Spring Newsletter

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St. Anne’s Newsletter SPRING 2017

Educating MINDS, Enriching HEARTS and Expanding HORIZONS


COME HOME Alan Smiley



REFLECT Pastor Merrie Need


BOARD OF TRUSTEES’ DAY DESIGN & LAYOUT | Zoet Design EDITOR | Lucy Murphy COPY EDITORS | Lori Frank, Adie Early CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHS | Rick Sigler, Shannon Love, Julia Brown, Lucy Murphy, Lori Frank, Kelsey Smith. CONTRIBUTING WRITERS | Lucy Murphy, Alan Smiley, Merrie Need, Deena Tarleton COVER PHOTO | Lucy Murphy

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OUR STUDENTS Deena Tarleton



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Art Exhibition Family Night The annual St. Anne’s Art Exhibition was full of amazing talent from St. Anne’s students. The exhibition featured artwork from every grade level and showcased the incredible creativity of our students. There is no doubt that art teachers Jessica Cardenas and Rick Sigler truly inspire and encourage students to discover their unique artistic abilities.

Follow us on Instagram @st.annesdenver Spring 2017 Newsletter


You Can Always Come Home


One clear indicator of a strong and vibrant school is the continued engagement of alumni and alumni parents years after graduation. It illustrates an appreciation for the lasting impact of the community and a desire to pay those benefits forward to future generations. It is also a sign that although every community evolves, grows, and undergoes change over time, alumni and alumni parents feel confident that the fundamental mission, values, and core principles remain intact and well-attended. In short, alumni stay connected if they feel the heart of their earlier community remains intact. Typically, colleges, followed by high schools, enjoy the strongest levels of alumni engagement, due in part to the ability of alumni to recognize impact at an older age while attending the institution. St. Anne’s, however, enjoys a strong and growing level of alumni engagement virtually unparalleled in PS-8 day schools. There are many reasons for this, but alumni regularly report via surveys and anecdotal feedback during visits, notes, and events that the remaining culture of care and warmth is the inspiring individuality that makes St. Anne’s unique. They also frequently credit the school for the most meaningful influence in future academic and professional success. Below is a list of just a few illustrations from this year of the healthy and critical connections between the school and our alumni base: • Currently, seven faculty and staff members are alums of the school. When asked why they returned to St. Anne’s for a professional career, their responses universally include reference to a passion for the place based on their own youthful experiences, a belief in the mission and purpose of the school, and a desire to play a meaningful part in providing a similar education for today’s children during these most formative of years. • Next year, twelve alumni will also be parents of children at St. Anne’s. Clearly they would not be entrusting the education of their children to a school if their own

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experiences with the place were not positive and rewarding. They also would likely not be back if the current school seemed wholly incongruous with the environment they treasured as children. • Almost weekly, at least one alum (and frequently several) takes advantage of some free time from high school, college, or simply being in the area to drop by campus to visit former teachers, walk the grounds, and reminisce. They pop into classrooms and offices with a warm welcome from faculty and staff. They attend iconic events like May Day, the All-School Picnic, and Founders’ Day, despite the fact that most do not even have siblings at the school, simply to relive moments that cannot be found elsewhere. • They return to share and inspire current students to live the vision of making “significant and lasting contributions to society.” Just this past month, alum Ellie Wells ’15 returned several times to coordinate with our 4th grade and to inspire our students to support a very successful book drive on behalf of a school ironically named St. Anne’s in Malawi, Africa. The effort raised 1,600 books and over $700 to start a library at this small, rural school. Still others signed up and joined staff and current parents this month for our Habitat for Humanity build sponsored by the Outreach Committee. • This spring, two high school alumni will return to speak with our 8th graders about life in high school and to offer advice and encouragement. Three other high school seniors will spend a few weeks working in our classrooms with teachers as part of a Career Intern Experience prior to entering college. One will attend an assembly to present a May Queen crown to this year’s May Queen. Several others eagerly represented their current high schools at our High School Fair on campus this fall in the hopes of attracting current St. Anne’s students to their high schools in the future.

