Learning, fun and growth are happening everyday in Middle School. Despite the unusual circumstances this school year presents, students are being challenged and celebrated. Middle School faculty are finding creative ways to continue offering meaningful lessons in everything from physical education and fine arts to core academic courses. Lessons are taking place in unconventional spaces, including outdoor tents and sports bleachers. However, the Middle School Knights are quickly adapting and thriving.
We invite you to take a glimpse into a Middle School week, by watching the video below.
We appreciate the positive attitudes of our Middle School students, and we thank our families for their trust in us. A special thank you to the faculty and staff who are making sure that great learning experiences continue.
To read more about Episcopal’s Middle School program, click here.
Episcopal prepared me.
What does that really mean? One 2017 Episcopal graduate recently reached out to help define that motto for others.
In 2017, Sarah Xing was a graduating Knight. Having relocated to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina, Sarah attended Episcopal beginning in the fourth grade. Early on, she found members of the Episcopal community to be quite welcoming and she quickly found her place among friends. Over the course of her educational journey, Sarah was a member of the Robotics Club and the Astronomy Club, and she took numerous AP and Honors courses. She quickly acclimated to the Episcopal teaching style, the challenging content and the pace of the lessons; so much so that her eventual transition to Tulane University was seamless.
Incredibly, after only three years, Sarah graduated from Tulane in May with two degrees. During this short time, she also made time to study abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. She says friends are shocked when she tells them about her accomplishments, and her family is quite proud. With one degree in economics and another in computer science, Sarah is now the youngest student currently pursuing a master’s degree in business analytics. She will complete that master’s in May, thus earning three degrees in only four years, as she works toward her dream of becoming an analyst at a tech firm.
Episcopal College Counselor Shandi Fazely remains in touch with Sarah and says it is not often that a college student completes their studies so quickly. In fact, Tulane reported an undergraduate six-year graduation rate of 86% in 2019. The site reports “the graduation rate is calculated as the percentage of first-year, full-time students who enrolled in the institution in a Fall term and then graduated from the institution within six years.” Fazely, who once described Sarah as “an eternal optimist with an indefatigable work ethic” and as someone who “knows how to succeed and has prepared herself well for the college environment,” congratulates Sarah on her recent achievements.
As Sarah looks back on her time at Episcopal, she appreciates the challenging academics that prepared her and the community/family feeling. She particularly enjoyed the school’s Homecoming activities, the community building events and LAUNCH Day. Now, as her brother Robert prepares to graduate from Episcopal this year, Sarah offers this advice to the Class of 2021. “It may not be the most normal senior year but make the most out of it because you only get senior year once,” she says. It is great to see that in only three years’ time, Sarah has made the most of her Episcopal preparation. It will be exciting to see how far she goes.
Are you an Episcopal graduate? Share how Episcopal prepared you in the comments section below or contact us at email@example.com.
The annual Healthy Selves project-based learning unit in first grade is now underway! Students are learning to make healthy food choices, the importance of exercise and how to care for their bodies.
This week, these healthy explorers were the first students to explore the new fully stocked Chemistry Kitchen in the Quest Center. Students, teachers and Chef Pat were excited to have the opportunity to make healthy smoothies in the new space within Foster Hall. Students wore brightly colored aprons and worked at tables just the right height for them. There was tremendous excitement as they chopped berries and bananas, and once the blender started whirring, laughing and cheering filled the room.
While the delicious lesson was designed to encourage students to make healthy eating choices, there were other lessons to be learned. Quest Center Coordinator Dr. Elizabeth Lewis told students about the composting process as she collected the banana peels and strawberry stems in a white bucket. Later, teacher Mary Kathryn Vey showed students the composting bins that are right outside of their own first grade classroom. She also pointed out the worm, vegetable and butterfly gardens that fill the space. Students were excited to know that they have a great view of everything going on in these natural spaces.
Strawberries, bananas, an inspiring new venue and a team of educators finding creative ways in which to feed young imaginations – that’s a great recipe for learning!
