Potluck Support Thank you!

THANK YOU for giving your time, energy, resources and support to nourish and appreciate our amazing teachers at the Conference Potluck last week! 

Hawa Jama making her very popular pumpkin spice pancakes

Hawa Jama making her very popular pumpkin spice pancakes

I want you to know that teachers were BLOWN AWAY by the support! Mary Hallman, guide from Platte River class said she has never felt so appreciated as a teacher before. Michael Flood and Andrea Christensen, adolescent guides who've been at the school many years said this was the best potluck food they've ever had. The spreads were INCREDIBLE. It was like professional catering, and what a treat for our teachers! 

I wish you could have all been there to see the way 52 faculty filled their plates to the brims at each meal, and how they relished in the opportunity to sit and connect with each other while being completely cared for. Every one of you--whether you volunteered or contributed one simple item to the pot--made this possible! 

Thank you for all you do to support our community! 

-Rachel Damiani, Events Coordinator

Thursday dinner potluck spread

Thursday dinner potluck spread

Harry going pancake crazy

Harry going pancake crazy

My Experience with Coffee House

by Annika Fischer

This year I hosted (and performed at) Coffee House.  It was terrifying.  Before that I had neither hosted or performed at Coffee house or any school event without just students attending.  It went to my surprise really well and I hope you enjoy my article.

So first of all let us start with how I came to host Coffee House.  So I was practicing drums, because that was my first time playing drums (it wasn’t the actual drums to the song but it went well), and I was helping set up and Zack asks me “Do you want to host Coffee House?” and I was like sure why not what could go wrong, well a few things went wrong but that’s fine it was still fun.

Now let’s get into actually hosting Coffee House.  Ok When we first started I was like what could go wrong and then Zack started talk and I was like SO MANY THINGS COULD GO WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!  Then Zack introduced me and everything was fine.  We introduced the first few acts and we had to skip a few because they were either not there or missed their act and had to be bumped to a new spot.  There were six musicianship acts but we only did four or five but that’s fine we all had fun.  Severin played drums and did amazing the final act left me still feeling the sound waves travel through me. The final act was this band of four and they play three REALLY LOUD SONGS and the crowed was blown away by each one.  All of the acts went really well and were all amazing! Everyone had a great time and I hope to host again.

Now we we will get to the part where me and my friend performed.  Honestly I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just banging on to drums that my friend told me to for the whole song and singing if you didn’t know what the piece of paper i was holding was you probably just guessed it was the performance slip and I it had it on the drums so I could have it when I needed it but no it actually was the lyrics to the song because me and my friend had two days, TWO DAYS to finish the song. It turned out pretty great and I had fun and I you hope you people that didn’t come to Coffee House come to the next one this spring.

-Annika Fischer

Coffee House Host

A Hearty Thanks

HF2017-OB_NPY_ET_MS_EF (2).jpg

Thank you so much to everyone who came out for Harvest Fest this weekend! After a morning of setting up in the rain, the sun came out just in time for the festival to begin. Kids of all ages eagerly gobbled up multiple helpings of popcorn and caramel apples, while families gathered to connect at the first all-school event of the year. A1 students sold homemade candles, pumpkins, gourds, maple syrup and crafts. The bluegrass band, put together by Clayton Shanilec, put the "fest" in Harvest Fest, and this event proved you can never have too many bouncy houses! 


Harvest Fest would not have been possible without the generous support of Great River Families who donated for and volunteered at the event. Andrew Palahniuk and Mary Pumphrey arrived at 9am on Harvest Fest day and used 2 stoves and 4 giant pots to create the soup broth, tending to it for more than 3 hours (even though they had signed up for 2 hour shifts). Nicole Palahniuk arrived later but stuck it out through the second batch of soup, while everyone outside was already enjoying the festivities.

HF2017-GW (1).jpg

Asako Hirabayashi signed up for an hour of face painting but gave 3 hours of her time without a break because she didn’t want to disappoint the long line of excited kids. Katie Cashel, who facilitated the bread and fruit donations from the Hallie Q. Brown Food Shelf, lobbied for every last loaf of bread to find its way home with a family. Our setup and cleanup teams were amazing, stayed until the bitter end, and brought some serious muscle to the table to boot! 


