College Shirt Day. Student Council Meetings. Sports. Student life is coming back to life at Episcopal now that the state has transitioned to Phase 3 of the reopening plan. Students have adapted quickly to the state health and safety mandates, and there is a real sense of excitement on campus as the traditional social-emotional activities return.
“We know that school is more than about what happens with academics,” says Middle School Division Head Mark Engstrom. “Children truly shine when they find the right sport, club, or activity that fits them. Rolling out our first set of clubs is another step toward fulfilling our Mission of developing the whole child.” Recently, Middle School announced the return of Peer Leaders, Student Council, Geography Bee, MATHCOUNTS and Student Vestry. Club meetings are being conducted in large meeting spaces following social distance guidelines.
Middle School Counselor Alicia Kelly facilitated the first Peer Leaders meeting in the Chapel. She says students were excited to participate in anything being offered after a long stretch without such activities. “I’m very excited for the return of Peer Leaders,” says Rylee Simoneaux. “My favorite thing about Peer Leaders is the great community and help we can give to others around our campus.” Simoneaux and Kelly look forward to the return of the Peer Leaders’ Random Acts of Kindness initiative in which students are recognized for being kind to others.
The return of the Student Council is another exciting development. Advisor Kristina St. George says that while big group events like dances are currently not an option, there are still things that students can plan. “The students elected to Student Council this year are very motivated to face the new challenges that social distancing has placed on us and are looking forward to coming up with fun and safe activities to make everyone’s Middle School experience a great one,” she says. This year’s Middle School Student Council members include seventh graders Maeve Dolan and Virginia Kirkpatrick and eighth graders Sophie Arnold, Ryder Bond, Elaine Bourgeois and Eloise Parker.
MATHCOUNTS advisor James Moroney says the return of extracurricular activities brings back a much needed sense of normalcy. “One of the parts that I love most about MATHCOUNTS is how it gives our students a chance to be part of a team competing for and representing their school,” he says. “These types of experiences are invaluable in creating the sense of community that makes Episcopal such a special place.” Moroney is using a combination of virtual and in-person meeting options to prepare this year’s team.
As the division counselor, Kelly is pleased that extracurricular activities are returning to campus. “We’re here to connect,” she says. “These activities help kids in wanting to come to school. It helps them engage and is important for their social-emotional health and well-being.” Kelly says providing these activities can also have a positive impact on a student’s academic performance. “Social connection has a lot to do with happiness,” she says. “Happy students want to learn.”
In addition to the return of clubs, Middle School faculty have organized Wellness Wednesday activities in advisory. Currently, students are competing to see who can perform best on a mental, physical and intellectual challenge with the overall winner to be announced before fall break. Students also participated in an activity where they discussed what they are grateful for in recognition of National Gratitude Day. Students expressed appreciation for family, teachers, a nice school and sports.
The return of softball, swimming, cross country and football has created a spark among the Episcopal Middle School community. “Clubs and sports provide students an opportunity to connect with and learn from each other in different ways,” says St. George. “I also think it’s important for students to be able to participate in something they have a sincere interest in – this can benefit mental health as well as make their school day just more fun.”
After only seven weeks on campus, we are making tremendous progress. The successful reintroduction of these first five Middle School clubs means that additional clubs can soon begin. School does look and feel different this year, but with a little creativity, teachers and students are finding ways to make the experience meaningful.
Every day is the best day ever from their point of view.
Episcopal kindergarten teacher Sara Henderson is quick to say that she and her fellow kindergarten teachers, Maria Campbell and Erin Dufour, have the best job at Episcopal. “We take children where they are and help them grow where they are planted,” says Henderson. “We get to be the lucky ones to foster a love for learning.”
Recently, the kindergarten team has been encouraging that love and an exploration of the world through the annual five senses project-based learning unit. Henderson says as students learn about their senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing, they are encouraged to think like a little scientist. The five and six-year-olds make observations and meet milestones such as learning to sort objects based on their properties and how to represent information in a variety of forms using graphs, charts and tables.
The five senses project had to be revised this year due to current pandemic restrictions. “We usually start this project off with a visit from the mobile zoo and the five senses package, we are really just trying to make things we have done in the past more hands on, more fun and bring those things into the curriculum across subject areas,” says Henderson. She says this year students are exploring using items that can be brought into the classroom, such as kinetic sand, water beads, writing sight words in coarse salt, oobleck and shaving cream. “We were able to tie our five senses into our math unit of texture,” says Henderson. “We tied in with art and the color wheel. Just trying to make as many connections as we can within our new perimeters.