Launching the admission application is always a fun day for the Enrollment team. It signifies the start of a new cycle of meeting perspective families and welcoming eager students to campus. This year, the excitement is mixed with a little nervous anticipation as we find creative ways to maintain our dynamic application process while still adhering to our COVID-19 safety protocols. But as necessity is the mother of invention, we have found compelling ways to keep supporting families through this unique admission season.
We believe that visiting Episcopal is one of the best ways to determine if we are the right fit for a family. While we currently limit visitors on campus, we have adjusted tours from our weekly mini-open house model to guided virtual tours or a personalized private tour with limited access to campus facilities. In both scenarios, we will highlight the diverse array of campus opportunities available to students through videos of students learning in action, snapshots of classrooms with and without COVID-19 adjustments, and student testimonials allowing families to truly get a sense of what makes Episcopal so great. We are also hosting virtual Lunch and Learns to highlight some of our most popular parent events such as our College Counseling chats and monthly Lower School coffees (the most recent topic was Finding the Right Balance: Conversations about Activities, Family Time, Sleep and Doing it All). Private campus tours are available by request on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 8:30 am - 10:00 am. Those interested can contact the Admission Office at 225-755-2684 or click here.
Student Shadow Days and Class Visits
Building on campus tours, student shadow days and class visits offer applicants an even deeper connection to the Episcopal experience. Being able to make friends with current students, learn from our creative and engaging teachers and generally experience life as an Episcopal Knight is what often solidifies an applicant's decision to enroll. While we temporarily limit student shadow days, we will continue to take advantage of what we do best - personalize the experience through tailored videos from students, faculty and staff. Student Ambassadors and Peer Leaders are eager to record special greetings and answer applicant questions while faculty are ready to take students on a video tour of their classroom. We may be physically apart, but we want applicants to feel like a part of our community.
Dates and Deadlines
As we have done in the past, we will continue to conduct admission screenings and tests in person later this school year. Please see below for important admission dates and deadlines. For more detailed information, click here.
Lower School Early Decision Application Deadline
December 1st - 4th
Lower School Applicant Screenings
Middle and Upper School Early Decision Application Deadline
December 12th or January 9th
Middle and Upper School Applicant Admission Tests
Members of the Admission team strive to make enrolling at Episcopal as smooth as possible. While the current admission process is somewhat different from the past, we hope that families still gain an appreciation for the Episcopal educational experience. We are optimistic that we will be able to welcome our newly enrolled Knights to campus for new family welcome events next spring. Until then, families are encouraged to contact us with any questions or concerns.
To learn more about Episcopal admission, contact a member of the Admission team.
“Art is coming to the forefront during the pandemic, not because it is more important, but because we are having to reassess how we cope, and what we are finding is that art was always there ready to help, but now we are taking more time to create.” Veronica Hallock, Episcopal art teacher
From breadmaking to gardening, people have discovered creative ways in which to de-stress in a COVID-19 world. Now that the school year is underway, teachers and students are finding that an art project, a music lesson or a dance class can also make a difference. While the courses may look a little different, the impact is still the same. “The students seem to have a desperate need to move and a genuine need for something that is close to normal,” says dance teacher Christine Chrest. “I have found that my classes, Middle and Upper School, are more enthusiastic and focused than ever.”
Hallock says teaching visual art under the current circumstances is not really all that different from a traditional school year. She says the biggest challenge has been ensuring that students have the supplies they need to create both in the classroom and at home. “I am very fortunate that there are so many online art tutorials and resources, but the successes we are having is in large part because of the collaboration between parents and the school,” she says.
New Episcopal Band Director Marshall Farrell has transitioned from traditional instrument practice to teaching the concepts of rhythm, note-reading and music theory. He says there is an increased focus on the students composing their own music, and there have been great results. “The biggest blessing in disguise of this new curriculum is that it fosters student ownership in their work and creativity more so than a traditional band set up,” says Farrell.
By nature, art teachers are creative, which serves them well as they find new ways to provide an authentic art experience. “It has stretched our imagination a good bit,” says Chrest. “This year is different not only because of wearing masks and staying socially distant but primarily because of the loss of contact. So much of dance is about physical contact, partnering, supporting and lifting.” That creative determination is paying off. Recently, Chrest held auditions for Dance Ensemble which generated enthusiasm for a return to expression. Farrell says musicianship has continued this school year, even if it is in a different way.
