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Grace BLOG

Welcome to the Grace Blog! In the 2016-17 school year, we'll feature voices from around our school: specialists, faculty and staff, and more. Tune in each week for another snapshot of our community! 

Congratulations, Graduates!

Last Friday's graduation ceremony at Grace Church in Silver Spring was sunny, moving, and as special as each one of our Grade 5 graduates. Congratulations to the Class of 2017, their families, and all of the friends who have supported them throughout their time in elementary school.

We know that they will all be going on to do great things and, most important, to spread grace wherever they go.

And just in case you missed it, read our Grade 5 students' final chapel prayers and reflections on their time at Grace here.

Grace Episcopal Day School Graduation Speech

Head of School Jennifer Danish

June 9, 2017

Good morning parents, faculty, clergy, guests and the Grace class of 2017. I am honored to speak to you on this special day. This has been an especially exciting year for me as your Head of School – my first as a Grace Gryphon. Of course, while it was my first, it was your last, the seniors of Grace – so well-versed in all things Gryphon. I want to thank you this morning for showing me the way this year. Whether it was the first day of school, a soccer or basketball or kickball game, recess, Christmas Chapel, Founders Day, or Field Day – I have appreciated your modeling “how it’s done” in our very special community. I know that I will always remember your class with extreme fondness. While I know you have felt the impact of all of your teachers at Grace, I want to thank you for being my teacher this year. In your absence next fall, I will draw on what you taught me about how to live life to its fullest each day at Grace.

So - before you go – off to the next wonderful adventure ahead of you – I wanted to impart a little of my own wisdom. It’s not mine really. It comes from people in my life who have modeled for me what I think it means to live a life of significance. The first person I can think of who taught me this lesson is my Dad. You may remember seeing him at my installation this fall. My dear Dad, who turns 80 years old this summer, taught me a very important way to be in the world. When I was young, I lived in rural Vermont. Whenever I would go somewhere with my Dad, often all over the countryside around our small town, he would always shower people with kindness and love. He would ask about their day, he would thank them for their assistance, he would be kind. I loved watching my Dad offer encouragement and a piece of himself to these friends and neighbors. As I grew up, my Dad insisted that I learn the value of a firm handshake while looking someone in the eye. Yes, this is polite, he taught me. But it is also kind and it shows people that you respect them.

Recently, I read an article by a former Dartmouth College Admission Officer. The article talks about the sea of applications she reads each year from students applying to the school. In her piece, she shares the story of one application that really stood out. In it was a recommendation from the school’s custodian. The author of the piece writes:

The custodian wrote that he was compelled to support this student’s candidacy because of his thoughtfulness. This young man was the only person in the school who knew the names of every member of the janitorial staff. He turned off lights in empty rooms, consistently thanked the hallway monitor each morning and tidied up after his peers even if nobody was watching. This student, the custodian wrote, had a refreshing respect for every person at the school, regardless of position, popularity or clout.

In a world where we are often rewarded for winning something, for getting good grades, for achieving things, I was very moved by this piece. By the impact this student had on others. This admission director wanted her readers to know that despite the competitive landscape in college admissions, being kind matters. This student was accepted to a great college, but more than that he made an impact on someone in his community by sharing his love and kindness.

You might ask, what does being kind do for us, besides maybe getting us into a good college? Kindness broadens our perspective. In order to be kind, we have to pay attention to what is happening around us. As we notice more things and help others, we get a glimpse of other ways of looking at things. One morning this spring when I was driving in downtown DC, I went to make a left turn onto a side street. I noticed a pedestrian who was trying to cross, so I slowed to a stop to let him pass. As I made eye contact with him, he smiled the warmest smile I have ever seen and motioned for me to make my turn. We acknowledged one another and I swear we both had better days because of the shared kindness that passed between us – two perfect strangers. It was a small and a very big moment at the same time. We have the tendency to get caught up in our daily lives and forget that we live amongst people – many of them wonderful. If we decide to be tuned in to what is around us – it will help connect us to this wider world. We can be ready and appreciative when someone offers us a kindness.

