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“You’re going to change starting now.” Claney Duplechin was a sophomore in high school when he received a directive so frank and serious and non-negotiable. It was one of those moments that you catalogue for a lifetime so that you can access it over and over. “You’re going to change starting now.”
Imagine Coach Dupe 50 years ago: sturdy frame, crew cut, same crescent-moon brow. “You look the same!” I say as he hands me a blue scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings from the late 60s and early 70s.
“Why do people always say that?” he asks.
Claney has conjured that moment many times. “I was sitting in Geometry,” he remembers. “Cutting up as usual. I didn’t care about academics. ‘You’re going to change starting now,’ he said to me. And I did.”
When he was a sophomore, Claney was a star in athletics but not in the classroom--he didn’t see any need to be a strong student. His plan was to graduate high school, stay home, farm. But Claney says that vision changed when his Geometry teacher, who was also his football coach, offered an alternative vision. “He knew me better than I knew myself,” he says. So when Coach Aucoin offered this instruction, “You’re going to change starting now,” and when Claney met Phyllis, the future valedictorian of Mamou High School whom he eventually married, everything changed. Claney started to value his coursework and looked ahead to college.
Many of us who choose to work in education have the ongoing opportunity to recall these sorts of pivotal people and moments. The weight of a single interaction or ongoing mentorship from our own past can play on repeat as we try to replicate that connection with our own students. And as the most tenured faculty member at Episcopal, Claney has had 39 years to honor the influence Coach Aucoin had on him.
Coach Dupe’s accolades are no secret in our community or around the state and country for that matter. But even for a gregarious guy, this sort of public recognition makes Claney uncomfortable. The sum of his success adds up like this: 22 consecutive state cross country titles (second best consecutive record in the US), 49 total state titles (30 cross country; 19 track), 18 state coach-of-the-year awards, two national coach-of-the-year awards, one dedicated and named running trail on campus, and countless newspaper clippings that began way back in his athlete-days some 50 years ago.
But, something about this order felt off to Coach Dupe. To him, character and community come before competition. So, he changed it. Good people, acting with discipline and integrity, valuing their teammates, behaving with humility--these must come first. “Good people,” he says, “will do the things that need to be done to condition and become state champs.”
In fact, a year before the motto-change, Coach Dupe’s resolve was challenged. His top runner who would have easily led the team to victory cheated on a test just before the state meet. He was suspended from school temporarily. Claney knew that choosing to bench the student would be hard on the team but says, “I didn’t care if it was the state meet. We had to stand our ground.” The team didn’t win that year. Next season, Claney’s emphasis on character became central to his coaching. “That’s where it started,” he says.
And so from that point forward, the program earned title after title without skipping a beat. “We have no secrets,” he explains. “It’s not about the workouts. I’ll share any workouts with anyone who wants them.” But he notes that when the athletes themselves take ownership of the program, when the senior captains act as assistant coaches--that’s powerful and that’s what sustains a solid program.
Ten years ago, Claney wrote Coach Aucoin a letter thanking him for the impact he had on the trajectory of his life. In the letter, he told him this: “You changed my life. I wouldn’t have gone to college if it weren’t for you. I’m coaching now the way you coached me.” Claney says that even little things Aucoin would do--his mannerisms, the way he presented himself--became material for Claney to study and adopt over the years.
After Claney sent the letter, Aucoin was diagnosed with emphysema and died a year later. Claney made it to the wake and later learned that one of Aucoin’s son’s read part of Claney’s letter during his eulogy.
“You are still coaching through me,” Claney wrote to Aucoin.
For the second most-consistently-winning cross country coach in the country, Claney has every right to swell with pride and rehash every gloriously earned win over the past 22 years. But, he’d really rather not. When we spoke, the swells of pride and gratitude came when Claney described the influence of his coach, when he remembered, fondly, students who’ve inspired him, when he celebrates who those students have become.
“The impact you have on people,” Claney says, “that’s more important than wearing or doing anything fancy, more important than money and wealth. I try to model that.”