While teachers are finding creative ways to make the lesson enjoyable, it is also obvious that the simple act of being together is bringing tremendous joy as well. “We are so excited to be with our littles,” says Henderson. “We are thankful to be here each day. It looks different, sounds different, but feels the same. I love seeing the wonder in their eyes when we talk about being scientists, authors, illustrators, mathematicians and learners. It is a blessing to be teaching all the time, even in this new tricky time we are in.”
Kindergarten is an important time in a student’s educational journey as they transition into “big kid” learning. It’s also a time when learning is still filled with the wonder of childhood. It’s great to see that school is so much fun, thanks to a community of dedicated teachers who make every lesson an adventure in learning.
Anyone who speaks with Coach Heidi immediately realizes that there is a positive spark and natural joy about her. “My mom raised me to make lemonade,” she says with a smile. “You have to find the positive in everything you do.” That positive energy is apparent as you watch Coach Heidi escort young Knights to Lower School during carpool, as you see her enjoy a laugh with her colleagues and as her team makes her proud on the softball field.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” says Coach Heidi. Growing up she had great examples of the positive influence of teachers in her grandmother, who was a teacher and administrator, and her neighbor former Episcopal Athletic Director Myra Mansur. “I wanted to be just like Ms. Myra when I grew up,” she says. Coach Heidi grew up on the softball field, playing outfield, catcher and third base. Her love for the sport began while playing tee-ball as a young girl. “My happy place is a field,” she says. Eventually, she also played basketball and danced, but it was that initial love of softball that remains a constant. “It’s in my blood,” she says.
Throughout high school in north Louisiana, Coach Heidi honed her softball skills and earned a scholarship to play at Mississippi College. She remembers her first day of college practice. “I went to the dorm room and cried,” says Coach Heidi. “I called my mom and said this was a dream come true, and if I never step foot on a field again, I’ll be ok.” However, Coach Heidi continued living her dream and even went on to be a graduate assistant for the team. After college, she returned to Baton Rouge as a PreK teacher and administrator at KinderCare Learning Center. As soon as she returned, Coach Heidi reached out to her friend and mentor Ms. Myra. It was July 2000 and Ms. Myra was not only excited to hear from Coach Heidi, but she also offered her a job with the Knights. Another of Coach Heidi’s dreams became a reality and she found herself coaching first base while Ms. Myra coached third.
Coach Heidi grew up on the softball field and loves her role as the Knights Head Softball Coach.
After 20 years at Episcopal, Coach Heidi is still all smiles as she discusses her dream job. “I’ve always loved school,” she says. That love now encompasses a community of former and current players, Lower School PE students and her coaching colleagues. “This is where I want to retire from,” she says. It’s also the place where, in 2008, she married her husband Jeff. Her son Drew is following in her footsteps, growing up on the field just as Coach Heidi did. “He loves to be here as much as I do,” she says. In fact, fourth grade Drew may one day be a coach as he aspires to be the Episcopal Athletic Director.
Learning, fun and growth are happening everyday in Middle School. Despite the unusual circumstances this school year presents, students are being challenged and celebrated. Middle School faculty are finding creative ways to continue offering meaningful lessons in everything from physical education and fine arts to core academic courses. Lessons are taking place in unconventional spaces, including outdoor tents and sports bleachers. However, the Middle School Knights are quickly adapting and thriving.
We invite you to take a glimpse into a Middle School week, by watching the video below.
We appreciate the positive attitudes of our Middle School students, and we thank our families for their trust in us. A special thank you to the faculty and staff who are making sure that great learning experiences continue.
To read more about Episcopal’s Middle School program, click here.
Episcopal prepared me.
What does that really mean? One 2017 Episcopal graduate recently reached out to help define that motto for others.
In 2017, Sarah Xing was a graduating Knight. Having relocated to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina, Sarah attended Episcopal beginning in the fourth grade. Early on, she found members of the Episcopal community to be quite welcoming and she quickly found her place among friends. Over the course of her educational journey, Sarah was a member of the Robotics Club and the Astronomy Club, and she took numerous AP and Honors courses. She quickly acclimated to the Episcopal teaching style, the challenging content and the pace of the lessons; so much so that her eventual transition to Tulane University was seamless.
