The final school bell has rung for the 2018-2019 school year and summer is here. These are the days they write songs and poetry about with vacations, sleeping in, second helpings of dessert and time with extended family. However, for some families it can be hard to step away and relax. Upper School Counselor Jodi Manton offers tips to help parents establish a semi-structured summer for themselves and their children.
1. Schedule structured time
Manton says a semi-structured summer means that students still have opportunities for learning and development, but without the regimented school schedule. She says in her own household they strive to have one structured hour in the morning and one structured hour in the afternoon during summer vacation. The structure varies depending on the age of the child and could simply include dedicated reading time. Manton refers to this as DEAR time or Drop Everything and Read Time where everyone in the household reads. Middle and Upper School students received summer reading assignments which could be completed during DEAR time. Lower School families received a Step Up packet prior to leaving for the year. Parents may want to use this as a guide for activities and practice during structured times for younger students.
2. It’s ok to have free time
“It’s ok for them to just be kids sometimes,” says Manton. There is value in free play and free time. During these times of exploration, children experience critical social/emotional growth. As children are given the freedom to make choices in regards to how they spend their time, their creativity and imagination is sparked. They also develop responsible decision-making skills and as they make new friends at camps or other activities they hone their social skills.
3. Be flexible
Manton says families should make decisions based on what is right for their child and their family. “Listen to your gut and trust your instinct,” she says. She says learning should be a joyful experience and summer is a perfect time to celebrate this joy. Parents should also be aware that summer days can get away from you and you may not accomplish everything you hoped for and that is ok. “Tomorrow is a new day,” she says.
4. Foster the family bond
No matter if the family is traveling abroad or planning a staycation, Manton says summer is the time to bond as a family unit. Without the stress of a schedule, families can take time to be together. She says strengthening that family bond now will certainly pay off once the first school bell rings again and homework, class projects and social obligations get underway.
However you spend your summer, we hope you make memories that last a lifetime. Before you know it summer will be gone and school will begin again. Have a great summer Knights!
Congratulations to the newest Episcopal graduates! We wish you well in your endeavors. See below for a gallery of images from graduation.
Mason LaFerney, National Merit Finalist
Mason LaFerney’s Writing Center journey began in eleventh grade, as did the ever-growing strength of his passion for writing. Mason admits that one of his reasons for applying to this program was to earn a coveted spot on the cozy couches of Perkins 211. The coffee and snacks also acted as an incentive for his decision. All jokes aside, when turning in his application, Mason hoped to earn the chance to help other writers become more confident in themselves and their work. Mason’s positive and encouraging criticism served him well when tutoring freshmen literacy narratives, his favorite type of writing to work with. He prides himself in being able to calm the often-nervous freshmen, as he remembers vividly how anxiety-inducing walking into the Writing Center for the first time was for him. Mason favors tutoring freshmen because he finds them the most vulnerable of all the high school English students. He claims that “new freshmen are almost always willing to share their work more openly. I find them especially interesting because they are in a way ‘untainted’ by the societal norms or constraints brought on by high school.” One of Mason’s most memorable appointments occurred during his junior year when a student needed help with a paper for English I, due the next day. Mason managed to handle the added stress of the encroaching due date well until the student revealed that he actually hadn’t started his paper yet. With this information only revealed to Mason nearly halfway into the appointment, Mason had to apply his calming techniques to himself! Needless to say, this appointment definitely taught Mason how to deal with difficult tutoring situations.
I met Mason for the first time this year during study hall in the Writing Center. His hilarious recounts of personal stories and overall lighthearted personality will most definitely be missed by Mollie Hyde and me. Mason, I wish you the best of luck at college. I know you will do amazing things up in Boston. Your kind encouragement will certainly be missed by Block 4 study hall and the Writing Center as a whole, but we are sure that you will shine even from 1, 400 miles away!
- By Grace Scott
Alyssa Macaluso, National Merit Finalist
Alyssa Macaluso’s dedication and love for the Writing Center is incomparable. Alyssa found working in the Writing Center as a great way to give back to her community; she describes her experience as “fun, but not forced.” She originally wanted to become a fellow because she loved students having a peer-based resource on campus to help them with their writing, reducing their stress level. Alyssa works hard to make the writers feel comfortable and calm. Every time I have had an interaction with Alyssa, she has always been friendly, willing, and kind. Although I never had a Writing Center appointment with her, I know that these qualities shined through during her appointments with students. She also became a fellow because English is her strong suit. She believes she has a good knowledge of grammar, and she is equally skilled at helping students see the “big picture” in their essays. Alyssa also loves creative pieces, especially personal narratives. She believes that it is important to “Hear other people's stories,” so that the tutor can really get to know the student. She also enjoys literary analyses because they are “clear cut.” Additionally, Alyssa has always “looked up to Writing Fellows.” Fellows always seemed like the coolest people to her, and she strived to be like them. Similarly, I have always looked up to Alyssa.
Poised to graduate, Alyssa has learned a lot from the Writing Center and made many memories. Working with students helps her see other perspectives and think of writing topics in ways she had never thought of. One of her favorite memories in the Center comes from when she, a freshman, was revising a ghost story for Dr. deGravelles’s portfolio project with an older fellow, and a horrible thunderstorm hit the school. As everyone remembers, lightning struck the tree in the quad. However, what only a few people experienced was that right when the lightning struck the tree, she was reading a pivotal point in her story. This alone made her session memorable, and she was eager to come back for more. Fortunately for the entire Episcopal community, Alyssa never stopped coming back to the Writing Center.
