For Episcopal’s Chris Beckman the answer is easy - academics, of course. For 22 years now and with more than 580 wins, Chris has been at the helm of the Knights’ boys basketball team.
Chris is a believer in Episcopal, but not just Knights athletics. He is a proponent of the school’s academic rigor, the small class sizes and the opportunities made available for all students. So much a proponent that his oldest son is an Episcopal grad and his youngest son is currently in the fifth grade.
Chris' stature seems more befitting a baseball guy than what you’d expect on the hardwood. In fact, he says he was a good baseball player, but his heart was committed to basketball as soon as he began dribbling and shooting as a young child. “I was horrible at first,” he says, while seated in an office showcasing newspaper clippings written about his influence on the sport. However, Chris says he just kept trying and eventually fell in love with the sound of the ball going through the net. (Swoosh.)
That love of the “swoosh” led Chris to play for St. Martin’s in New Orleans and later Millsaps College. Fortunately for the Knights his path eventually led him to his current role on Woodland Ridge. Looking back, he remembers proudly that by his second year with Episcopal, the team had a winning season. “People said we couldn’t win and I took that as a challenge,” he says. A challenge he still enjoys even to this day.
Chris says athletics are an extra bonus at Episcopal. In a school boasting a design studio, integrated arts programs and abundant project-based learning units, having a winning basketball team is remarkable. Chris is a realist when it comes to the demands on his players. He knows that they are involved in multiple sports and activities, in addition to the high academic expectations. As a result, he says he keeps it simple.
Less Me - More We is the Knights’ basketball team motto. “If you’re going to work hard and be committed, I’m going to find a spot for you,” says Chris. He says the team is not a place for a loan superstar, but a place where students can be a part of a group and simply enjoy playing basketball.
Thanks to Episcopal’s PreK-3 through Upper School structure, Chris has the opportunity to get to know students and families early on. He enjoys working with students who have attended Episcopal since childhood. Like a proud dad he revels in seeing students grow and develop over the years. He says as players improve every year he’s watched less talented students improve and eventually become starters on good teams by their senior year. Chris says working with the students who have attended Episcopal for so many years makes the entire experience even more meaningful.
For Chris, winning is actually a by-product, a bonus, similar to his philosophy on athletics in general. When looking back on his own athletic experience Chris says in the end you don’t remember every win and every opponent. What you do remember is hanging out with your teammates, singing and dancing on the bus ride home or seeing your non-basketball-playing friends cheering you on in the stands with their faces painted in school colors. This is the feeling Chris hopes his players remember. His philosophy of creating athletes with students who have attended and been engaged in the school since childhood is sure to contribute to that feeling.
Don’t miss the Knights basketball team in action this season. Mark your calendar for these upcoming games:
Friday, January 19th – JV and Varsity at West Feliciana
Monday, January, 22nd – Freshmen at Woodlawn
Tuesday, January, 23rd – JV and Varsity at Jehoveh Jireh
Wednesday, January, 24th –Freshmen versus Woodlawn *Home Game
Friday, January, 26th –JV and Varsity versus Northeast PINK KNIGHT *Home Game
Saturday, January, 27th – JV at St. Michael’s
14 degrees in Baton Rouge! The lowest temperature in 30+ years! How did Episcopal weather the deep freeze? From a skilled maintenance team that prepped the campus, to fireside lesson planning and even welcoming a group of exchange students, it was a busy week.
Preparations for the winter blast began Monday while most of the campus was out for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. The majority of the prep focused on pipes. Crews wrapped everything they could – with a 56 acre campus there was a lot to wrap! To further reduce pipe problems, water was turned off to certain areas and all lines were drained.
To protect the buildings, crews set all campus heaters to run around-the-clock so that in spite of the external temps the internal environment remained mild. In addition, the HVAC company was called in to initiate freeze precautions for the chillers, cooling towers and boilers.
Thanks to the maintenance teams the school fared well, with no major incidents.
Welcome Chilean Exchange Students
As the cold air filtered in from the north, Episcopal welcomed visitors from the south. A group of Chilean exchange students arrived just as temperatures began to fall.
Planning, Prepping and Playing
Teachers and staff stayed close to weather and school news…and the fire.
True to her Instigator role, Betsy Minton created a Lego mat for her daughter Grace. The two enjoyed the beachy scene despite the weather outside.
Want to get out of the house after several days inside? Make plans to attend these upcoming athletic events. Check out the Episcopal athletics calendar online at https://www.episcopalbr.org/athletics.html.
Episcopal Athletics Schedule.
It’s a challenge to think of the best way to honor the legacy of such an important figure as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His vision for America calls upon us to think beyond ourselves as we work toward a more equitable world. One idea that was central to the vision of Dr. King was the creation of a “beloved community.” A community where all people care for each other and work together united.
