Star Readers Stand Out in Lower School

“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child,” said Mary Ellen Chase,  one of the most influential New England authors of the twentieth century. Providence Academy believes, just as Chase did, that reading is an essential part of every student’s education, particularly in their lower school years. Students have a designated period almost every day for reading, as well as weekly trips to the library. From books about dragons to classics such as “Sherlock Holmes” and “Robinson Crusoe,” lower schoolers have access to a variety of literature that can fuel their imaginations and their love of reading.

Mrs. Galgano poses with her basket of star pins and medals on her way to award more students for their diligent reading.

This is where the yearly Director’s Reading Challenge (DRC) comes into play. The challenge is tailored to each grade’s reading level, usually requiring that students read a certain number of minutes each night or a certain amount of pages each month. Lower School Director Mrs. Nancy Galgano, began this program about twenty years ago as a challenge for the lower school class she was teaching at the time. 

Galgano explained, “I had special books that I ordered and when a student reached a certain level, they would get to keep a book from my own collection. Then at the end of the year, students would get a little prize for reading a certain number of nights each month.”

All of that changed because of one student who truly loved to read. “There was one boy who read every single day of the year,” Galgano recalled. “For that boy, I started giving out the medal because it was an extraordinary commitment and because it was so extraordinary, it was an inspiration for other students, who began to do the same thing.”

Mrs. Galgano and Mrs. Jaeger had out the iconic medals to those who successfully completed the 2021-22 Director’s Reading Challenge

Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Sarah Evens, is one of many teacher who play an essential role in the reading journey of lower schoolers. She underlines the importance of the DRC in leading students towards a lifelong passion. “I believe [the challenge] creates that love of reading because it becomes like a habit,” Evens explained.

“It changes the mindset from having to read to wanting to read by putting the choice in students’ hands.” Evens continued. 

Galgano agrees with Evens, noting, “We make it a challenge because it’s mostly voluntary, so it excites the kids and motivates them. [The incentive] makes reading more fun!” She continued by saying that even though the ultimate prize may be a medal or a star-shaped pin, “The reading challenge is not meant for people to get a medal, but to build the habit of reading, which is so important to their future.”

Mrs. Simons’s Kindergarten class smiles with their first-ever Director’s Reading Challenge medals

While some lower school students may identify the DRC as another piece of homework, third-grader Thomas O’Grady finds this a delightful part of his life. “I like it because you get the pins and the medals, but my favorite part is that I get an excuse to read,” he commented. 

As a student who is known for reading all the time, sometimes even in class, it’s no surprise that O’Grady truly loves reading. “I like that characters get to go on cool adventures. In my favorite book “Dragonwatch”, the two main characters get to fight evil dragons to protect humans, and I know that won’t ever happen to me, so I like reading about it,” he said.

With another successful year of the Director’s Reading Challenge coming to an end last Friday, it is more important than ever to remember the power that reading has in shaping a child’s future, and that nothing can substitute it.

The Great Gatsby Gala of 2022

The gala’s Bruno (bouncer) stands guard at the speakeasy entrance, making sure no “snitches” are allowed in.

“I like large parties. They’re so intimate.” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in his 1925 novel, “The Great Gatsby.” This year’s annual Gala truly was a large party, with a record 370 guests attending the event that embodied the spirit of America’s “Roaring Twenties,” fitting for the 20th Gala.

From the black and gold decorations, champagne flutes, jazz music, and even a Juice Joint, the school’s mezzanine level and great room were decorated to dazzle like all things during the Jazz Age. All in attendance brought out their Glad Rags (party clothes) and came to celebrate with good company and a tasty dinner…sources say there may also have been some Giggle Water thrown into the mix.

This year’s gala planning was organized by the Gala Chair, PAPA representative and PA mom, Nichole Schelitzcke, and Providence’s Director of Development, Mr. Josh Anderson. 

Mr. Chris Wrede, Manager of Annual Giving and Events Faculty and PA dad, was Anderson’s right-hand man throughout the whole planning and execution of the gala. He remarks: “ I worked with silent auctions, donations, sponsorships, minute-by-minute needs of the day. It was a lot of setting up and closing shop afterward.”

All of the hard work and planning paid off, Wrede continued. “I would say this is the most successful gala we’ve had in the history of this school.”

After a night full of silent auctioning and live bidding, two fund-a-need projects: remodeling of the admissions and health office and a new serving station for Chef Morris´ ever-popular grill line, were accomplished.  The PA Headmaster, Dr. Todd Flanders, remarks in his Headmaster’s Blog post on May 2nd that: “Early returns show that the Gala brought in over $630,000 in gross proceeds, substantially more than any other PA Gala.”

