Unlike most students in my Spanish class, I started my language journey later than normal; transferring from a large public school that did not have any language programs to Episcopal in the sixth grade, I had no prior experience with the language. Presently, I am an AP Spanish Language and Culture student, who is embracing content equivalent to that of a collegiate level, a level which I plan to pursue further with my aspirations to major in Spanish in college. Though, the Spanish that I know as of now reflects elements of photography; I began, years ago, looking at the language through only one lens - restricting my view on Spanish to being solely a form of communication. Therefore, I saw it as immensely one-sided: the picture I saw through my one lens was blurry - without the proper tools and appreciation for Spanish that I would develop later on, I couldn’t focus in on what would make Spanish more than just a language for me.
Throughout middle school at Episcopal I fulfilled my language requirements, refining my “focusing” skills with each class. I won’t sugarcoat my experiences and say that I discovered a newfound love for the language in these years, but it opened my eyes - slightly; while I went through the motions learning the language, widening my view on Spanish, truly, I was not subject to my own “aha” moment with the language until my junior year. Meanwhile, towards the end of my sophomore year it was at this time that I had to decide whether or not I was going to continue down the language-track. It was no longer required, so I could decide whether I wanted to continue with Spanish or take another class in a different discipline. Ultimately, my decision to continue Spanish was heavily influenced by my friends who advised me that taking Spanish all four years of high school showed commitment and academic rigor on my college applications.
Though their arguments resonated with my own aspirations of strengthening my resumé, I can confidently say that my commitment is no longer about the college credit, transcript, or GPA boost. The prolonged “aha” moment, in my case, that I experienced junior year wasn’t because I suddenly decided to join a Spanish club outside of school or sign up for an exchange program; it came from examining the growth that I was a witness to in my junior year of Spanish; I can now deliver a fifteen minute presentation completely in Spanish about the social constructs in the Dominican Republic; I can write an essay in Spanish contrasting the way Americans consume media versus the restricted way citizens in other Hispanic Countries do; I can fully comprehend Spanish podcasts that express the sentiments about changes in the Puerto Rican regime; I can do more than solely examine what is the visible culture of Spanish countries.
Frequently, and even now, I take time to reflect on how my understanding of Spanish has expanded dramatically: even a couple of months ago, I still was out of touch with the language. I had all of the proper pieces - grammar, vocabulary, structure, and so on - but I did not realize that the pieces would eventually fit together to comprise a clearer and more complete snapshot of Spanish beyond the blurry image.
Alongside the support of my peers in class, I have been able to see the Spanish world not only with more clarity, but through several different lenses: permitting me to put the pieces together. AP Spanish Language and Culture stands for more than just a class to teach its students how to speak fluent Spanish. Spanish is not memorizing conjugations; Spanish is not learning different verbs; Spanish is not just writing nor is it speaking. Spanish is an all-access pass that brings its members to not solely the aspects of Spanish cultures that can be seen, but what exists behind those features. Looking at the Spanish world through this new perspective, cultural attributes act as vehicles to something more; food in México is no longer just what people eat but a form of communication where words cannot suffice; music like merengue in the Dominican Republic is no longer just musical notes strung together but a way to connect with the Dominican people and the culture’s roots; Spanish is no longer just a language but a passage to a whole new world.
To those who are just beginning their language journey and to those who are far down their own paths, I remind you to take time to appreciate what foreign languages can offer. Learning Spanish is often times frustrating and forces you to be vulnerable: you will mess up the preterite tense and you will misinterpret a “fact” you find on a Wiki page about a Latin country you were confident about in front of your entire class. These mistakes are a part of your own language journey; it is through these mistakes that you learn how to refine your own focusing skills, and where your vulnerable mind is able to grasp onto a snapshot of all that Spanish can be.
Mason LaFerney is a junior in his sixth year at Episcopal. He actively partakes in Episcopal's community as President of the National Honors Spanish Society, a lead editor on the yearbook staff and also a Fellow in the Writing Center program. Alongside these activities, outside of school Mason also runs his own photography business, Mason LaFerney Photography (masonlaferneyphotography.com).
