When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.
Dear Fellow Episcopal School of Baton Rouge Community Members,
The goodness and faithfulness inherent in our school community have saved this Thanksgiving for me. The force of this innate goodness and faithfulness has caused me—a relatively private person when it comes to my feelings—to send this letter.
I am not thankful for the flood that hurt our school, our city and Southeast Louisiana with such general and uneven evil; similarly, I am not thankful for the well-publicized deaths still lingering from the summer. In all candor, for those of us in and around Baton Rouge, we have a lot to overcome this year before diving deeply and sincerely into the turkey, fixin’s and good times around the Thanksgiving table. My prayer is that this letter will help move us more toward the gratefulness we feel near to our hearts almost all the time.
As you know, sometimes I struggle to keep my messages short. This time, though, there is one simple, clear thought to convey: The actions of students, faculty, staff, parents, grandparents, alumni, and friends of the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge community in the flood and its aftermath are embedded deeply and fully in my heart and soul. The forces of goodness and faithfulness shining through those actions have inspired and propelled me. Thanks to the loving dynamism of our school community, I can go into Thanksgiving reminded of how God’s presence among us “UKnights” us in love and heightens our regard for others. I will sit around my Thanksgiving table grateful for (and grateful to be a part of) the strength, love, empathy, caring and energy in the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge community at large.
Archbishop Romero (a Roman Catholic Priest martyred in El Salvador), wrote this: “Peace is dynamism.” I adopted that piece of wisdom the moment I first saw it! At Episcopal, we are dynamic; we are earning our “peace.” We know Isaiah was correct when he wrote God’s message to us: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”
Please watch the recently completed video directed by Mr. Otey White and narrated by Ms. Kaylee Hartung ’03 which chronicles in factual and dramatic ways how our school was hit by the flood and our community’s response.
Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving and for peaceful political conversations around your table.
Head of School
For the past several years, Episcopal School of Baton Rouge has participated in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics competition as part of our robotics program on campus. On Saturday, November 12th, our middle school FLL team competed in the regional qualifier at Woodlawn High School. Our team placed 8 out of 14 in the robotics game portion on the event. This was not high enough to qualify for the state tournament and the students were extremely disappointed. At the end of the event when they were calling the names of the six qualifying teams, they announced our name. The students were beyond excited! After talking to the judges we found out that our team did so well on the morning judging sessions we bumped two higher teams out of the running. The morning judging sessions measure things like how well we work together as a team, how much planning and research went into our project, and how we treat other teams and each other. I couldn't be prouder to work with a group of students who according the judges, "worked with other teams and had a high respect for all."
These 8 students, Shreya Kamath, Grant Palma, Mia Pulliam, Carter McLean, Meredith Thompson, Scott McAdams, J'nea Steiner, and Jaden Dupree overcame many obstacles including having their competition materials and work space flooded, shortening our preparation time. Mrs. Day and I would like to thank several people who helped our team on the road to state. Thank you so much to Catherine Word for letting us use the lower school library while Penniman was repaired. Thank you to Charlene Thompson and LEIDOS for your mentoring and sponsorship of the team. Thank you to all of the team parents for volunteering your time to help make this season great. Thank you to the Parent's Guild for donating to the STEAM Lab making it a great space with everything we need to practice and be successful. Our state competition is December 10th at Holy Cross High School in New Orleans. Wish us luck!
Elizabeth "Betsy" Minton is the Science, Math and Creativity Instigator at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. She enriches instruction by generating interdisciplinary curriculum, spearheading hands-on, project-based learning and supporting faculty in the application of STEM education standards. In addition, she coaches the middle school robotics team and facilitates the middle school MakerSpace. She has over a decade of elementary classroom experience in general and special education with graduate coursework in literacy, special education, and technology integration. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Bates College and was a 2002 Teach for America Corps Member.
The Episcopal Cross Country program continues to dominate with our Boys claiming their 21st consecutive State Championship title and our Girls finishing as State Runner-Ups for the 2016 season.
What is the recipe behind the team’s success? Coach Dupe believes it’s all about character.