Incredibly, after only three years, Sarah graduated from Tulane in May with two degrees. During this short time, she also made time to study abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. She says friends are shocked when she tells them about her accomplishments, and her family is quite proud. With one degree in economics and another in computer science, Sarah is now the youngest student currently pursuing a master’s degree in business analytics. She will complete that master’s in May, thus earning three degrees in only four years, as she works toward her dream of becoming an analyst at a tech firm.
Episcopal College Counselor Shandi Fazely remains in touch with Sarah and says it is not often that a college student completes their studies so quickly. In fact, Tulane reported an undergraduate six-year graduation rate of 86% in 2019. The site reports “the graduation rate is calculated as the percentage of first-year, full-time students who enrolled in the institution in a Fall term and then graduated from the institution within six years.” Fazely, who once described Sarah as “an eternal optimist with an indefatigable work ethic” and as someone who “knows how to succeed and has prepared herself well for the college environment,” congratulates Sarah on her recent achievements.
As Sarah looks back on her time at Episcopal, she appreciates the challenging academics that prepared her and the community/family feeling. She particularly enjoyed the school’s Homecoming activities, the community building events and LAUNCH Day. Now, as her brother Robert prepares to graduate from Episcopal this year, Sarah offers this advice to the Class of 2021. “It may not be the most normal senior year but make the most out of it because you only get senior year once,” she says. It is great to see that in only three years’ time, Sarah has made the most of her Episcopal preparation. It will be exciting to see how far she goes.
Are you an Episcopal graduate? Share how Episcopal prepared you in the comments section below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The annual Healthy Selves project-based learning unit in first grade is now underway! Students are learning to make healthy food choices, the importance of exercise and how to care for their bodies.
This week, these healthy explorers were the first students to explore the new fully stocked Chemistry Kitchen in the Quest Center. Students, teachers and Chef Pat were excited to have the opportunity to make healthy smoothies in the new space within Foster Hall. Students wore brightly colored aprons and worked at tables just the right height for them. There was tremendous excitement as they chopped berries and bananas, and once the blender started whirring, laughing and cheering filled the room.
While the delicious lesson was designed to encourage students to make healthy eating choices, there were other lessons to be learned. Quest Center Coordinator Dr. Elizabeth Lewis told students about the composting process as she collected the banana peels and strawberry stems in a white bucket. Later, teacher Mary Kathryn Vey showed students the composting bins that are right outside of their own first grade classroom. She also pointed out the worm, vegetable and butterfly gardens that fill the space. Students were excited to know that they have a great view of everything going on in these natural spaces.
Strawberries, bananas, an inspiring new venue and a team of educators finding creative ways in which to feed young imaginations – that’s a great recipe for learning!
Launching the admission application is always a fun day for the Enrollment team. It signifies the start of a new cycle of meeting perspective families and welcoming eager students to campus. This year, the excitement is mixed with a little nervous anticipation as we find creative ways to maintain our dynamic application process while still adhering to our COVID-19 safety protocols. But as necessity is the mother of invention, we have found compelling ways to keep supporting families through this unique admission season.
We believe that visiting Episcopal is one of the best ways to determine if we are the right fit for a family. While we currently limit visitors on campus, we have adjusted tours from our weekly mini-open house model to guided virtual tours or a personalized private tour with limited access to campus facilities. In both scenarios, we will highlight the diverse array of campus opportunities available to students through videos of students learning in action, snapshots of classrooms with and without COVID-19 adjustments, and student testimonials allowing families to truly get a sense of what makes Episcopal so great. We are also hosting virtual Lunch and Learns to highlight some of our most popular parent events such as our College Counseling chats and monthly Lower School coffees (the most recent topic was Finding the Right Balance: Conversations about Activities, Family Time, Sleep and Doing it All). Private campus tours are available by request on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 8:30 am - 10:00 am. Those interested can contact the Admission Office at 225-755-2684 or click here.
Student Shadow Days and Class Visits
Building on campus tours, student shadow days and class visits offer applicants an even deeper connection to the Episcopal experience. Being able to make friends with current students, learn from our creative and engaging teachers and generally experience life as an Episcopal Knight is what often solidifies an applicant's decision to enroll. While we temporarily limit student shadow days, we will continue to take advantage of what we do best - personalize the experience through tailored videos from students, faculty and staff. Student Ambassadors and Peer Leaders are eager to record special greetings and answer applicant questions while faculty are ready to take students on a video tour of their classroom. We may be physically apart, but we want applicants to feel like a part of our community.
