Fifth grade teacher Fanya DeMaria is a veteran educator who has dedicated 23 years to NSU University School students. A major benefit of teaching at USchool for a little more than two decades has been her ability to forge lifelong bonds with her students and continue working with them as they advance from one level to the next. She appreciates watching them evolve developmentally and witnessing how the knowledge she imparted is used in their everyday lives, paved the way for a specific career path, and attributed to their passions.
Upper School: 9-12
No two students leave NSU University School’s Upper School having traveled the same path. We encourage each student to rise and meet his or her own standards of excellence. What our students share, in the process, is an experience of intellectual challenge and curiosity.
As thinkers and problem solvers, students are asked to stretch beyond their strengths and wrestle with challenging real world problems that do not have easy answers. Upper School students craft individualized academic programs through which they discover their passions as learners and develop their voices as leaders. Our faculty are committed to supporting our students through this discovery process, fostering an experiential, collaborative, and supportive classroom environment in which students shine on intellectual, social, and emotional levels.
Working with teachers who are both accomplished in their fields and student-centered in their approach, Upper School students participate enthusiastically in the classroom environment. In any given day, students explore labs, participate in deep and probing discussions, write critically and creatively, refine their thinking, and learn to solve cutting-edge problems. In fact, students engage in conversations you might hear in college seminars. For example, they don’t just learn the process of protein synthesis; they invent their own systems for modeling the process.
NSU University School’s connection with Nova Southeastern University, Florida’s largest private university, serves as an added educational benefit for our students. This unique affiliation provides students with exceptional academic opportunities and access to world-class NSU scientists, researchers, and distinguished professors, giving students an advantage as they prepare for college and beyond.
Upper School News
NSU University School Lifer Sarah Guttman is culminating her 14-year educational journey at USchool as the Class of 2023 valedictorian. Since she first started at USchool in junior kindergarten, Guttman has worked hard her entire Lower, Middle, and Upper School career to achieve this high honor and has excelled academically and in extracurricular involvements and service.
Students that have an early start at NSU University School benefit greatly from our innovative, inclusive, and personalized learning environment, which is evident with Class of 2023 salutatorian and USchool Lifer Leah Kuker. Since the age of five, Kuker has embraced the USchool experience and taken ownership of her learning. She participated in a range of enrichment programs throughout her academic journey that not only helped her discover her passion for math and science but also gain the knowledge and skills she will need as a student at the University of Miami where she will pursue her goal of becoming a pediatric dentist.
Upper School math teacher Sharon Smith is a long-time member of the NSU University School community. Her immersion into our community first began as the daughter of an NSU alumna and sibling of a USchool graduate. Fast forward to today, Smith has been an advocate of our programs, mission, and students as both a USchool educator for the past 35 years and parent to two Lifers, also known as students who begin their journey at USchool in Preschool and remain with the school for 13+ consecutive years.
Dr. Edwardo Johnson is a 26-year veteran Spanish teacher at NSU University School. His days are spent building Upper School students’ Spanish fluency and language skills and educating them about the culture and customs of Spanish-speaking countries, whether that be through engaging project-based activities or immersive experiences. Over the years, Dr. Johnson has become well known for surprising his students with a pop-up restaurant. Donning a chef’s uniform, he prepares traditional Hispanic dishes such as quesadillas, tostones, guacamole, and tropical fruit punches for students to experience the diversity of Hispanic cuisine.
Class of 2022 valedictorian Madison Davis is a NSU University School lifer who experienced all USchool has to offer over the past 14 years. Having started in pre-kindergarten, Madison had the opportunity to grow alongside fellow lifers and navigate school together, forming lifelong connections with friends whom she now considers family.
Named salutatorian of the Class of 2022, Nikki Steinberg is a proud NSU University School lifer who immersed herself in opportunity and excelled both in and out of the classroom throughout her academic career. Having an early start at USchool, Nikki was exposed to a plethora of diverse courses and programs that helped her realize her love for writing and text analysis. Following her passion, she participated in the NSU Law Fellowship and worked closely with law professors and students. Her experiences competing in a mock trial competition, which she won, and interning at a law office steered her to work toward a career in the legal profession.
Inspired by his elementary school teachers, Andrew Stephens felt drawn to the teaching profession ever since the third grade. However, it was not until recently that he decided to pursue the calling. After his mother passed away in 2014, he received a letter from her that expressed how her life had been deeply enriched by all the fascinating things he had taught her and how she believed he was born to teach and hoped he would one day. These last words from his mom gave him the final push to transition from his former position in international higher education to his current role as an Upper School AP and honors psychology teacher.