Spring 2017 Newsletter


•For the past 5+ years, alumni giving to the school’s Annual Campaign has exceeded National Association of Independent Schools average levels of participation for PS-8 schools. Even if they are in high school or college, our alums continue to make giving back to St. Anne’s a personal priority. The same is true for alumni parents, where support for the school annually exceeds national averages. This generosity is vital to our current and future programs and sustainability. • Annually, including this year, alums and their parents return to campus for events like wine tasting, alumni lacrosse games, social gatherings, guest speakers, and special events. For example, over 70 high school students took time out of a busy January weekday night to come to the post-holiday party in order to catch up with friends, former teachers and staff. This is highly unusual for a PS-8 day school! We obviously work hard on our end to strengthen and maintain our alumni relationships. St. Anne’s benefits from a strong, dedicated and hardworking Alumni Board of 8+ alumni representing various classes. They plan various events, send care packages to alums entering college, help maintain the St. Anne’s Facebook page, and generally facilitate healthy communication. This kind of alumni commitment and leadership is rare among PS-8 schools. We also annually survey alumni as freshmen and seniors in high school to gather feedback regarding everything from their level of preparation for high school to suggestions for activities and ways to improve connections. We visit 1-2 different area high schools each year to host a lunch for attending alumni and to catch up. And our website includes a dedicated alumni site for information and updates. It is clear to see that our alumni and alumni parents remain a vital and valuable part of our St. Anne’s community and the daily life on this campus, even years after their official graduation. It is yet another blessing of being a Cyclone, and it highlights the adage that, “You can take them out of St. Anne’s, but you can’t take the St. Anne’s out of them.”

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Wines from Around the World In April, the Alumni Board hosted its annual Wine Tasting Event, where a portion of the proceeds from the sale of wine are donated back to St. Anne’s. This year’s theme was “Around the World” and we served wine from various regions across the globe. Special thanks to Primo Vino for supplying the wines and to the Dawson family for donating beer from their new brewery, Briar Common. With over one hundred attendees, it was a successful event.


Spring 2017 Newsletter


Our kindergarten classes put on another exceptional performance of Winnie the Pooh. They sang songs, danced and retold the heart-warming stories of our dear friends in the Hundred Acre Woods.


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First Graders took us through Mother Goose’s Character Camp in their performance this spring. Students did an incredible job reciting poems and bringing together a fun story about all the characters from Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes.


Spring 2017 Newsletter



Pastor Merrie shares the changes she has witnessed

S o many things have changed for the better since I originally put foot on the St. Anne’s campus. When I first

came, teachers were proud of the work they did and with good reason. However, I had also come from rigorous transformations to education in the public schools that had sprung not only from the demands of state exams but also from new knowledge about how the human brain worked. Yet without those transformations, St. Anne’s was still outperforming the public schools. “How?” I asked myself. Then I discovered that St. Anne’s had not forgotten that their primary task was to create good people and good citizens. When children feel safe with one another and their teachers, there isn’t anything they cannot learn. Of course, St. Anne’s did not ignore the changes that were occurring in education. They just prudently tested what they thought would work best, before implementing it. Since I have been here, there have been two math programs, each one requiring so many adaptations that coaches for the teachers were needed and supplied. However, the teachers tried first the one program, which then was cutting edge, and opted for another when it rolled out a few years later. This was because the second program better nurtured “number sense,” a deeper understanding of the processes required to put math to work in the real world. A grass roots attempt to improve the teaching of writing came from a felt need that this school could produce better writers. That initial urge has now blossomed into a full-blown writing curriculum in the Lower School, thanks to the tireless effort of Dr. T. Similarly, the middle school revamped its writing program. The improvement was and is measurable. The teaching of reading similarly transformed with the reading of “just right” books in small groups or alone, followed by presentations intent on enticing others to enjoy the same book. The idea was and is to build “reading stamina” so that students immerse themselves in reading enjoyment at any age. More reading, along with teacher conversations about ways to read for certain information, has also added measurable improvement.