Next year, you will all be in new schools. Only a few of you will attend the same school together again. It will be a transition – something new. It might feel a little scary at the same time that it is exciting. So what is my advice to you? How can you make that move to a new school easier? Do you remember earlier this year when we had a kindness bucket at school and Grade 3 taught us about how we can fill someone else’s bucket or have our own filled? It was so wonderful to read the notes of students who offered kindness or were given some by a classmate or teacher. Today, I want to urge you to find ways to fill the buckets of people around you in your new school. You won’t know a lot of students or the teachers on day one. But try to be kind to them. Smile, offer to help hand out papers, or carry a heavy book bag for someone who looks like they could use a hand. I think you will find that pretty quickly, you will be connecting to your new community.

The thing is, Class of 2017, you come from a school called Grace. The word translated to "grace" in the New Testament comes from the Greek word charis, which means “favor, blessing, or kindness.” It is also the name of one of your beloved classmates! And in the Christian tradition, Grace is defined as the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it. As you leave this school that has embraced you all of these years, may you be moved to share your loving kindness, your Grace with the wider world. May you always share your Grace with the world – because it will come back to you. It will open you up to your life and its beauty, and it will connect you to your world in ways you cannot imagine.

And one last thing. If the road gets tough, if it feels like it is not a kind place out there, you must know that you will always have a home at Grace Episcopal Day School. Your loving school that has seen you grow and change in such profound ways –it will always offer a place to come back to. We will always have your back. After all, we have seen you face adversity and come through. We have watched you become stronger students and friends over these years. And we will always want to know how you are faring. We will be glad to welcome you home. So knowing that – go boldly into the world my friends, as Grade 6 students, and shower it with kindness and grace. It will be an amazing thing! I promise.

Congratulations Gryphons.

Posted by kfloman on Wednesday June 14 at 12:12PM
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Summer Reading for Everyone!

What can you do this summer while lying on the beach, lounging in the hammock, hiding from your little brother/sister, or lounging by the pool? You can crack open a great book and READ!

Reading Specialist Anna Young has kindly created summer reading lists, letters, links, and guidelines for our Grace community. You can access them here on our GEDS 2017 Summer Reading Page.

As you walk around Grace this week, take a look at the bulletin board in the front hall, where you can find out what our students are excited to read over the summer.

As for our faculty and staff, we've got plans, too. Read on to find out what we'll be reading over the summer!

Belkis Aponte, Grade 1 Teacher: I'm excited to have the time to get back into The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman.

Christine Comas, Science and Technology Teacher: While I will be spending most of my time reading books with my children, on my own, I plan to read The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead; and The Power of Questioning: Guiding Student Investigation by Julie McGough.

Jennifer Danish, Head of School: I've got the following books on my list for this summer:

Wait, What?: And Life's Other Essential Questions, by James E. Ryan. Based on the wildly popular commencement address, the art of asking (and answering) good questions by the Dean of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, by Thomas Friedman. In Thank You for Being Late, a work unlike anything he has attempted before, Thomas L. Friedman exposes the tectonic movements that are reshaping the world today and explains how to get the most out of them and cushion their worst impacts.

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin R. Banaji. “Blindspot” is the author's metaphor for the portion of the mind that houses hidden biases.

Beth Frentrup, Math Specialist: My book club -- and I -- will be reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. It is about a bookstore owner whose life does not turn out the way he expected. The ups and downs in his life are related to various short stories.

Marianna Gutierrez, Aftercare Teacher: I'm going to read The Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

Jennifer Hamilton, Prekindergarten Teacher: This summer I hope to dive into a book by Howard Gardner, The Unschooled Mind, to read more about his vision for the future of schools based on how children best learn. I also plan to re-read the classic Lord of the Flies, as I have recently discovered the joy of reading books I read as a teenager, now from an adult perspective.

Gavin Hymes, Spanish Teacher: In between lots of books about cooking and gardening, I'll be reading En el nombre de Salome by Julia Alvarez, Clemente by David Maraniss, and The Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

Kate Kelliher, Grade 2 Teacher: For my professional development, I am planning to read The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving, by Lisa Miller, Ph.D. It explores the scientific link between spirituality and health and its implications for children's physical and mental health.