A team of six Episcopal students competed last week in the ALL CITY Youth Poetry Slam Festival, hosted by Forward Arts. This year is the 12th year that the festival has been held in Baton Rouge and the 7th that Episcopal has sent a team. In their two preliminary bouts, students performed a total of five individual poems and three group pieces, poems collaboratively written and performed by two to four poets. Eleventh grade Jerney Harms, who is on the team for the first time this year, advanced to finals as an individual, where she will perform with the top four teams and six individuals from the preliminary bouts. The top poets in this round will be selected for the Forward Arts team to compete at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival this summer, an event that features 500 poets from 50 cities. The 2017 Baton Rouge Forward Arts team won Brave New Voices. ALL CITY Finals will be held at the Manship Theatre on Saturday, April 28th at 6 p.m. Tickets are $12 at manshiptheatre.org.
Coach: Karin deGravelles
Traditionally, schools are filled with trophies and plaques commemorating the achievements of sports teams and outstanding scholars. Thanks to Episcopal’s longstanding commitment to the arts, young artists also have an opportunity to have their achievements recognized.
Each year, the Episcopal art teachers select artwork from a rising fifth grader, a rising eighth grader and a graduating senior to add to the school’s permanent student art exhibit. Stroll through the VPAC and you’ll see seven years’ worth of student creations proudly and prominently displayed. The works feature everything from mixed media and acrylic to charcoal and graphite. The colors are vibrant and unexpected or simply black and white. Overall, there is a sense of maturity and sophistication that belies the students’ age.
Upper School art teacher Kate Trepagnier says for art students being selected for the school’s permanent exhibit is like earning that trophy or having their name listed on that plaque. As a show of true support for the arts, Episcopal actually purchases each piece from the students. Trepagnier says doing this demonstrates to these young artists “that their work is of value to the school and that they should value their work themselves.”
This year’s artists were recently honored at a luncheon in Head of School Hugh McIntosh’s office. Senior Lundyn Herring, Middle School student Arya Patel and Lower School student Allie Fain were all excited, and maybe even a little surprised, that their pieces are being celebrated in such a meaningful manner.
This tradition stays true to the school’s mission to develop the whole child – spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically. Episcopal truly is a place with something for every student. It was with this mission and this appreciation for the school’s unique culture that Trepagnier and former Associate Head of School Jason Hubbard initiated the student art exhibit in 2011.
The Episcopal student art exhibition is an enduring celebration of individual student contributions. It is an opportunity for students to share a piece of themselves with the school they love. Congratulations to this year’s honorees and thank you for sharing your work with others.
“Ms. Day, my legs are so sore from all that running yesterday!” exclaimed one of my 6th graders breathlessly as she entered my classroom at the end of class. That’s not a sentence you normally hear in a history class, but it’s one I hear every year when my students participate in “Ms. Day’s Amazing Race.”
I have always been a fan of the hit CBS reality show, The Amazing Race. My family even auditioned for the family edition when I was in 9th grade. I still cringe when I think about the matching “twin shirts” that my twin sister and I wore to the open casting call because my mom thought they might make us stand out to the producers. As it turns out, the producers did not find our clever t-shirts memorable. Instead I was left to dream of traveling the world, and to make my own “scavenger hunts” for kids I babysat over the years.
When I began teaching at Episcopal, the idea of doing an Amazing Race was passed on to me by James McCrary, who taught 6th grade social studies before me. As he showed me the details of his version of the Amazing Race, my mind began to spin as I thought of what my version would look like.
Over the past four years, 6th graders have followed a trail of 8 clues about Alexander the Great. The clues are hidden all over campus and students work with a partner to find the locations using their knowledge of Alexander the Great, ancient Greece, and a handful of map skills. When they find a clue, it has one of two task cards inside- a Detour or a Roadblock. Detours give students a choice between two tasks, one of which they must complete in order to move forward. Roadblocks are a series of questions that must be answered before moving on. There is also a Fast Forward card, which challenges students with a question related to Episcopal’s history.
The first year that I did the race, I thought it would be a fun way for the students to review the material before the test. Over the years though, I have noticed that they learn more from it. In addition to mastering the content, students learn practical skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving.
