A New Kind of March Madness

The Champions! Cheers won it all beating The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the Finals. PAW image courtesy of John Wagner

Every March the most hyped event in college sports awakens dormant spectators from coast to coast: the NCAA basketball tournament. As it is more commonly referred to, March Madness captivates the nation for a few short weeks each spring.  Last year’s champions were the Virginia Cavaliers and this year’s champ is… Cheers?  

Though  March Madness as most know it was cancelled, head custodian and founding member of PA staff Mr. John Wagner organized an alternative bracket consisting of popular TV show themes. The bracket featured iconic songs many people almost unintentionally know the words (or at least tune) to:   from Bonanza to The Brady Bunch, Sesame Street to Haiwaii 5-0, no genre was left out.  As with all brackets there were underdogs, favorites, and of course controversies.

Wagner commented, “Every March for as long as I can remember I have run a bracket game for friends and relatives for the NCAA College basketball tournament. This year it was abruptly cancelled so I decided to make my own”. 

The bracket drew participants who don’t normally follow the NCAA tournament. For example, US History teacher Kevin Keiser commented, “I never fill out March Madness brackets, but I had to do this one!” 

Wagner added, “I thought it would be a fun distraction for people because so much fear was being spread regarding the virus; we  needed a silly reprieve from the news of the day”.  Dozens of PA staff shared his sentiment and participated by voting each round to see their favorites advance (or bite the dust).

The Opening Bracket consisting of all the theme songs in the tournament. PAW image courtesy of John Wagner

“Even if you’re not a big sports fan this bracket had something for everyone”,  Mrs. Julie Mundahl  noted “ I never pay much attention to March Madness, but I completed this entire bracket!”  

Just as in regular tournament time, some people are lucky with their picks; nothing hurts more than when your personal favorite gets bounced out in the first round.  US guidance counselor Mrs. Kesney McCarthy lamented, “ Sesame Street should have gone further, devastating loss.”  Keiser shared her pain, “ All my picks went out in the first round, but oh well”.  

In the famed Final Four, Gilligan’s Island, Cheers, Friends, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fought for a coveted spot in the championship game.  In the end, Cheers  went head to head against The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Turns out, [people] still want to go where everybody knows [their] name; the tally showed 36-11 in favor of Cheers.

From the highs to the lows it was nothing but laughs and fun.  Mr. Brian Estrada, Associate Dean of College Counseling noted, “This tournament was a brilliant idea.  I especially enjoyed bantering over email with Mr. Wagner about each round’s results”.

Estrada is not the only one who appreciated the levity brought on by the tournament. Wagner’s efforts were not unnoticed. Many staff enjoyed having friendly chats over the bracket and how refreshing the tournament was.  McCarthy commented, “It was a ray of sunshine during a cloudy time. The theme song bracket brought smiles that were much needed for the adults trying to support  students in finishing the year strong!”  

Screen Break

On a beautiful sunny afternoon, Frank Fish waits for a daily walk with Valerie Fish’ 21 or Nate Fish ’23.

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, “shelter in place guidelines”, “quarantine”, and “distance learning” have all become a part of everyday vocabulary. With so much of daily life being moved to a screen, it is more important than ever to schedule time to take breaks and turn the screens off.

Sally Peterson, US college counseling assistant commented, “I’m not a big fan of the increased screen time, but when you’re in the middle of the pandemic, what can you do?” Kids are on the screen more due to online learning but the same can be said for adults who have who now have to do their jobs on a screen.

Mrs. Ann Heitzmann, US French teacher, shared “ I typically work from about 7:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Sometimes it’s stressful on my eyes, but I try to take breaks in between to have meals with family or walk the dog.”

Many people are struggling with the same thing. In addition to the physical strain of screen time, balancing home life with work life presents a challenge. Such balance is difficult, under normal circumstances, even more so when both are happening at home.

Lower Schooler Iggy Skemp often enjoys taking a screen break by battling with beyblades. (PAW photo courtesy of Mr. Ian Skemp)

A lot of parents are concerned with the amount of screen time both kids and parents now get on an average day.  Mrs. Kesney McCarthy, upper school guidance counselor at PA, is working from home while her three young children participate in online learning. 

McCarthy noted, “It’s been really difficult; the kids want to play video games or use the iPad when they take a break from schoolwork.  But, since they get so much more screen time with distance learning, I want them to be active during breaks.  We usually go outside and play basketball or ride our bikes.”

“Right now we have to accept that this is the only way we can work and learn”, Heitzmann added. Though no one has the power to change the way things are right now, unnecessary screen time can be minimized and breaks can be creative. Going out for a walk to get fresh air or playing board games with family are a couple of creative ways to take breaks.  Both are things many people have taken for granted in the past, but are now more welcome than ever.

Lunches To GO!

Chef Morris, Mrs. Truax and co. adding the finishing touches to lunches last week.

Whether it’s Chef Marshall Morris’ famed orange chicken or popcorn shrimp caesar salad, PA has always been known for its luxury lunches. Due to current events keeping families away from PA, PA has found a new way to be available to families. Chef Morris and the kitchen staff are hard at work to provide families and alumni with PA’s coveted lunches, curbside. 

None other than Chef Morris himself put the wheels in motion for this operation.  He reflected, “ I thought it might help the Providence community feel connected, and what better way to connect than through food?” Additionally, Morris desired, “to relieve parents of the stress of feeding their children three meals a day!”

Mr. England greets those in the curbside pickup line with a smile while keeping track of lunches.