Mr. Wrede and Mr. Anderson pose for a quick picture before rushing off to their many duties of the night.

Mr. Wrede remarks on how meaningful these donations are not only to the school but to himself. “The funds that are raised go straight into the operation of the school,” he says. “This is very important to me both as a staff member and as a parent, to know that these funds will end up right back in the school”.

PA mom and Gala attendee, Mrs. Maureen Flynn, described the night as one of the best galas she’s ever attended. She noted: “This year’s gala was beautifully executed and wildly successful in both attendance and generosity. You could tell a great deal of thought went into setting the theme with decorations and music.”

Dr. Elizabeth Schnobrich and Meghan Milovich enjoy some fun conversations in the Juice Joint.

Wrede also noted the generosity of the gala attendees, saying “Walking around, you got a real sense of excitement, love, passion, and commitment to the school, which was reflected in their giving.”

Fitzgerald said that “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something generous about him”. The immense generosity of PA families has made the 2022 Annual Gala a roaring success, with the nifty celebrations going well into the night. 

Superior Sounds

“For heights and depths no words can reach, music is the soul’s own speech,” said Charles Wesley, a famous methodist composer, and writer. On Thursday, March 10th, the Upper School Symphonic Band and Choirs chased after those heights in the annual MSHSL Large Ensemble Contest. And all of their hard work and preparation paid off, as the band, choir, and chamber choir all brought home “superior” ratings and much celebration.

Jack Lindberg ’22, Sam Trombley ’22, Nathan Scinicariello ’24, Nolan Semsch ’25, Luke Waholtz ’23, and Jack Mahoney ’24, all part of the percussion section, await their turn to perform.

US Band Director Mr. Thomas Jones commented on the significance of this event. “Last year, we didn’t have a contest, so this year it’s been more important than some would have thought.”

Jones continued, “It gives the students a sense of where they rank when someone else judges them and they don’t only have my feedback. And it gives them an accomplishment and pride and it helps them catapult to the last concert of the year.”

Ms. Catherine Ratelle, US choir conductor, agreed with Jones. Prior to the concert, Ratelle noted she was “excited just to perform. We’ve worked hard and polished our repertoire, students are enthusiastic; it’s going to be a beautiful performance.” 

Clearly, the adjudicators agreed, as the choir returned to school boasting a double superior rating: one for the entire ensemble and one for the chamber choir.

“This being my first contest was a very nerve-wracking but amazing experience,” recalls Viviana Galarraga ‘24. “There was more pressure because there were judges, but I feel we all put more effort into the contest than a regular concert, and I’m very happy with our results.”

While the band also performed in the contest, their experience looked slightly different. They performed on campus, with Dr. Peter Haberman adjudicating as well as providing both the upper and middle school bands with educational musical clinics. 

“I love working with grades five through 12,” Haberman shared. “Most of the students I work with have already had that light of passion ignited in them, but to see that flame come to life in younger students is always such a joy for me.”

The US Choir listens as Ms. Ratelle explains protocols in preparation for performance.

Just like the choir, the band ended their day with a superior rating, as well as a wealth of musical knowledge reaped from Haberman’s clinics. 

Jones recounted, “This superior rating is important to me because it impacts the band members. They’re my number one. The reason I care about a superior rating is that it leads them to a higher level of playing. Everything should be geared towards students having the best experience with a high-performance caliber.”

The band received more than a rating and musical advice. Before departing, Dr. Haberman gave the students some life advice: “Keep doing what makes you, you. Whether that’s an instrument, a sport, a hobby, do it because you love doing it. And when you go off to college, take that passion with you, and keep doing it, because ultimately these kinds of things shape who you become.”

Teacher Thoughts: Finals

“Pray on it!” is the advice Religion Teacher Angela Jendro gives on preparing for finals. For students, finals season is full of late nights, caffeinated drinks, and lots of stress. This chaos is followed by six 90-minute exams on three different days, all taken in the school’s main gym. However, while many know about the student perspective, few people have questioned what teachers think about finals week.

Since our faculty has various educational backgrounds, not all teachers had finals in their high school years but those who did have some very distinct memories. Math Teacher Erika Greene recalls her own experience, saying, “I was always good at math, so I never studied for it. I just showed up and did it. I didn’t super love history or reading-intensive subjects, so I had to study a lot for those.” 

Ann Heitzmann, the high school’s French teacher, said that she “only had finals in core classes, primarily math and science,” and Dan Hickel, a science teacher, says that his finals were “similar to Providence’s, but less intense.”

