comfortable while they are here. After all, writing can be unnerving and even intimidating for many people.
“We’re not here to correct papers,” says Writer Center Director Dr. Alan Newton. “We are here to help students develop self-awareness as a writer and become better writers.”
To help students become better writers, high schools are increasingly establishing writing centers similar to those in universities. The Episcopal Writing Center is managed by a group of students, like junior Olivia Grice, who undergo a competitive application process to earn the Writing Center Fellow distinction. First year fellows must take an Honors Composition class and everyone receives yearly training on how to positively coach others.
She wants her classmates to know that writing fellows are available to help without judgement. “Don’t be scared. We signed up to do this. We are here to help,” she says.
Research on the effectiveness of peer tutoring, which is essentially what the Writing Center is, backs up Grice’s sentiment. In an October 1996 Higher Education article entitled “The Effectiveness of Peer Tutoring in Further and Higher Education: A Typology and Review of the Literature”, author K. J. Topping points to several studies that show that peer tutoring benefits both the tutee and the tutor. Topping found evidence that tutors and tutees actually obtain significant benefits such as an improvement in their skills as well as in their overall attitude and self-confidence.
Honors Thesis Director Katie Sutcliffe, who teaches several Writing Center Fellows, has enjoyed watching her students grow through a shared passion for writing. “What’s really fun is to see how the Writing Center mission and efforts extend beyond the actual Writing Center space. Students seem really eager to help each other on writing tasks at any time and in any place; I notice it in class, and I even notice with students making comments on each other’s work out of class when it isn’t required. The Writing Center has formed an identity within our school and the fellows really own their role.”
Social Studies Department Chair Dr. Rebecca Kuhn agrees. “I've seen students who have no idea what to write about or maybe even how to start writing come out of a Writing Center appointment encouraged with direction and motivation to write. Peer help in the editing and revision process through asking questions makes students think more deeply about their topic and the writing process. Students who have visited the Writing Center with good papers end up with great papers.”
Writing Center Fellows strive to meet classmates wherever they are in their individual writing journeys. They assist with a range of assignments from literary analysis to satire writing (a favorite of Grice’s). Grice says she has already been impressed with the student projects she has reviewed. She remembers a murder mystery written by a seventh grader for a creative writing assignment. The piece was interesting and compelling, especially considering that the young student created the entire story on his own. She also appreciates the opportunity to encourage fellow students who need guidance to stay on task and follow the assignment requirements.
Are all Writing Center Fellows future writers? Not necessarily. In the case of the well-rounded Grice, she actually hopes to be an attorney. She says her favorite subjects are English and history and once she even wanted to be a marine biologist. Dr. Newton says students like Grice make the Writing Center strong. There are currently 33 writing fellows – all committed and engaged in school life. Fellows maintain regular office hours. Students in need of help can schedule an appointment or simply walk in for assistance. Already this year, students have conducted 144 tutoring sessions and are anticipating many more this spring.
The Writing Center is a tremendous resource for students in a college preparatory environment, such as Episcopal. As Grice explains there is a comfort created from students helping each other. Dr. Newton says because of the positive experience provided, many students who are tutored at the Writing Center later become fellows themselves. In the end, everyone wins - young writers receive the support they need and tutors bolster their writing confidence by helping others.
Writing Center Fellows offer writing workshops throughout the year – some of them even include waffles! The next one is scheduled for February 20th from 9:50 am to 10:25 am, and the topic is “Writing Document-Based Essays for History Classes.”
Need help getting that concept just right? Stop in and visit with a fellow for a cup of coffee and an understanding ear.
Writing Center Hours: 8:50 am to 2:25 pm, Monday - Friday
Click here to schedule an appointment with a Writing Center Fellow.
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
We’ve all seen the stats – 100% of Episcopal grads go on to pursue a post-secondary education. Our students attend universities across the country. They’re accepted to a variety of schools with a range of specialties. They’re going new places, trying new things and hopefully truly experiencing college life.
But how do they get from learning the alphabet in PreK-3 or attending a Mo-Ranch adventure in eighth grade to being accepted to the college of their choice? That’s where we come in.
Episcopal School of Baton Rouge has a dedicated college counseling department with three full-time counselors, including myself, Shandi Fazely and Jody Kennard. Think of us as guides through the college application and admissions process. While it varies per student as to how early on they begin the college admission process, by the spring of their junior year it is definitely time for them to begin working with one of us. Here’s a look at what to expect:
1.College counseling is a partnership.