Dates and Deadlines
As we have done in the past, we will continue to conduct admission screenings and tests in person later this school year. Please see below for important admission dates and deadlines. For more detailed information, click here.
Lower School Early Decision Application Deadline
December 1st - 4th
Lower School Applicant Screenings
Middle and Upper School Early Decision Application Deadline
December 12th or January 9th
Middle and Upper School Applicant Admission Tests
Members of the Admission team strive to make enrolling at Episcopal as smooth as possible. While the current admission process is somewhat different from the past, we hope that families still gain an appreciation for the Episcopal educational experience. We are optimistic that we will be able to welcome our newly enrolled Knights to campus for new family welcome events next spring. Until then, families are encouraged to contact us with any questions or concerns.
To learn more about Episcopal admission, contact a member of the Admission team.
“Art is coming to the forefront during the pandemic, not because it is more important, but because we are having to reassess how we cope, and what we are finding is that art was always there ready to help, but now we are taking more time to create.” Veronica Hallock, Episcopal art teacher
From breadmaking to gardening, people have discovered creative ways in which to de-stress in a COVID-19 world. Now that the school year is underway, teachers and students are finding that an art project, a music lesson or a dance class can also make a difference. While the courses may look a little different, the impact is still the same. “The students seem to have a desperate need to move and a genuine need for something that is close to normal,” says dance teacher Christine Chrest. “I have found that my classes, Middle and Upper School, are more enthusiastic and focused than ever.”
Hallock says teaching visual art under the current circumstances is not really all that different from a traditional school year. She says the biggest challenge has been ensuring that students have the supplies they need to create both in the classroom and at home. “I am very fortunate that there are so many online art tutorials and resources, but the successes we are having is in large part because of the collaboration between parents and the school,” she says.
New Episcopal Band Director Marshall Farrell has transitioned from traditional instrument practice to teaching the concepts of rhythm, note-reading and music theory. He says there is an increased focus on the students composing their own music, and there have been great results. “The biggest blessing in disguise of this new curriculum is that it fosters student ownership in their work and creativity more so than a traditional band set up,” says Farrell.
By nature, art teachers are creative, which serves them well as they find new ways to provide an authentic art experience. “It has stretched our imagination a good bit,” says Chrest. “This year is different not only because of wearing masks and staying socially distant but primarily because of the loss of contact. So much of dance is about physical contact, partnering, supporting and lifting.” That creative determination is paying off. Recently, Chrest held auditions for Dance Ensemble which generated enthusiasm for a return to expression. Farrell says musicianship has continued this school year, even if it is in a different way.
While to date, teachers have found meaningful ways in which to continue providing arts, Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan permits more typical arts activities. Students will resume playing instruments and singing together. Hallock says it is important to resume art activities because of the sense of security and calm they provide. “Art teaches healthy emotional expression, it teaches fine motor skills, it is a safe space on campus for students who don’t necessarily feel like they fit, and it creates a balance to the objective and concrete thinking that happens in core classes by offering subjective and non-concrete problem solving.”
The arts have always been an important component of Episcopal’s whole-child experience. Through the creative and determined efforts of Episcopal’s arts faculty, students will continue to benefit from the experience despite the challenges that may exist.
Your Knights are back in action! With a renewed sense of grit and determination, student athletes and the coaches who lead them are taking the court, the course, the field and the pool. Middle and Upper School sports fans are ecstatic that fall sports are underway, and your Knights have certainly started strong. The volleyball team defeated Baton Rouge High in their first game back on the court and the cross country squad broke records last weekend at the West Feliciana Relays. In Middle School, the football, softball, swimming, and cross country teams have begun practice in anticipation of a great season. A return to competition enhances the student experience and makes life in Middle and Upper School a little more of what we have come to expect from our experience here at Episcopal.
Athletic Director Randy Richard says the logistics required to get student athletes back in the game have not been easy, but they have certainly been worth it. “What’s important for us is that our student athletes get a chance to play in a safe environment,” he says. “The reason we’re doing it is because this is our mission in life.” Richard points to the value of sports and the lessons athletes learn that can’t be learned anywhere else. To provide athletes this experience, the coaching team has had to be more creative to work within the confines of the health and safety protocols. There have been challenges, but the coaches have rallied together behind one goal. “We encourage each other so that we’re geared up and ready to go to have a plan in place to serve our students,” says Richard.
