Imagine the Possibilities: Unforgettable Guest Speakers


Courtesy of PDS

Allison Liang, Staff Writer

Between April 8 and April 12, PDS welcomed New York Times-bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson and Australian artist and illustrator Sophie Blackall. Both Anderson and Blackall’s arrival were part of PDS’s Imagine the Possibilities program, an annual school-wide program that was made possible through the John D. Wallace, Jr. ’78 Memorial Guest Artist Series Fund. The program offers students an opportunity to learn from a diverse range of authors, illustrators, and poets.

When asked about the process of setting up a program like Imagine the Possibilities, former Lower School Teacher and Imagine the Possibilities Coordinator Ms. Gallagher mentioned the difficulties. “It’s always a tricky process. I’m always looking for people who can [communicate] across divisions; people who are just as comfortable working with a 5-year-old and 10-year-old,” Ms. Gallagher explained. She also shared that over the years, she’s branched out to bring in dancers, mountaineers, and even political activists. But whoever that person is, Ms. Gallagher is always looking for “someone who’s gonna bring something really important and powerful to the building.”

The series began earlier in the year with National Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. Most recently, author Laurie Halse Anderson visited PDS and joined an upper school gathering. During the gathering, Anderson talked about her own experiences as a victim of sexual assault. She shared how literature was a way for her to communicate and help teens everywhere relate to her experience. More sensitive topics like gender inequality and sexual violence were also brought up in her talk. With her unique sense of humor and wit, she brought both knowledge and laughter to teachers and students. In addition, she joined a section of a junior-grade English class to discuss her latest novel.

Just a few days after Anderson’s arrival, PDS welcomed Australian illustrator Sophie Blackall. During her visit, Blackall worked patiently with  PDS third-graders to create collages utilizing images from magazines. In her assembly with the Lower School, she gave students a peek of how the process of creating her own illustrations is like. This process included starting with a very rough draft, moving to a more developed prototype, and ending with a finalized illustration. Afterward, she also worked with many upper school art classes.

Imagine the Possibilities is a true gift to PDS. It offers the PDS community opportunities to learn and grow as a community. A big thank you goes out to Ms. Gallagher for all of her research and planning—even one visit takes years of contacting in advance. We are also grateful that guest artists Tracy K. Smith, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Sophie Blackall were able to share their amazing work with us. We await excitedly for next year’s program!