daily interactions have on her patients and their families. A proud White Team member who arrived at Laurel in the Second Grade, Rachel went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Virginia Wesleyan. She subsequently received a bachelor’s of science in nursing from Old Dominion University and a master’s in nursing from Case Western Reserve University. She remains connected to many of her classmates from the Class of ’76 and looks forward to their next reunion!

What are some of your fondest memories of your Laurel days?

Study halls, theater activities, Christmas concerts, Mrs. Lalli’s aerobic classes, volleyball games, gym meets, dodge ball games, picnics on the tennis courts, Eighth Grade Graduation, art classes, Mrs. Hines’ history lectures, so many memories!

What was your favorite class/course at Laurel and what is the most important thing you learned at Laurel (something you draw upon even now)?

Believe it or not Latin! Helps so much with medicine!

What do you think makes a Laurel education distinct?

Small classes and the way the faculty engaged the students are so special to Laurel. There were many creative ways Laurel teachers engaged the students—small groups, reading aloud, acting out historical events and music. Mrs. Robinson’s classes were so lively and engaging. The literature we read in Latin and Greek brought the languages to life. Science classes and experiments were memorable and fun! We did an oral history and I interviewed my grandmother—I still have that tape and listen to her voice on occasion.

After you received your bachelor’s in biology and chemistry from Virginia Wesleyan (VWC), you pursued a bachelor’s in nursing at Old Dominion University. What drew you to becoming a nurse?

I actually spent six months in graduate school right after VWC and dropped out in December 1980 because I did not enjoy the research labs. I wanted to work with people. I learned a lot during this period but missed the interaction with people. I had been an RA at VWC and loved caring for my dorm-mates. So I worked and lived on the beach for two years, saving money and exploring my options, before going back for my bachelor’s in nursing. I had always been interested in nursing and volunteered in a clinic with nurses and nurse practitioners who loved what they did. With my previous degree, I was able to get my BSN in two years.

You returned to Cleveland and got a Master’s in nursing from CWRU in 1993. What do you love about working in Cleveland and living in Chardon?

We came back to Cleveland for my husband’s job when he got promoted into a management role. I got a job in the ER at University Hospitals. The Acute Care NP program was just starting at CWRU. The hospital was offering full scholarships but there were only seven spots and it was competitive! But I applied and was granted one of the spots!

I love the people here—such a great diversity of cultures! I do hate the commute, however. Chardon is a great place to live—rural but with enough proximity to activities to keep life fun! The schools in Chardon were wonderful for our daughter. We were very active parents from elementary school all the way through. But, most importantly, being here gave our daughter a chance to know my parents and we were so blessed to have them active in her life. When we were in Virginia we did not get to see my family as much and moving here brought us closer together on many levels!

You are now an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner at University Hospitals. What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

Taking care of people during the most vulnerable time of their lives is rewarding and a heavy responsibility. Connecting with the patient and family, listening to them and guiding them as they navigate their way through a critical illness are very fulfilling. Seeing patients come back to visit after they have been discharged brings great joy to me. Often they do not remember many of our interactions but their families do! It is great to see them doing well and getting back to life! However, many times due to the nature of our work, the illness ends in death. Being able to provide the support families need through this time is priceless. Helping them gain a nugget of joy amidst the sorrow—having a last word, being able to tell that person how much they meant to them, being able to hold them one last time—are gifts we can give that have an impact on people for the rest of their lives.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

The electronic medical record . . .

What do you do in your spare time?

I spend my spare time with family, especially our four grandchildren. We love watching them grow, showing them the things we value and just plain old spending time together. We also love to trail ride and camp with our horses. We travel mostly in the East and find new places to explore and ride. We love to take care of our farm—the place I grew up—and we are in the process of making it our own after the loss of my parents. There are many memories here and many new ones in the making! Reading, listening to music and enjoying the nature in the country really fill our days.

What advice would you give to current Laurel girls?

Stick with learning. Keep an open mind. Don’t over-commit to activities that leave you crushed for time. Enjoy it while you are young! Don't look back with regret—look forward with optimism!

What is the most surprising life lesson you have learned so far?

This is a hard question . . . I think in our teens and twenties we have a vision of what we want out of life, but it’s rarely the reality of what happens. Many forces move us this way and that, changing the direction of our paths as we go along. Being open to those forces and accepting the challenge they often bring can totally change the way your life plays out. Learning to live with disappointment and making lemonade out of lemons can allow us to make the most of what we are dealt. A quote from Forrest Gump that really spoke to me when I first saw the movie is —

“I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze. But I, I think maybe it's both.”

An All-Girls’ Independent College Preparatory School for Grades K-12 and Coed Pre-Primary
Lyman Campus Butler Campus

Laurel's Mission Statement:

To inspire each girl to
fulfill her promise and
to better the world. 


All-School Open House

Sunday, October 15, 2017
1:00-3:00 p.m.
Lyman and Butler Campuses

More information and RSVP here

"Laurel transforms students into strong women through an exemplary education and an atmosphere built on growth." Caitlin Cronin '16

"During my time at Laurel, I developed the mental aspect of my tennis game -- staying focused and staying in every match. The support that I've gotten from my team and my coaches has really helped me to do that." Danielle Buchinsky '15

"Laurel encourages its girls to try things they think they can do, things they don't think they can do, and even things they never thought about doing." Jazlynn Baker '16

"Laurel is a place where almost every girl can find a home. The community here is extremely accepting and diverse, and every student has her own ideas and opinions that are valued by everyone."Rebecca Brichacek '16

"Confident, independent, open-minded, fearless. That's what comes to mind when I think of what Laurel has given to my daughters." Laurel Parent


“The greatest gift Laurel gave me was the gift of lifelong friendships with classmates, teachers and parents of classmates. We have a special bond based on our shared experiences.” 
Betsy Sweeney Backes ‘78

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