Graham Frazier - 1st (16:00.1) Kris Jackson - 3rd (16:15.8) Kenny Schafer - 4th (16:17.0)
Michael Lee - 5th (16:20.0) William Kennedy - 6th (16:23.5) Brandon Leggio - 9th (16:50.0)
John Harris - 22nd (17:53.2)
All Metro Honors for Episcopal
The Myth of the Muse
O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
—William Shakespeare, Henry V
One of the things I love about exploring Greek and Roman mythology with 6th graders is discussing its lasting influence in our culture today. One such remnant is an artist’s reliance on a creative muse, an enduring notion that true inspiration only followed a visit from one of nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne.
For a long time, I bought into this idea myself, both as a writer and as a teacher, that there was magic involved in creative writing. Either the muse came or she didn’t, and it was her visit that made the difference between good and great story telling. Thanks to several opportunities I’ve had to learn from children’s and Young Adult authors, the muse has become a myth, and a dangerous one at that.
Lauren Tarshis, author of the popular I Survived series and a vice president at Scholastic, visited Lower School students last week in order to research the 1,000 year flood. She met with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students and shared this: you don’t need a special gift to be a writer. “The gift is being able to work hard, write a terrible book, and keep going.”
The first time I encountered this truth, that writing was enormous work rather than magic, was in a workshop with Walter Dean Myers. He started the morning by drawing out his formula on chart paper. With each stroke of his Sharpie, I felt a sharp pain in my reader’s soul. A formula? The grandaddy of YA lit uses a formula?
This is like learning Santa relies on Amazon Prime. After my disillusionment dulled, I thought about the implications of this new truth. Absent the muse, I could be a Writer. And so could any of my students. Even the ones who weren’t in love with writing.
A recurring message I hear from celebrated authors is that as children, they never would have expected to become professional writers. “I was the least likely in my school to grow up to be a writer,” explains Tarshis. “I was 100% certain it was impossible.” Throughout much of her schooling, she held tightly to a secret: she couldn’t read. In fact, it wasn’t until the 10th grade that she finished an entire book on her own.
Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and award-winning graphic novelist, nearly abandoned his passion because he’d been advised he’d never get a girlfriend if he kept up his infatuation with comics. He used the money he would have spent on comic books to buy a blue jean jacket (which, lucky for us, didn’t end up being the chick magnet he’d hoped for).
Matt de la Pena began his Newbery acceptance speech, which 6th graders read to kick off literacy narratives, with his surprise about becoming an author. “Growing up, I never could’ve imagined anything like this. Me and books? Reading? Nah, man, I was a working-class kid. A half-Mexican hoop head. I spent all my afterschool hours playing ball down at the local pickup spot off Birmingham. I dreamed of pretty girls and finger rolls over outstretched hands.”
Even students who define themselves as writers face an uphill climb in claiming their writer’s identity. Coe Booth, author of Tyrell and Kinda Like Brothers, wrote constantly as a kid. So much so that she’d get in trouble for writing in school. When she tells this part of her history, there’s still confusion on her face. How could one get in trouble for writing? At school? Consequently, she didn’t view writing as a legitimate career choice until adulthood.
Just once, she wished aloud, a teacher could have encouraged her. Could have seen and acknowledged the hard work she was doing. Addressing a group of educators, she begged us to look out for those kids, those quirky ones, the ones writing subversively. Ask them about their writing, she said. Encourage them.
At Booth’s urging, I started asking kids about their personal writing as we’d confer about some academic piece they were working on. I’d whisper, “And do you like to write?” They’d look surprised, like I’d discovered their secret identity. Yes, they’d nod, I write stories. I write poems. I write comic books.
We decided to start a writing club. At our meetings, we update each other on projects, play with language, and laugh a lot. The biggest surprise? The students who show up are not necessarily the kids earning top marks for their school writing. They aren’t the ones who talk my ear off during English class. I’d never have known about their writing ambitions if I hadn’t thought to ask.
We need these voices, now more than ever. In today’s climate of division and fear, we need the next Matt de la Pena to remind us that even where there is dirt, there is beauty. We need the next Gene Luen Yang to help us think about our own cultural identity. The people of Louisiana need the next Lauren Tarshis, who tells stories of people’s resilience, even in the face of great tragedies.