Katie Sutcliffe has served in many capacities involving writing and service learning over the last six years at Episcopal. Currently, she directs the Thesis Program, teaching both Seminar juniors and Thesis seniors, and is the co-creator of LAUNCH, Episcopal’s annual TEDx-style student-planned and executed showcase of ideas and projects. Katie’s own history involves this blend of service and writing: after graduating from a small liberal arts college in Indiana with an English degree, she moved to the Deep South with Teach For America where she taught middle school English and worked passionately on issues of educational inequity. She later earned an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh and returned to Baton Rouge where she has continued freelance writing. Katie infuses social justice initiatives into her curricula and seeks to help her students make meaningful connections with those living a different experience within our larger community. She’s passionate about character education and project-based learning, as well as research and writing that
“He went in the stable and he went in the hay and he cried. The mom said her laid him in the hay. And the nativity and the mom, Mary, and the dad, Joseph, and he takes care of them. Kings giving him presents.”
Amelia’s Christmas Story
“Once upon a time there was Joseph and Mary and the wise men and the kings and the animals and the baby Jesus. They were going to the trip. They saw a stable. Baby Jesus sleep in the sweet hay. He went night, night. The wise men visit him.”
Rivers’ Christmas Story
“Once upon a time. Baby Jesus. Mary. Joseph. They stayed in barn. People presents.”
Ayson’s Christmas Story
There’s nothing like the Christmas story as told by a small child. Recently, the Episcopal Pre-K3 students told the story of baby Jesus like only three year olds can. The children performed a live nativity for family and friends, complete with costumes and big smiles. What a way to celebrate the reason for the season!
Merry Christmas from Pre-K3!
No matter the greeting, December is a time of traditions. These observances range from religious traditions to family customs or occasions with friends. Here in Louisiana the festivities often include everything from a candlelight vigil and a visit from Santa to grandma’s gumbo and lighting bonfires.
Elsewhere, traditions vary widely. Some display lanterns. Some gather at the beach for a picnic. Others celebrate on December 6th, December 13th or even January 6th. Episcopal Upper School Spanish teacher Victoria Alvarez says growing up in Barcelona, Spain the celebrations typically began on December 20th and lasted until January 10th.
Alvarez says Christmas in Spain also features big nativity scenes in homes, churches and town squares. She says like in Louisiana the occasion is celebrated with family and friends. However, in Spain there are many gatherings over the course of several days. Family members take turns hosting each celebration and the food varies from house to house. Caroling is also done in Spain, but Alvarez says it’s on a more family-oriented scale with relatives singing songs together at home. One of the most popular songs sung is “Campana sobre campana” or “Bells over Bells”.
Once Christmas is over, Alvarez says families gear up for huge New Year’s celebrations on December 31st, which is considered the Oldest Night. Celebrations go well into the evening and include drinking champagne with gold jewelry in the glass, wearing red, and eating lentils. One unique tradition is that of the 12 grapes. Each family member receives 12 grapes representing the 12 months of the year. As the clock strikes midnight, relatives eat the grapes – one for each of the first 12 seconds of the New Year. Afterwards, family members laugh and enjoy a mouth brimming with fruit and the promise of another year together.
Whether in Louisiana or places further afar, traditions make every occasion even better. Learning about the traditions of others makes us more understanding and respectful of our differences and similarities. No matter whether you celebrate with Santa, the wise men or even grapes, enjoy the time together.
Merry Christmas/Feliz Navidad!
When Lt. General Jay Silveria spoke to U.S. Air Force Academy cadets and staff on September 28, 2017, he used the phrase “power of diversity” to embolden the Academy to treat everyone with dignity and respect no matter their background, gender, skin color, or race. Silveria referenced his comments against the backdrop of high-profile racial tensions across the country and reminded the cadets about the Academy’s diversity where people come from all backgrounds, races, upbringings, genders, walks of life, and parts of the country. “The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful,” Silveria said.
This speech about diversity resonates with my experience in attending different kinds of elementary and secondary schools. I have been a white student in a mostly African American school district in Jackson, Mississippi, and I have also attended mostly white Episcopal schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Having studied the long struggles of desegregation, my experiences in these various schools cause me to question why there is such a divide in our education system for equal educational opportunity, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic standing, sex, gender, and academic ability.