While to date, teachers have found meaningful ways in which to continue providing arts, Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan permits more typical arts activities. Students will resume playing instruments and singing together. Hallock says it is important to resume art activities because of the sense of security and calm they provide. “Art teaches healthy emotional expression, it teaches fine motor skills, it is a safe space on campus for students who don’t necessarily feel like they fit, and it creates a balance to the objective and concrete thinking that happens in core classes by offering subjective and non-concrete problem solving.”
The arts have always been an important component of Episcopal’s whole-child experience. Through the creative and determined efforts of Episcopal’s arts faculty, students will continue to benefit from the experience despite the challenges that may exist.
Your Knights are back in action! With a renewed sense of grit and determination, student athletes and the coaches who lead them are taking the court, the course, the field and the pool. Middle and Upper School sports fans are ecstatic that fall sports are underway, and your Knights have certainly started strong. The volleyball team defeated Baton Rouge High in their first game back on the court and the cross country squad broke records last weekend at the West Feliciana Relays. In Middle School, the football, softball, swimming, and cross country teams have begun practice in anticipation of a great season. A return to competition enhances the student experience and makes life in Middle and Upper School a little more of what we have come to expect from our experience here at Episcopal.
Athletic Director Randy Richard says the logistics required to get student athletes back in the game have not been easy, but they have certainly been worth it. “What’s important for us is that our student athletes get a chance to play in a safe environment,” he says. “The reason we’re doing it is because this is our mission in life.” Richard points to the value of sports and the lessons athletes learn that can’t be learned anywhere else. To provide athletes this experience, the coaching team has had to be more creative to work within the confines of the health and safety protocols. There have been challenges, but the coaches have rallied together behind one goal. “We encourage each other so that we’re geared up and ready to go to have a plan in place to serve our students,” says Richard.
That service to students has included tremendous planning. For example, as students participated in summer strength and conditioning, coaches had to increase the two daily workouts/three days a week to three and four daily workouts/five days a week in order to reduce the number of students in the weight room at any given time. In cross country, runners had to be organized into pods so that students wouldn’t bundle together as they trained. More pods required the development of additional running routes and increased monitoring of individual times. Football practice strategies had to be adjusted with some players lifting weights while others ran drills to reduce the exposure risk of an entire squad. Between each drill everything is cleaned, including equipment and footballs. Throughout the adjustments, Richard says the student athletes have stepped up and shown a true commitment to their teams and a desire to compete this season.
As teams begin competing, there are even more details to consider, all the way down to the water that athletes drink. Richard says while they’ve taken water for granted in the past, coaches must now make sure that each athlete brings enough to sustain themselves throughout an entire practice and competition. Coaches also have to consider where athletes not in the game will sit/stand until their number is called and, in some cases, what is essentially a travel squad must be established due to capacity limitations within gyms. Even the traditional handshake or high five among opponents has had to be reworked this season. Fortunately, the Knights volleyball team has already found a way to acknowledge their opponent by waving to them from across the net. As the team took the court for their first game, Head Coach Madeline Gugich was thrilled. “Seeing them compete puts a smile on all of our faces,” she says. “The excitement of this helps us to play our best. It was an awesome game.”
There also remains a question of fan attendance. Richard reminds everyone that it is important to understand that all suggested attendance numbers include members of the team, coaches, game officials and those determined to be essential game personnel. Once essential game attendees are tallied, the fan attendance numbers are significantly lower than the numbers suggest. However, Richard and his team have devised a creative solution to allow the Knights’ fanbase to show their support. The Episcopal volleyball games are aired live and on delay on YurView LA (Cox Channel 4) and CST (Cox Channel 37). Richard says many of the team parents sponsored the broadcasts to support their student athletes, and he is optimistic that a similar arrangement can be made for other sports. Thank you parents!!
