Every sunrise is an invitation for us to arise and brighten someone's day. Richelle E. Goodrich, Author, Novelist & Poet
Longtime Episcopal volunteer Mary Burris has dedicated thousands of hours to the school’s students and staff. Since 1998, she has served in roles including room mom, cafeteria server and library assistant. In the library, she shelves 800 Lower School books a week and has placed 100,000 stickers on Lower School reading materials. On any given day in the Upper School library, Mary can be found covering books before they enter circulation. As a former cafeteria volunteer, she could be counted on to serve student meals with a bright smile and a friendly greeting. She has done this faithfully for more than 20 years, and in doing so, she has left her mark on the community she loves.
Mary’s time as an Episcopal volunteer began when she and her family moved to Baton Rouge from New Orleans. “I just love this school,” she says. She points to the curriculum and the access to sports as just two examples of everything Episcopal offers. “If I had gone to a school like this,” Mary ponders. As a young woman, Mary earned a degree in political science from UNO. As a mother, she dedicated herself to her children. Volunteering at Episcopal provided Mary the perfect opportunity to be involved with her children’s education and to be an active participant in their lives. She was that proud mom in the school cafeteria line. As her children passed through, Mary would loudly proclaim to everyone in earshot, “Look at my daughter. Look how pretty she is.” While such proclamations may have embarrassed the children then, Mary says they appreciate her now.
Although her children are now adults, Mary remains a library volunteer. “I love books,” says Mary, who doesn’t read fiction and enjoys a good true crime story or a popular biography. Mary’s natural talents have made her an ideal volunteer library assistant. “I have a keen eye for numbers,” she says. Such a skill proves beneficial when shelving hundreds of books according to a Dewey decimal number.
Mary is a dynamic, larger-than-life storyteller. As she tells of her adventures, the listener cannot help but be drawn into the stories of her passion for tennis and particularly Roger Federer. There is even the story of the time that she was actually the answer to a trivia question on the radio program “Walton and Johnson.” Mary is also an animal lover and enjoys sharing tales of her furry friends. At one point in her life her family included turtles, horses, sheep, ducks, goats, cats and dogs – all within the Baton Rouge city limits. No matter the day or the time, it seems Mary always has a story to share and those who know her are eager to listen.
Students and faculty will return from Mardi Gras break this year to a week of LAUNCH 2020 festivities. Although the majority of the presentations will take place on Friday, March 6th, the official day of LAUNCH, several presentations and activities will lead up to the big day. Planning and preparation have been underway for months, as students have taken projects and work that they are passionate about and adapted their in-depth knowledge into an engaging presentation. This is what LAUNCH is all about -- coming together as a community to celebrate some of the most exciting moments of learning. Our students act on their own passion and curiosity to create something authentic, then boldly stand before an audience to share what they’ve discovered.
What you’ll see during LAUNCH week are distilled versions of much larger projects. ESTAAR students, for instance, spend over 100 hours in a laboratory working to test their hypotheses and collaborate with research assistants and professors. Some Thesis students have 50 pages of content written to support their argument. And, of course, the "Mamma Mia" session is just a joyful teaser of what’s to come in a few weeks. But each presentation and project has been carefully crafted for a very specific audience: their peers. For these presenters to take their ideas and new understanding, crafting it into a presentation to share with an auditorium full of their friends and classmates requires a great deal of vulnerability and bravery. When you watch these presentations, it will be apparent that these students care deeply about what they have learned, so much so that they care about sharing that learning with others. By sharing so openly about these ideas, our students are creating an opportunity for dialogue and engagement with their classmates that would be difficult to bring about in a typical classroom setting.
Check out the schedule for LAUNCH week and get excited to learn at LAUNCH -- there will be many opportunities to look at topics from new perspectives and celebrate the success of our incredible Episcopal students.
LAUNCH 2020 Merchandise is available for purchase in the library. Shirts are $20 and fanny packs are $8 -- buy both for $25.
