A New Tune: Christmastime in the Lower School

Every Christmas season, voices of Lower School students fill the Performing Arts Center during their annual Christmas concerts. Because of COVID-19’s restrictions, Lower School music teachers, Mrs. Maureen Woeltge and Mrs. Adrienne Johnson, have had to make some adjustments to these traditional festivities. 

Amidst the musical changes of this year is the new format of this year’s Christmas concerts. Rather than performing live in front of an audience of parents, each Lower School class recorded a video of some Christmas carols. Students recorded their songs six feet apart in the Performing Arts Center, with masks on. Some of these festive songs included Joy to the World, Deck the Halls, Silent Night, White Christmas, and Here Comes Santa Claus. The videos will be sent out to parents for an at-home viewing of the virtual concert. 

Mrs. Beth Reopelle, a fifth grade teacher and parent of fourth grader Camille Reopelle, commented, “Every adult can remember performing in concerts or Nativity plays growing up, and as parents, we long to have our children make those memories.” She continued, “I think that parents are encouraged to see Christmas through the eyes of a child as they watch performances.”

Students prepared for their concerts in creative ways that go beyond singing. Like the performances, classes are largely similar to those of past years, yet students rehearse six feet apart and there is minimal singing. Students also participate in musical games, one of which involves boomwackers, which are musical instruments that help students practice the rhythm of a song. Mrs. Woeltge, the second-fifth grade music teacher, reflected,“It’s challenging not always singing in class. We have some singing, it just is never the focal point.”

In another effort to keep the Christmas spirit alive, Mrs. Woeltge’s students are also learning about the Nutcracker and will have an opportunity for a Christmas sharing day, where students can share music with their classes.

Mrs. Woeltge’s fourth grade students rehearse during music class with boomwackers, which make up for the minimal amount of singing done in class.

Despite the difficulties of this school year, there is still a heavy presence of learning and fun in the classroom.  Mrs. Johnson, who teaches kindergarten and first grade music, stated, “My favorite part of teaching in general is watching the excitement of the students as they discover new songs, learn lyrics, play games and just plain have fun in the music room.”

Mrs. Woeltge leads her fourth grade music class in rehearsal.

Johnson also commented, “Lower School music classes are singing our way through the pandemic and having a jolly fun time singing holiday favorites.” Her classes are taking this time to discover new and exciting songs, one of which is called, “When Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney”, and has become a classroom favorite. 

Between Christmas carols and musical games, the Lower School is surely singing its way through the Christmas season here at PA.

Girls’ Houses on the Run

Secret clues, hidden house leaders, scrambled words, and running around the school; what else could high schoolers approaching finals week need? House period last Wednesday, December 2nd brought all of these exciting activities to the Upper School.     

Zeta house members enjoy themselves as they run to the next scavenger hunt location. 

During the last period of the school day on Wednesday December 2nd, each of the eight girls’ houses were given clues to 11 locations around the school. After solving a clue, the girls rushed to each location, where they found a house leader waiting for them. The house leader then gave each group a letter and the clue to the next location in the scavenger hunt. 

Ms. Julie Behrens, math teacher and Beta House Advisor exclaimed, “It sounded like a herd of elephants running through the halls as they were giggling and enjoying themselves!”

Senior house leaders Mary Francis Walker ’21, Sofia Caballero ’21, and Julia Dailey ’21 pose with their letters.

After going to 11 locations and finding all 11 letters, each house had to unscramble the letters in order to find out what words they spelled. “G-R-E-E-N-E-’S R-O-O-M” was the golden ticket to victory. These words led each house to the final location of the scavenger hunt, the classroom of Ms. Erika Greene, the Head of Women’s House. 

Upon reaching her classroom, the girls found a flag with their house name on it. They then had to bring the flag to Mrs. Kate Gregg’s office in order to win. 

“It was really exhausting because we ran up and down so many flights of stairs! It was a good team bonding experience for our house, though,” Marie Heyda ‘23, Epsilon house member, commented.

Beta house member Koral Horstman ’23 stands victorious with her winning house’s flag.

Beta house came in first place, going to all 11 locations and retrieving their flag the fastest of the eight girls’ houses. They won the grand prize of 100 house points, which will contribute to the points needed to win the house competition at the end of the year. 