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The social studies program has also been transformed with new texts and a new curriculum with clearly stated goals. For example, a fourth-grade goal in teaching the regions of the United States is to learn how the type of land in an area shapes the lives and economy of those who live there. Such foci guarantee that the time learning is well spent. Finally, one of the greatest changes has come through a conscious effort to honor learning differences. With the addition of learning specialists in both the Sisters’ Building and the Middle School, a full complement of specialists now advocates for respecting differences in learning style. The increase in specialists added more hands to assist teachers so that implementing academic accommodations at all levels has become commonplace. This effort has been greatly facilitated by space provided in the new lower school building constructed about six years ago. Break-out rooms, learning labs, computer labs, and significantly more classroom floor space have allowed students to work in small groups, often teaching each other. These are not all the changes I have witnessed, but these illustrate how significantly our teachers have molded a good school into a great one while I have been here. Meanwhile, in the academic world outside our fence and hedge, and with the great recession increasing class size and reducing the number of learning specialists, public schools have weathered much rougher seas. Now they need what we have never forgotten, and they, under stress, have partially let go. It is that at the heart of education is the goal of producing good citizens and good people. In the attempt to have public school students achieve proficient scores on state exams, they have been increasingly reluctant to surrender academic time to life’s lessons. Children that stop to hold a door, or apologize for a moment of thoughtlessness or tend to a friend who might have been hurt don’t appear as often beyond our hedge. In my opinion, it is lack of emphasis on this one aspect of education that leads children in public schools to feel unease, even unsafe, which in turn reduces the amount of time they can concentrate on learning. The latest innovation here is one I applaud hardily: the introduction of a teaching intern to our staff, one who is not expected to stay for longer than two years. We are bringing teachers into St. Anne’s with the intent not only of expanding the diversity and inclusivity of our faculty, but also of spreading the word through these future leaders in education that the best schools focus as much on creating good people as on academics.

PASTOR MERRIE NEED Spring 2017 Newsletter

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Founders and Board of Trustees’ Day

Download pictures at www.st-annes.org/2016-2017-photo-gallery

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Challenging All of Our Students DEENA TARLETON, LOWER SCHOOL HEAD


ecause much of what we do is built into our system, often parents do not realize the many ways we differentiate for the needs of all of our students in all areas of the mastery spectrum. Hopefully, this article will help you to understand some of the many ways this is accomplished at St. Anne’s. Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development is a model for how learning should be delivered in order to obtain the maximum growth for the learner. Essentially, the model suggests that for everything any of us learn, there is a base level where we already have a considerable amount of knowledge about the topic, based on previous experiences. There is also a maximum level that cannot be reached regardless of having someone coach us one-on -one. Think of someone asking us to solve a quantum physics problem or write a dissertation not associated with our field of work. At the upper end of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), learning is simply too difficult even with a one-on-one coach. At the lower end of the model, learning is easy enough to be done independently. In education we try to match the instruction to a developmental level for the student that is not too difficult or too easy. Our goal for every subject for every student at St. Anne’s is to do our best to find that “just right” challenge where learning is maximized. One can imagine how complex this can be at times with a range of learners in a classroom. In reading we give ongoing assessments that help us determine the level of books that fit each student’s level of progress. These are called “just right books.” As skills are solidified, students move on to higher levels. Because comprehension strategies such as “determining how characters change throughout the story” and “watching for meaningful repetitions,” apply to most of the books students are reading at any one grade level, we can teach these to the whole class and have students apply these strategies to the leveled books that they are reading. For example, in the beginning of first grade, some of the children will test into a Level C book that has good text and picture match and very repetitious word patterns. Another child may test into a Level E Book with more complex vocabulary and fewer patterns. Both children can learn similar comprehension strategies such as “finding out about the character by noticing his/her actions.” This “mini-lesson” can be taught to the whole group. Other skills, such as phonological and decoding skills or strategies for moving to the next book level, may be taught in smaller groups, depending on the developmental needs of each child. Sometimes teachers will coach students individually. All of these teaching strategies are focused toward the challenge area of each child’s ZPD.