The Episcopal coaches are eager to return to competition. “We are excited to be able to compete because practicing all the time gets boring,” says Head Cross Country Coach Claney Duplechin. “We need to know the reason for practicing. This reason is competing against other schools and individuals. It is fun to compare our skills with others.” Middle and Upper School Softball Coach Heidi Hebert says seeing the students’ excitement and motivation to prepare is just one of the many reasons to love coaching. “It has been a real eye opener to see the things we take for granted such as everyday life including practices and games,” she says. “As we count down the days to our first competitions, it’s exciting to have those normal, game day jitters.” Head Football Coach Travis Bourgeois says playing football in the fall gives players positive energy. “With 18 seniors, these guys have put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears over the years,” he says. “They deserve to play their senior year. Football is a great way to kick off the school year and bring our community together.”
Richard feels the commitment shown by the coaching staff will inspire the student athletes. “I hope they understand the magnitude of what coaches have done to get them back in action,” he says. With that understanding, Richard hopes the athletes, under the guidance of the seniors, can continue to come together to do the right thing and stay on track to continue a successful season. While this season is certainly different from the past, Richard is confident the Knights will get the job done. “In May, I’ll look back and be overwhelmed with the resiliency of our staff and student athletes to make what could have been a terrible year a success.”
Resilience. Determination. Commitment. These are all key qualities you might expect of a Knight. Expect them to be on full display as the students compete once again. To keep track of upcoming sports events, click here to see the Episcopal athletic schedule.
Share words of encouragement for your Episcopal Knights in the comments section below. Go Knights!
Episcopal School of Baton Rouge is pleased to recognize twelve National Merit Semifinalists and three Commended Scholars from the Class of 2021. The fifteen students represent approximately 15% of the school’s 103-member senior class.
National Merit Semifinalists:
According to the National Merit Scholarship Program, close to two million students compete each year, with approximately 16,000 making it to the semifinal round. Semifinalists are top scorers on the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test/PSAT test in their state.
National Merit finalists will be announced in February with winners named in the spring. The selection committee reviews student grades, activities and leadership, as well as school information to determine the winners. Scholarships are then awarded from the National Merit Scholarship Program, corporations, colleges and universities.
Starting a new job during a pandemic can be challenging. Relocating and signing on to lead the educational journey of an entire Lower School may even be considered daunting. However, new Episcopal Lower School Division Head Beth Gardner doesn’t see it that way. “I look at the silver linings,” she says. For example, she says the current challenges have pushed everyone to think creatively to find thoughtful solutions. In addition, it has required everyone to come together quickly as a team. While the summer was not typical for teachers, Gardner is appreciative of the staff’s efforts to show up for planning calls and discussions. She says such dedication helped her quickly find a sense of belonging among the Knights.
For Gardner, there was no question that she belonged at Episcopal. She says after interacting with faculty and students she knew Baton Rouge was the right fit for her family and she appreciates the “positive can-do spirit” that everyone has when it comes to supporting students and each other. She also shares a similar academic philosophy, including a commitment to social/emotional learning, Singapore math and guided reading. In addition, she is happy that Lower school students participate in physical education and recess each day. “Play is the work of children,” says Gardner.
Gardner’s own work experience began in the classroom in 1993. “I’ve served schools in a variety of roles as an educator,” she says. Her career trajectory includes teaching PreK, first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth grades. Gardner joined Episcopal this summer after serving as the Assistant Lower Division Director at Berkeley Preparatory School, which was ranked as the top private school in Tampa Bay and number six in the state of Florida by Niche.com. Before that, Gardner was the Lower School Director at Columbia Independent School in Missouri. Even after many years in the field, she is as enthusiastic about education and teaching as ever. “I love to talk about school,” says Gardner.
Growing up, Gardner was exposed to life as a teacher early on with her mom and aunt both educators. However, even though Gardner was no stranger to the classroom, she initially did not plan to follow in the family footsteps and selected business as her field of study. The young business major eventually took a job as a nanny and the experience transformed her life. Gardner realized her love for children and changed her major to education. She even went on to complete a master’s degree in education, curriculum and instruction.