Given the logistical challenge of such an undertaking, many might be wondering how this initiative morphed from passing thought to concrete reality. Morris shared, “ I worked with Dr. Flanders, Dawn Schommer, Rick Strobel, and Eric England to plan out the logistics.”

Meals are available for curbside pickup between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm Monday through Friday. Those interested must place orders in advance on the PA website, by 4:00 PM the day before meal pick up. PA lunch is available to current students, their immediate family, and alumni, but those interested can also donate meals to Sharing and Caring hands when placing an order.


A day of tough work leaves Mrs. Truax with a smile on her face as she delivers lunches to cars in the pick up line.

Hannah Kuhn, mother and member of the PA community commented, “My family and I have ordered lunch and donated two meals to Sharing and Caring hands”. Kuhn continued, “I really liked this idea because it helps families stay connected and gives back to the community”. 


In times like these that are otherwise uncertain and isolating, a little solidarity goes a long way. Who knew a school lunch could mean so much? Just a taste of normalcy can do a lot for a community.

Place an order here today and enjoy a luxury lunch tomorrow:  https://www.providenceacademy.org/pa-to-go/

Red Carpet at PA

The 2020 Gala invitation, featuring the date, time, and everything else you need to know to join in the festivities.

Those who have attended past Galas note the overarching spirit of generosity and joy that characterize a night of “food, fun, and fellowship,” oriented toward establishing a firm foundation for Providence Academy’s future.  This year’s Gala promises not to disappoint; the theme Fire and Ice–inspired by the school colors–has volunteers and guests excited for Saturday evening’s event here at PA. 

In her 14th year of serving as Manager of Auxiliary and Development Programs at PA, Mrs. Dawn Schommer noted, “One of my favorite things in terms of preparation is the student involvement. I mean even this year, the jazz band is performing for us”.

The gala requires volunteers to do many things ranging from helping with coats at check in, to selling cigars after dinner, and check at the close of the evening. Thanks to the work of PA staff, and to many parent and student volunteers, the event runs smoothly from check in, to bidding, dancing, and check out, when guests claim the prizes they’ve won.  Many of the silent auction items available for bidding are donated by community partners. This year’s auction items range from “coveted” parking spots to next year’s Super Bowl tickets!

Early on, the Gala was hosted at area hotels or the Wayzata country club, but in recent years has been proudly held on PA’s beautiful campus, as it will be again this Saturday evening.  Mrs. Jillian Twaddle is a PA parent who has devoted time and energy to prepare for this year’s Gala. Twaddle has been part of the

Winners from last year’s Gala enjoy a lift to school from Plymouth firefighters in the spring on 2019.

organizational efforts for the past two years and commented, “The funny thing is, when I did it the first year I said I wasn’t coming back. But I realized I love doing these kinds of things”!

This year’s fund-a-need is twofold:  an outdoor LED sign to visually announce Providence Events year round and replace the playground cover with safer, Eco-friendly rubber mulch. As in past years, proceeds from the Gala also fund student scholarships and various programs within the school.  Mrs. Melissa Simmons, Theater Director, chooses to volunteer and reflected, “The Gala is worth the extra time because of what it raises for fine arts and theater. If our “family” can contribute to our projects, then a weekend is worth giving up”. 

Hosting and preparing nearly any event can be tiresome but, Schommer assures it is well worth the effort, “I’ve been doing it for a while so it’s not as  stressful anymore and the joy of seeing hard work come together is very satisfactory”.

Young Lions face new Horizon

Providence’s aggressive defense on display, as the opponents’ shot is heavily contested.

Regular attendees of Lions’ basketball games may have noticed the Lions’ bench is not as deep as it has been in years past.  After graduating 10 seniors in 2019 (five of whom were regular starters), the team has been finding its feet with a total of 25 members for the 2019-2020 season. However, this hasn’t kept them from making a splash so far this year; the Junior Varsity squad in particular has been working on finding a rhythm as a team. With only 7 members, these young men have had to work on their stamina and capitalizing on each possession.

JV Coach Chris Miller  commented on their strengths, “We’ve developed a really good core of guys, and they’ve really improved stamina wise, which helps play to our best potential”.

The young team, however, still needs to improve on their on-ball and off-ball defense. Coach Miller also noted, “Despite improving our stamina, due to our lack of experience we lack discipline and commit too many fouls”.

Tuesday’s home game gave plenty of opportunity for young lions to get much-needed playing time.  The JV squad prevailed easily over Blake with a final score of 50-30, with all players contributing to the victory.

Fans like PA parent John Darwin arrived early enough to enjoy both the JV and Varsity games. Darwin commented, “I know we don’t have a big roster this year, but seeing these guys give their all is really motivating”.  

Eli Santleman ’21 makes two free throws to give Providence a 10 point lead.

There is a positive atmosphere surrounding the players and you can really feel it when you talk to them. “I couldn’t believe we blew out Blake last night,’’ said Nick Flanders ‘22.

Although Coach Miller is excited about his team, he constantly tells them not to get ahead of themselves. He noted, “These players have the potential to make Varsity next year but they need to maintain their work ethic”. 

His sentiment is not lost on Flanders, who shared, “Hopefully if I keep working hard and keep playing this much I can make Varsity next year”. 

Hard work really appears to be the theme for the Lions this year. The new coaching changes and practices are extreme, but many players seem to be enthusiastic about it. Dylan Perrill ‘23 stated, “We have practice at least 4 days a week and Coach Miller’s tactics demand a lot from us, but I think it pays off on the court.”

The young Lions have a bright future ahead of them, and you can come support them at their next home game, a JV/Varsity double header versus Breck starting at 5:30.