Some of my most valiant and eager helpers came in a small size; the first to arrive and jump in were Rowann, Piper, and Turi Coburn. They couldn’t have been more excited to be a part of things. Each time they would finish a task they would eagerly ask, “what’s next? What’s next?” I admit I hadn’t anticipated the aspect of volunteer coordination that involved having jobs ready for all ages. But I should have expected no less from a Montessori school! My trusty team sturdied poles to help move a 10x20 tent from the hill to the parking lot. I would have thought we needed only adults to pull this off. They quickly opened my mind!

I want to thank Clayton Shanilec and his wonderful band, who gave the event the joyous atmosphere it deserved. And Scott Brown, CPA with the Anton Group, who generously sponsored the band. Heather Thomas, a longstanding member of the Parent Engagement Group, helped with much of the planning and made it possible to have the games, popcorn and photo booth. Judging from all the photos I'd say it was a hit! 


Thank you so much to all the volunteers who gave food, supplies, time, energy, sweat and more. You guys are the heart and soul of our community and we thank you! 

See the full Harvest Fest photo album HERE

Our next all-school event is the Conferences and the Conference Potluck, coming up on November 16-17. The Potluck is all about teacher appreciation!! If you want to show some support for GRS teachers, please join us in this effort. Sign up here to volunteer or donate toward teachers' meals! 

-Rachel Damiani, Events Coordinator

PEG Bridge Hosts S'mores Social


The Parent Engagement Group (PEG) 6th Grade Bridge Program ambassadors, Cynthia Putz-Yang and Erin Westenberg, hosted a S’mores outing for the new 6th Grade students and their families on September 17. We had great weather, a roaring fire, lots of s’mores, and the kids got to spend some time together outside of the classroom.


All of the 6th grade bridge students are new to Great River this year, but you wouldn’t have guessed this if you were an outside observer. Games of Frisbee, football, running around, and a lot of laughter made it look like this group has been together a lot longer! It’s so heartwarming to see them building community already.

IMG_5693 (1).JPG


The parents and families were also invited, and we definitely took advantage of this time to get to know each other and share our experiences from the first few weeks of school. A few of us are GRS veterans because we have other children at school, but many families are new this year. And I must say they are a great addition! A true testament that expanding our school can be a positive for our community. 

If your level has not had a social yet, stay tuned. Your PEG ambassadors are likely in the planning stages right now! 

- Erin Westenberg (6th Grade East Bridge Ambassador)

Welcome Night brings families together!

"I think nearly all new families to Great River School are here, this is fantastic!” - D.Martinez, PEG Chair


Close to 100 individuals (parents, grandparents, guardians, and siblings of incoming Great River students) attended the annual Welcome Night at Horton Park this past August 10th. Everyone who attended had a color-coded name tag based on their grade level, which made it easier to identify potential classmates. While parents and guardians interacted with each other, students could be seen climbing trees or playing a variety of games provided by the Parent Engagement Group (PEG). Pickle Ball was a crowd favorite, with the final game ending just after 8:15pm.

Midway through the event, David Martinez, PEG Chair, and Sam O’Brien, Head of School, welcomed everyone and encouraged attendees to get to know each other…..which they did! Overall, the event was a tremendous success and the entire PEG team was pleased to see so many new families in attendance. The rain showers just prior to the event had a few event organizers worried, but the sun made it’s way out just minutes prior to the start of Welcome Night.

Welcome Night is PEG’s kickoff event, so everyone was very excited to have such great momentum to kickoff the school year. The Parent Engagement Group consists entirely of parent volunteers and there is always a need for additional support. If you are interested in serving in a leadership role, in a volunteer capacity, or as a general member of Great River School’s Parent Engagement Group, please send an email to For additional information regarding PEG, please visit: or contact your grade/level ambassador below:

Lower Elementary:

Upper Elementary:


-David Martinez, PEG Chair