– By Ellie Sim
Major: Public Policy
Morgan Patty began her career in the Writing Center with the goal of helping her peers enjoy writing. Throughout her three years in the Writing Center, she states that not only has she been able to help students improve their writing, but students have helped her improve her own writing. Seeing an array of students’ pieces, Morgan has learned various techniques that have led to new methods in how she writes. Jumping at the opportunity to help students with creative writing and DBQs, Morgan was always ready to advise students on their papers’ voice, grammar, and punctuation. The Writing Center, Morgan says, has given her many opportunities to befriend a variety of people on campus. It has acted as a “web of connections between younger and older students.” This web was sprung into action during Morgan’s first Writing Center appointment. As a freshman, Morgan walked into the Writing Center nervous for what was to come. Her tutor greeted her into the Center, and the two quickly became close friends. Finally, Morgan wants to leave the Writing Center with one word of advice for incoming fellows: participate in all Writing Center activities, start Waffle Workshops, and most of all, have fun because time flies by in the Writing Center. Morgan, we appreciate your contributions to the Writing Center. You are one of the students that has reached out and created more connections between your peers and the fellows in the Center. We have been so lucky to have your curious and enthusiastic personality in the Center, and we hope that you have enjoyed your time here as much as we have enjoyed having you here.
– By Katherine Scarton
Major: International Affairs and Public Policy/Pre-Med
Ever since his introduction to the Writing Center, Douglas Robins has seen the Center as “cool” — a welcoming community of student tutors tied together by their love of writing. Douglas cannot pick a specific special memory that stands out in his years as a Writing Fellow, simply because there are too many. But what Douglas has enjoyed the most was collaborating with his fellow tutors or writers, as they organized retreats and critiqued each other’s writing. Not only has Douglas enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with being a Writing Fellow, but he also strongly believes in the Writing Center’s philosophy: the purpose of the writing tutoring session is not for a student to get a good grade on an essay but for the student to grow as a writer — to think outside of the box either when brainstorming or otherwise.
Douglas prefers for the writer to come in with a blank page — after all, it holds so much more potential. And, as a Writing Fellow, Douglas strives to harness this untapped power to write and create within every student; he likes to show the person he is tutoring that (s)he can write and produce a “good,” original essay. Any Writing Fellow or tutor can agree that inspiring such “light bulb” moments in a student elicits a most rewarding feeling. However, accomplishing such a feat is no easy task; Douglas asserts that asking the “right” questions can significantly help students think about what they are writing.
When tutoring, Douglas pushes the envelope and facilitates the growth of any student that he tutors. However, Douglas understands that the Writing Center is not a place where those in need of help go for expert opinions: “The Writing Fellow is never an expert, just as much a work-in-progress as the student being tutored.” There is no expectation to know everything about writing as a Writing Fellow, and this is one of the facets of being a member of the Writing Center community that Douglas enjoys the most. Receiving feedback from his peers on his own writing reminds Douglas of the vulnerability that comes with sitting in the tutee’s seat during a writing tutoring session. Douglas has been awarded the honor of acceptance to Princeton University and is eager to find a similar community to that of the Writing Center. Even as he moves on to the world of college education, Douglas will bring his inquisitiveness and writing skills with him into the future. Then, who knows? We might find Douglas published in Arch & Arrow.
– By Alex Nelson
Major: Neuroscience Behavior
I have known Hallie Sternberg a long time – my whole life, to be exact. As cousins, we’ve attended many, many family events (we have a large family); been at each other’s B’nai Mitzvahs; and even gone to Israel together. But I’ve had the privilege of knowing her in a school context, as well – not only from her “dragging” me into a music class, but also in the Writing Center. There, I would always find Hallie eating lunch while sitting in a beanie bag, talking to her friends when I walk in for my tutoring appointments. To her, the Writing Center is a “special thing Episcopal has” and an “important resource” on campus. Hallie fell in love with that resource after a great experience in her freshman year, and, as a tutor, she especially loves tutoring creative pieces. Her love of writing is understandable, given that multiple members of our family have written and published books. And as many authors do, Hallie finds writing methods to emulate while working with other writers and tutees. She “finds it rewarding to help other people grow in writing ability and confidence,” while still being able to grow herself. This is one of the main ways she describes the Writing Center – a place of “collaboration and mutual respect and learning.” Therefore, she says, it is okay if a tutor doesn’t have a lot to say, as the goal is to “help the writer grow – not get a grade.” These wise words, along with her advocacy for the Writing Center during its move to its new location, have shown why Hallie is such a beloved Writing Fellow. And while she may be “proud that its future is stable,” we know that future could not be possible without her commitment and dedication to the Writing Center.
– By Charlie Roth
Louisiana State University Honors College
David Whitehurst first visited the Writing Center as a freshman. At the time, he was the tutee, and he found the session to be very helpful in aiding some of his writing concerns. Appreciating and understanding the effort that it takes to be a Writing Fellow, David realized his passion for helping students just like him right then and there. In addition to having an inclination to help others as others had helped him, David was recommended to apply for the Writing Center. When first joining the Writing Center community, David felt a need to make the students who made appointments with him feel truly welcome, as other Fellows had made him feel through his prior experiences. He wanted to make students feel positive about their writing, even when flawed, by consistently mentioning something positive about their work while also explaining how their writing could be improved. While I was talking to David, he spoke briefly on his favorite experience in the Writing Center when he was challenged to help a 7th-grade class – the same age his mother teaches -- with their short stories. “That was… crazy,” he said, chuckling at the memory. This memory taught David that every session in the Writing Center is different, and that every session had new insight to offer into how he could become a better Writing Fellow. David’s advice to future potential Writing Fellows is to understand the repercussions of their commitment. While Fellows have to give up their free study time on days when they have appointments, the feeling that Fellows like David get from tutoring is one of accomplishment like no other. The sacrifices of free time become insignificant in comparison to the satisfaction of helping a student enhance his or her writing.
– By Savannah York
The Episcopal Writing Center is a special place. Fellows form lifelong bonds. In keeping with tradition, this year’s underclassmen wrote Senior Tributes highlighting the graduating fellows and the impact they’ve had on the program.