In this vein, for the past few years the Center for Service Learning has promoted Martin Luther King Day not as a day off of school, but rather as a “day on” of service. We have encouraged our students and faculty to not use their day off solely for their own well-being, but to find ways to share their talents through community service projects.
The valuable partnerships we have formed with the Baton Rouge Walls Project and City Year provide us meaningful opportunities to do our part to create more of a beloved community here in Baton Rouge.
This year the Baton Rouge Walls Project is hosting a “Festival of Service” near the campus of Southern University in north Baton Rouge. Along with other participants, many of our Upper School students will be involved in a variety of beautification projects along Scenic Highway. Although the scope of some of the projects may not be immense, the idea of getting people from across the city together to make a small difference can be transformational on many levels. While this is taking place, the organization City Year will mobilize volunteers to assist with improvements at Melrose Elementary School. We have encouraged our Middle and Lower School students to get involved with this effort.
We hope that everyone in our larger Episcopal community will find a way this coming Monday to honor the legacy of Dr. King and do something, even something small, to help our beloved friends and neighbors around this great city.
Matt Holt is the Director of the Center for Service Learning and the Upper School religion teacher. Matt earned a bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences from Louisiana State University. While in college, Matt worked as a counselor at the Episcopal summer camp near Pollock, Louisiana. It was during that time that he discovered his passion for working with young people. This led him to a career in youth ministry within the Episcopal Church. After serving in that capacity for several years and teaching at the Episcopal School in western Louisiana, Matt moved to New Orleans to help lead recovery efforts for the Episcopal Diocese following hurricane Katrina. It was during this time in New Orleans that he attended Tulane University and earned his teaching certificate.
At the crossroads of speech and debate, and acting you find mock trial. Here students not only yell “objection” and submit evidence, but they also act as witnesses ranging from medical experts to members of law enforcement. There are costumes and personas and the experience is rather intense - similar to an actual court case.
Aside from the courtroom dynamics, Mock Trial Coach Vincent Hoang says the Upper School students involved are gaining the critical thinking skills to lead purposeful lives, such as:
In addition, Hoang says team members become comfortable and familiar with the nuances of the law. Local attorneys J. Cullens, Chip Marionneaux and Joseph Scott voluntarily serve as legal experts for the group and guide them through the details. The professionals provide tips on everything from the best way to cross-exam a witness, to how to present a closing statement. In addition to the attorneys and Coach Hoang, the entire social studies department including Dr. Rebecca Kuhn, Billy Pritchard, Edwin Way and Clara Howell also help students with practices and preparation.
To further help Episcopal’s three six member teams gear up for spring competition, Hoang recently traveled with the students to Boston for a mock trial conference. This was not just any conference. The event was hosted by Harvard’s mock trial teams, which are currently ranked fourth in the nation with several team members considered All-American Mock Trial honorees. Hoang says the boot camp-style event renewed the Episcopal team’s excitement for mock trial. Students also gained valuable insight for success and tips on preparing for competition.
To truly take advantage of all the northeast has to offer, Hoang worked with the college counseling team to organize several college visits during the trip. Students had the opportunity to tour Tufts, Boston College, Harvard and Emerson.
Now that they’ve returned, the students are gearing up for competition next month. In mock trial each team is assigned the same case. This year’s competition is a murder trial featuring a social media site, text messages and all the trappings of a modern mystery. The teams must be prepared to present arguments for either side and will not know which side they are on until competition day. Students are expected to construct a theme for their cases and they must take on the role of those involved and be able to anticipate answers to unknown questions while remaining in character.
Competition day takes place in the mock trial version of a stadium – Baton Rouge City Court. Area attorneys and judges observe the proceedings, scoring students on their knowledge of the law, their presentation effectiveness and their ability to stay true to their theme. Ultimately, the team that does this best will be named the winner.
While mock trial students may not aspire to be professional attorneys, the experience is unique and exciting for teenagers. Hoang says the team forms a bond as a result of the time spent together prepping and rehearsing. This bond and the excitement of courtroom competition are certainly something the students will remember years beyond graduation.
Good luck Mock Trial team!
After a break that was hopefully full of things like fun, laughter, extra time with friends and families, sugar and chocolate, and rest, we begin the new year refreshed and ready to set goals.
One of my goals for this year is to fill more of my free time with good books. I actually love reading, but I’m not very good about making time for it. Over the break, though, I had some extra time; and I read a few really good books. One of the books I read was called "Kisses from Katie". It’s an amazing story about how a young woman named Katie made the world a better place and how her life was changed by the people she served in Uganda. After reading just the first few paragraphs of the forward to the book I knew immediately that I wanted to share these words with Lower School students and others as we begin 2018.
People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.