We are so proud to share that 61 students in our USchool HOSA - Future Health Professionals chapter placed in the top 5 after competing in a wide variety of STEM-based competitions at the Broward Regional Conference! Out of the 61 students, 48 placed within the top 3, qualifying them for HOSA's state competition. As a result, USchool scored the most amount of state qualifiers in the region.
As part of Nova Southeastern University’s Global Day of Service, USchool students came together to lend a helping hand in the community by volunteering at service projects across Broward County. They assembled more than 500 meals to feed families in need, participated in beach and neighborhood cleanups, packed pet treats and adoption bags for Broward Animal Care, painted the Davie Woman’s Club 100-year-old building, delivered books to little free libraries in underserved communities, wrote letters to veterans, and more.
Meet our very first group of tech interns! To kick off the program, students met with staff in Nova Southeastern University's Office of Innovation and Information Technology and toured NSU facilities they will be working in throughout the experience.
We are proud to introduce our inaugural cohort of business fellows! Through this partnership with the Huizenga College of Business at NSU, students will work directly with professors and students at the college and experience different industries and career opportunities in the subjects of accounting, finance, management, marketing, entrepreneurship, real estate, and sports management.
Three of our exemplary students – Zoe Rodriguez, Jeffrey Zhang, and Madison Davis – were named Pinnacle Award winners by the Broward County Non-Public School Association. This award is given to students who set an example for others to follow in their actions at school, home, or in the community.
Troupe 5697 had incredible success at the District 13 Thespians Festival where they earned four Critic’s Choice awards, one Honorable Mention, nine Superiors, 11 Excellents, and a Florida Theatrical Association scholarship.
Rain or shine, USchool senior and creator of Sunny Isles Beach Cleanup Arina Zhirkova dedicates time every week to giving back to the community and environment by helping protect the ocean from pollution. After realizing how polluted her local beach was, Arina decided to take a stand and organized her very own beach cleanups back in August of 2020. USchool students and community volunteers join Arina in the fight each week, collecting an average of five bags of trash each cleanup.
Ten USchool seniors were selected as nominees for the Miami Herald Silver Knight Awards – one of the nation’s most highly regarded student awards programs that recognizes outstanding students for their community service and academic achievements.
Junior Lila Meltzer continues to garner media attention for starting a powerful movement on Instagram, which challenges society’s assumptions about women by encouraging them to reveal their true selves. Most recently, Lila was invited on the Rachel Ray Show to talk about how “Her Secret Identity” empowers women to take control of how they are perceived.
Students in our Robotics program led a hands-on STEM event to share their love of robotics, programming, and coding with children in the local community. Students taught children coding basics and how to operate the machines.
Inspired by her sister’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis, freshman Katherine Hernandez received recognition for engineering an artificial pancreas as part of her project for the Broward County Regional Science and Engineering Fair last school year, earning her second place in the biomedical engineering category. Guided by her mentor and former eighth grade teacher Ms. Jessica Lanzetta, Katherine worked closely with our robotics team throughout her "Highs and Lows of Diabetes" project to build a breadboard circuit and used her sister’s blood sugar levels as a guide when testing her hypothesis.
Upper School students Anthony Langone and Maximo Fernandez honored veterans at a community service event held by Fishing with America's Finest, a local nonprofit that provides fishing therapy to veterans in need of help overcoming PTSD and other emotional issues. They delivered more than 60 cards and letters, sang the national anthem, and provided veterans general support throughout the day.
USchool's Swimming and Diving team ends the season on a high note, earning top recognition and setting new school records at the 2021 Swimming and Diving State Championships.
NSU University School’s Homecoming canned goods collection was a huge success! More than 800 canned goods and non-perishable items were collected from our families and delivered to a new food pantry in Overtown sponsored by the non-profit organization, Food Rescue US - SouthFlorida. USchool’s Director of Parent and Alumni Relations Wynne Avellanet, who volunteers as the Food Rescue US Broward County Coordinator, stocked the shelves with the support of other organization members. The pantry was unveiled to food insecure residents living in Overtown who were invited to “shop” the pantry and gather items to take home.
NSU University School Robotics teams 4154X and 4154Z wrapped up their first competition of the season as Tournament Champions! Team 4154X also brought home the VEX Robotics Excellence Award, and Team 4154Z earned the Amaze Award.
Senior Diego Andaluz won Best Podcast and Best Experimental Film at the 2021 Teen Indie Awards, one of the biggest student film awards shows in the world! In total, he received five All-American Award nominations and six official selections in the Best Podcast and Best Experimental Film categories.