Odgen Honors College at Louisiana State University
Major: Political Science/International Policy
Olivia Grice has always loved to write, so much so that she knew she was destined to be a Writing Fellow. She believed “writing was something I was always a little bit good at,” although her peers would tell you she was much more than a little good at it. She faced challenges in her tutoring, such as tutoring exchange students with their basic English writing, but in the end decided that experiences like these are what made her the Writing Fellow she is today. More importantly, Olivia has been a kind and empathetic Writing Fellow, who tutored writing not for herself but for the community. She loved tutoring creative writing because she “loved to read what students had invented,” and her primary reason for becoming a Writing Fellow was because she had been helping her friends with papers long before she joined the Writing Center. Olivia was “always able to tell when students were uncomfortable with sharing” and when they were self-conscious, and helped them with her empathy, seeking to understand why they might feel as they do towards writing. She was always able to “help students who were different learners adapt to traditional classroom writing.” Humble as always, Olivia talked not of how she has helped the students she tutored but of how those students have shaped her. Olivia feels that the writing she tutored improved her own writing, and that it taught her the meaning of good criticism and how to react to it. Olivia, you have been a model Writing Fellow and a positive impact on anyone who uses that space. The Writing Center is lucky to have had you as a tutor, and we will miss you.
– By Laura Kurtz
Lauren Borthwick Hoff
University of British Columbia
Always striving to “further her knowledge in English” Lauren Borthwick Hoff has been a remarkable asset to the Writing Center community. While her favorite type of writing to tutor is science writing, she also had a strong love helping guide for DBQs. Lauren explains that her passion for tutoring DBQs stems from “being able to watch the writers make connections between different documents” and her love of history. She prides herself in her “ability to provide a comfortable environment and an opportunity where kids can voice their concerns in regards to their papers," something that is always a goal for empathetic Writing Fellows. Her “balance of positive and negative feedback” creates a constructive response for writers to truly grow from.
Lauren discussed an important aspect of the Writing Center that many can vouch for, the close-knit community. She elaborates that being a Writing Fellow has allowed her to connect better to the general Episcopal community. Lauren spent much of her day in the Writing Center, whether she was tutoring, killing time before English class, or using it as “a space to eat lunch." Her engaging personality has made it effortless for students to connect with her, and Lauren even shares a time that a student described her as “a big sister she never had” and gave Lauren her email, as the two could continue to share advice. Finally, Lauren positively reflects on her time in the Writing Center and encourages others to apply as Fellows, stating, “It’s a chance to practice writing and look at other people’s writing which then helps you examine your own." Lauren, thank you for all you have accomplished in the Writing Center, from making each student feel that he or she is in a comforting environment to being such an inimitable role model for other tutors.
– By Landry Litel
Abby Johnson, National Merit Commended Scholar
Southern Methodist University
Before her junior year of high school, Abby Johnson decided to become a Writing Fellow due to her love for English. Abby had always yearned to help other people, and tutoring in the Writing Center provided a perfect opportunity to fulfill her interests. Unlike many students, Abby loves writing literary analyses but does not have a major interest in creative writing. Having taken social studies AP courses in her high school years, Abby loves dealing with document-based questions and continues to enjoy tutoring students for DBQs. In her years as a Writing Fellow, Abby has recognized her strength of being empathetic to others. Many students who come for help in the Writing Center are vulnerable and afraid of showing their work to the tutors, and Abby has done a great job trying to understand and make the writers feel comfortable.
During the breaks, Abby would often spend time in the Writing Center, especially relaxing on the couch after tiring classes. The calm, serene ambiance in the Writing Center comforted her. While Abby had many activities to manage during her junior and senior years of high school, she loved getting to know students, especially when she recognized them after the sessions. Through these tutoring sessions, she formed a connection with the students in various aspects: as a friend, a tutor, and a listener. She was also curious to know what students in other classes are learning and how the courses have changed over time. As an experienced tutor, Abby’s advice to new Writing Fellows is to stay enthusiastic while helping students and think about the benefits of the experience as a tutor as well as a writer. While some students might not pursue writing as a career, they are bound to gain invaluable skills from their experiences in the Writing Center.
– By Arohi Gopal
Mason LaFerney, National Merit Finalist
Community is the word Mason LaFerney uses to describe the Writing Center. More than his passion for writing or his desire to help others, being a part of the community of tutors has been the most rewarding aspect of his past two years as a Writing Fellow. His most important piece of advice for new Writing Fellows is to be confident, because of the credibility your teachers saw in your work to recommend you for the position. Although working with students your same age may be strange at first, Mason says to trust your knowledge and to always be approachable. Mason says he can see growth in his own writing during his time in the Writing Center, because of how fast he can come up with things to say about someone else’s writing. Just as he’s done in tutoring sessions, having to respond to hard questions quickly is a characteristic that will serve him well in the future. As well as being an approachable person, Mason says one of his strengths he’s been able to discover about himself from his interactions at the Writing Center is his ability to get straight to the point. He says he can deliver a message of what the student needs to revise in a way that makes it clear to the student without making him come across as arrogant. In terms of types of writing he has helped, Mason will miss helping the freshman with their literary analyses, because of how raw and refreshing they are to read. Mason has loved his time at the Writing Center but says the community of people who make up such a place have had the biggest impact on his life.