Tiffany has been an educator for twelve years and serves as the Director of Library at Episcopal. A lifelong resident of Baton Rouge, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education from Southeastern Louisiana University and her Masters in Educational Technology Leadership from Northwestern State University of Louisiana. She has served as the President for ISTE’s Librarians Network and was recognized as one of ISTE’s 2014 Emerging Leaders. Tiffany is National Board Certified in Library Media and was named one of the 2014 Library Journal Movers & Shakers. She was the 2016 recipient of the Louisiana Library Media Specialist Award and is a past president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians. In 2019, she received the ISTE Librarians’ Network Award for her work in Aldrich Library at Episcopal. Tiffany speaks regularly at state, national, and international conferences on school library and technology topics.
Congratulations to this year’s Battle of the Books winners!
Middle School - Sixth grade wins!
Lower School - And the top seven teams are!
The Battle of the Books competition is an exciting way to encourage a love of reading among students. After reading the assigned books, students compete in teams to determine the Lower and Middle School division champions. Middle School students participate in a multiple-choice, short answer and puzzle round, while Lower School students compete in a multiple-choice round in the Greer Center.
Battle of the Books has become an annual event at Episcopal. This year, 23 fourth and fifth grade teams participated in the Lower School competition. Lower School librarian Catherine Word says even the younger students are aware of the event and express interest in reading the books. “Kids this age are excited about reading,” she says. “They love reading.” To ensure that the competition has something for everyone, Word chooses books from three different genres that represent different characters and reading levels. She says English teachers Liz Crawford and Margaret Boudreaux keep students motivated throughout the competition by providing time for students to read and encouraging student participation.
The Middle School Battle of the Books competition day is a lively occasion with fist pumping and chest bumping. This year, five teams competed with the sixth grade team coming out on top. Library Director Tiffany Whitehead used the competition to encourage reading and to promote library services. The winning team now has two weeks to prepare for the READgional Battle of the Books event where they will face off against Central Middle School, Denham Springs Junior High School and Runnels.
Looking for a good book recommendation for your little reader? Check out the Battle of the Books reading lists below.
Have you read a great book recently? Share the title in the comments section below.
“Bob” by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
“The Trumpet of the Swan” by E.B. White
“Wedgie & Gizmo” by Suzanne Selfors
“Aru Shah and the End of Time” by Roshani Chokshi
“Beyond the Bright Sea” by Lauren Wolk
“Brave” by Svetlana Chmakova
“Clayton Byrd Goes Underground” by Rita Williams-Garcia
“Greetings from Witness Protection” by Jake Burt
“In the Shadow of the Sun” by Anne Sibley O’Brien
“Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus” by Dusti Bowling
“Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe” by Jo Watson Hackl
“Suspect Red” by L.M. Elliott
“The Red Bandana” (Young Readers Edition) by Tom Rinaldi
Episcopal’s annual Battle of the Books competition has expanded. This year the winning Middle School team had the opportunity to compete against students from Central Middle School and Denham Springs Junior High School in a regional event. After three exciting rounds of competition, the Knights won! Congratulations to Team Weaver, comprised of Carter McLean, Suzie Heneghan, Akshay Basireddy, Katherine Fivgas, Michael Wang, Shreya Kamath, Claire Kiesel, Tori Pierce, Sarah Theriot and Amelia Pleasant. To learn more about Battle of the Books and this new regional twist, read the article below from Library Director Tiffany Whitehead.
I’ve been hosting a Battle of the Books competition with my Middle School students for the past five years. The first two years at Central Middle (where their amazing current librarian continues the tradition) and for the past three years at Episcopal. This year, the competition finally expanded and we hosted three school-level competitions at area schools, with the winner from each moving on to a regional competition.