Entering his 22nd year of teaching at NSU University School, Upper School Physics and Calculus Teacher Dr. Rafael Arechabaleta is no stranger to the USchool community. Drawn by the uniqueness of our school, Dr. Arechabaleta joined the USchool team early in his teaching career shortly after moving to the United States from Cuba. He has made significant contributions to our school over the years and has had a lasting impact in the lives of his students through his instructional approach and sense of humor, helping create a comfortable learning environment.
In collaboration with Nova Southeastern University undergraduate students and Tiny Earth representatives, students in AP microbiology are growing bacteria from soil in search of new antibiotics. Undergraduate students at NSU helped our Upper School students create anti-fungal Petri dishes that allowed them to grow and store bacteria. Students then performed serial dilutions to lower the concentration of bacteria in the soil and plated them across different Petri dishes to observe growth.
Seven of our seniors earned Commended Scholar status in the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program. Recognized for their exceptional academic promise, these students placed among the top 50,000 students across the nation who entered the competition by taking the 2020 PSAT/NMSQT.
Five Speech and Debate team members competed at two tournaments and had great success, including TWO first place wins!
Upper School students in our Medical Fellowship took part in an interactive basic life support training and became CPR certified after learning and practicing how to perform chest compressions properly, operate an automated external defibrillator (AED), promptly recognize several life-threatening situations, and other lifesaving techniques.
Four of our academically talented seniors - Madison Draizin, Zachary Hardgrave, Nikki Steinberg, and Brian Zhi - were selected as 2022 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists! They are among 16,000 of the highest-scoring program entrants, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, who qualified as Semifinalists for their exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies.
Whether you are a new or returning Shark, you may be wondering what to expect at NSU University School. To give you insight, we asked students to share one piece of advice they would give to future students. Who better to get advice from than USchool students themselves?
Written by: NSU University School Sophomore Enoch Wong
Completing work in a classroom is a common and traditional mode of learning, but Lower School science teacher Michele Garren at NSU University School (USchool) utilizes the school’s Lichtenfeld Family Butterfly Garden and Vivarium to help educate her students in a hands-on way about butterflies and the plants that attract them. The garden itself was designed and planted by senior Duncan Jurman and is now maintained by Upper School students. The purpose of the garden is to provide hands-on learning experiences for students. This mode of learning has enhanced students’ interest in environmental science. Recently, I had an opportunity to interview Ms. Garren and talk about how she uses the garden to enhance student learning.
Rebecca Wolf, a salutatorian for the Class of 2021, has spent her 14-year educational journey at NSU University School where she dedicated herself to academic excellence and community service, building lifelong friendships and close relationships with her teachers along the way. Rebecca was always encouraged by role models in our school community. As a first grader, Rebecca remembers admiring the fourth grade students who led the annual Make-a-Wish fundraiser, marveling at what they had accomplished. Since then, she has become a student leader, serving as both vice president of the senior class and vice president of fundraising for the National Honor Society.
Starting NSU University School in the third grade not only gave Class of 2021 salutatorian Risa Pollak time to acclimate to the environment and experience all it has to offer, but also an opportunity to discover her passion for math, science, and dance. After participating in math fellows and taking chemistry, biology, and physics at multiple levels, Pollak quickly realized her love of learning, especially in these topics. As co-president of Math Circles for three years, she empowered young girls in grades 3-5 to pursue STEM education.
When senior Ari Arias first walked through our doors, he embarked on a journey toward excellence. Arias, a salutatorian for the Class of 2021, strived to lead by example throughout his academic career at NSU University School with the hope of inspiring others through his work ethic, commitment to community, and academic integrity.
There’s no question that students have faced unprecedented challenges this past year, but senior Peyton Ronkin did not let that get in the way of finishing her final year at NSU University School strong. Since we last interviewed Ronkin back in June for her recognition as a 2020 Bank of America Student Leader, she has earned numerous additional awards, both for her academics and extracurricular involvements, including the title of class co-valedictorian.
It is said that deep interests that present at an early age often stay with us throughout life, which is certainly true for Class of 2021 co-valedictorian Duncan Jurman who developed an interest in butterflies at the age of four and has continued to fuel that passion to this day. As a student in our early childhood program, teachers quickly noticed Jurman’s enthusiasm for butterflies and sought out ways for him to further develop his passion through unique experiential learning opportunities at NSU University School.
Our schoolwide Pet Supply Drive was a success! Thank you to all those who generously donated items for animals in need at the Humane Society of Broward County. Students in our Upper School Paws with a Cause Club delivered two carloads of items, which will help feed and care for countless animals at the shelter until they are found good homes. We love to see our students at all grade levels work together to give back to the community!
