Class Spotlight: Big Issues

Picture of the map found in the classroom where the Big Issues class is held.

Picture of the map found in the classroom where the Big Issues class is held.

Out of the ever changing list of Village School electives, 2016’s spring semester features a Village favorite: Big Issues. Taught by Jeff Bernstein, students learn about some (big) issues happening in the world. This year, we started by learning LD (Lincoln Douglas Debate), a technique that helps us argue our points of view with supporting facts. The topics we discuss in class are chosen by students. For each topic, we are introduced to several examples, hold class discussions, and then complete writing assignments. The class is purposely set up in a way that forces students to depend entirely on the facts, rather than our opinions or personal biases.

A Village school senior, Jared Gomberg, who is currently enrolled in this class and has taken it before, says it is his favorite social studies elective. So far, his favorite part of class was an LD debate about whether or not violent crime against an oppressive government is okay. Other topics he is looking forward to exploring in debates are controversial issues such as abortion, gun control, the criminal justice system, the death penalty, and police brutality.

Student Profile: Ben Varughese

I recently interviewed Ben, who joined the Village community this January, and asked him a few questions about himself. He was born in Jamaica, Queens and moved around a lot through the city for years at a time. After 2011, he moved to New Hyde, where he lives today. He was traveling a lot and subsequently missed a lot of school, even up to six weeks at one point. Village has helped him attend school much more often than he did at South.

Ben is extremely passionate music, writing poetry and his own lyrics. He’s actually going to be working at his friend’s studio soon. Moving around a lot and struggling with personal problems, Ben has developed the music taste he’s into today, anything he can relate to and has relatable meaning.

Below are some other questions I asked Ben, directly quotes from our interview:

What do you do in the studio?
“I mean I kinda just play around with everything. Like it’s no problem, and we have an ill time. I’m a poet, a lyricist, and a storyteller.”

Why were you missing so much school?
“I mean I was busy with my own hustle, traveling and all that. Also, I just couldn’t focus for my life so class had me like: what’s the point?”

Student Profile: Ezra Hyman

Interview by Peter Leonardo

Recently, I was able to sit down and talk to Ezra, a senior at Village, about his future plans for college as well as other random topics!


Ezra, just sitting around…

I was accepted into Vassar College in Poughkeepsie in NY, SUNY Geneseo, and Binghamton University, also in NY.  I would like to major in Word History and Philosophy at Vassar Collage.

What do you want your career to be?

I don’t know for sure what I want to do yet, but I’m thinking about being a professor at a college or an author.

What does Village School mean to you?

It’s a great school for kids who need to learn differently and need extra help.

Are you excited to leave or sad to go?

I know Village was a good trip for me, but I don’t know what college is going to be for me. I know college is going to have a lot more freedom, but less supervision; I know I’m going to be able to make mistakes and I’m going to have to figure out how to get through them.

What are some of your hobbies and passions?

I don’t do much outside of school, and I know my social skills are lacking outside of school, so I greatly enjoy my video games… my hobbies are basically school, video games, and eating and sleeping.

Whats the craziest thing you have done in your life so far?

I met a girl online that lives in Connecticut and I actually got my family to go there on a trip just to meet her… I kept it PG-13!

What kind of music do you like?

Post Grunge and Rock — I listen to Three Days Grace, Rise Against, Breaking Benjamin, and Billy Joel and I like some songs from Five Finger Death Punch but they’re a little too heavy for me.

Have you ever been to a concert? If so, who did you see?

I’ve seen a couple American Idols live….Against my will!! (he laughs). But for my birthday, I saw Nickleback.

Where do you go to lunch during the school week?

I bring lunch from home and usually do my work during lunch.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Telekinesis (a type of paranormal ability that allows you move objects with your mind),  so I can use my mind as a physical force.

Student Profile: Jonah Wolmark

By Elliot Esterman

Jonah: Computer Guru

Jonah: Computer Guru

Recently, I was able to sit down with Jonah Wolmark, a freshman at Village who actually enrolled in our school during the spring semester of his 8th grade school year!  Jonah is known for being very fluent in the topic of computers and video games, as well as various different programming languages, so I got to pick his game about all things ‘tech’.