In October, I announced this year’s competition and invited students to form their teams, comprised of ten students and one teacher sponsor. This year, six teams participated. Also this year, two other area librarians were hosting at their schools and collaborated with me every step of the way. For our book list, we pulled heavily from our Louisiana Young Reader’s Choice Award List to select the ten titles that were used in the battle. We try to round out the list with a variety in genre, character, and themes. Each team received a set of ten books and students had eight to ten weeks to read as much as they could. Students take responsibility for dividing up the reading as they see fit, and dig into the books.
In December, we held our school-level competition. The competition consisted of five rounds: three rounds of multiple choice questions using Kahoot, a written response round, and some type of puzzle/challenge round (that varies from year to year). Each of the three Kahoot rounds has a total of 20 questions — two from each book. Each team has one iPad that they use to answer the questions, earning points based on speed and accuracy. After four rounds of competition, the top three teams compete in a final Kahoot round in front of the entire Middle School division. Having the last round in front of their peers is a blast — it gets the teams hyped up and it helps students who did not participate learn more about Battle of the Books so they may want to join a team next year.
Our winning team was a team of eighth grade students, many of them have been together as a team since they were sixth graders, which made it extra special! That team went on to participate in the first ever regional competition.
Red Stick READgional Competition
My dream of having a regional Battle of the Books competition finally became a reality this year! Sara Gomez, librarian at Central Middle, and Laura Foy, librarian at Denham Springs Junior High, also held their school-level competitions and we all brought our winning teams to compete.
We were able to host the READgional at the Main Public Library in the teen gaming room. Before kicking off the competition, students participated in a variety of icebreaker activities designed to help them get to know each other. For this READgional competition, we had three rounds: two Kahoots and a game. We chose the Saran Wrap Game to add excitement to the competition. Students were lined up alternating by school and were asked trivia questions. While a student answered questions, the student next to them in line worked to unwrap the ball of wrap (while wearing oven mits) until the student answering questions got one correct — then the ball and mits were passed on. Tickets worth 100 points each were hidden within the Saran Wrap, so there was certainly incentive to unwrap the ball as quickly as possible.
The competition was very close overall. At the end of the event, the Episcopal team pulled off the win!
Battle of the Books is honestly one of my favorite events every year — it’s a great way to celebrate our readers and get more students hyped up about books!
Episcopal Library Director Tiffany Whitehead partnered with the librarians at Denham Springs Junior High and Central Middle School to organize the first READgional Battle of the Books. Here the group celebrates success. Laura Foy, DSJHS; Sara Gomez, CMS; Whitehead; Jessica Houvinen, CMS and Jason Fountain, Central Community School System Superintendent.
Looking for great books for your Middle School student? Below is the list of books read by this year’s Battle of the Books teams.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz
Fuzzy by Paul Dellinger and Tom Angleberger
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Restart by Gordon Korman
The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks
Terror at Bottle Creek by Watt Key
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Bryan Mealer and William Kamkwamba
Visit Tiffany Whitehead’s Mighty Little Librarian online blog by clicking here.
What are you reading? Leave Tiffany a comment below regarding your favorite book of the moment.
Tiffany has been an educator for eleven years and serves as the Director of Library at Episcopal. A lifelong resident of Baton Rouge, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education from Southeastern Louisiana University and her Masters in Educational Technology Leadership from Northwestern State University of Louisiana. She has served as the President for ISTE’s Librarians Network and was recognized as one of ISTE’s 2014 Emerging Leaders. Tiffany is National Board Certified in Library Media and was named one of the 2014 Library Journal Movers & Shakers. She was the 2016 recipient of the Louisiana Library Media Specialist Award and is currently the President of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians. Tiffany speaks regularly at state, national, and international conferences on school library and technology topics.
I’m Rex Bigfoot and I talk to dinosaurs.
This was the premise for a story recently imagined by award-winning author James Ponti and Episcopal fourth and fifth graders. Ponti, whose children’s mystery series FRAMED! earned the Edgar Award, conducted a writing workshop with Lower and Middle School students. He led the young writers through the creative process for choosing the main character, setting and problem of a story. Students were engaged and eager to share their thoughts on the adventures of Rex and his dinosaur friends.