As teachers, the greatest thing we can do to help students discover their voices is to reframe the myth. Is there a muse? Maybe so, but she’s the child of hard work and persistence.
“7.36 X 1022 Kilograms Doesn’t Make You Fat, I Swear”
I want to apologize. Every evening, I looked to you but never did I think that you had feelings, too. Like I, you might be heartbroken, or worse, the text you took twenty minutes to write was read but did not receive a response. All the while, long-distance couples look to you to find their lover in the sky. I can’t imagine how much pressure that must be. You are the symbol keeping everybody together and rarely can you take a break. In addition to everything going on, I feel required tell you I heard Soleil was illuminating other moons. It is probably just a rumor, but I believe it to be this girl Janus who hangs around Saturn. I don’t want you to get upset because I don’t even know if it’s true. But how that is how it goes.
First it’s illumination. Illumination turns into dinner. Dinner leads to moving in. The next thing you know, you’re seeing little sun babies every 365 days and wondering if four and a half billion years meant anything at all.
I understand how you must be feeling, which is why I feel the need to say I am sorry for putting so much undue pressure on you. If you weren’t lactose intolerant, I would send you some chocolates because out of everything in existence, you deserve them the most. I mean when was the last
Soleil sent you something? I’m sure he could at least manage flowers around the summer solstice.
I know I have no place expressing this, but you’re a strong celestial object, and you don’t need the sun. There are plenty of fish in the solar system. If I’m not mistaken, Pluto is a planet again, and I’m sure no one would judge you for getting coffee with a dwarf planet. Heck, girls on Earth don’t even consider dating a guy unless he has protruding abdominal muscles or a bank account that puts Bill Gates to shame. I would tell you to dip your feet in and test out the waters, but I’m afraid immersing all 7.36 x 1022 kilograms of you into the oceans would devastate Earth.
I hope you can forgive me and that I haven’t complicated issues further. Mars always tells me to stay out of the cosmic drama, but you know I can’t help it!
Love Your Favorite Gal Pal, Venus
by Kirby Phares
Over the past several years, I’ve been privileged to speak at many state school library association conferences around the country. In addition to the opportunity to network with other passionate school librarians, I serve as a leading voice in the conversation about the evolution of our profession. My most popular presentation, “Examining the Sacred Cows of School Librarianship”, focuses on questioning commonly held perceptions and stereotypes relating to school libraries and librarians. When adults remember the libraries of their youth, silent spaces, stern librarians, and dusty books often come to mind. Today’s libraries are vibrant, active learning spaces that are constantly adapting to meet the needs of students.
“Libraries are always quiet.” The reality that we have come to understand is that learning is not always quiet. If libraries are places of learning, which they definitely are, then libraries are NOT always quiet. Visit Aldrich and Pollard Libraries on Episcopal’s campus and you are guaranteed to see active learning take place on any given day. Whether it’s a class playing a game of Breakout EDU, a Skype visit taking place, or students using MakerSpace resources to create, the learning experiences in the library can be exciting, engaging, and often noisy.
“Libraries are traditional spaces.” If you walk into either library on campus, you will see many traditional elements of a library space: a circulation desk, books, magazines, computers, printers, tables, and chairs. A closer look will reveal designated spaces for collaborative work, an abundance of technology resources including 3D printers and video equipment, and a robust digital resource space. Students no longer use their school libraries to merely consume information; libraries are now laboratories for creation and innovation. Libraries provide learners with a resource-filled space that is safe for exploring new ideas, collaborating with peers, and creating new content.
“The Dewey Decimal System.” Most adults remember learning about the Dewey Decimal System, but don’t actually remember how to use it. The use of the Dewey Decimal System is one of those non-negotiable for many more traditional librarians. Some libraries, however, are seeing the tide turn and are looking for ways to make their collections more accessible and easy to use. Living in the Google age, students are used to having access to the information they need instantaneously. Episcopal’s libraries are working to make the collections more accessible to students by introducing a genre-based organizational system. Our middle and upper school students quickly took to the new arrangement of fiction books in the collection this school year.
