News From the Hall
August 24, 2020
Letter from the head of school
Dear Saint Mary’s Hall Community,
Today is the first issue of News From the Hall for the 2020-2021 school year.
We want to welcome all of our students and families back to school, including our 83 new students attending Saint Mary’s Hall this year. Additionally, we would like to extend a warm welcome to our 13 new talented and accomplished faculty and staff members. This is sure to be a successful year full of inspiration, enrichment, and community building.
We began school last Monday, and I was overjoyed to see all the wonderful photos of students and faculty on their first day. We sent a communication out on the first day of school that featured a welcoming video from me as well as photos shared with us by our community. If you missed it, watch it here.
Last week was even more special as it marked my first All-School Convocation and Blue Tie Ceremony. We held the All-School Convocation virtually (you can watch it via our Livestream channel) and we celebrated our seniors safely with a Blue Tie Ceremony drive-through event. As I mentioned in my Convocation speech, we are all new to this academic year in some way: a new form, new teachers, new classes, a new way of attending school (virtually!), and a new historical moment under a pandemic and social unrest. I believe embracing a beginners mind and asking important questions is key in creating a sense of belonging for all. In addition, presenting the blue ties to our students, a tradition that dates back 80 years, was an absolute honor and it was a proud moment for me to recognize these seniors as student leaders of our school. We shared with our senior families a Blue Tie Ceremony video, featuring powerful words from Maddie Guy ’17, this year’s Blue Tie speaker (view her speech).
Since my arrival, I have met and talked to so many wonderful members of our community. I look forward to getting to know each and every one of you. Let's have a great school year! We invite you to read more about some of the wonderful things happening at Saint Mary’s Hall in this edition of News From the Hall.
Head of School
On August 19, SMH held its annual All-School Convocation virtually. Head of School Len Miller and SMH Board of Trustees Chair Curtis Vaughan addressed the Saint Mary's Hall community. One of the highlights of the event included a speech by Miguel Madero (Form 5), who shared his memories of his first Convocation as a Half-Day Montessori student.
Additional student speakers included William Ogle (Form 8) and Fletcher Spear (Form 12). If you missed it or would like to watch it again, you can view it on our Livestream channel.
SMH had a new take on an annual tradition, which celebrates our seniors. On August 21, the school held a drive-through Blue Tie Ceremony where Head of School Len Miller presented blue ties to seniors as they drove through campus. It was an exciting day as seniors officially took their place as the leaders and role models of our school. The first Blue Tie Ceremony was held in September of 1940, when blue ties were awarded to the Class of 1941.
Last week, Saint Mary’s Hall unveiled a revamped and augmented website design that highlights the Saint Mary’s Hall experience. The culmination of a nearly yearlong process led by Director of Marketing and Communications Liz Thompson, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications Brance Arnold, and Web Content Manager Jacob Schmidt, the redesigned website is designed to enhance the experience for our current families, faculty, and staff as well as providing a welcoming introduction to prospective families. The website’s modern look was created with a focus on an interactive approach that is not only informational, but easy to navigate. But don’t take our word for it - take a look at what some of our community members had to say:
- "Congratulations - and, as a parent, thank you for such a beautiful, interactive, functional site for our children and our family to navigate!"
- "I just got on to the new site and WOW it looks FABULOUS! This looks so fresh and modern and represents our school so well."
- "Your new site looks amazing! Visually beautiful, wonderfully organized, and so engaging. I love it!"
- "I love the new SMH Community Portal, it is so much sleeker and easier to navigate."
We hope you love the enhanced website and SMH Community Portal as well! We encourage you to spend some time exploring the new features and content designed for our current families. If you know a family who is interested in Saint Mary’s Hall, invite them to visit us at www.smhall.org to learn more about Saint Mary’s Hall.
Need a Tutorial? The SMH Community Portal functions the same and all the information and resources you need are all there for you to easily access. If you would like to learn more about how to navigate the portal, take a look at the videos created below to help guide you in navigating the portal on the new web site. Thank you to everyone who provided information and input. Special thanks to Instructional Facilitator & Technologist Teri Bohlsen for helping to create the following training videos:
Upper School Math Teacher Jose Molina, along with Saint Mary’s Hall and the Student Investment Group, is sponsoring a stock market contest that will last throughout the year. It is free to participate and there are prizes involved. The hope is that this simulation can help in the understanding of investing and financial markets. To learn more, click here.
Mr. Molina also reports that the Student Investment Group (SIG) investment account is beating the market by about 18%.
Six seniors completed an exciting self-development program called Adventurous Journey (AJ) in early August. In this section of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards (DEIA), most commonly a group camping trip, students are normally accompanied by an SMH supervisor/assessor, however due to the pandemic, the group did the work independently. Recently, the students schedule included visits to Natural Bridge Caverns, Lost Pines, Fredericksburg, Port A, Salado Creek, and Canyon Lake, for hiking, ziplining, kayaking, peach picking, biking, and more.