Although education is her favorite topic of conversation, Gardner still has time for other pursuits, including staying connected to her large family. With a son, daughter-in-law and grandson in Alaska, a daughter in Los Angeles and a daughter at the University of Arizona, Gardner and her husband were quite familiar with videoconferencing even before the pandemic. In addition, Gardner’s daughter Genevieve joins her here at Episcopal as a senior this year. The Gardner family also includes several four-legged friends and Gardner enjoys frequent walks and even the occasional doggy dress-up day. In her free time, Gardner loves reading a good book and cooking, although she has not yet tried her hand at homemade Cajun cuisine.
After a journey that brought her from Florida to Louisiana, Gardner is now happy to be among Episcopal’s Lower School students and faculty. She invites families to reach out to her with any questions or concerns as the school year gets underway in earnest. In the meantime, we invite you to share a message welcoming her to the community in the comments section below.
Episcopal welcomed several new faculty and staff members this school year. Click here to learn more about them.
Face Coverings. Airplane Arms. Classroom Cohorts. These are just a few of the new phrases that have been introduced into our vocabulary as we begin this unique school year. While the start of school may look different, many things remain just the same.
The unveiling of the Lower School theme is always a special day that students, families and faculty look forward to on the first day of Morning Meeting each August. A yearly tradition that started over a decade ago, past themes include Imagine and Love your Neighbor.
When choosing this year’s theme, Lower School Head, Beth Gardner, drew on her own experiences of being new to the Episcopal community. She wanted to create a space where each member of the Lower School feels welcome, valued and loved, which led to selecting this year’s theme: “Belonging.”
Mrs. Gardner, along with the religion and counseling teams, brainstormed ways to bring this year’s theme of belonging into the classrooms this year. “This theme works for students, parents, teachers, faculty and staff, which is what we love about it,” explains Religion teacher, Laura Portwood. The team settled on three points to focus on to kick off the year.
You Belong Here
Every student has the basic right to feel like they belong. A sense of belonging is one of our basic needs at birth. Babies form an attachment to family members. As children grow up and start school, they need to feel that same sense of belonging in the classroom with their teachers and classmates. Author Brene Brown writes, ”Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.” Students need to feel accepted in order to take risks that will help them learn and grow.
You are You-nique
It is important for students to recognize and accept their differences. Our differences make our community stronger. Teaching children to recognize their strengths adds to their sense of belonging to the community. Religion teachers Jenny Koenig and Laura Portwood have selected Bible verses for students to study in Morning Meeting that support this message. The most recent scripture chosen was from 1 Corinthians 12:12, 14-20 (NIV):
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
Acknowledging our differences, recognizing our strengths and supporting those who are different from us will build a stronger sense of belonging in our community this year.
How to Help Others Belong
We are excited to welcome 168 new students to Episcopal this year. Joining a community can be a new and lonely experience, but the Lower School is already working to make these students and families feel a sense of belonging. Lower School teachers sent out hand-written postcards to each new student this summer. Students were thrilled to receive this personal touch from their teacher and it made starting school a little easier to know that teachers were excited to see them.
Parents’ Guild volunteers Stacy Dampf and Nicole Chauvin made phone calls to all of our new Lower School families this summer. “I am happy that we were able to make a personal connection for these new families. I was also glad to be able to tell my own children who the new kids on the playground would be,” says Dampf.
She continues, “ As a child, my family moved several times and my brother and I were often the 'new kids'. I know from experience that being the new kid isn't easy. I hope that by making my own children aware of which new students may have been looking for a friend to play with on the playground or may have been in need of a friendly smile that some of our new students had an easier transition to the Episcopal community.”
As we embrace this new theme of belonging, we hope that each student, family member and our entire Lower School community will recognize their unique talents and learn to value the importance that their contributions bring to our school. As we go through this year, we will continue to uncover and highlight these special gifts to help each individual find a place of belonging at Episcopal.
Julie Mendes, a 2001 graduate of Episcopal, received both her undergraduate degree and MEd in elementary education at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. She taught in Texas public schools and at a bilingual school in Gracias, Honduras before returning to teach PreK-4 at her alma mater in 2012. After 14 years in the classroom, she is excited to serve our youngest Knights in a new role as the Director of Early Childhood Programs. Julie resides in Madisonville with her husband, Scott, and bonus son, Owen