Although school libraries still focus on basic pillars such as fostering a love of reading, developing strong research skills, and providing quality resources to learners, libraries continue to evolve to reflect these ideals. Episcopal is proud to provide students with libraries that strive to be an innovative space that meets the changing needs of today’s learners, with librarians who are dedicated to connecting students and teachers with the resources they need.
A beautifully manicured landscape fit for a college campus. Hot, healthy meals served with a smile. Clean, state-of-the art facilities. It is easy to take for granted the daily life that we have become accustomed to at Episcopal. Who are the faces behind the scenes that make this possible?
Lower School students have been exploring the trait of “Thankfulness” through their Religion classes and daily lessons in Morning Meeting this month. Studies show that real thankfulness affects both the giver and receiver. Researcher Jeffrey Froh found that even a small dose of daily gratitude can increase optimism, enhance connection to the school community and improve students’ overall attitude towards school and learning. How can we foster an attitude of gratitude on our campus?
Thankfulness can be taught in curriculum. Reading stories about generous people and characters in books such as “The Giving Tree” or “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” gives students a forum to dissect and discuss traits of a giving person. The Lower School Religion teachers have set up a bulletin board in the Greer Center where students can write what they are thankful for. Giving students the platform to reflect on and showcase their own gratitude makes them more mindful to seek out the small blessings in their lives every day.
Thankfulness takes time and repeated modeling by adults. Children are not born with the trait of thankfulness. This is a learned behavior. Being mindful that students are watching us every day and making an effort to voice our gratitude to others helps students learn these behaviors. Nurturing an environment where all members of the community are valued and appreciated is part of the Responsive Classroom model that is adopted in the Lower School. Students practice what they have learned in their classrooms during their daily Morning Meeting. This trait of thankfulness doesn’t stop in November. It is something that will be revisited throughout the school year, helping students adopt an overall attitude of gratitude in their lives.
Lower School students will show their gratitude to our Support Staff in a special Thanksgiving chapel service on Friday, November 18. Over the past week, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, grounds and custodial staff have visited students in their classrooms. Students had the opportunity to learn about the work that goes into making our school campus run, giving them an appreciation for the time and dedication that the staff puts into their work. The Support Staff will be presented with cards of appreciation from the students along with a special gift
Julie Pace A 2001 graduate of Episcopal High School, Julie returned to her alma mater in 2012. She received both her undergraduate degree and MEd in Elementary Education at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. After teaching 2nd grade in a Dual Language program in Texas public schools for three years, Julie moved abroad to teach 1st grade at a bilingual school in Gracias, Lempira Honduras. After her adventure was over, Julie accepted a position to teach Pre-K4 at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, teaching alongside some of her former teachers. She has enjoyed seeing what life is like on the other side of the desk
Episcopal fourth graders recently visited Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Yosemite, Everglades, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Parks without leaving the classroom! These travels were made possible by newly purchased virtual reality viewers using the Google Expeditions app.
The fourth graders have been fully immersed in their first project based learning unit on landforms. The focus has recently shifted to landforms in the United States, and more specifically, our national parks.
This year, Episcopal is incorporating the Every Kid in a Park program, which is a White House youth initiative that specifically encourages fourth graders and their families to explore our country’s natural wonders and historic sites. Each fourth grader received a free one year park pass. While students may visit the national parks with their family this coming year, this is difficult to do as a whole grade level or even class. This is where Google Expeditions has come in handy.
Virtual reality has enriched our students’ learning experience. Now they can fully witness how the Colorado River has carved out the Grand Canyon or enjoy the 360 degree wonders of Yosemite valley without leaving their seats. Before a field trip to the Manship Theatre to see a show about Thomas Edison, students used the VR viewers to explore the Thomas Edison National Historical Park. This VR experience allowed the kids to walk around Edison’s laboratory and see how he worked.
The VR viewers have been a terrific technology integration and the kids feel like they are actually in a certain place and have control of their viewing experience. Here’s one student’s reflection after using VR:
“When I went to the Grand Canyon, it was AMAZING!! It was amazing because when we were there we saw a big, gigantic canyon. Also after that we got to go on the Skywalk in the Grand Canyon. It was like you’re floating in the air. It was an AWESOME experience.”