– By Mollie Hyde
Alyssa Macaluso, National Merit Finalist
Well-rounded, charismatic, intelligent, and kind are all words to describe Alyssa Macaluso. Alyssa always had a passion to become a Writing Fellow. She wanted to be a resource for people seeking help with the art of writing. This perfectly shows Alyssa’s general desire to help students and make anyone feel welcomed. In the Writing Center, Alyssa can be found helping a student with a personal narrative, conversing with peers, or offering to help out a struggling underclassman. Outside of the Writing Center, you can find Alyssa participating in an impressive array of clubs and extracurriculars or getting to know a student she has met for the first time. With Alyssa’s inquisitive personality, she can take on any project that is handed to her. She is admired and looked up to by not only other Writing Fellows but by the school body. Her experiences in the Writing Center have made her realize she loves to “hear other people’s stories and get to know a new side of a person.” Alyssa’s spectacular writing knowledge and grammar expertise make her a unique and desired tutor. She has the ability to ease an anxious writer and to help students understand their problems. Alyssa, we appreciate your contributions to the Writing Center, your dedication and charm have made the Writing Center a remarkable resource for all students. You are one of the reasons why the Writing Center is a safe and comfortable place for all. As you say, “The Writing Center is a way to give back to the community. It is a dedication and a contribution to Episcopal.” We have all benefitted from you in the most positive ways, and I cannot thank you enough for your contribution to the Writing Center.
– By Julia Frazer
Louisiana State University
The first Writing Center appointment this school year, in the new Writing Center space, was taken by Kylie Madere with full confidence and charisma. I happened to be sitting in the room, gaining insight on Kylie’s strategies for tutoring younger students. Her bright smile and bubbly personality can make anyone feel comfortable in the Writing Center because she “know[s] it can be such an intimidating place and can feel vulnerable as you have to share your writing that is so personal to you.” For me, new to the Writing Center, watching her tutor students encouraged me to be like her, inviting and motivated to “spark inspiration.” Kylie advised me and other fellows to have “communication, confidence, and encouragement” when working with students. Her reasons for becoming a Writing Fellow include the “sense of community” of the Writing Center and her desire to “meet new people.” Kylie always brings a sense of joy to the workplace. Because of the twinkling lights above, Kylie, always with a cup of Starbucks in her hand, finds the atmosphere in the Writing Center “chill” and “a productive place to work.” Whether she is helping freshmen with their literacy narrative or just “chilling” in the space, her experience in the Writing Center has benefited her “communication skills and confidence as a writer.” Kylie, your contributions to the Writing Center exceed what you have benefited from it. Your passion for writing creates a friendly space for all who come and go through the Writing Center. Your impacts are long-lasting and will be remembered by our community.
– By Halle Roman
Taner Morgan, National Merit Commended Scholar
Louisiana State University Honors College
Major: Mass Communications Journalism
A friendly disposition is just as important as writing skills when being a writing tutor. And Taner Morgan has them both. His smiley, kind persona immediately alleviates any anxiety about talking to him, as he is talented at establishing a comfortable conversation. He even considers his way with words to be one of his strongest assets as a Writing Fellow, remarking that “even if there’s a glaring problem with a paper, I can say it in a sweet way.” In a job where one must inspire confidence in others, appearing kind and nonjudgmental is essential.
However, Taner wasn’t always so vulnerable and conversational. He admits that “I used to be very defensive about [my writing],” and thanks the Writing Center for allowing him to become more comfortable with his work. He also credits the Writing Center with helping him improve his own writing through tutoring others. He tries to take something from each session, benefitting not just the student but also himself. He enjoys seeing the different prompts that each student comes in with and what they decide to do with an assignment. “I like when I can see someone else’s creativity flow,” he elaborates.
Taner’s desire to help others is what makes him so remarkable. While there are many other benefits to being a Writing Fellow—service credit, extracurricular activities for one’s resume, or experience for future professions—it is crucial to remember the fundamental principle of the Writing Center: for peers to benefit each other in writing. As Taner says, “[From every session], you can learn something in both helping the next person and in benefitting your own writing… if you look for it.”
– By Andrea Norwood
Duke TIP Results
Congratulations Episcopal seventh graders! The Class of 2024 had great results in the Duke TIP program this year with 13 State High Scorers and two Grand Winners.
Students who score well have the opportunity to earn recognition as a State High Scorer or Grand Winner honoree. According to Duke TIP information, State High Scorers earned scores in line with half of all college-bound seniors. Grand Winners earned scores equal to or better than 90 percent of college-bound seniors. In addition to recognition, Duke University also offers these students accelerated learning opportunities and resources, such as summer camp sessions.
Middle School Project-Based Learning
Sixth and seventh graders tackled tough issues in this year’s project-based lessons. Sixth grade students learned about the importance of literacy and seventh grade students took a closer look at nutrition and local food deserts. To read more about the eighth grade effort, check out a previous blog post here.
Propagating Succulents for Reading Success
This fall, sixth grade students got their hands dirty as they learned more about how to propagate and care for succulents. LSU Master Gardeners and science teacher Stacy Hill helped students get the soil ratios just right to encourage the little transplants to grow. Throughout the school year, the students monitored the plant’s growth and tracked their observations. However, the project was about much more than gardening.
The sixth grade teaching team, including Hill, Nancy Callaway, Virginia Day and Martha Guarisco, used the lesson to reinforce the importance of reading. As they explored the impact of literacy, students also discussed the impact of not having access to books and reading materials. Students participated in the campus-wide book drive to collect books for area children with limited access to books. Over the course of the year, students also learned about supply costs and profits associated with growing and selling succulents. This spring, the plants were sold with the proceeds earmarked for Baton Rouge literacy efforts. In addition, sixth grade students generated more than $300 from field day concession sales to support the efforts.
Calories, Vitamins and Access to Healthy Foods
Seventh graders took a closer look at nutrition this year. In Coach Rhea’s science class, students learned more about the components of a healthy diet. Students took photos of meals served in the cafeteria and conducted research on daily nutritional guidelines and requirements. In other subjects, students learned how to manage a household income and how to reduce food waste. Eventually, the students explored the concept of food deserts and how health can be impacted by where a person lives.