That service to students has included tremendous planning. For example, as students participated in summer strength and conditioning, coaches had to increase the two daily workouts/three days a week to three and four daily workouts/five days a week in order to reduce the number of students in the weight room at any given time. In cross country, runners had to be organized into pods so that students wouldn’t bundle together as they trained. More pods required the development of additional running routes and increased monitoring of individual times. Football practice strategies had to be adjusted with some players lifting weights while others ran drills to reduce the exposure risk of an entire squad. Between each drill everything is cleaned, including equipment and footballs. Throughout the adjustments, Richard says the student athletes have stepped up and shown a true commitment to their teams and a desire to compete this season.
As teams begin competing, there are even more details to consider, all the way down to the water that athletes drink. Richard says while they’ve taken water for granted in the past, coaches must now make sure that each athlete brings enough to sustain themselves throughout an entire practice and competition. Coaches also have to consider where athletes not in the game will sit/stand until their number is called and, in some cases, what is essentially a travel squad must be established due to capacity limitations within gyms. Even the traditional handshake or high five among opponents has had to be reworked this season. Fortunately, the Knights volleyball team has already found a way to acknowledge their opponent by waving to them from across the net. As the team took the court for their first game, Head Coach Madeline Gugich was thrilled. “Seeing them compete puts a smile on all of our faces,” she says. “The excitement of this helps us to play our best. It was an awesome game.”
There also remains a question of fan attendance. Richard reminds everyone that it is important to understand that all suggested attendance numbers include members of the team, coaches, game officials and those determined to be essential game personnel. Once essential game attendees are tallied, the fan attendance numbers are significantly lower than the numbers suggest. However, Richard and his team have devised a creative solution to allow the Knights’ fanbase to show their support. The Episcopal volleyball games are aired live and on delay on YurView LA (Cox Channel 4) and CST (Cox Channel 37). Richard says many of the team parents sponsored the broadcasts to support their student athletes, and he is optimistic that a similar arrangement can be made for other sports. Thank you parents!!
The Episcopal coaches are eager to return to competition. “We are excited to be able to compete because practicing all the time gets boring,” says Head Cross Country Coach Claney Duplechin. “We need to know the reason for practicing. This reason is competing against other schools and individuals. It is fun to compare our skills with others.” Middle and Upper School Softball Coach Heidi Hebert says seeing the students’ excitement and motivation to prepare is just one of the many reasons to love coaching. “It has been a real eye opener to see the things we take for granted such as everyday life including practices and games,” she says. “As we count down the days to our first competitions, it’s exciting to have those normal, game day jitters.” Head Football Coach Travis Bourgeois says playing football in the fall gives players positive energy. “With 18 seniors, these guys have put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears over the years,” he says. “They deserve to play their senior year. Football is a great way to kick off the school year and bring our community together.”
Richard feels the commitment shown by the coaching staff will inspire the student athletes. “I hope they understand the magnitude of what coaches have done to get them back in action,” he says. With that understanding, Richard hopes the athletes, under the guidance of the seniors, can continue to come together to do the right thing and stay on track to continue a successful season. While this season is certainly different from the past, Richard is confident the Knights will get the job done. “In May, I’ll look back and be overwhelmed with the resiliency of our staff and student athletes to make what could have been a terrible year a success.”
Resilience. Determination. Commitment. These are all key qualities you might expect of a Knight. Expect them to be on full display as the students compete once again. To keep track of upcoming sports events, click here to see the Episcopal athletic schedule.
Share words of encouragement for your Episcopal Knights in the comments section below. Go Knights!
Episcopal School of Baton Rouge is pleased to recognize twelve National Merit Semifinalists and three Commended Scholars from the Class of 2021. The fifteen students represent approximately 15% of the school’s 103-member senior class.
National Merit Semifinalists:
According to the National Merit Scholarship Program, close to two million students compete each year, with approximately 16,000 making it to the semifinal round. Semifinalists are top scorers on the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test/PSAT test in their state.
National Merit finalists will be announced in February with winners named in the spring. The selection committee reviews student grades, activities and leadership, as well as school information to determine the winners. Scholarships are then awarded from the National Merit Scholarship Program, corporations, colleges and universities.