Gail Kennedy, Director of Elementary Education: I will be reading the staff summer reading book, An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger. I have a memoir by Herman Wouk (author of Winds of War and War and Remembrance) entitled Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author that I plan to read. For fun, I'll continue the Spencer and Jesse Stone series by Robert B. Parker. His books (for adults) are very well-done audio books, too.

John Kennedy, Music Teacher: One book I'll be reading is The True Nature of God by Andrew Wommack.

Luigi LaPietra, Grade 5 Teacher: I plan on reading as much as possible over summer break. Here are a couple of "project" books I will be working on: Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon, and Old Paths White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Marisa Martucci, Preschool Teacher: I'll be reading The Passionate Learner: How Teachers and Parents Can Help Children Reclaim the Joy of Discovery by Robert L Fried and Awakening Shakti. The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga by Sally Kempton.

Mariano Mazza, Prekindergarten Asst. Teacher: Because of the new adventures awaiting me next year, I'm planning to read Teaching Kindergarten: Learner-Centered Classrooms for the 21st Century.

Noelle McHugh, Executive Assistant: On my list is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Rose Morrison, Kindergarten Teacher: Three major books I want to read this summer are Teaching Kindergarten, edited by Julie Diamond, Betsy Grob and Freta Reitzes; Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner; and at least one John Grisham book.

Becky Mulholland, Director of Advancement: On my list for the summer are the following books: In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, and The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Kathleen Murray, CFO / Business Manager: I'll be reading Once in a Great City by David Maraniss. I'm also planning to finish The Places that Scare You by Pema Chodron.

Shalonda Newman, Aftercare Coordinator: I'm looking forward to reading Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman by Myles Munroe.

Karen O'Connor-Floman, Director of Admission and Financial Aid: My favorite thing to do in the summer is to read! I particularly love a good immigrant narrative, maybe because I've lived abroad several times, or because I now live in an international family. I've got several books on deck that explore this theme: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, and Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue.

Emily Ovalles, Preschool Asst. Teacher: I'm looking forward to reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey.

Allison Penning, Art Teacher: I have a long list of reading for this summer: Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, by Ivan Brunetti; The Hundred Languages of Children (Exhibition catalog), by Loris Malaguzzi; Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor, by Lynda Barry; Lincoln in the Bardo: a Novel, by George Saunders; and The World to Come: Stories, by Jim Shepard.

Casey Peterson, Grade 3 Teacher: I will be reading Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight this summer.

Linda Range, Asst. Business Manager: I have two on my list for now: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, and The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman.

Angie Rutledge, PE and Health Teacher: This summer, I'll be reading The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

Chris Saffour, Preschool Asst. Teacher: I'm ready to dive into Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton!

Alma Scott, Grade 4 Teacher: I plan to read Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly as well as whatever Dick Francis and Patricia Cornwell mysteries (my favorite summer read genre) I can locate. I'm also planning to re-read as many Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle books as I can find. My best source for summer books is the Little Free Library outlets at home and at Bethany Beach, Delaware.

Anne Sheldon, Library Teacher: My plan this summer is to read John Brown's Body by Stephen Vincent Benet -- it's a novel about the Civil War, but in verse. There are a few pages in the middle that I know by heart ever since I fell in love with the verse portrait of Mary Lou Wingate in high school -- but I have never read the book cover to cover, and I think it's time. I'm also hoping the next Inspector Gamache book, by Louise Penny, will come out this summer. With any luck, I'll read more than two books!

Pam Yarrington, Director of Early Childhood Education: Before I leave for vacation, my e-reader is well stocked with long awaited "serious" book reading, "catch up on work" reading, and silly stuff. Here are two titles I'm especially looking forward to: No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts, and The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need From Grownups by Erika Christakis (play-based and emergent teaching for our little people!).

Anna Young, Reading Specialist: I really look forward to having lots of time to read during the summer. Several student books I have on my list to read are: Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan; Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan; and this year's Newberry winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon. by Kelly Barnhill. All these books are geared towards our older readers.

Happy reading to all of you! May you find the ideal summer conditions for disappearing into a story: a quiet place, a cool breeze, and a tall glass of lemonade.

