One of my traditions at the start of every school year is choosing a part of our mission statement to focus on as a theme. This year, I want to emphasize fostering community. Our community is what makes Grymes feel the way it does – warm, close and caring. We partner our older students with our younger students, and the younger ones adore the older students, and the older students feel a sense of responsibility for the younger ones. I love to see the older kids give standing ovations to the little guys as they complete their class plays. I love to see the indulgent smiles on the faces of the upper school students when the lower school students share in assemblies. I love to see the high fives as partners pass in the halls. The circle widens as we draw in families, without whose support we could not do all that we do. The next ripple reaches out into the community. Class service projects take us to Dogwood Village nursing home, the animal shelter, the food pantry, children in the community in need of food on the weekends. The Lower School each year prepares lunch for our “community helpers” to thank them for all they do for us. And sometimes we go even further afield to our global community with projects like the fifth grade drive last year to help save the forest elephants in Africa. Fostering Community is a conscious and intentional undertaking.
The bedrock of our community is our incredible faculty and staff, each and every one of whom embodies the values and model the qualities that we seek to impart to our students – Dana Bost with her indomitable spirit and creative flair; Tamie Campbell with her tireless dedication, her fair-mindedness, and her passion for our natural surroundings; Amy Dixon with her flawless organization and her willingness to try new approaches to learning; Kristi Ellis with her sparkle and her incredible photography talents; Sharon Foster with her steady devotion and tireless support; Laura Gay with her passion for environmental responsibility and her patience; Melanie Handelsman for her vivacious personality and her willingness to love every eighth grader as though she were their mother; Carolyn Herndon, “the kid whisperer,” for her patience, kindness, and love of all things kindergarten; Teresa Huelskoetter, our friendly local book pusher, for her ability to reach out to each child and understand what it is that captures his or her imagination; Polly Johnson, the queen of fourth grade geography whose courage and sense of adventure has led her to live geography first-hand this summer; Kim Jones, who keeps me laughing while forbidding me to spend any more money; Kimber Keating, whose deep intellectual interest in early learning has revitalized our JK program; Martina Kuhnert whose dry sense of humor is hilarious and whose passion for teaching well has brought us new insights for teaching reading; Rebekah Lingo with her keen intellect and her contagious fascination with science; Mary Linda McLearen with her extraordinary grace and kindness; Rod McLeod with his love of knowledge and order, as well as his close personal connection to the candy fairy; Laurie Neale whose kind and gentle ways mask a fierce determination to figure things out; Laura Nelson whose kind heart and fiery spirit inspire young athletes to do their best; Angie Paschal whose clear and honest thinking are invaluable and whose artistic flair inspires the kids and keeps our hallways beautiful; Rob Pitera who knows how to teach EMPATHY and whose sense of balance, kindness, and fair play centers our second graders and helps them to become thoughtful citizens; Laurie Roche who accomplishes huge amounts with great humor; Cassie Sacre whose practical good sense, endless patience and kindness, remarkable organization, sense of humor, and whose tolerance for blood and gore all conspire to make her the person who really runs the school; Hope Scibal for her unerring eye for elegant graphics and her tireless work ethic; Julie Sherman for her boundless energy and total devotion to unlocking every child’s ability to learn; Jill Solek-Giles for her utter brilliance in so many areas that she hides behind her kind, modest, unassuming manner; Tracey Stakem who can work with any age group and extract magical music from all of them; Melissa Stephenson who has a vast array of talents but who is also kind and unassuming; Marcy Wagner for her inspiring creativity in the classroom and her constant search for ways to grow as a learner herself…. What a beautiful array of qualities that are the foundation of our strong community. Love, kindness, modesty, creativity, fairness, honesty, generosity of spirit, understanding, hard work, a passion for teaching and for learning, balance, spirit, and humor – all of these make our community a joyful place where I know I love to come to work and where our students love to learn.
This year, we’re delighted to welcome new additions to the faculty: Meghan Stowers, our sixth grade homeroom teacher, who comes to us from the Bullis School in the DC area. Allan McLearen who is our athletic coordinator and PE support person, has already coached our girls soccer team for two years. He comes to us from the Madison School system where he has been a teacher and an administrator for his entire career. Haywood Giles is taking his musical talents into the classroom for two sections of Pre- Algebra and Lower School Spanish. Last but not least, Theresa Eick will be our reading specialist in the Lower School. Teresa has been tutoring several of our students for the past three years.
As we launch this new school year, let us reflect often and out loud on the value of community, reminding our students of the values and qualities that form a firm foundation. Let us teach empathy, kindness, understanding, honesty and integrity, resilience, an appreciation for differences, and civility. As we hold true to our values and live out the mission that we espouse, may our community flourish.
Here’s to a happy and productive New Year!
Penny is entering her 13th year as Head of School at Grymes