At the beginning of the school year, Head of School Hugh McIntosh attended a Lower School morning meeting where he led us in the hokey-pokey, and encouraged us to be all in this school year – to give ourselves fully to the things we have to do, the things we choose to do, and the people around us. Before the break, Ms. Portwood reminded us of that charge to be all in to the Christmas season of hope, peace, joy, and love. And I can’t think of a better way to start this new year off than by echoing their words. Let’s be all in. Let’s be all in to our commitment to make the world a better place. Ms. Portwood shared a clip from the movie Elf and talked about how Buddy the Elf was so all in for Santa that he couldn’t stop smiling when he talked about Santa. His feelings were evident by just looking at his face. And, just like Buddy the Elf was all in for Santa, let’s be all in to making the world a better place so that it shows in everything we say and do.
So as you are thinking about 2018 – what this year might hold and what you want to do – I encourage you to make the commitment to give yourselves fully, to be all in, to our shared goal of making the world a better place. Pay attention to the people around you and think about what you can say or what you can do to make a difference in their lives. And, I promise you, that as you make the world a better place for other people, you will find that you have made the world a better place for you, too.
Sam Oakley started as a Lower School Religion teacher at Episcopal in August 2017. She previously served as the Associate Director of the Center for Family and Community Ministries at Baylor University where she conducted research, developed resources, and edited a journal. She received her M.S.W. and M.Div. from Baylor University. Sam is married to David Oakley, who serves as the Youth and Children’s Minister at Broadmoor Baptist Church. They have three children: Elijah, Taylor, and Sadie.
Episcopal Student Heads to Washington
Episcopal senior Scott Wicker was accepted to the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at the LSU Cook Hotel. He presented his research on "Driving Catalytic Reactions with Non-Traditional Heating", competing for the opportunity to attend the national symposium later this year. Good luck Scott!
Congratulations to Episcopal Swim Coach and Math Department Chair Stephen Anderson who was named the All-Metro Boys Coach of the Year! The boys swim team put up an impressive second place finish this year. Several swimmers were also named to the All-Metro Team, including Sara Be, Lilli Pellegrin, Ben Levine and Ben Naquin.
Congratulations to volleyball athletes Gracie Veillon on being named to the All Metro team and Emily Mendoza for earning Honorable Mention.
You can now listen to this week's episode of the Teachers' Lounge:
Imagine Coach Dupe 50 years ago: sturdy frame, crew cut, same crescent-moon brow. “You look the same!” I say as he hands me a blue scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings from the late 60s and early 70s.
“Why do people always say that?” he asks.
Claney has conjured that moment many times. “I was sitting in Geometry,” he remembers. “Cutting up as usual. I didn’t care about academics. ‘You’re going to change starting now,’ he said to me. And I did.”
Claney is from deep within Cajun country--where Mardi Gras is less beads and Bourbon Street and more Courir, the horse-led parade from house to house, gathering ingredients, including a live chicken, for the community gumbo. He’s from a place where French is passed down between generations and two-stepping across sawdust dance hall floors to accordion-heavy swamp pop is Friday night. Claney is from 200 acres of farmland and from a father with a third grade education who farmed, tended the local bar, and drove a school bus. He’s from the sort of town that celebrates your grandfather’s prized eight pound winter radish in the local paper.
Coach Dupe’s accolades are no secret in our community or around the state and country for that matter. But even for a gregarious guy, this sort of public recognition makes Claney uncomfortable. The sum of his success adds up like this: 22 consecutive state cross country titles (second best consecutive record in the US), 49 total state titles (30 cross country; 19 track), 18 state coach-of-the-year awards, two national coach-of-the-year awards, one dedicated and named running trail on campus, and countless newspaper clippings that began way back in his athlete-days some 50 years ago.
But rehashing these accomplishments bothers Claney--annoys him, even. Claney is uncomfortable with all the fuss because keeping his team’s collective ego in check is really central to his approach. We’ve all heard it--Go Knights, good people, have fun, state champs!--the familiar adage from every practice and meet breakout, every team email signature. But when Claney began coaching cross country at Episcopal over three decades ago, the pieces were ordered a bit differently: Go Knights, state champs, have fun, good people. He kept this order for the first ten years coaching cross country, and there were state championships, to be sure.
In fact, a year before the motto-change, Coach Dupe’s resolve was challenged. His top runner who would have easily led the team to victory cheated on a test just before the state meet. He was suspended from school temporarily. Claney knew that choosing to bench the student would be hard on the team but says, “I didn’t care if it was the state meet. We had to stand our ground.” The team didn’t win that year. Next season, Claney’s emphasis on character became central to his coaching. “That’s where it started,” he says.
And so from that point forward, the program earned title after title without skipping a beat. “We have no secrets,” he explains. “It’s not about the workouts. I’ll share any workouts with anyone who wants them.” But he notes that when the athletes themselves take ownership of the program, when the senior captains act as assistant coaches--that’s powerful and that’s what sustains a solid program.