Why do we hear of the values of diversity? What are the many educational benefits to learning in diverse classrooms? A report from The Century Foundation by Amy Stuart Wells, Lauren Fox, and Diana Cordova-Cobo reveals, “Students who attend colleges and universities with more racially and ethnically diverse student bodies are said to be exposed to a wider array of experiences, outlooks, and ideas that can potentially enhance the education of all students.” At all levels of education, from preschool to doctoral studies, diverse classrooms produce academic benefits, such as learning how to work cooperatively with people from different backgrounds, encouraging creativity, and promoting deeper learning with critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Beyond cognitive benefits, there are also civic and socio-emotional benefits to racially and socioeconomically diverse schools, according to research by The Century Foundation. When peers are exposed to different backgrounds, students are more likely to engage in cross-cultural dialogue leading to deeper understanding about other races and cultures. Outside the classroom, diverse educational environments prepare students to function in the real world to become global citizens. Eileen Kugler writes, “Our nation's workforce is becoming more diverse and will continue to do so. Our students must learn how to interact with people different from them--whether as leader, staff, seller, or buyer.” Diversity is important in preparing students for future successes as well as allowing students to better understand the people, places, and events both near and far away from them.
Learning more about the importance of diversity in education can create openings for people to make individual choices to build relationships with others. The challenges of achieving diversity in schools are difficult, but the rewards are numerous. By allowing students to experience diversity through education, they too will learn about the power of diversity.
Mary Emerson Owen
Mary Emerson Owen is an Honors Diploma candidate at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. She is a high school senior who enjoys running on her school’s cross country team, visual art, and spending time with friends and family. Her thesis revolves around the importance of diversity in education, also referencing how diversity has grown and changed in her personal life, the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, and the city of Baton Rouge through a historical perspective.
Shoenami. Kids Mist. Alarm It. The first Episcopal NuVuX Design Studio projects are complete. The process required weeks of brainstorming, designing, creating prototypes, testing and for some, re-evaluating the plan altogether. Students unveiled their creations this week in a studio showcase before teachers, staff and visitors.
A NuVu assignment seems to be as much about the journey as it is about the end product. This was clear as students discussed how they got from their initial idea to their final iteration. The process required research, discussions with experts, planning, multiple iterations and many revisions. The experience, which helped students boost their problem solving skills and resilience, and sharpened their strategic thinking abilities, was considerably more than just creating a solution for a challenge. For example, one student was able to discuss the median nerve of the hand as a result of research into how to fish properly to prevent injury. Another team met with a New Balance representative and studied foot motion and pressure points to help in the design of a minimalist running shoe. When planning an alarm that would alert sports enthusiasts that they are becoming overheated, a team had to learn more about the threshold for actually being overheated.
The full experience of the NuVuX process provides hands-on, innovative learning opportunities on a range of topics. The knowledge gained in the pursuit of the final iteration will hopefully remain with the students long after the showcase is complete. What an amazing opportunity for high school students!
To learn more about the Episcopal projects click here.
Research has demonstrated many benefits associated with a regular mindfulness practice including:
Mindfulness is Not:
It’s often helpful to consider what mindfulness is not:
Mindfulness is simply being present and attuning to internal and external stimuli in that moment without placing value or judgment on those experiences. This sounds easy enough but is actually a skill that develops over time and requires practice. Below are some suggestions for incorporating mindfulness into your life:
Try meditation. Happify, an organization that uses positive psychology, science, and technology to help individuals “lead happier, more fulfilling lives,” has an excellent video on their website to introduce mindfulness meditation and how to begin your practice. Often, when I introduce the idea of meditation, the response is, “I can’t sit still for that long” or “I just can’t focus my mind like that.” There are many different types of meditation, including prayer, focused breathing, guided meditation, and yoga nidra. Find one that’s right for you. It’s also important to remember that meditation is a practice, meaning that it takes time to develop and to reap the benefits.
These are a few ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. And remember, there is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. There is only your way.
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Greater Good Science Center. (2017). What is mindfulness? Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/mindfulness/definition.
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Episcopal students and staff commemorated a milestone in the construction of the new Academic Commons building with a beam signing event this week. Students from all three divisions left their mark on the beams, which will support the highest point of the new math and science innovation center, set to open by August 2018.
Construction began on the two-story facility in the spring of 2017. Once complete it will be the center of Upper School math and science learning with spaces for physics, biology and chemistry. The plans were developed to foster and encourage innovative, collaborative learning with dedicated project spaces and workrooms. In addition to math and science, the building will also feature space for entrepreneurial studies and engineering and robotics.