Rosalyn is in her sixteenth year of teaching. Prior to coming to Episcopal four years ago, she taught at independent schools in New York City and Los Angeles. She is in her second year of teaching fourth grade science and taught second grade for two years. Rosalyn earned her Bachelor's degree in Biology at Whitman College and her Master's degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education at New York University. She loves teaching science and finding ways to integrate technology and other subjects into the curriculum.
The second graders celebrated their human body project, “How the Body Works,” with family members and friends starting by integrating a musical element through song and instrumental play. Students created replicas of each body system and viewers enjoyed video presentations scripted by the second graders explaining their specific body system, how it works, and the necessity of each. Children then lead family members to their classrooms where they measured a special guest’s digestive system and recorded the data. Afterwards, they shared their small moment story, written from the perspective of a cookie, traveling through the digestive system. Through both independent work as well as cooperative group work, these children generated ideas and shared and created plans that were executed in a way that explored the human body and its importance with fun and excitement for all! Enjoy these videos from all of our second graders:
Did that really happen? Did we just have the great Mike Ditka on our campus? The answer is yes, yes, and yes! Episcopal's Father and Son Dinner was a night to remember as family and friends gathered together in the Webster's Refectory to honor our young champions. Rumor had it that someone special was coming to town, but kudos to the Athletic Department for maintaining such tight lips and making the surprise one that will go down in Episcopal history. Although soft spoken throughout the evening, it was obvious that the fiery coach still has the passion to inspire.
When asked what was the most important thing in his life, Ditka unapologetically pointed to his faith above all of his football accolades. The former coach of the Saints also motivated our young men to focus on their education - sport was important, but education trumped sport. Another noteworthy moment of the night was Ditka's conviction to never be ashamed to celebrate winning, to believe wholeheartedly that any given person can achieve and be the best if they only believed.
It was one thing to see the faces of our students when this legendary man walked in the door. It was another thing to see the faces of the fathers and coaches as one of their childhood idols took the podium. Defensive Coach Jimmy Williams's most memorable moment was hearing Ditka speak so highly of his former players Walter Payton and Jim McMahon. " You knew these guys were such great players but to hear how great they were as people was pleasant to hear."
So why all the drama surrounding Ditka? This was the man that motivated many of our coaches and fathers to pick up the pigskin, take the field and pursue the dream of a Champion.
It was a great honor to host this successful sportsman, and a great time with our own champions.
Special thank you to Wayne Stabiler and Wayne Stabiler Catering for the meal and inviting Coach Ditka. Thanks also to our MC Otey White and our Junior liaison moms Frankie Edenfield, Theresa St. Romain and Lauren Eglin.
Mike Ditka, byname of Michael Keller Ditka, also called Iron Mike (born Oct. 18, 1939, Carnegie, Pa.,) American gridiron football player and head coach. In the 1960s and early ’70s he proved himself one of professional football’s greatest tight ends, using his talent for catching passes to revolutionize his position. After retiring as a player, Ditka embarked on a successful coaching career, the highlight of which came in 1986 when he led the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl victory.
Ditka served as an assistant coach for the Cowboys from 1973 to 1981, during which time the team captured its second Super Bowl title, in 1978. He became head coach of the Bears in 1982. His tenure as coach in Chicago was marked by some of the franchise’s greatest moments: six National Football Conference (NFC) Central Division titles, three appearances in the NFC title game, and a Super Bowl victory. His wildly popular 1985 team, which included legendary running back Walter Payton and one of the best defenses in NFL history, lost only a single game during the regular season and routed the New England Patriots by a score of 46–10 in Super Bowl XX. Ditka thus became one of only two men to experience Super Bowl wins as a player, as an assistant coach, and as a head coach. In both 1985 and 1988 Ditka was voted the NFL Coach of the Year.
In 1988 Ditka was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first tight end ever to receive the honor. In 1994 Ditka was one of two tight ends named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
"Mike Ditka". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 04 Nov. 2016