As college counselors, we work in partnership with the student and their family, with the student at the center of the process. We guide students along the way, making sure they are prepared for the application process and stay on track for deadlines and inquiries. Ultimately, the students are preparing for adulthood so the college counselor allows the student to manage his or her own application. However, we are a strong partner in the process, sitting with students as they make phone calls or reassuring them as they hit the submit button on their final applications and essays.
One of my most memorable experiences occurred with a student who had been struggling for some time to discover what university would “fit” her. Nothing seemed right. She was not having the “aha” moment that we love to see students have. On a whim one day right before fall break I suggested she research High Point University in North Carolina. Upon our return from break this senior proudly wore a High Point sweatshirt. She had researched High Point. She had even booked a flight and visited the school during the time off. What she discovered was the school that fit her best. It was rewarding to help this student. It is also a great example of suggesting the right thing at the right time, when the student is open to such a suggestion.
3. College counselors have a vast amount of knowledge about higher education and we want to share that knowledge with you!
The three of us attend national conferences, we visit universities and follow the trends. While the college essay requirements might seem daunting - and they can be - we can provide guidance on how to manage the process. Aside from admissions paperwork, many students and families often struggle with financial assistance forms or scholarship requirements - we know a lot about this as well. Our team provides help with financial aid forms based on the family’s level of comfort in sharing such information. In addition, we share information about potential scholarships, their requirements and the associated deadlines.
Our goal is to help students find the right option for their needs, whether that’s an elite institution or a more intimate setting closer to home. There is no one size fits all in college admissions, which actually makes the process more rewarding as we work with students on this journey of discovery and exploration. In the end we want students to accept an invitation to a school that best matches their own needs and long-term goals.
Justin Fenske joined Episcopal as the Director of College Counseling in 2014 and has been in the field since 2008. Justin graduated from the University of Michigan and earned a master’s in education from Boston University. During his time at Episcopal, his team has implemented a comprehensive high school program priding itself on individual attention to students in all grade levels. Justin is a certified Highlands Ability Battery consultant and has also spent time developing and implementing online career and college tools for high school students in the state of Michigan and as an administrator at Boston University.
We all have those moments – when what we need to happen happens; when we can feel an invisible guide moving us along a path; when unimaginable things simply line up in just the right order at just the right time.
Such a chill-bump-eliciting experience is just what 2013 Episcopal graduate Sharani White has been living since graduation. White’s journey began her junior year at Episcopal. She says she met with her college counselor, who suggested she take the Intro to Engineering class. After all, she was good in math and science. So with that White signed up and discovered that engineering was, in fact, her niche. Her passion led her to Georgia Institute of Technology, an institution known for engineering, technology and research.
Sharani left for Atlanta full of excitement and confidence. She felt ready for college and ready for the world. You may expect that Sharani immediately excelled. That’s not exactly what happened.
She failed two classes.
At this point Sharani’s story changes. She fell back on the faith that had gotten her into Tech originally. She began praying, asking God to send someone to help her. This someone arrived in the form of a Tech classmate. He had a 4.0. He enjoyed helping others with their studies. He was also her boyfriend. Sharani says after David realized that she was in trouble academically the two became determined to turn the tide, both for her academic success and so that they could remain together. Sharani remembers thinking “this is clearly the person God sent to help me.”
Sharani learned to prioritize her courses and studies. She learned to read ahead and prepare. She offers this advice to Episcopal students – don’t go to class to learn, but to get answers to questions you already have because you have read and looked at the material beforehand. Ultimately, Sharani boosted her GPA. Her peer group expanded because she was no longer struggling. Her outlook improved and now she shares her story in an effort to help others. “It’s ok to ask for help,” she says. “It’s ok to not know everything. You should ask for help and do it early."
She accepted a position at McCarthy Building Companies as a Project Engineer for the southeast region. (The other two companies assured her that there would be a position for her with them if she ever changed her mind.) Her plan now is to work full-time for a year and return to Georgia Tech in 2019 to begin that graduate program, in which she has already been accepted.
Are you an Episcopal alumni? We’d love to hear your story. Contact us here.
Twenty-six members of the Episcopal's Mu Alpha Theta team competed at the 19th Annual Catholic High School Mathematics Tournament with around 500 students from 30 schools. Episcopal took 1st place overall in Division 2! Congratulations!
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!