For example, during the race, a clue told students to go north. This prompted one student to ask, “Ms. Day, which way is north?” As I shrugged my shoulders and told them to try and figure it out, his race partner suddenly whispered, “Ohhh I know how we can find it- the sun! Ok, that way is east because the sun rises in the east!” I then watched as the two boys started mapping out the direction they needed to go based on the position of the sun. Directions are hard for 6th graders and I spend a good part of each school year trying to reinforce to students that north is not “up”. To see students apply knowledge from class to solve a practical problem was extremely cool! There are countless other examples of students working together to figure out clues, problem solve, and think outside the box. It’s incredibly fun to watch and listen as they work to put the pieces together!
Each year one team in the 6th grade wins the grand prize of an ice cold Sprite, a box of sour patch kids, and of course, eternal glory. This year’s grand prize winners were Katie C. and Teagan A.
Virginia Day, a 2008 graduate of Episcopal High School, returned to her alma mater in 2014 as a sixth grade World History teacher. She received her undergraduate degree in history with a minor in French from Louisiana State University in May of 2012. Before joining Episcopal, Virginia began her teaching career in West Baton Rouge Parish.
We are excited to celebrate members of the Episcopal Class of 2018 as they make their college enrollment decisions.
Standing in front of six hundred students, I was surprised that my legs weren’t shaking. I adjusted the microphone and announced with great enthusiasm, “Welcome to Louisiana Mu Alpha Theta State Convention 2018!” The last syllable was lost in cheers and applause. It was my last State Convention, and as the president, I was determined to make it the best one to give back to the community. Mu Alpha Theta had been inspiring me to discover mathematics and leadership since freshman year.
My freshman year at Episcopal was also my first year in the United States. As an international student, I felt lost. As I was struggling to find my place in the new environment, Mrs. Moroney invited me to my first Mu Alpha Theta tournament at Ben Franklin High School. That Saturday, I woke up at 6:30 in the morning, ready to take a math test. The tournament, however, turned out to be so much fun. I participated in an individual test, a four-person team test, and an interschool test. I enjoyed debating problems with my peers as well as walking up the stage to receive our ribbons after our team name was announced at the award ceremony. I attended more tournaments at St. Paul’s, Catholic, and Baton Rouge High, and prepared myself for my first State Convention. Math had never been so interesting. I started to challenge myself with the involved problems I used to avoid. I found math.
The State Convention is a three- day math event held in late March or early April every year. Mathletes from across Louisiana gather at Crowne Plaza Executive Center Baton Rouge, playing math games and making new friends. At the convention, there are various math games, and I participated in Ciphering. I was given fifteen problems, and I had to solve each of them within two minutes. If I turned in a correct answer during the first minute, I would gain four points. A second-minute answer, however, would only give me one point. The top four players of the top four schools compete against each other at the Math Bowl. I enjoyed trying to process math quickly and being competitive. On Friday night, after doing math all day, we had fun at the dance, the karaoke, and the board games. At the convention, I worked my brain so hard and met so many interesting people that I felt like three days were too short. I found my place.
By the end of my junior year, Mu Alpha Theta had become part of my identity. I wasn’t the smartest kid in math classes and didn’t always place in tournaments. My sponsors and peers never made me feel bad about myself. The passionate, supportive community inspired me to keep working hard. Trying to get more involved, I told Mrs. Sofranko about my plan to run for State President next year. At the Convention, I gave a sincere speech straight out of my heart. However, I almost couldn’t finish it since I was too nervous speaking in front of everyone. People somehow understood what I was saying and rewarded me the loudest applause I’d ever received. I was elected. On March 22nd, 2018, there I was, speaking confidently at the opening ceremony as the State President. The community had been so supportive that I wasn’t even scared of public speaking anymore. I found a brand new me.
Episcopal Mathletes performed well at the Convention. Next year, as more students get involved, our goal is to win Sweepstakes!
Wendy Wang, as an international student from Jinan, China, has been a member of the Episcopal community since her freshman year. As a senior this year, Wendy serves as the president of Louisiana Mu Alpha Theta and an Episcopal Writing Fellow. She will continue her education at Emory University this fall, possibly majoring in Statistics and minoring in Creative Writing.
