Interview with Stephanie, Class of 2021

Stephanie in her skating costume.

Ninth-grader Stephanie came to Sizer in seventh grade, from a local middle school. Her old school wasn’t working for her; she felt her individual academic needs were not being addressed. She came to Sizer because she had friends here, and “I also found out another friend was coming here, so I told my mom about it. She wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but kept an open mind, and insisted that we investigate before making a decision, so we came to an info session.” After that, Mom felt like Sizer was a place Stephanie could really succeed; and after Steph did a shadow day, she agreed.

How does Stephanie feel about her expectations versus the reality of education at Sizer? “It’s actually better than I thought, which surprised me because after the info sessions I had very high expectations. I was most surprised that teachers treated students with more respect than I was used to. For instance, I have difficulty working in brightly lit rooms. I talked to my teachers, and we were able to problem-solve together to come up with solutions that work for me and for the students who didn’t like dimly-lit rooms.” She says that at her last school, if a student got in trouble, instead of being spoken with about the situation and coached on expectations, the student was disciplined (often loudly) without any investigation. She felt injustices were taking place and it made her feel angry, frustrated, and powerless. “This school feels safe to me; I can take academic risks such as answering questions in class that I’m not 100% sure of, and no one will make fun of me. I can ask for help, because I trust the teachers to not make me feel inadequate for wanting or needing help.”

Stephanie is an excellent student, but we wanted to talk to her because we found out that outside of school, she is a competitive figure skater. She’s been doing it for 7 years (she was 7 when she started), and has membership in three different clubs, although when she competes, it is with the Colonial Figure Skating Club. She first started taking lessons at the Wallace Civic Center so that she could skate with her family at her uncle’s pond. The original idea was to just learn enough to get her started with skating at the pond, but Stephanie took to it immediately, and the coaches at the rink encouraged Stephanie to continue lessons.

She started moving up through the levels established by the US Figure Skating Association, and performed in yearly shows. When she was nine, she joined a synchronized skating team for Wallace, and competed with them. She started ice dancing when she was ten at Colonial, and Stephanie joined the team there and started competing. Her first year with them, the team went to Lake Placid for a regional competition and came in third. They received their medals in the Olympic Oval, which is one of her favorite memories. Her name is now included on a wall at the Olympic rink! This year, Stephanie is focusing on free dance, and is searching for a partner. At the moment, she is getting ready for the yearly show, where she will be performing a solo, and a free dance program with her partner/coach.

Why does she love skating so much? Stephanie says she likes that she can accomplish goals, such as landing jumps and passing tests for levels, and it makes her feel powerful, giving her confidence on and off the rink. She generally skates five days a week.

How does Stephanie balance school and skating? First, she says, she makes very good use of her time in class, which leaves her with less homework. What homework she does have, she does immediately after school, because she knows that if she doesn’t, there’ll be no time later. Before she goes to skating, however, she goes downstairs to help her mother with her day-care business. After all that, she heads off to skating, comes home around nine, and heads straight to bed.

Even with this tight schedule, Stephanie seeks out challenges, such as formally studying ASL (American Sign Language), as well as reading about psychology in her “free” time. In school, she was accepted into the Peer Mediation Training this year, has taken the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) World of Difference training, is a peer tutor, and an SST office apprentice.

If you can catch Stephanie between classes and activities, say hi and wish her good luck with her skating!