A food desert is defined as a low income area with limited access to a grocery store. Students had the opportunity to do more than simply talk about the concept in a classroom. The seventh grade team, including Rhea, Marian Castille, Katy Riley and Julie Weaver, arranged for a bus tour of Baton Rouge food deserts hosted by District 10 Councilwoman Tara Wicker. Councilwoman Wicker pointed out areas in her own district where residents have limited access to healthy food options and she discussed the implications of these limited choices. After touring the food deserts, students then had the opportunity to volunteer at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. While there, they also donated the proceeds from the seventh grade field day concession sales to the organization.
Project-based learning in Middle School is coordinated, thoughtful and thorough. As students explore all aspects of a topic, they gain a deeper appreciation for what they are learning and they are inspired to take action. Ultimately, these projects seem to reflect the school’s mission to provide challenging academic and co-curricular programs which prepare graduates for college and for purposeful lives, very well.
Sixth Grade Space Museum was Out of this World
Did you know that the sun is 4.6 billion years old? Did you know that the Milky Way moves 552 kilometers per hour? Did you know that you can make astronaut ice cream using dry ice?
Episcopal sixth graders proved that they know a lot about space during their recent space museum exhibition. Science teacher Stacy Hill challenged students to research a space topic of their choice and create a project showcasing what they learned. The students tackled everything from black holes and nebula to space rovers and the life cycle of stars. The occasion was a great way to end the sixth grade with a big bang.
Middle School Sports
Middle School sports in the spring continues to focus on developing skills, sportsmanship, and allowing students to explore various interests. Roughly 85% of students play in at least one sport in Middle School. Being part of this athletics program will enable students to compete as well as develop their skills and knowledge in game situations. Upon finishing Middle School sports, students will be physically and mentally prepared for more competitive and demanding Upper School athletics program.
Here are some highlights from the year:
College Counselor Jody Kennard is an explorer. How else would you describe a woman from New Jersey who has lived in the jungles of Borneo, worked for Pennsylvania Quakers and learned fundraising tips from a formidable nun who once worked for the CIA?
Jody says she was born knowing that she would leave her New Jersey hometown to attend college away. She is number three of four biological siblings with four additional step-siblings. Early on, Jody had an independent streak and unlike many young siblings who aspire to be like their older siblings, she wanted to do the opposite. Jody’s siblings studied Spanish, so Jody took French. Her siblings went south for college, so Jody went north to the University of Vermont. For good measure, Jody also decided to pursue a double major in French and English, while becoming certified to teach in both subjects, something she says was not common at the time.
Jody attended a private all-girls high school as a teen. By chance, she met Fred Sheldon, who attended the corresponding private all-boys high school, at a joint choir concert. After dating for some time, attending separate universities and being separated while Fred conducted research overseas, the two ultimately married and are still partners in life’s adventures today.
Once her education was complete, Jody began her career fulfilling her dream of becoming a teacher. She taught in public middle schools for several years and loved every minute of it. Thoughts of those first teaching jobs still cause Jody’s face to light up with happiness as she discusses them. However, when Fred began graduate school at Yale University, Jody didn’t immediately find a teaching job in Connecticut. Instead, she took a job as a researcher at Yale Law School. At Yale, as the Secretary of State called daily for the experts in her office, Jody learned just how large the world, once represented on Mrs. Scott’s map, actually is and how knowledge and power are interconnected.
Never one to say no to a new adventure, Jody was happy to join husband Fred in Borneo when he took a leave of absence to conduct research on the birds of Sabah. The two lived in a small, wooden house in the middle of a rice patty for several years. Jody says water buffalo frequented the area near her home and the surroundings were quite primitive. Jody and Fred learned the local language and befriended their native guides. It was an adventure she truly loved.
Back in America, Jody took her first job in fundraising at Yale. She continued fundraising for small colleges across the country as she and Fred moved about for new opportunities. For Jody, each experience was a chance to explore and learn. From Sister Francis de Sales Taggart, the CIA nun, she learned that first impressions aren’t always accurate. After all, Jody says she never would have guessed that this nun had been in North Africa with the Foreign Service during WWII. From interacting with the passionate volunteers and donors at each school, she learned the importance of “working with people that just really care.” Of all the highlights she could share, Jody lights up as she talks about the passion and dedication exhibited by her mission-driven colleagues. She remembers the waves of volunteers who stuffed envelopes or made phone calls because of their belief in the school and their determination to see it succeed. There is admiration and awe in her voice as she describes Sister de Sales’ ability to command attention and inspire donors. There is joy in her expression as she describes her daily phone calls with a passionate older volunteer who couldn’t fathom that others weren’t equally as passionate.
When LSU offered Fred a career opportunity, this Jersey girl’s next adventure began. At this point, Jody and Fred were parents to sons Kenny Sheldon ’07 and Ricky Sheldon ’09. “The only reason we considered coming to Louisiana was because of Episcopal,” says Jody. Episcopal provided the family a welcoming community and Jody joined in, becoming a room mom, grade level rep, lunch room server and annual fund volunteer. In 2005, she joined the Episcopal staff as a fundraiser. Once Kenny began exploring colleges, Jody realized a new passion – helping students find the best college to meet their goals. In 2010, Jody became a full-time college counselor. “That’s been the joy of my life,” she says.
College counseling combines the experiences of Jody’s life into one role. “Even though I’m not teaching I still see these kids every day,” she says. She also gets to help students develop their voice and tell their story through the college essay writing experience. “It’s just so much fun,” she says of the experience that allows her to help students discover who they truly are and what they want to be. Jody enjoys the metamorphosis that occurs when a young freshman appears at her door only to emerge four years later as a confident senior with their dream college chosen. “What really catches me is the uncertainty of it,” she says. “I don’t know where they’re going to apply or get in.”