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Writing is easier to assess because the product is apparent. Looking at the writing produced helps the teacher to determine the level of development of the class and the individual students. In a recent visit to a third grade class, some students were writing simple introductions to their opinion papers. More advanced writers were learning to start with questions that provoked their reader’s interest. In previous writing classes, some students were ready for punctuating conversations and others were not. This coaching is often done in small groups of students or in one-on-one conferences, depending on which child is ready for which skill. We also individualize for the students by offering choices depending on their interests and experience, thus making writing more engaging. Math classes take a pretest for each unit. The results of that pretest help us to determine if that student needs to shore up prerequisite skills at the base level of understanding or if a higher level of challenge than the regular instruction is needed to meet the child’s middle level ZPD. Sometimes students are divided into three groups (rotations) with various teachers addressing the needs of each group. At other times students with significant understanding of a particular concept will work in a group with an additional math teacher for part of the time period of that unit of study. For example, one child may work with the special teacher during a measurement unit and stay with the rest of the class for a geometry unit. Assessments based on our curriculum play a large part in helping us determine who needs what level of instruction. Is this enough? Sometimes it is, and sometimes a particular student has other needs, such as social/ emotional, motoric, musical, artistic, etc. For example, we may have a child working toward an Olympic goal in sports or another who is performing in a professional theater production or another with very specialized interests. In this case, the teachers and I will meet with parents and students to determine what more should happen for those children to maintain their appropriate ZPD level in the additional area of interest. This is done on an individual basis, and a plan is developed to meet these additional needs. Sometimes special projects are developed, giving students the opportunity to pursue special interests. Many of the after-school programs engage students in activities that may address these as well. I hope this has helped you to understand our philosophy and our system for encouraging all students to meet their potential. Our everyday program and curriculum is a challenging one and is based on the norm of our students. However, sometimes we need to make some additions for children needing extra challenges or support in one area or another. Your feedback plays a crucial role in this process. If you ever have questions, please alert your teacher or give me a call. You may see something about which we are unaware, and we will do our best to address it. Thanks for your partnership.

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The Parents’ Association hosted another fun-filled night of Bingo in the St. Anne’s gym. St. Anne’s families won some pretty fantastic prizes and tons of great items were raffled off!


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What’s Been Happening Around Campus APRIL In April, the Outreach Committee planned another successful volunteer day with Habitat for Humanity. Several parents, alumni and other community members volunteered their time to help this great organization! The Maintenance Team and parent volunteers began the process of rebuilding St. Columba, which was originally a retreat space for the Sisters.

The entire school enjoyed another fabulous Spring Concert! The Music Department put on a great show once again! And our students continued to show how talented they truly are!

MAY The Parents’ Association hosted another fun Spring Book Fling with author Mark Stevens. They discussed his latest book, Lake of Fire, and also shared a list of some great recommendations for fantastic summer reading!

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Mr. Smiley gave his annual school update in May announcing the new Parents’ Association Board for the 2017-2018 school year! Mary Miller, PA President Nicki Dangleis, Past President Britta Miles, Treasurer JJ McGawn, Vice President of Communications Staci Bouc, Secretary St. Anne’s friends and family Emily Kakel and Cristen Calamari, gathered at Bible Park for the VPs of Fundraising 9th annual Masoudi Walk. The Harriet Rockafellow and Catie proceeds of the walk went to the Cohen, VPs of In-School Volunteers Sam and Grace Memorial Fund to Lori Sherry and Katie Levisay, VPs benefit the Challenge Foundation of Hospitality scholars at St. Anne’s. Lori Sherry, President Elect

The Invention Convention

It was another successful year filled with amazing inventions from our fourth graders. In this 3-week unit, students learn about problem solving, brainstorming, collaboration, and inventing simulations. At the end of the unit, students create their own inventions to present at the Invention Convention!


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We celebrated another bright and beautiful May Day at St. Anne’s. Sticking with tradition, we sang all the May Day favorites, danced around the maypole and crowned the May Queen.

Download pictures at www.st-annes.org/2016-2017-photo-gallery

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