Introducing ClippedNotes, a clip-on whiteboard attachment for laptops created by our Junior Achievement of South Florida fellows! Advised by Upper School Business and Entrepreneurship Instructor Sonja Houston, this year’s team of student entrepreneurs has been working diligently to design, develop, and market ClippedNotes, which features a 3M whiteboard with an attached dry-erase marker that has a built-in eraser, making it easy to jot down important reminders, to-do lists, notes, and more!
Congratulations to our Sharks Robotics Team 4154 on going undefeated at their first in-person competition! The team won the tournament overall and earned a school record number of trophies having both teams qualified for the South Florida State VEX Robotics tournament.
And the Student of the Year Award goes to...senior Henry H.! Congratulations on being selected as a recipient of Nova Southeastern University’s 23rd Annual Student Life Achievement Awards! Affectionately known as the STUEY’s, this awards ceremony celebrates NSU’s best in Academic Excellence, Student-Centered, Integrity, Innovation, Opportunity, Scholarship/Research, Diversity, and Community.
Twenty-one members of our Speech and Debate team are headed to the Florida Forensic League Varsity State Championship! Not only did we have 21 out of 28 students qualify for states this past weekend, but our team members also won TWO first place championships at the Stanford Invitational where they competed against students from more than 350 schools! What a FINtastic weekend it was for the team. Congratulations, Sharks!
Students in our new Upper School HOSA - Future Health Professionals chapter won big at the Florida HOSA Award Ceremony! Twenty-seven of our students placed in the top 3 in their respective categories and qualified for state competition! For the past decade, the Broward region has been known to send the greatest number of students to both state and international competitions, and we are so proud of the tremendous success and top rankings our students achieved in their very first year as part of one of the most competitive regions in Florida.
Upper School students in the NSU Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine Fellowship program took part in an interactive basic life support training and became CPR certified after learning and practicing how to perform chest compressions properly, operate an automated external defibrillator (AED), promptly recognize several life-threatening situations, and other lifesaving techniques.
As Upper School students transition back to in-person learning, science teachers are working one-on-one with students who are engaging in experiential learning activities, such as hands-on lab experiments, to practice and experience techniques they learned while studying remotely.
Starting off the year with exciting news – many Class of 2021 seniors have received their Early College Acceptances! MIT, Stanford University, Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University, Duke University, Vanderbilt University, WashU, and Cornell University are among a long list of exceptional colleges/universities our seniors have been proudly accepted to thus far.
NSU University School (USchool) junior Peyton Ronkin began her educational journey here as a student in our Early Childhood program. Ronkin has excelled academically and significantly contributed to the USchool and local community through various initiatives over the past 13 years. Utilizing her passion for baking to give back, she initiated a community service project, Dipped with Love, in 2015 for her Bat Mitzvah to support the efforts of cancer charities. Ronkin started baking homemade chocolate-covered pretzels to raise money for I Care I Cure, a charity created in memory of a former student who was diagnosed with leukemia that seeks to find gentler cures for childhood cancers.
Since he first began in the Lower School, junior Ari Arias has immersed himself in the NSU University School (USchool) experience for the past 10 years and thrived. A benefit of an early start at USchool, Arias appreciates having spent his academic career in a supportive community, which has made a profound impact in his life. Having taken advantage of various experiential learning opportunities, Arias believes that this learning style is the most successful in keeping students engaged and helping them discover their passions.
Throughout her nine years as a student at NSU University School, Class of 2020 salutatorian Ronnie Shashoua has served as an exemplary leader. Practicing the values of hard work and responsibility, Shashoua has taken initiative in creating positive change by using the tools USchool has provided to share her knowledge and skills with others in an effort to empower those in the community.
Senior Sivan Ben-David is an NSU University School (USchool) "lifer" who began her educational journey as a Shark in junior kindergarten. In the past 14 years, Ben-David has proven herself to be a stellar student and individual, embodying USchool's mission of inclusivity and personalized excellence in academics, extracurriculars, and service. Her strong work ethic, instilled by her family at a young age, has led her to numerous impressive achievements, such as being named co-valedictorian for the Class of 2020.
Senior Melanie Stone first began her educational journey at NSU University School 14 years ago and has seized every opportunity afforded to her along the way. At a young age, Stone was provided a strategic academic advantage having started in our Early Childhood Program. Over the years, she has flourished as a student and become a dedicated, hard-working leader driven to excel both in and out of the classroom.