What got you into programming?

I’ve been using computers basically all my life, so I’ve  been interested in computers and wanted to know how they work.

What are your hobbies?

I play a lot of video games and watch YouTube videos and i talk with my friends over Skype.

What kind of programming languages do you know and what was the first one that you learned how to use?

The first language i learned was Java and since then i learned C, C++, Python, Perl, and small amounts of other languages like PHP and HTML.

What do you see yourself doing in the future?

Some job involving writing code or IT work.

What kind of video games do you like to play and why?

I mainly play indie games and roguelikes. Some examples of games that I play are Super Meat Boy, FTL and Papers, Please.

So, if you’re ever in need of tech help or want suggestions about new video games to play, you know the man to see!

Student Profile: James Heinlein

By Jon Roshan

Village School junior, James Heinlein.

Village School junior, James Heinlein.

Here at Village School, there are so many different students with different personalities who impact the school in numerous ways. James Heinlein is a student who has brought something to the school that is irreplaceable. That thing is his attitude. James is known for his hilarious and quirky sense of humor, which can be completely random at times. James’s sense of humor touches upon things such as references to internet memes to jokes about his favorite food, bacon.  And although these are things that anyone can speak about, James finds a way to make them funny in ways others can’t.

But, there are many instances when James shows his ability to be a kind friend and a great listener. When speaking to James, you feel like no matter what is going on, everything will end up being alright.

When asked what he thought about the school, James responded, “I think The Village School is a great place because it is a more interesting learning community than any other school.” James has expressed his gratitude for the teachers of the school when he said “A lot of the teachers here have a lot of insight on how I may obtain my goals of getting into college and getting a job.” When asked about his favorite class James stated, “I would probably say Business Math because some classes seem to give us information that seems to be irrelevant for the time being as opposed to Business Math, which teaches you actual useful skills in managing your finances and whatnot.”

When asked about his plans after high school he said, “My future plans after leaving the school are to go to college and get a job where I make a comfortable amount of money and see the world.” James also mentioned why he loves making people laugh and smile with his sense of humor.  “I like making people laugh because it’s much better than being bored. I like to notice things that just happen and make jokes of them. When I make a person laugh, I feel like it adds to the atmosphere, rather than everyone just sitting around tired and unamused.”

In expressing these sentiments, it’s clear James loves it when others are happy, which is a generous and wonderful thing. People like James make this school what it is and we are so grateful to have such a kind and interesting student among our Village School Family.

Going Bald to Help Cure Kids with Cancer

By Tyler Plaktsis

The "Before" Shot: Tyler has been growing his hair out for the big shave as part of St. Baldrick's Foundation's annual event.

The “Before” Shot: Tyler has been growing his hair out for the big shave as part of St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s annual event.

On July 4th, 1999, Tim Kenny issued a challenge to his colleagues, John Bender and Enda McDonnell: How will you give back in return for your own good fortune in business? Enda’s full head of hair gave John an idea: Shave their heads in exchange for donations and give all the proceeds to cancer research.

The first event had only 19 “shavees”, but raised $104,000, all of which was donated to The Children’s Oncology Group. Now, anywhere from 100 to 2000 people are shavees in head shaving events that occur all over the country and millions of dollars have been raised.

This year, I will be a first time participant because I would like to help contribute to research to help cure childhood cancers. Saint Baldricks is run solely by volunteers and all of the proceeds go right to charity. This charity is doing a great thing.

Go to to find out more about this charity and check out The Villager next week to hear about the event and see my “After” photo!

Student Profile: Eric Bernstein

Interview by Dustin Schwartz

Eric Bernstein was awarded the "Quintessential Student"  Board Award this year.

Eric Bernstein was awarded the “Quintessential Student” Board Award this year.

For this weeks Student Profile, I sat down with Eric to ask him about moving to Long Island and being a student-athlete.