“People were actually smiling and enjoying themselves, which is so important, especially with finals coming up,” Liv Klammer ‘21, Beta House Leader, reflected.

At this time of year, houses would normally be gathering together, making Christmas cookies, and enjoying sweets. However, planning activities looked a lot different due to distancing requirements this year. It required adaptability and resilience, which the house leaders enthusiastically used to bring excitement back into house.

The girls’ house leaders spent two weeks brainstorming ideas for an exciting final activity before semester exams. After sifting through several ideas, they finally landed on the scavenger hunt. 

“There’s just something about running around the school together and solving clues that brings people closer,” Klammer commented.

Both house members and leaders had a blast, making the scavenger hunt a huge success. It truly did make up for the loss of some Christmas activities this year.

A New Page for the Library

This year changed many things, the school library taking a couple of hits in the process with the retirement of a loved librarian Mrs. Commers, her storytimes, and much more. The library was closed for a while trying to figure out how to deal with the new accommodations but recently reopened to students and faculty.

“I talk to Mrs. Commers periodically and she sends her love to the school and is enjoying her time with her two young grandchildren and the rest of her family. She too, always is immersed in a book,” says part-time library helper Mrs. Batina.

The biggest change that came with the absence of Mrs. Commers was the weekly readings. She would read to the students for half an hour and had a “set curriculum” of books each year. No one has taken up the job so the students just browse and read for a bit instead.

Fifth-grader Vivienne Martini described, “It really is upsetting that we don’t have Mrs. Commers to read to us especially because it would have been my last year because we don’t get this in middle school.”

This section of the library is looking lonely without the usual readings.

With the beloved Mrs. Commers gone, there is no official new librarian taking her place for Covid reasons. Instead, there are a couple of part-time people helping out, 2 part-time staff workers and a volunteer. 

Mrs. Batina and Mrs. Cadwallader have both been working in the library with Mrs. Commers for a while, Mrs. Cadwallader for 7 years, and Mrs. Batina for 15 years. 

They both have a love for books, Mrs. Cadwallader even having a degree in Library Science and working previously as a professional librarian. She worked here to be involved in the Providence community and liked the idea of being in a library again although this will be her last year as her daughter is now a senior. 

Mrs. Batina, on the other hand, served as a President of the Board of a suburban Chicago library and is a board member of the Friends of the Wayzata Library. She has also been a volunteer and staff assistant in the Upper and Lower School Libraries throughout the years.

The staff workers have already taken steps to keep the library running as normal. For example, the library is still open to small groups of students wishing to check out books and to help teachers laminate, keep late fee records, and help find materials for classroom subjects and products. 

The shelves are looking extra spacious because of all the books being quarantined after being returned.

Mrs. Cadwallader notes, “The changes in the Library this year have been significant due to the Covid environment, but we are striving to return to normalcy as much as possible.”

Everyone is very thankful that with so many changes going on in everyone’s daily routines they can still go up to the library and grab a book to enjoy.

What To Do When There Is Nothing To Do

This year has brought a lot of “I am bored”s. Because of this, students and teachers at PA have had to come up with new, interesting, and fun things to do with their extra free time at home right now. 

Peyton Menzel ’22 poses for a picture on his boat during the summer.

“I have been bored quite a lot lately, but I have used some of my free time to work out,” said Peyton Menzel ‘22. “I go almost every day and it not only gives me something to do, but it also gives me a chance to unwind from the school day.” 

Menzel says that he would be going on a vacation over the past few breaks, but it is not going to work due to the circumstances right now. He has also been going shopping, taking drives, and was going out on his boat when it was warm outside.

Amelia Hilberg ’22 and her brother Henry Hilberg watch a TV show to fill the time.

“When I’m not doing my homework I really enjoy practicing my clarinet, watching TV shows with my brothers, and talking to friends on the phone that I cannot see right now,” remarked  Amelia Hilberg ’22.

The past few months have given everyone a chance to rethink their free time and find new activities to replace those that have been canceled.  Hilberg said that she would have been keeping herself busy with clubs like Cooking Club and Jazz Band, but they are not up and running quite yet. These canceled activities have had positive outcomes though, instead of going to Cooking Club, Hilberg now bakes a lot at home and plays her own jazz music by herself instead of playing it in Jazz Band.

Mrs. Claypool and her family pose for a picture at a State Park despite the cancellation of activities.