One certainty is that Jody has had a tremendous impact on her Episcopal colleagues. “Not to be overly dramatic, but the thought of Jody’s absence in the Upper School office is nearly unimaginable,” says Shandi Fazely, who works closely with Jody as a member of the College Counseling team. “Jody’s talent for connecting with students and faculty - all people, really - has inspired my own interactions at times. Jody is fierce and devilishly funny. Her quick wit brings both levity and an endless supply of ideas; and she’ll go to bat, always, for students, friends, ideas, policies, procedures, anything, in which she believes.” Justin Fenske, the director of the College Counseling team, will also greatly miss Jody. “Jody is a trusted ear,” says Justin. “Students put their faith in her and spend hours in her office, but that trust is extended to her colleagues as well. I have spent countless hours talking with Jody as we plan the future of college counseling and discuss individual students. I can’t imagine what it will be like next year without her input.”
It is not just the college counselors who will miss Jody’s presence on campus. “Jody has served as a mentor to me personally and professionally in the years I have known her at Episcopal,” says Michelle Chenevert, Director of Technology. “She is always full of energy and gives attention to detail in everything she does.” Art teacher Kate Trepagnier applauds Jody for her passion and commitment to college counseling and the students she serves. “Jody is able to transform nuanced and complicated problems into a concise strategy that the students grasp and implement,” says Kate. “With her curiosity, humor, and focused energy, Jody is respected by students and faculty.”
Jody enjoys the unknown that comes with the college counseling process and exploring faraway places. She says in life “you make choices and you take risks and if it doesn’t work out, you have to be nimble.” That willingness to try new things and explore new worlds seems a fitting trait for a person charged with helping students chart a new path. While Jody’s path now takes her away from Episcopal, she leaves very much still passionate about her work and the school. Even as this adventure comes to a close, many more await her. Jody and Fred will take off for a stint in Indonesia soon. She will also substitute teach here at Episcopal when she can. No doubt, this explorer will keep charting new territory.
Congratulations, Jody. We wish you well on your next adventure!
Has Jody had an impact on you? Leave her a message in the comments section below.
Splashing into Summer with PreK-3
PreK-3 students enjoyed a splash day to celebrate the end of the school year.
Going on a Bear Hunt in PreK-4
PreK-4 went on a bear hunt! Students searched for grizzlies on the Coach Duplechin Trail after reading "We're Going on a Bear Hunt." For lunch they enjoyed a picnic with their furry friends.
Field Day Fun in Kindergarten
Lower School Field Day was a huge success! The event featured water balloons, bubbles, yard games and even a giant water slide. What a great way to wrap up the school year!
Animal Encounters in First Grade
Episcopal first graders know a lot about animals. After participating in a six-week study of the different animals that inhabit a swamp, the students shared what they learned with their fellow Lower School students. Their presentations featured a range of swampy creatures, including snakes, frogs and even bears. Other highlights of the animal lesson included visiting the swamp, learning more about fifth grade teacher Eric DiMari’s animals and observing animals from the Barnhill Animal Preserve.
Author Chat in Second Grade
Second grade students had the opportunity to speak with Annie Barrows, the author of the Ivy + Bean series. Barrows answered student questions and shared what inspires her stories and characters. The Ivy + Bean series makes a great addition to a student’s summer reading list.
Third Grade Pen Pals
Third grade students are brushing up on their cursive skills by writing letters to residents at St. James Place. Read more about the project here.
Fun and Games in Fourth Grade
Fourth graders challenged their families to a variety of arcade games that the students actually made themselves. This annual event is always exciting and this year was no exception. Students created everything from air hockey and ping pong to flight of the dragon and dizzy duck.
Making a Difference in Fifth Grade
After a successful world expo event, the fifth grade students generated funds to support the Capital Area United Way, Heifer International and the Pulsera Project. Recently, students presented their donation to United Way Corporate Relationship Manager Ashley McDermott.
Caffeine. A widespread addiction that I promised myself I wouldn’t succumb to until college. I rush out my house door while the straw to my tall, flower-covered tumbler filled to the brim with caffeinated iced tea escapes its top. One drink won’t hurt.
I have energy! It’s a whole new me: excited, present, a little on edge, and somehow feeling fully awake at 6:45am. But, I’m late. During the season of Lent, there is an Eucharist service held every Wednesday morning at 7:15 a.m. in the Episcopal School chapel. This is where I’m heading. I timidly step through the large, wooden door and walk to the side area to the right of the sanctuary to sit quietly behind six teachers and one student sitting on the chairs and distributed asymmetrically. Father Skully, the school’s chaplain, is standing at the front of this pious group, leading them in worship and recitation of prayers. I’m embarrassed and trying my best to silently blend in.
“Welcome, Ashley. Can I tell everyone why you’re here? I thought it was such a cool idea,” Father Skully asks. Well, it was a solid try to not distract the service. “Yes, of course!”
My goal for the day is to fit as many-and as wide of a range of- activities and classes as I can in one day at Episcopal, where, if you haven’t guessed by now, I attend. When I started at this school my sophomore year, there was one statement that I always seemed to run into. In fact, it’s written in the school’s mission. The school prides itself in that it “nurtures and develops the whole child- spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically -through challenging academic and co-curricular programs.” I wanted to test this by searching for as many opportunities as I could find.
7:45 am - 8:00 am: Office Hours
I head to Ms. Kirschner’s room after Chapel to help organize her bountiful bookshelves. She’s not here, but I start to make it a game of how fast I can stack the same titled books and organize enough for the next group who decides to go help out.
8:00 am - 9:40 am: Block 2
After a quick check in with my normal block 2 class, I excitedly venture to the Academic Commons to observe a SRME class. This stands for Scientific Research Methodology and Experimentation. The class is typically taken junior year and can lead into a summer of more specific research at the LSU science labs and a senior year of the class ESTARR (Episcopal Students Take Action in Advanced Research). I’m met with students who are participating in their own scientific research for the class.