Episcopal students frequently have the opportunity to interact with national experts. Such an experience enhances the lessons learned on campus and inspires students to think beyond Woodland Ridge. “Over the past few years, we’ve had several opportunities for our students at Episcopal to interact with and learn from authors,” says Library Director Tiffany Whitehead. “When students are able to connect with the people who write the books they read and love, it makes the experience all the more memorable. The importance of reading and the value of the writing process are always common themes in author presentations, and having those ideas reinforced in a meaningful way is powerful for our students.”
Lower School Librarian Catherine Word was thrilled to share such an opportunity with students. “What impacted me the most about Mr. Ponti’s visit, and what I hope the students were able to take away is how reading opens up different worlds,” says Word. “Mr. Ponti’s love of books and reading was inspiring.”
In addition to conducting writing workshops, Ponti also spoke to students about his personal journey to becoming a writer. He shared that as a young child, he was not an avid reader and didn’t develop a passion for books until later on. Ponti began his career as a screenwriter for Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and PBS. He later began writing novels with the hope of inspiring an interest in reading among young people. Ponti has succeeded in this goal with mystery novels that are popular among students and adults.
While at Episcopal, Ponti’s message for students was captivating and entertaining for all ages. Students and teachers laughed loudly as he shared his personal childhood tales. Ponti was also generous with positive feedback for students as he led the writing workshops. “You’re the only one who can write the stories you write,” he said.
At the end of the discussion, Ponti reflected on the impact of teachers on his life. He told the story of how one teacher’s compliment inspired him to become a writer. “One day can change everything and make your life magic,” he said. He reminded students to thank their teachers and show appreciation for the educators who provide them with the skills to succeed. The VPAC resonated with applause. Who knows where Episcopal students will use their skills. The next great novelist may just be among them!
For more on the James Ponti visit, check out Library Director Tiffany Whitehead's post here.
“Different languages, different food, different customs. That's our neighborhood: wild and tangled and colorful. Like the best kind of garden.” ― Katherine Applegate, Wishtree
Lower School students, faculty and families celebrated community, wishes, love and acceptance this week as third graders completed the read of Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. The event highlighted the strength of the Episcopal community and the connections to the world beyond. The celebration was truly a community effort with special guests, a message from the author and even a Lower School version of the wish tree.
“This book has influenced me to be more welcoming to new people or to people who just want to play with me at recess. That is why The Wishtree is my new favorite book.” Evelyn Zartman
“I also love the book because it teaches me to love my neighbors. It also teaches me to be kind no matter what happens, like when you’re in the classroom and someone is having trouble you could help them.” Ada Mere
Chief Paul reflected on his own life’s path in speaking to students, offering an example of how he went into law enforcement while a close friend chose an entirely different path. He left students with three tips for staying on the path to success:
Students also had the opportunity to hear from another special guest – Wishtree author Katherine Applegate. The Newbery Medal-winning author took time to send students a personal video message that was as inspiring as the book itself. “My wish for all of you is a world full of welcomers,” she said.
Episcopal faculty and families were involved throughout the community read process. Parents read along with students and many adults were as moved by the themes as their children. The entire Wishtree experience was made possible because of the support of the Parents’ Guild. The group purchased the books as part of the annual Parents’ Guild wish list.
In addition, the 2018 Wishtree community read was dedicated in memory of O. Miles Pollard, Jr. Mr. Pollard, a former Episcopal trustee, had a love of the outdoors that made the Wishtree read a fitting tribute. Mr. Pollard’s wife Mary and their son Steele Pollard were on hand to commemorate the occasion. “Many may recognize the Pollard name because the Lower School library is the Mary Furlow Pollard Library, which was made possible through the gift of her son O. Miles Pollard, Jr. and his wife Mary Pollard in 1984. A photographic portrait of Mary Furlow Pollard hangs in the library,” said Director of Advancement Andy Spencer. Several copies of Wishtree for the Pollard Library's collection have been inscribed with a message honoring Mr. Pollard’s contributions to the Episcopal community.