“This time has given us more family time so that we can try out new recipes and spend more time cooking together,” glowed Mrs. Teresa Claypool, the Middle School Dean and English Teacher.


Claypool and her family usually enjoy going out to Friday night dinner and playing fall volleyball, but these activities have been put on hold for now. On the positive side, she rediscovered her love of golfing this summer after many years, went biking in State Parks with her family, and got to read some books that have been on her list for a while.

This time is hard for everyone. It is hard to find activities to keep busy right now but hopefully, this “busts some of the boredom.” The most important thing we have to remember is that “it will not be like this forever,” as Hilberg says.




PA Theatre: Coming to a Living Room Near You!

It’s show time! The day of the show is usually a bustling and busy couple of hours of final preparations. The backstage area of the PAC is abuzz with spontaneous karaoke sessions, hair and makeup crew members are attempting to bribe reluctant fashionistas into putting on less agreeable costume and makeup, and the air is thick with an undeniable energy and excitement.

Seniors Stephanie Momanyi and Marie Leggott have an intense moment during recording (Photo courtesy of Olivia Bissonette)

Last weekend, however, didn’t bring the same atmosphere. New actors and veterans alike were thrilled to be back in the swing of things, but there were no costumes to be had, not even a set. Instead, the eight members of Providence Academy’s fall show took their place at a small configuration of seats with microphones and tried their best to make the story of Blithe Spirit come to life with their voices and a few key sound effects.

In response to the recent COVID 19 pandemic, the Upper School theatre department made a major change in order to have their show. They decided to take the fall play, which was already slated to have a small cast in order to remain in COVID restrictions, and make it a radio show. This meant that there would be no set or costumes, just the actors sitting and giving their lines. One student  provided all of the sound effects that would have otherwise been visualized under normal circumstances. Some were simply audio files utilized when the script called for it, like glasses breaking or a record playing. Others, like the sound of tapping on the table or the table falling over were created live by the actors.

For several of the actors, this method of acting was an entirely new approach in the sense of characterization and how they were going to bring these ghosts, mystics, and hopeful authors to life. 

“After all, they can’t see me,” leading man Joseph Uzelac, ‘22, reflected. “I have to find ways to convey in my voice that I’ve sat down or that I’m pacing. It puts far more pressure on me as the actor to create just as memorable of an experience for the audience.” 

Sophomore Lauren McGill keeps everyone on track during recording and also provides sound effects (Photo courtesy of Olivia Bissonette)

Director Melissa Simmons agreed with this statement with one of her final notes before recording day. “This is an entirely different skillset that we’ve had our players learn and experiment with,” she stated. “It’s not at all what we expected to be doing this year, but everyone involved has done an excellent job of adjusting accordingly.” 

Another major deviation from traditional plays that sets radio plays apart is the inclusion of a narrator to read the lines of stage directions, things that would otherwise be acted out by the actors onstage. This was a bit of an adjustment for actors, who were used to skipping the stage directions in the readings of the show, but it gave the cast a chance to truly understand what was going on in any given scene. The addition of a narrator also allowed a new character to be introduced to an already small cast and another voice to be added.

One of the hardest things about doing a show during COVID is the limited number of people who can be involved with the show. While PA theatre works hard to include everyone who wants to be a part of the show, it’s not always possible to cast everyone who tries out. In order to compensate for this, there was a second, shorter show that was put together with the actors who weren’t a part of Blithe Spirit. This ensured that everyone who wanted to share their talents could, and made a new experience for audience members to enjoy.

Overall, the show was a great success, in spite of the different situation of this year. Audience members were able to enjoy the hard work of the Providence Academy players from the comfort of their own homes, and there was the added bonus of no paid admissions.

“This probably wasn’t at all what these kids were planning to do for their fall show, but they did an awesome job with what they were given,” one audience member, a neighbor of one of the cast members of Blithe Spirit enthused. “I’m so glad that I was able to listen to and enjoy the show in spite of everything.”

Though it was by no means the ideal method of having the fall play, the radio play of Blithe Spirit was the perfect thing to get people back into the swing of something normal. Though the virus has changed so, so many things this year, it was a beacon of hope to know the old saying remains true: the show must go on.

Seniors Stephanie Momanyi, Val Fish, and Marie Leggott celebrate a job well done and the end of their final fall play.