When John tells me the name of his project, How Acoustic Waves Effect the Oscillation Rate of the Belousov Zhabotinsky Reaction, I’m definitely as taken aback as you probably are right now. After observing studies consisting of killing cockroaches and cogon grass, I’m struck with the ability of these students to guide their own projects with just quick answers and guidance from Mr. Dennis along the way.
9:40 am - 9:55 am: Break
It’s time for break and I’m ready. I can’t believe how much I’ve already fit into one day and I’m just getting started! Next up are the English classes.
Sitting at the same long, wooden table where last semester I had an English class based on journalism, I join in on Mrs. Sutcliffe’s podcasts class. The beginning of the class is just Mrs. Sutcliffe going over the instructions for the day, but with a joyful twist. She’s eagerly giving her class the reasons why skills used for creating podcasts can be applicable to their lives outside of school. In her words, “why practicing these things we’re practicing could be valuable.”
Once the class is let out to continue working on their own podcasts, I head to Mrs. Kirschner’s room for the second time in the day. A dim, calm, and comfortable atmosphere meets me in her science fiction class as I listen politely to students read segments of their short stories aloud and then receive valuable and respectful feedback. I’m feeling beyond relaxed and like I may fall into a nap if I don’t have another class to move on to.
Awkwardly sneaking into Mrs. Burton’s class, I sit down in the room filled with the light from the movie screen. I’m not sure what movie they are watching, but it’s something to do with a court trial. After the film is finished, Mrs. Burton greets me pleasantly and asks the class to explain its purpose. It’s a class based on media and culture.
I’m in awe with the wide array of the English classes I did and could have visited and glad I was able to see how productive many different lens can be in teaching the same basic lessons needed for college.
By the time block 4 comes around, I’m feeling the typical drag of the day any high school student may have. It’s time for art class and I couldn’t be happier. My group of three is instructed to begin pasting material on Peyton’s hand to make a paper mache mold of a hand. “This material is what they used to use for casts back in the day,” explains Ms. Kate, “but we’ll use it to design.” My mind is allowed to wander as we focus on pasting. “Ow, it’s actually hurting now that it’s drying,” says Peyton. It’s time to take the mold off, and I’m so relaxed I’m not ready to have to leave. I’m so thankful to be able to have a refresh class.
Lunch is quick and filling. I get the little burst of energy I’m going to need to finish the day off. I also remember in angst that I should start drinking more water before track practice later on.
Before this next part, I should explain how inflexible I am. As a prior gymnast at the age of 10, I typically assume I can still do a cartwheel. That is until I continuously try it and continuously fail each time. I’m usually complaining about my back hurting or how I can’t keep my legs straight. Full disclosure, this isn’t the worst. I can barely even reach my feet when I stretch. I couldn’t imagine what dance class would be like. I may be able to get through it, but I’d definitely be embarrassed at some point. I mean, come on, I also extremely struggle to clap on beat to a song. How would I dance to one? And the most intimidating is that I’m assuming the dancers in the class are all well trained in the art.
To my surprise, the class is high energy, welcoming, and completely non judgemental. The atmosphere even allows me to assess that each student was already a dancer when in reality some had just learned this year. The warm up is fun and involves dance motions and stretches. Yes, I struggle, but I’m not embarrassed. I’m relieved and getting into the rhythm of the class. Before my departure, I get to watch the class practice their dance for the upcoming show. Music is flowing through me as I run with it to get to thesis class.
I would’ve been overjoyed to stay longer in dance, but I am determined to not miss much of thesis. This is the first class since after LAUNCH in which we’re beginning to show our final assignment: creating our own class and leading a class one day. David is teaching today and I can’t wait to see how the dynamic of the class feels.
“SHHH! Everyone silent!” David playfully expresses his annoyance with the class becoming too excited to share the city maps they have made. His class is focused on city planning and for the period each student has created their own layout and is in the process of sharing their ideas before the class votes on their favorites. “Hallie, you can go. And by can, I mean have to.” The class bursts into laughter and the silliness continues, but not without a moment to question the meaning.
“Do you think all of y’alls cities were guided by your values?” Mrs. Sutcliffe asks, and we dive into more discussion.
Speaking of discussion, Mr. Engholm’s ethics class is driven by this very thing. We’re discussing A.I. and robots along with the idea of consciousness. My head is already spinning. Zoe turns to me to fill me in on the movie they had watched parts of, “The Imitation Game”, and by doing so allows me to join in. Before I know it, it’s already been 40 minutes and I have to get to my statistics class.
3:30pm: Track Practice
I participated in cross country this year, but decided to take a break from track and field. Going back for practice scared me. I’d tried to keep up with running, but not to the extent that these amazing athletes do. Thankfully, it was a pre-meet practice, which means a little less of a workout. After the team sit down and cheer, we get to the running. “Oh no, I don’t remember it being this hard!” I laugh to Bethany and Tanya. I get a taste of Coach Jones’ jokes and the joyfulness of the team before I fistbump and say goodbye with a thank you.
In the short time between track practice and robotics club, I remembered there was one part of campus I hadn’t gone to yet. The prayer walk. A hidden beauty that provides tranquil moments of peace and allows for sincere contemplation. I walk softly as I read the signs with Bible verses on them. Then, I sit under the pavilion to stretch because I know I’m going to need it after running!
“Oh, hey Clay!” is my reaction when I see just one student waiting for Robotics to start. Dr. McClean comes in soon after and gives the rundown of how their robot needs to be packaged to be sent off safely. I’m filled with ambition and want to help with something. We begin nailing the big wooden crate. By the time I accidentally spill the nails everywhere, I realize I’m probably more in the way than helping. We finish this task and move to the board where a few other members of the team are looking at parts online to buy in order to fix their robot. I’m easily impressed with the knowledge this room holds and the group’s ability to use their curiosity to create something fun and meaningful memories.