“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” —John James Audubon
Every April we pause to reflect upon our environment as part of the annual Earth Day commemoration. There are Earth Day celebrations and renewed efforts to recycle, reuse and restore in an effort to be more environmentally friendly. Here at Episcopal there are daily opportunities for students to learn more about the environment and their role in protecting our natural resources.
“Students love learning about the earth and how they can take care of it,” says fifth grade science teacher Eric DiMari. DiMari’s students recently embarked on a lesson on biomes that will require them to research and eventually educate fellow classmates on the biome of their choice. Earlier this year, DiMari’s students also studied Louisiana’s wetlands, the causes of wetland destruction and potential ways to save them.
In addition, third graders recently participated in a Mini Ecosystem Fair as part of their study of the Louisiana ecosystem. Experts from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Coastal Conservation Authority and LSU, along with Episcopal alumnus Rory McCracken '17 and Instigator Betsy Minton shared their environmental knowledge. The guest speakers brought soil and fur samples, fishing rods, photos and even live crawfish to provide students the opportunity to personally interact with nature.
“Why can’t we just send them water?” asked a sixth grade science student after learning about the water crisis in South Sudan.
Sixth graders are also learning about planet earth. Students in Stacy Hill’s science class recently completed an extensive study of earth’s most precious natural resource – water. Students learned about everything from condensation to conservation. They even had an opportunity to make their own water filters out of everyday objects. Hill says the lesson created an awareness among the students about the importance of access to clean water and a desire to help those who do not have that access.
“The coastal roots program is a great way to educate students of all ages regarding their own personal role in regards to the environment.” Betsy Minton, Instigator.
Each year, students in Lower and Upper School participate in the coastal roots program. Third graders plant the seeds of bald cypress and tupelo trees in cells on Episcopal’s campus. The seeds are then monitored and cared for by the Upper School environmental science students as they sprout and grow into seedlings. Once the seedlings are mature enough, students plant them in the Bonnet Carre Spillway to replenish vegetation in the region. This year was the first time the Lower School students had the opportunity to join their Upper School counterparts on the planting field trip. The fifth graders were excited to participate, and many even remembered planting the seeds as a third grader.
Why is it important for students to learn about their environment?
“The future generations are the future caretakers of the earth. The more educated they are about the planet, the more effective they will be,” answered DiMari.
Hill and Minton agree.
“Educating young people about the earth and environment gives students the opportunity to apply content knowledge to the world around them. It shows them how their class is relevant to the real world and hopefully guides them towards being environmentally aware citizens,” said Hill.
“Our Louisiana ecosystem is so fragile that it’s up to their generation to fix it. Hopefully learning more about the environment early on will inspire them to create innovations for change later on,” says Minton.
True to the Episcopal mission, the diocese has launched a Stewardship of Creation effort. Bishop Thompson has formed an environmental commission in an effort to bring awareness of the increasing challenges facing our natural environment and therefore the people of Southeast Louisiana. In a letter to the community, Joey Clavijo, Chair for The Bishop’s Environmental Commission, says the commission will lead discussions to draw upon individual gifts to bring about concrete actions to restore and sustain the environment. The group is asking members of the Episcopal community who are interested in participating to complete a survey expressing their interest. Click here to access the survey.
Every year, Earth Day is observed on April 22nd. At Episcopal, students are learning about their environment each day of the school year. We hope such focus and care inspires the next generation to preserve God’s creation.
Want to get more involved? Check out these helpful resources:
Calculate your household water usage - https://www.watercalculator.org/
The Red Stick Green Guide - https://www.brla.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2561
Baton Rouge Recycling Center - https://www.brla.gov/890/Recycling-Office
2018 Mayor’s Earth Day Challenge - https://www.brla.gov/1537/7590/Mayors-Water-Challenge
A giant bear greeted the PreK-4 students as they returned from the Mardi Gras holiday. Expressions of shock and excitement filled the air as they explored their new dramatic play area, a tent, strung with lights and a warning, “Please do not feed the bears.” For the next three weeks, students would embark on their “Gone Camping” project where students explored the great outdoors through dramatic play, guest speakers, food and fun.
Throughout the project, guest experts visited the class. Bob Pace taught students about campfire safety and demonstrated how to start a campfire using various methods. Nurse Stacy Dampf, mother to David Dampf ('31), gave the students instruction in basic First Aid and the students made a personal First Aid necklace.