During Christmas break, Providence classrooms remain free of students. This is the perfect opportunity for teachers to get a head start on grading.

When it comes to creating final exams, every teacher has had a different experience for writing their first. 

Dr. Jeff Biebighauser, who teaches English and Latin, uses one word to describe writing his first final: “Panic. I did not know finals were happening until two weeks before when my students asked me for a study guide. It was part of the learning curve of adjusting to teaching here. It was a bit of a panic, not that it was hard to write, but that was not the way I had been teaching. I wanted to be fair to my students.” 

The main concerns teachers have in writing finals are their length, level of difficulty, and ability to synthesize an entire semester’s content into one test. Jendro agrees with this sentiment, commenting: “I try to find that balance between challenging and doable. A major goal is a synthesis. You want a way to integrate all of the units, and assess them all equally and fairly.”

Every teacher does, however, teach a different subject and in different ways, influencing the way their finals are structured. 

Ian Skemp, Upper School History Teacher says, “I teach mostly senior history with students who are about to head off to college. I like to focus on the written aspect of the final. With the essay prompt, I want to glean an opinion out of them. A lot more focus on interpretation, not just regurgitation.” 

As finals are meant to cover an entire semester, Jendro says that finals are “an opportunity for critical thinking. During the semester, you’re compartmentalizing. Finals take a step back and look at how all the units relate to each other.”

After supervising the finals for their subjects, teachers have to start the daunting task of grading. Hickel says, “It’s awful. Scantron is my best friend.” 

With all the different formats, teachers also develop a variety of grading habits. Biebighauser says he “grades by class, and one student’s exam at a time.” 

After one semester of material, students amass a significant number of books, some of which can be used on the final.

Other teachers follow a different pattern. “I always grade everyone’s first page, then everyone’s second page so that I’m giving the same amount of partial credit and for consistency. Also, this way, I don’t know whose page I’m grading,” Greene recounts. 

Even with all the various decisions these teachers make with their final exams, there is one commonality: the best way to study. Heitzmann concludes, “Staying organized throughout the semester is essential because the more organized you are with your materials, the better you’ll feel when you sit down to study. I firmly believe in this advice: don’t cram, take your time, use time wisely, and get enough sleep.”

Conquering at Conference

In the main gym of Providence Academy, there are six banners hung along the east wall, each signifying a school in the IMAC Conference. On Thursday, October 14th, the PA Cross Country team took on the five other teams represented by those banners in the annual Conference Race at Battle Creek Park. Though a challenging course, of the 29 Providence runners who competed, 23 turned in their best times of the season and 14 finished in the best times of their career.

Unlike last year, where only a limited number of people were allowed to participate, this race welcomed back every runner. Coach Dan Hickel remarked, “It felt like we were back to normal. There was much excitement to just be together again with the runners who were doing what they love to do.”

Liz Burns ’23 and Brooke Kahrl ’27 smile as they run up one of the hardest hills in any race this year. (PAW Photo Credit: Dan Hickel)

In preparation for the race, Hickel said, “There was a lot more talk about teamwork, and how to get the team members to push each other to become better because it is a race we know, a race we’ve done, and a race that is a ‘finish line’ for the entire season.”

This is a very exciting race for the team, especially since it is near the end of the season. Aidan Flynn ‘24 remarked, “One of the first thoughts that came to me after I crossed the finish line was how crazy it is that the season is almost over. It’s sad that I will no longer be racing with some of these people, who I have been running with for years, ever again in a few weeks.” 

With the seniors leaving and many middle school participants on the team, Flynn is looking forward to stepping into more of a leadership. “I was so used to being one of the younger guys on the team, so now being one of the role models for the younger runners this year is a change for me.,” he reflected.

Flynn continued, “I try to make the younger runners feel the same way as my role models did me when I was their age.” 

One of these role models is team captain and senior, Emma Kelly ‘22. She commented on the race night itself, “This year, the weather was beautiful, I know the course, and being a senior gave me a new perspective.”

Kelly placed second, and per the awards ceremony tradition, she was called up to the stage to receive her winners’ t-shirt. She remembers, “It felt really good to walk up there as a senior, after placing the highest I’ve ever placed in that course, looking back and seeing how far I’ve come.”

The boys team says their team prayer before heading to the start line. (PAW Photo Credit: Dan Hickel)

Overall, both the girls and boys teams placed fifth in the conference, but as Hickel noted, “The main goal was to have all the runners reach their personal goals. [The coaching staff] didn’t care how we placed as a team but wanted the runners to feel like they had grown since the first race. We are happy with their times, their growth as individuals, and as a team.”