Dustin: When did you start playing baseball?

Eric: When I was about three years old.

D: What position do you play?

E: I play second base or shortstop, depending on the team I’m on.

D: Do you intend to play in college?

E: I would love to play at North Carolina State.

D: What inspired you to pursue baseball?

E: Well my father played in college and he always encouraged me to continue.

D: What are the challenges you face when attending village and playing a sport at north at the same time?

E: Well, one, I do not have a locker to store stuff, and also I dont get news about my team as fast but its worth it, because I love my sport.

D: Did you grow up in Pennsylvania?

E: I did! I grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

D: What was it like moving from Pennsylvania to Long Island?

E: Leaving my old friends was pretty hard, but I made new friends pretty quickly.

D: Why did you move to Long Island?

E: Since my aunt and uncle live here, I heard about Village School and I thought it was a great opportunity for me.

D: What are your thoughts on Great Neck?

E: It’s a lot different from Harrisburg, people are more friendly.

D: How does Village School compare to your old school?

E: Village is really different from all the other schools I’ve been to. We do a lot of work and we sit in classes but still, it doesn’t feel like school- it’s actually

fun and interesting.

Student Profile: Phoebe Has the Goods

Interview by Jacob Tal

Phoebe, Village School's resident b.aker

Phoebe, Village School’s resident baker.

This week,  I spoke to 10th grade standout student, Phoebe Miller, about her love of baking. Students and teachers are familiar with Phoebe’s love of baking- almost every week, Phoebe brings in homemade cupcakes, cookies and other treats for everyone to try out.

Jacob: When did you start baking?

Phoebe: I started baking when I was younger and I did it with my mom.

J: What got you interested in baking?

P: I like that it’s a combination of two things that I really enjoy-science and art. It’s kind of scientific because you have to mix all the ingredients and measure them out correctly,and you get to see things like baking powder and baking soda react with the consistency or the temperature and the ingredients your using so that’s really cool.You get to decorate what you make and make it look good which is really fun.

J: Your experience over break on baking?

P: Over break, I made mixed berry pie with homemade pie crust and pastry cream and chocolate cupcakes and vanilla cupcakes and vanilla swiss buttercream and chocolate American buttercream.

J: Would you want to own your own bakery one day?

P: I dont know yet! I haven’t decided what I want to do.But that sounds fun.

J: Who taught you how to bake and how often do bake?

P: My mom taught me and I bake once or twice a week.

J: What’s the hardest thing to bake?

One of Phoebe's delicious creations, which she made during Winter Recess.

One of Phoebe’s delicious creations, mixed berry pie with with homemade pie crust.


P: That’s a hard question. Pie crust is pretty tricky because you don’t want to over bake it; also, when you’re working with chocolate powder, you have to make sure you get the consistency right, so things like cupcakes are pretty difficult. And then, when you’re making a meringue, of course, it’s very hard because you can’t let it get over- beaten, and you have to measure the sugar temperature with the candy thermometer.You have to make sure it gets to the right temperature,or else it won’t turn out right.

J: Thanks for talking with me, Phoebe.

Next time there are cupcakes or cookies in the Commons, make sure to thank Phoebe!

Student Spotlight: Tyler Plakstis

By Max Cruz

This week, I sat down with Tyler Plakstis and talked to him about the unique and exciting accomplishment he recently achieved.

M: Can you tell us a little bit about your recent honor in the Fire Department?

T: Last week, I was accepted into the Alert Senior Fire Department after spending 3 years in the Junior Fire Department.

M: What prompted you to want to get in to that kind of work?

T: Everyone in my family is a firefighter and I felt like it was my time to join, too.

M: How did you feel when you got the job?

T: Very excited.

M: So how often do work at the fire department?

T: Every day- and whenever there is a call, I have to respond–even if it’s 1:30 in the morning.

M: So, how do you balance school and your work?

T: I’ve only had the job for a week, so I don’t know yet!

M: (laughs) Well, good luck with everything. What a great accomplishment. Thank you for your time.

T: Thank you.