Posted by kfloman on Wednesday May 31 at 01:26PM
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Awards Assembly 2017

Today we enjoyed a wonderful awards assembly to honor recipients of three awards: The Drew Nealley Walkers' Club Award, the Daniel Benner Memorial Award, and the Theolyn Wilson Music award.

The Drew Nealley Walkers' Club Award, given in memory of former Grace student Drew Nealley, is awarded to the student who has logged the most walking miles during recess. Students in all grades are eligible for this award. Drew's parents Eric and Sarah Nealley were on hand to present the award, which this year went to a student in -- wait for it -- Grade 1, Sanjana Jacob! I think even Sanjana was surprised by her own dedicated walking.

The Theolyn Wilson Outstanding Student in Music Award is presented to a Grade 5 student who has had a solo in a major performance, has consistently demonstrated exemplary conduct in music class, and has developed excellent performance skills in singing and/or playing an instrument.

Ms. Wilson was at the ceremony with us and was delighted to present the award to this year's winner, Grade 5 student Cameron Hagans. As Ms. Danish said, "In discussing this year’s recipient of the Wilson Award, the faculty cited the honoree’s beautiful voice but more than that this musician’s embodiment of the joy of music. Our honoree is always dancing and singing through life!"

We were lucky enough to be joined by a few Grace alumnae who are past winners of the Theolyn Wilson Music Award, Lourdes Fitzgerald (2012) and Carolyn Hoff (2015). It was great to have them back on campus and to hear about their continued adventures in music!

The Daniel Benner Memorial Award is given to a student in Grade 5 who has participated on a Grace sports team and has exhibited scholarship, teamwork, and sportsmanship. Daniel's mother, Dr. Gurny, joined us to present the award this year to co-recepients in Grade 5: Nevan Brundage and Danielle Foster. As Ms. Danish noted, "One is a kind and gentle friend with a strong work ethic and excellent sportsmanship. The other is a kind of “mayor” of the class – a student who serves as an anchor and a leader in Grade 5."

Congratulations to all award winners, and thanks to all of the Friends of Grace who joined us for today's presentation.

Below are some excerpts from Head of School Jen Danish's presentation:

"Good morning Grace students, parents, faculty, former Grace students and parents, and distinguished guests. We are delighted to have you with us today. As we draw closer to the end of another school year, we have much to reflect on and celebrate. Let me take this opportunity to thank all of you for making this first year for me such a special one. In many ways, I feel like I have been here much longer than 11 months – mostly because this community is so very warm and welcoming. I am prouder than ever to be a Grace Gryphon and I enjoy each day that we get to spend together. Again, thank you to all of you for welcoming and supporting me as your new Head of School.

We are here today to offer awards to a few deserving students – recognizing values they possess like teamwork, sportsmanship, scholarship and musicianship. We offer these awards to students in our school now with a look back to the students and faculty that these awards are named for who have come before us. Gathering annually for this assembly gives us an opportunity to recognize good works in our community and also remember that we are a part of something larger than ourselves. We are connected to a Grace family that includes the memories and contributions of past students Drew Nealley and Daniel Benner and music teacher, Theolyn Wilson. We are all a part of the tapestry that is Grace and when we leave this place, our contributions, large and small, will have impacts many years after we have left. So as we offer these awards today, let us all remember that we all have much to give to each other and to Grace.

Ms. Danish also shared with us a wonderful prayer written just for occasions such as these!

“Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, we meet to honor those among us who have distinguished themselves in various ways. We also honor all of those who have aided in that effort by friendship, sharing of ideas, encouragement, and team spirit. Above all, we bless you who created a world in which such insight, leadership, and hard work are possible. Help those of us who are on the sidelines at this moment not to be so envious that we don’t use it as a time to figure out what draws out the best in us. Help us to be with those whom we honor so that they don’t confuse themselves with notions of superiority in areas other than those for which they are rewarded. Help us to liberate everyone to do as well as we can, and with your help to achieve with integrity and peace. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ who distinguished himself in speaking and living for justice and love. Amen.”

Posted by kfloman on Thursday May 25 at 02:25PM
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Grace Episcopal Day School will provide every student the opportunity for academic excellence in a caring, nurturing, moral environment that embraces diversity and promotes creativity, self-confidence, and service to others.

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