Annika Blomster chose the gold level; Chelsea Huffman, Eli Greenberg, Alana Michell, and Devika Kumar participated at the silver level; and Margaret Esquinca-Moreno participated at the bronze level.
The program is customizable to each student’s liking, and is empowering as students take total responsibility for all aspects of their experience.
Form 5 student Miguel Madero was recently selected as a reporter for TIME Magazine’s kid edition. The selection committee remarked to Miguel, “We love how comfortable you are on camera and at speaking in front of people. We enjoyed reading your pieces, and seeing your personality and maturity shine through in your video submission, too!”
As a kid reporter, some of his responsibilities will include pitching local and national news stories to TIME for Kids (TFK) editors, gathering data and statistics, interviewing sources over the phone and/or on-camera, and writing news articles, features articles, debate responses, book reviews, and first-person narratives.
TIME for Kids engages students with authentic journalism, inspires them to join the national discourse on current topics, and provides teachers with valuable resources for the classroom. TFK was founded in 1995, and has been a trusted source of news ever since. Currently, the magazine reaches more than 2 million students in elementary school classrooms across the United States.
In early May, five Middle School students took the Medusa Mythology Exam. The Medusa Mythology Exam is an international exam, offered for the first time, both online and on paper, designed to test students' knowledge of Greco-Roman mythology. Students have 40 minutes to complete 40 multiple choice questions of increasing difficulty. The test is open to public, private, and homeschool students in grades 6-12. Teachers of any subject are encouraged to enroll interested students. Each year, the questions center on a different theme. This year’s theme focused on the arguments, quarrels, fights, and disputes between and among the Olympian gods and goddesses - Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Dionysus, Hades, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Hestia, Poseidon, and Zeus. The award levels in ascending order are: olivae certificate, laurea certificate, bronze medal, silver medal, and gold medal. Four students scored high enough to gain recognition. Please congratulate the following students:
- Sofia Bishop (Form 8), Bronze Medal
- Emma Carter (Form 8), Bronze Medal
- Lily Kelly (Form 7), Coronae Olivae Certificate
- Cypress Rabke (Form 7), Coronae Olivae Certificate
- Middle School Parent Noon Zoom will occur on Fridays from 12pm-12:30pm. This is a relaxed environment to ask questions and seek clarity. Head of Middle School Sarah Visagie will email the link.
- Be on the lookout for Bennetts and Baileys sorting. We can’t wait to get all of our new Middle School students on a team!
- Middle School Council Elections are happening this week. Good luck to all of the candidates!
Saint Mary's Hall has announced the ONE|SMH: The 2020-2021 School Year plan, addressing the reopening of school for the 2020-2021 academic year. ONE|SMH: The 2020-2021 School Year is a new way of experiencing school, and is a plan that addresses all that defines the Saint Mary’s Hall experience. We remain committed to our programmatic goals, the return to campus, and the safety of our SMH and San Antonio communities. To learn more, visit the ONE|SMH resource page.
At the end of July, rising Form 9 student Sofia Bishop attended the 2020 National Junior Classical League Convention. Students from roughly 30 states participate in a variety of academic tests, creative arts and speech contests (oral Latin), graphic arts contests, and classical quiz bowl (Certamen). This year the convention was held virtually. Sofia worked hard last year and ultimately won a place on the Texas State Certamen team which made it as far as the semi-finals, placing 5th in the country overall. Sofia placed seven times in the following academic tests: Classical Art (2nd place), Roman Life (2nd place), Mythology (4th place), Roman History (5th place), Vocabulary (3rd place), Greek Life and Literature (5th place), and Latin Literature (3rd place).
Upper School Cell Biology Teacher Kristen Polito taught a group of students this summer through a virtual class of Cell Biology. Above is a fun image of student photographs taken with a small paper microscope called Foldscopes.
Middle School Athletic Coordinator Lance Lewis and alumni Avery and Ben Eugster '20 were featured on KSAT-12’s annual SA Live Back to School Special on August 19. Lance worked with the Special Olympics this summer to create some basketball activities and Ben and Avery helped him demonstrate. SA Live Back to School Special features local educators, businesses, and students. Watch it here. Their coverage starts at the 32:00 mark.
Form 10 Student Anish Beeram is a staff writer for the Answering the Question organization, which is run by high school debaters. The organization aims to increase equity in the debate community by providing equal opportunity and access to information capital. As a staff writer, Anish publishes monthly articles where he “answers a question” that focuses on a specific topic, foreign or domestic. He also records it in a podcast-like fashion which people can access on the website or on Spotify.
What a great accomplishment! Read Anish’s article, Why is Argentina facing a debt crisis?