Episcopal students are now extending the love and acceptance of Wishtree to students beyond Woodland Ridge. Lower School Librarian Catherine Word purchased copies of the book for third graders at St. James, St. Luke’s and Trinity. Next week, students will participate in a Skype discussion on the book’s themes to foster a stronger sense of community.
With a Lower School theme of Love Your Neighbor and a school-wide Quest for Peace program, Wishtree was a fitting read for this school year. The community read was one of those moments where everything just seemed to come together. The connections, the special guests and having the support of family made the experience one students will likely remember for some time. As they grow to become tomorrow’s leaders, we hope their wishes for kindness, peace and harmony come true.
Did you read Wishtree with your child? Leave us a comment below and let us know what you thought about the book.
In a recent collaboration with Britannica Digital Learning, I published a series of blog posts and presented a webinar on the topic of news literacy and fighting fake news. With over 600 educators from around the country attending this webinar and many more accessing the archive, the topic of fake news is timely and important in the world of education. Many of the concepts and resources I shared with educators in this series are also relevant to our entire school community, and I hope you will find them to be informative and useful.
There are several terms that are important to gaining a broader understanding of this topic. I have used a variety of sources, including Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy and Melissa Zimdar’s False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources to curate this list of relevant terms:
The moral of the story is that it is important, but not always easy, to seek balanced news from a variety of sources. Reading with a critical eye and fact-checking sources is essential. Here are a few websites that are designed to help readers look at news information more critically:
There is no denying that our news and media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. While we clearly have a wealth of information at our fingertips and accessible on our smartphones, in many ways it is more difficult to discern fact from fiction than ever before. As involved citizens, we must be aware of the challenges and choose to evaluate news critically and carefully.
Tiffany has been an educator for fourteen years and serves as the Director of Library at Episcopal. A lifelong resident of Baton Rouge, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education from Southeastern Louisiana University and her Masters in Educational Technology Leadership from Northwestern State University of Louisiana. She has served as the President for ISTE’s Librarians Network and was recognized as one of ISTE’s 2014 Emerging Leaders. Tiffany is National Board Certified in Library Media and was named one of the 2014 Library Journal Movers & Shakers. She was the 2016 recipient of the Louisiana Library Media Specialist Award and is currently the President of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians. Tiffany speaks regularly at state, national, and international conferences on school library and technology topics.
If you had one wish, what would it be? Newbery Medal-winning author Katherine Applegate explores the theme of wishes, love, and acceptance in her book Wishtree, which tells the tale of an old oak tree named Red.
“Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.
Word hopes that everyone in the Episcopal community will participate in the read, including students, parents and grandparents. “Parents are essential participants in this Community Read,” says Word. “Reading aloud to children who are able to read by themselves, especially books that are beyond a child’s own independent reading level, is important in developing fluency and a love of reading.”
Lower School Division Head Bridget Henderson was among the faculty members who received a copy of the book. “The Parents’ Guild wish list supported this project with Wishtree,” she told students. Henderson pointed out the importance of such support and how it enhances the student’s educational experiences in such meaningful ways. Thank you Parents' Guild!
Wishtree provides wisdom from a different perspective. Word hopes the story inspires students and families to love their neighbor and make the world a better place. Please join us in this Community Read.
The Wishtree reviews are in:
“Beloved author and Newbery-winner Applegate returns with a moving tale starring, of all things, an oak tree….Timely, necessary, and brimming with heart.” Booklist
To learn more about the book and view a trailer, click here.
Before you board that train, plane or automobile for summer vacation, make sure to include reading as part of your packing list.
“I believe summer is the best time to read,” says Episcopal Library Director Tiffany Whitehead. Whitehead, who is an avid traveler, says she enjoys reading books set in her vacation destination before heading out. For example, before going road tripping in Ireland she read “Love and Luck” by Jenna Evans Welch, a teen novel set in the Irish countryside.