7pm: Little Shop of Horrors
There is no better way to end a day of learning about Episcopal than to celebrate some of its insanely talented individuals. Once again, I’m fascinated by the ability of the school’s students and their hard work to showcase their talents. The songs entertain me while I think more seriously about the deeper message to this humorous play.
I’ve made it through the day. With the help of caffeine, but even more because of the excitement these incredible teachers, students, and classes brought with them. Whether it’s through Chapel services, science experiments, art classes, or athletics, Episcopal School of Baton Rouge truly provides opportunities to “develop the whole child.” Its teachers create a comfortable environment for learning that allows for true discovery. All the child has to do is become involved.
Ashley Solomon has been a student at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge since her sophomore year and is an Honors Diploma student. In addition to her involvement in the Thesis program, she participates in cross country, Mock Trial, and is the community service coordinator for the National Honors Society. Her thesis explores the importance of mental health in adolescents and the effects of implementing therapy dogs in a school setting.
We all want our children to be “happy”, but what is happiness? This question has been explored by countless universities. In recent years, Yale University founded a course titled “Psychology and the Good Life” and it has become one of their most popular courses. This course explores the keys to happiness and is now available online to the public on Coursera identified as “The Science of Well-Being”. In this course, Professor Laurie Santos links happiness to kindness, social connection, gratitude, mindfulness, and positive health habits such as sleep and nutrition.
As parents, we are often aware of any slight physical changes in our child. We look out for their health and wellness by taking them to the doctor at any sign of illness, for their vaccinations, and we bandage a skinned knee. However, mental health can be a challenge to identify. Focusing on observable behaviors and having daily conversations with our children is critical to understanding their mental well-being. Our young children often wear their emotions on their sleeves and show us through tears or exclamations of excitement how they are feeling. As teens move into middle school, they often become more guarded with their emotions. Adolescents are beginning to pull away from parents and focus more on peer relationships. While this is normal and healthy as they develop their own identity, it’s important to realize they still need parental reassurance, support and nurturance.
How can you identify if your child is in emotional distress? These observable indicators may help you:
Here are some guidelines for starting the conversation with your child about their mental health and well-being:
Episcopal School’s mission statement focuses on developing the “whole child”. We want to partner with you to support your children to grow into successful and happy young adults. This May marks the 70th year that the Mental Health Association of American recognizes “Mental Health Awareness Month” providing an opportunity for us to talk openly about mental health and our children’s happiness. If you have concerns for your child’s mental health, please reach out to your division counselor. We are available to collaborate and provide support.
Yale University Course on “Psychology and the Good Life” https://news.yale.edu/2018/02/20/yales-most-popular-class-ever-be-available-coursera
Coursera offering Yale Course “The Science of Well-Being” https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being
Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/about-us
NBC News Learn Parent Toolkit: https://www.parenttoolkit.com/health-and-wellness/conversation-starter/mental-health/tough-talks-how-to-talk-to-your-child-about-mental-health
Child Mind Institute: https://childmind.org/article/tips-communicating-with-teen/
Alicia Kelly has served as a School Counselor at Episcopal since 2001. As the Middle School Counselor, she has a passion for helping preadolescents reach their potential, academically, emotionally, and spiritually. Alicia holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, Masters in Health Sciences - Rehabilitation Counseling, and is a Certified School Counselor.
Imagine a handwritten birthday card from your grandmother with the neat, devoted cursive writing that only grandma can create. Now imagine a birthday card written in the scrawling, proud script of your young child who just learned to connect letters. Handwriting can elicit such emotion and feeling among readers. Now Episcopal third graders are bringing back the art of letter writing. This spring, students participated in a pen pal project with St. James Place residents. Not only are they making meaningful connections, but they are also brushing up on cursive writing.
“My hopes and dreams for this year are to feel more confident in Math and to do well writing in cursive.” Molly
“My hopes and dreams for this year are to do well on Rocket Math and to work hard on my cursive writing.” Wynston
Each August, the third grade teachers have students set goals for themselves. Teacher Lauren Bilskie says every year students express interest and excitement about learning and perfecting cursive writing. “Learning cursive is sort of a rite of passage for our students,” says Bilskie. She says students are eager to learn the way each letter connects and it’s always an exciting day when they learn to link the letters of their own name with curves and loops.
Once students have the method down, Bilskie says they need practice with cursive writing and reading. Finding opportunities to practice cursive can be a challenge with students more accustomed to keyboards and touch screen devices. Fortunately, a national news story highlighting a pen pal program between senior living residents and students at a Dallas Episcopal school recently inspired Bilskie to create a similar program here. Knowing that several students have family members living at St. James Place, Bilskie felt the residents there would be the perfect match for these young writers. When she reached out to officials at St. James, Director of Active Lifestyles, Tanya Dickson, had actually heard about the same story and was ecstatic about the opportunity to connect students and residents.
The pen pal program was such an easy program to establish that Bilskie says she can’t believe they didn’t think of it sooner. Students started their written friendship by writing to a resident in cursive and asking them about their third grade teacher and their favorite school subject. The cursive responses came pouring in. Residents were excited to correspond with the young students with some even writing back with colorful, decorated notes. “This has made cursive so meaningful for all of us,” says Bilskie.
With this year’s success, Bilskie and her fellow teachers hope to organize the program again next year, with a few additions. Bilskie says they plan to start earlier in the year and may organize a trip to St. James Place so that the pen pals can meet in person. In the meantime, the correspondence may continue over the summer with students writing to their new friends about beach trips and camp adventures.