Ten years ago, Claney wrote Coach Aucoin a letter thanking him for the impact he had on the trajectory of his life. In the letter, he told him this: “You changed my life. I wouldn’t have gone to college if it weren’t for you. I’m coaching now the way you coached me.” Claney says that even little things Aucoin would do--his mannerisms, the way he presented himself--became material for Claney to study and adopt over the years.
After Claney sent the letter, Aucoin was diagnosed with emphysema and died a year later. Claney made it to the wake and later learned that one of Aucoin’s son’s read part of Claney’s letter during his eulogy.
“You are still coaching through me,” Claney wrote to Aucoin.
For the second most-consistently-winning cross country coach in the country, Claney has every right to swell with pride and rehash every gloriously earned win over the past 22 years. But, he’d really rather not. When we spoke, the swells of pride and gratitude came when Claney described the influence of his coach, when he remembered, fondly, students who’ve inspired him, when he celebrates who those students have become.
“The impact you have on people,” Claney says, “that’s more important than wearing or doing anything fancy, more important than money and wealth. I try to model that.”
Katie Sutcliffe has served in many capacities involving writing and service learning over the last six years at Episcopal. Currently, she directs the Thesis Program, teaching both Seminar juniors and Thesis seniors, and is the co-creator of LAUNCH, Episcopal’s annual TEDx-style student-planned and executed showcase of ideas and projects. Katie’s own history involves this blend of service and writing: after graduating from a small liberal arts college in Indiana with an English degree, she moved to the Deep South with Teach For America where she taught middle school English and worked passionately on issues of educational inequity. She later earned an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh and returned to Baton Rouge where she has continued freelance writing. Katie infuses social justice initiatives into her curricula and seeks to help her students make meaningful connections with those living a different experience within our larger community. She’s passionate about character education and project-based learning, as well as research and writing that
have practical implications for understanding and addressing real world challenges.
Amelia’s Christmas Story
“Once upon a time there was Joseph and Mary and the wise men and the kings and the animals and the baby Jesus. They were going to the trip. They saw a stable. Baby Jesus sleep in the sweet hay. He went night, night. The wise men visit him.”
Rivers’ Christmas Story
“Once upon a time. Baby Jesus. Mary. Joseph. They stayed in barn. People presents.”
Ayson’s Christmas Story
There’s nothing like the Christmas story as told by a small child. Recently, the Episcopal Pre-K3 students told the story of baby Jesus like only three year olds can. The children performed a live nativity for family and friends, complete with costumes and big smiles. What a way to celebrate the reason for the season!
Merry Christmas from Pre-K3!
No matter the greeting, December is a time of traditions. These observances range from religious traditions to family customs or occasions with friends. Here in Louisiana the festivities often include everything from a candlelight vigil and a visit from Santa to grandma’s gumbo and lighting bonfires.
Elsewhere, traditions vary widely. Some display lanterns. Some gather at the beach for a picnic. Others celebrate on December 6th, December 13th or even January 6th. Episcopal Upper School Spanish teacher Victoria Alvarez says growing up in Barcelona, Spain the celebrations typically began on December 20th and lasted until January 10th.
Alvarez says while locally the man in red and white creates excitement among good girls and boys, it’s the three wise men who traditionally fulfill this role in Spain. She says her favorite holiday event was the annual January 5th parade ushering in the wise men for the season. The parade is meant to evoke hope, promise and excitement for the future among children in attendance. She says the affair is much like a Mardi Gras parade here in Louisiana, with very large floats dedicated to each of the kings and riders throwing candy to the crowds. Years ago, the family-friendly occasion even featured elephants, tigers and ducks marching alongside the floats. Once the parades are finished Spanish children put shoes out in hopes that the wise men will fill them with treats on January 6th, Epiphany, which marks the date in history when the wise men were said to have visited baby Jesus.
Alvarez says Christmas in Spain also features big nativity scenes in homes, churches and town squares. She says like in Louisiana the occasion is celebrated with family and friends. However, in Spain there are many gatherings over the course of several days. Family members take turns hosting each celebration and the food varies from house to house. Caroling is also done in Spain, but Alvarez says it’s on a more family-oriented scale with relatives singing songs together at home. One of the most popular songs sung is “Campana sobre campana” or “Bells over Bells”.
Whether in Louisiana or places further afar, traditions make every occasion even better. Learning about the traditions of others makes us more understanding and respectful of our differences and similarities. No matter whether you celebrate with Santa, the wise men or even grapes, enjoy the time together.
Merry Christmas/Feliz Navidad!
College Bound 2017
From The Library
Head Of School Messages
Project Based Education
Spirituality And Service
The Teachers' Lounge
Visual And Performing Art