Whitehead offers these additional tips for summer reading success:
There are now a range of options to make reading easier and more enjoyable for readers of all ages. Today’s students are accustomed to electronics, making e-readers a great reading option for students on the go. In addition, audiobooks can make a family road trip even more adventurous as everyone listens along together. Whitehead suggests loading your devices with good reads before heading out for vacation. Helpful hint: don’t forget to include options from the Episcopal summer reading list.
To make summer reading even more enjoyable, Whitehead recommends participating in the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s Summer Reading Program. Participating in the program will help students keep track of how many books they have read over the break. The library offers an extensive array of electronic and audiobook options to fill your devices before heading out. The library staff also offer events and even rewards for those who participate as an incentive to get reading.
While there is the required school summer reading list, Whitehead says summer is also a great time to read simply for fun. She recommends using the break to explore a new author or an unfamiliar genre. Whitehead says no matter how or where you read this summer, enjoy what you are reading.
Happy summer reading!
It was a great year for reading at Episcopal! Students spoke with the "I Survived" author Lauren Tarshis via Skype, they celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday, they won young author competitions, battled with books, collected books for babies and competed in book trivia.
An epic battle took place this week. No, the Olympics didn’t get an early start and LSU was not playing! It was the annual Episcopal Middle School Battle of the Books.
The battle began in the Greer Center with seven teams competing to answer questions about ten books they had recently read. After two rounds of multiple choice questions and time for a short answer round, the teams then moved to Aldrich Library where they were tasked with solving puzzles based on those same books. Everything culminated in the chapel with the final three teams answering more questions in front of the entire Middle School division.
The competition was fierce.
Students were jumping up and down. There was laughing, chanting and cheering. There was also frantic whispering as teams grappled for answers, and even a few tense, quiet moments while answers were being tallied. After five rounds of competition, Team Weaver was crowned this year’s winner.
But how did all of this get started anyway? Where else, but the library.
As you might expect Library Director Tiffany Whitehead loves books, and as a school librarian she wants to share that love with students. Thus, she took an idea from a friend in Indiana and made it her own, creating the Battle of the Books. This is the second year Whitehead has orchestrated such an event here at Episcopal, coming on the heels of planning a similar event at a previous school. While it may look easy, managing the Battle of the Books logistics is no simple feat. It takes months of planning.
Beginning this summer, Whitehead started researching potential battle books using the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice list as a guide. By September, she had invited students to form teams of at least ten members and divvy up the reading. Whitehead also identified team sponsors and ensured that everyone had copies of the assigned reading. In addition, she read as many of the books as she could. Then there was the actual heart of the event – the questions. Whitehead and her team put a lot of time and effort into researching and creating each question and each puzzle. With three rounds of twenty multiple choice questions, a host of short answer options and puzzles, this is a considerable undertaking. Once questions are established they are then entered into the software program Kahoot so that they can be answered via iPad on competition day.
Why expend so much energy and effort on a one-day competition? Whitehead says the goal is to get students excited about reading and to provide them with a team aspect that reading doesn’t typically offer. “Most of the kids who participate are already readers,” she says. “This gets them out of their reading comfort zone.” Whitehead intentionally chooses a diverse list of books for each competition. The list includes both fiction and non-fiction to push the students’ reading experience beyond their go-to genres.
The long hours of planning paid off.
In the end, Team Guarisco won the chapel round, but after all rounds of competition Team Weaver was victorious. Team Weaver summed up the competition and their feelings well with just two words – amazing and awesome. The champs already plan to team up again next year to defend their title.
Whitehead says the Battle of the Books has great momentum with nearly double the teams this year compared to last. As long as students are reading and enjoying the event, it is sure to be an Episcopal staple for years to come.
Congratulations to Tiffany and the entire Middle School division on another great Battle of the Books!
Congratulations to the winners:
First place: Team Weaver
Second place: Team Guarisco
Third place: Team Day