On August 13, the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) inducted its newest members to this prestigious group via Zoom. Candles were lit, traits were read, and new members recited the pledge. Thank you to all who participated and specifically to those Form 9 students who have successfully completed their roles as members of the NJHS. Newest members of the NJHS honor society include:
- Elizabeth Altmeyer
- Caroline Archer
- George Braden
- Maria Alexa Cardenas
- Julia Carter
- Natalia Chapa
- Ana Cruz
- Emily Doehler
- Rusham Goyal
- Zachary Johnson
- Eleanor Jones
- Ava Myers
- Stella McNab
- Sophia Nelson
- William Ogle
- Sai Ono
- San Ono
- Isabella Serna
- Athena Sorenson
- Landon Stowers
- Emily Ton
- Iris Underwood
- Joni Winston
- John Yaeger
- Gabriela Afsous
- Maximilian Dabbous
- Sabrina Esmail
- Phoebe Kopplin
In addition to teaching a Middle School Summer Camp focused on art, the Upper School Visual and Media Arts instructors all had a chance to hone their craft and create some new works of art this summer.
- Upper School 2D Drawing & Design Teacher Logan Blanco’s painting Arrangement: Star Painting was part of a National Juried Exhibition at the Prince Street Gallery in New York City. Due to the pandemic, the exhibition was completely online July 1-31. He has also been working on studio projects this summer, including a small commission of the Saint Mary’s Hall campus. View his work: www.Loganblanco.com
- Upper School 3D Art Teacher Nate Cassie spent some time in southern Vermont honing his building and design skills constructing a small cabin. He also took the opportunity to work on some new ceramic projects while he was there. View his work: https://ruizhealyart.com/artists/36-nate-cassie/
- Upper School Photography Teacher Kyle Petersen worked on a new photography series called Tiny & Wild, which centered on “backyard wildlife.” He also rebuilt his professional photography web site to display his new works and previous projects. View his web site: www.kylepetersen.com
- Upper School Digital Cinema Teahcer Will Underwood spent the summer on Zoom and his edit station honing his video skills by creating a plethora of new visual content for Saint Mary’s Hall. View his work: www.soapboxxmedia.com
This year’s Upper School Musical will be You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Fine Arts is looking for 6-10 singer/actor/dancers to perform in this streamed theater event, as well as crew and video editors. Auditions will be held on Tuesday, August 25 at 3:45pm. Sign-up is required; please email Director of Fine Arts Bethany Bohall at email@example.com.
Dear Saint Mary’s Hall,
Welcome back to school, and I hope that you have had a great start to the new year!
I also hope that you are able to take a few minutes and view this video message (right) from me: First Week of School Chapel.
This video includes a summary of what our students experienced at Chapel the first week of school.
As you’ll hear in the video, this week’s Chapel message focused on Christ’s words in Matthew 12:34 - “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
As a result of this scripture, this week’s Chapel centered on the need to keep our hearts and spirits fully connected to what strengthens and enriches them. This is important so that we are fully prepared for the great and exciting journey ahead this school year and any challenges we may face.
Please know that I am praying for our school and for you, and I am available to be of support to you as our all-school Chaplain, which is a great privilege and blessing.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Rev. Dr. Cameron Gunnin
Dear SMH Community,
As our first message of the year, the Saint Mary’s Hall Wellness Team would like to welcome back (virtually, for now) the entire Saint Mary’s Hall community.
We have missed you dearly and have been preparing all summer for you to return during the COVID-19 context. We are committed to supporting our students in whatever ways we can. For the first week of school, members of the Saint Mary’s Hall Wellness Team hosted a parent meeting titled: Managing Back to School Emotions. In this webinar, we discussed self-care for parents, skills for interacting with your children, and some coping strategies that you may consider sharing with your children. We view this opportunity to support parents as another way to support student mental health and wellbeing. We are your partners and will see you through the COVID-19 crisis. Thank you for entrusting us with the care of your children. Please do not hesitate to reach out to any of us for individual consultation. Here are ways to contact us:
- School Nurse Melissa Baumholtz: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Upper School Counselor Elizabeth Clark: email@example.com
- All-School Chaplain Rev. Dr. Cameron Gunnin: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Director of Wellness Dr. Sandra Lopez-Morales: email@example.com
- Lower School Counselor Susan Moore Sickmann: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Middle School Counselor Leslie Palmer: email@example.com
- School Nurse Eileen Petter: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Athletic Trainer Phil Rogers: email@example.com
- Health and Wellness Teacher Amelia Teodosio: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are also some helpful resources mentioned in the webinar:
- The National Association of School Psychologists has many helpful information sheets for parents and educators.
- Lynn Lyons is a social worker with expertise in managing anxiety. Click here for her podcast.
- Here is more information on deep breathing, visualization and guided imagery, and mindfulness for kids.
All my best,
Sandra Lopez-Morales, Ph.D.
Director of Wellness