As I think about teacher appreciation week which ends today, a statement that I have made to students and teachers over the years keeps replaying in my mind: “Be great.” Some may see this as a trite, simplistic, idealistic or naïve statement. But isn’t that what we are called to do? There’s far too much mediocrity, there are too many content with doing enough to just get by. But our students and our community deserve a commitment to greatness.
Great schools are more than books, buildings or benchmarks; they are more than standards, schedules or software. While curriculum, assessments, field trips, Socratic Seminars and individualized education plans all make a difference, they do not determine the greatness of an institution. Great schools are always about people – who work together with a common vision and great faith.
Study after study shows the single most important factor determining the quality of the education a child receives is the quality of his/her teacher. Great teaching can change a child’s life. That kind of teaching is a remarkable combination of art, science, inspiration, talent, gift, and — always — incredibly hard work. It requires relationship building, subject expertise and a deep understanding of the craft. Celebrated athletes and performers have nothing on our best teachers.
Teaching and learning are not mechanical processes but deeply human ones that call upon not just our minds but our hearts and souls. Great teaching requires teachers who can fully show up day-after-day and year-after-year, cultivating their own identity and integrity in the face of both heartbreaking challenge and exhilarating success.
We have the capacity for greatness because we have the cornerstone already in place – great people. These are people who demonstrate tenacity. When students don’t get it the first time, these teachers try again. And again. And again, until the students do get it. They don’t give up; they figure it out. Some sacrifice lunchtime, coming in early and staying late, working tirelessly with students one-on-one or in small groups. These are people who show humility. They quietly work miracles in the classroom every day, asking for no recognition, and rarely receiving praise. It is often a thankless job, but they do it anyway. They love children and selflessly give them their very best each day. Only a great teacher can transform the illiterate into expert readers, the ignorant into life-long learners, struggling, self-doubters into scholars.
To those who dare to be great, thank you for all that you do for our children. You make our lives richer because of it.
Head of School
Reporter Kidd O’Shea dropped by to appreciate our teachers on Thursday of Teacher Appreciation Week. He brought coffee and breakfast, we shared why we teach. A few early-rising students also shared what they love about teachers at Latin. Diana Smith also introduced our Jazz Band and the juniors’ field trip with veterans to the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville, PA with The 9:57 Project. Watch online!
On May 1st, many colleges and universities required accepted students to secure a spot by sending in a deposit. For many of our seniors this was a difficult decision, because they had been accepted to so many wonderful schools. Students in the class of 2018 earned admission to an array of institutions, including Bowdoin, The College of William and Mary, Davidson, Dickinson, Emory, Franklin & Marshall, Goucher, Haverford, Macalester, Middlebury, Morehouse, Oberlin, SUNY Purchase, Skidmore, Temple, The Ohio State University, University of Colorado at Boulder, Temple, Tuskeegee University, University of Vermont, University of Virginia, and Yale. Many celebrated this week by walking the halls in gear from their postsecondary school of choice.
Students prepared for this challenging decision with help from the dynamic duo in the college counseling office: Ms. Latham and Ms. Richardson. While the preparation process begins as early as middle school, one-on-one sessions with a counselor begin in earnest in the junior year. Students select schools based on a variety of criteria that interest them, including school size, location, areas of study, demographics, and specialty. Students meet with visitors from hundreds of colleges in Q and A sessions in the college counseling office, in college fairs, and on college trips. Several students choose to spend their spring break participating in school-sponsored college tours. Others visit prospective schools with family during vacations. All of this helps in the selection process.
This year 72 seniors applied to colleges, submitting a total of 654 applications. To date, members of the class have amassed more than $6.3 million in merit- or need-based aid, including a Posse Scholarship and the Children Defense Fund’s “Beat the Odds” scholarship. This assistance is critical not only in helping students get to college, but also to stay there. While we anticipate that more than 2 million students around the country will start college this fall, if current trends hold, only about six in ten will earn a diploma in six years. We appreciate everything done on behalf of these students by counselors, teachers and family members. Now the “village” needs to continue to support these young people as they embark on the next leg of their educational journey.
