Note from the Principal

Lower Lab Values Excellence

May/June 2019

Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker


Last year at this time our Lower Lab Value was knowledge, which we said is often the key to success and opportunity.  This year we are going to emphasize that Lower Lab Values Excellence.  Excellence, defined as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good, can set you apart or distinguish you from others in a most positive way.  

So as school year 2018/19 comes to an end, let us take some time to reflect and value the wonderful opportunities Lower Lab students had this year to be excellent.  Ask yourselves, were you excellent in writing a personal narrative or an expert book? Were you excellent in figuring out hard-to-solve math problems?  Were you outstanding or extremely good in science, or art or music?  Or were you excellent in making friends? You have had many opportunities to do great things, and those opportunities will continue if you just make a solid effort each and every day.


This month’s book, Counting on Katharine tells the bold, engaging true story of an African-American mathematician, named Katherine Johnson, who worked for NASA during the space race and made sure that Apollo 13 and its astronauts came home safely from space. It is also the perfect book to celebrate how a gifted young girl, with lots of barriers like segregation, distinguished herself at a young age, and then later as a true American hero.  The beautiful pictures, by Dow Phumiruk, highlight Katherine’s love of numbers, her boundless curiosity and her sheer excitement about the universe.

The recent movie, Hidden Figures, also told Katharine’s story – how an excellent and determined mathematician saved lives and the space program. You may like to know that Katharine Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and turned 100 this year.


In addition to Katharine being a model of excellence, her story can certainly launch some great conversations around several of our other values, like perseverance, curiosity and flexibility.  Some good activities and discussion may be yielded from the following:

  • If you could write a letter to Katharine Johnson, what would you tell her? What would you ask her?
  • What were some of Katharine’s obstacles? How did she handle them?
  • Katharine Johnson was considered a genius. What other qualities did Katharine have that helped make her a hero?
  • Think of a time that you did something that was excellent. What was it and how did you know it was excellent?
  • Describe the setting in which Katharine lived as a young woman. What was it like?


For older students:

  • Oprah Winfrey said, “Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.”

got excellence?

Sandy Miller 2019