Only in Louisiana!
The Christmas trees are adorned with Tabasco, black bear and Blue Dog ornaments.
Eight year olds know that 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 is the Cajun waltz.
Frog legs, boudin balls and crawfish pie are on the menu.
Episcopal third graders recently studied and celebrated everything that is uniquely Louisiana. The project-based learning activity included trips to the Rural Life Museum, the Old State Capitol and the Knock Knock Children’s Museum. A range of cultural experts also shared their expertise on everything from Cajun dancing and cultivating Louisiana produce to jazz, blues and art.
Ultimately, students gained a wealth of knowledge about the state that we call home, from the river that runs through the red stick to the meaning behind Mardi Gras colors. They shared that knowledge with parents and visitors during the Louisiana Expo Day this week. The audience enjoyed a performance by the students followed by a dance lesson at the Cajun Dance Hall (Mrs. Bilskie’s room), snacks at the Cajun Café (Mrs. Pesson’s room) and Art on the Bayou (Mrs. Arceneaux’s room) where they learned to draw Blue Dog.
In a fashion that’s truly representative of the Bayou State, students were proud and eager to welcome visitors to their space. They were enthusiastic in serving food and even comfortable dancing. With all that Louisiana has to offer, the spirit and sense of family and community among its people are perhaps the true takeaway. #strongeruKnighted
It’s beginning to look a lot like – winter sports time! Basketball, soccer and wrestling are underway.
Head Coach Chris Beckman says the team has already had a buzzer beater this season with a 48 to 47 win over Holy Cross. The Knights were down by five with two minutes left in the game and rallied back to take the win. He says seniors Cameron Dumas and Brandan Garrido should have a big impact on the team as the entire group looks to improve on ball handling in pressure situations with the hopes of putting up enough victories to make it to a state championship. Look for these exciting match-ups this season:
Coach Kiran Booluck says this year’s team looks to overcome last year’s loss in the finals by working their way back and bringing home the state championship. The team will be led by seniors Chima Mbagwu, Logan Robertson, Frank Poche and sophomore Tochi Mbagwu, and is already off to an exciting start with a recent tie with Dutchtown. Key games to watch include:
Congratulations to Griffin Dynes, who earned an individual victory at the Central tournament! Congratulations also to freshman William Guffey who came home with his first two varsity wins! Coach Phil Bode says look for Griffin and fellow seniors Henry Stater and William Kennedy to fight hard for the team this year. Key dates include:
Randy is in his second year as Athletic Director at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. Randy is from Baton Rouge and attended Catholic High School before moving to Ruston to earn a degree in education from Louisiana Tech University. Since joining Episcopal in 2002, Randy has served in many capacities including Dean of Students, the Physical Education Department Chair, teacher, and coach for a variety of boy’s and girl’s upper school athletic teams.
December at a school is a sensory experience. Despite the recent chill, the campus is a little greener with holiday decor. A few white, paper snowflakes have even been spotted decorating windows. A quick stroll through Lower School and you are immediately aware of the time of year. The nativity is filling up and the Advent flame is glowing. There are brightly colored, children’s drawings announcing that Santa is on his way. There are even notes in first grade handwriting asking the Grinch not to steal Christmas!
Of course the Chapel, too, is emanating cheer and joy. It is dressed in green wreaths, red ribbons and white twinkling lights. This recently set the stage for the annual Lessons and Carols performance by the Upper School choir. The event, now in its 14th year at Episcopal, has become a holiday tradition, providing the sounds of the season.
The Lessons and Carols service originated at King’s College in Cambridge, England in 1918 and takes the audience on a musical journey through the Bible. Performers begin lined along the Chapel walls as a solo voice heralds “Once in Royal David’s City”. The experience is intimate and personal. The teenagers performing seem professional and poised in all black. As the Biblical journey unfolds, the audience begins to join in with the sounds of “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World”.
As December marches on, more sights and sounds of the season will be seen and heard. Candles will be lit and gifts will be exchanged. There will be the hustle, bustle and stress of mid-term exams and the hustle, bustle and squeals of Lower School parties. This will give way to the calm, quiet and peace of the mid-year break, followed by January’s fresh faces and the promise of a new year.
Then before you know it, there will be the sights and sounds of the end of the year. White dresses and suits and pomp and circumstance.