In addition, the class constructed working flashlight headlamps using LED lights, attended a Teddy Bear Picnic, went “backpacking” on the Coach Duplechain trail and cooked up some tasty S'mores. The Class of 2031 is ready to take on the wild!
Julie Mendes, a 2001 graduate of Episcopal, returned to teach Pre-K4 at her alma mater in 2012. She received both her undergraduate degree and MEd in elementary education at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. After teaching second grade in a Dual Language program in Texas public schools for three years, Julie moved abroad to teach first grade at a bilingual school in Gracias, Lempira Honduras. Julie enjoys teaching alongside some of her former teachers and seeing what life is like on the other side of the desk.
We are excited to celebrate members of the Episcopal Class of 2018 as they make their college enrollment decisions.
While driving down a busy Baton Rouge street, one tends to have a lot of time to think and reflect on things in life. One particular day, my thoughts wandered back to my days in school, especially elementary, middle, and high school, specifically on my education as a writer. In elementary, I hardly recall any composition that was uniquely my own except for a little bit of poetry as well as some fact–finding writing for social studies project reports. In middle school I had two great English teachers who required us to think creatively and effectively communicate our ideas in a way that I was not familiar. I remember writing lots of formulaic papers for literature classes in high school. However, it wasn’t until college that I was given instruction that helped me begin to better develop as a writer. Looking back, it seems as though my own writing education was overlooked. Fear not! Young writers are blossoming right here at Episcopal!
About fourteen and a half years ago, I began my career teaching little ones. Since day one, I was expected to teach writing in a workshop format that allowed students to choose their writing subject and thus increase their interest and motivation. Since then, not a year has gone by that I haven’t aimed to teach students to grow their writing skills, improving their skills as effective written communicators.
I watch my students daily and see how they enjoy making cards, notes, and signs for anyone that will take them. Children are naturally drawn to writing. They see the joy it brings to themselves as well as others. They quickly learn that they have choice in what they write and this becomes self-motivating.
Writing serves an important purpose in our lives: communication. We communicate through texting and emails on a daily basis to family, friends, coworkers, and more. We jot little reminders for ourselves so we won’t forget special tasks (you should see the sticky notes on my desk!). We make lists for shopping and cards for loved ones. For some, writing is more than simply a task…it’s pure enjoyment.
In the Episcopal Lower School, we teach students how to write for a variety of purposes: to recount, to entertain, to inform, and to persuade. Our ultimate goal is to create confident, independent writers. To reach this goal, we utilize a variety of teaching approaches grounded in national norms and expectations appropriate for each grade level. We teach writing through the prism of these three purposes so that students can grasp the components which make each unique and effective. To aid students in learning to love writing, students are able to choose their topic of writing. For example, in the expository writing unit, students might be asked to write a “teaching book”. Students are able to pick whatever they want to write about as long as they are teaching someone else in a factual way within the parameters of expository writing. The topic option allows the students to write about something that truly interests them, thus motivating them to want to write and do their best. They begin to see that writing can be fun! Their personality begins to present itself through their style, and their voice is projected in their writing.
written ideas in risk-taking fashion. Much like with science and math, it’s very helpful for students to have the freedom to practice writing, making mistakes along the way, and yet learning from those mistakes over time. Keep in mind that having conversations with your children on a daily basis makes a huge impact on the quality of their writing. More sophisticated minds help to create more sophisticated compositions.
In this day and age, children have more access than ever before to electronic communication. It’s our job as teachers to prepare students to learn who they are as writers and utilize those strengths so that students can be successful presently and in the future. Know that your children are being encouraged, challenged, and celebrated in their writing growth and will continue to do so for many years to come! We are proud of all of our little writers and look forward to seeing how much they truly grow!
Cory Lemoine is a first grade teacher with 14 years of experience in the classroom. As a graduate of Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Cory taught second and third grades for ten years in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. His journey continued to the Zachary Community School System for three years in first grade before joining the faculty at Episcopal. He is a dedicated member of the Capital Area Reading Council and Louisiana Reading Association. In his free time, he likes to travel, garden, read, craft, and enjoy time with family and friends.