Head of School
Among the unsung heroes of our school – people counted on to solve problems, manage numerous tasks and keep our students safe – are our deans. Under the guidance of Assistant Principal/Director of Student Life, Mr. Bob Eleby-El, Washington Latin is fortunate to have a team that includes three full-time and three part-time deans. This includes Mr. Brandon Edwards, an original staff member from 2006, who works with Grades 5 and 6, Mr. Jamille Callum who supports students in Grades 7 and 8 and Mr. Chris Coleman who works in the upper school. Working part-time in Grades 5-6 are Mr. Headley Grey and Mr. Albert Edmundson. Ms. Khashiffa Roberts is the dean for Grade 12.
Each of our deans wears multiple hats. Mr. Callum coaches our varsity track team and is quickly earning a reputation as an elite teacher, trainer and tactician. Yesterday he took five of our upper school students to the Penn relays. Mr. Grey is our Director of Transportation. Mr. Edmundson is our receptionist and manages our main office. Mr. Edwards is our lead bus monitor. Mr. Coleman coaches baseball and basketball. Ms. Roberts is the interim Grade 12 director as well as the Co-Director of Student Support Services. She is also our talented Yearbook Editor. Mr. Eleby-El teaches D.C. History, mostly to 12-graders, and coaches our varsity men’s basketball team.
Our team utilizes restorative justice practices that focus on helping our students understand the consequences of their actions. They encourage our young men and women to reflect on their choices and to work to restore trust, repair harm and to make amends for their actions.
When Bob Eleby-El transitioned to the role of Assistant Principal in 2013, he interviewed teachers, deans and administrators to see what they liked and did not like about the current discipline system and what they wanted to see happen in the future. Five years later, he and staff still take feedback to heart, welcome opportunities to learn new strategies and skills and enjoy partnering with grade directors and other administrators in providing academic and behavioral support.
The dean team has worked hard to build close and trusting relationships with students. Each of them has gone out of the way to get to know individual students, learn their specific interests and needs, and provide guidance for student behavior. They work to facilitate meaningful conversations with the help of a select group of students who are trained as peer mediators. They have worked on this with Ms. Anna Laura Grant, who is completing a graduate degree in Conflict Resolution and teaches a course in this subject as an elective for students who wish to become peer mediators.
This work is essential to building the kind of close-knit, warm relationships among the Latin community that characterizes our school. Please read below about an example of the enduring nature of these relationships on both side: alumna Jennifer Jimenez returned last night to receive the Civitas Award for Accomplished Alumni at last night’s Convivium de Civitate. We loved seeing her, as well as others who joined us to celebrate the school and raise money for the Latin Faculty Fund. Read on below!
Head of School
I like to think of our library as the heart of the school building – not just because of its physical location, but also because of the role that it plays in the day-to-day life of the school. With huge picture windows, artwork and a magnificent quote board, it is an aesthetically pleasing space. It is also a center of collaboration, inquiry, and reading for pleasure. Perhaps more so than any other place within the main building, people gravitate toward this space.
For a school where words matter, we can definitely say that books matter too. To this end, the library has an impressive fiction room filled with a wide variety of works. If your child has a favorite author that interests him or her, this is a great place to look. From time to time, Ms. Hamm arranges “Book Tastings,” featuring selections displayed on tables with fancy tablecloths. Classes visit, by invitation. And, after an introduction, students mill around the room, sampling various “courses” of texts prepared for them, based on author style, genre, or interest. On other occasions, the comfortable chairs and couches and nooks of the main library room are filled by fifth graders and their 12th grade reading buddies. As a part of a program designed by two English teachers: Ms. Mujal and Ms. Seid, younger and older students are encouraged to connect with each other while exploring high-interest literature.
Our nonfiction room features a variety of high-quality research texts arranged by area of study. Ms. Hamm uses this room to teach students about research and also hosts smaller book groups. So far this year, Ms. Hamm has spent more than 200 hours working with different classes in varying grades. She has partnered with teachers to create in-depth research projects that familiarize students with our print collections and media resources, and how to use them to find information.
We are excited about new books on math and statistics that have arrived in time for Math and Statistics Awareness Month (April). Ms. Hamm has also set up a remarkable collection of Shakespearian works and activities just in time for the Bard’s birthday this month. And, to cap it off, with the help of Physics teacher Ms. Shapiro, and Middle School Science Department Chair, Ms. Dobler, Ms. Hamm has created a Makerpsace, or lab for creating physical objects, including a 3D Printer.
Head of School