Farewell Mrs. Harrington

Teacher, Coach, Director, Mother. Mrs. Kelly Harrington has assumed all those roles throughout her seventeen years at PA. And now, Harrington will embark on a new journey as Director of grades 6-12 at Hill-Murray School in St. Paul. Though she will be deeply missed, Harrington takes beautiful memories with her while she leaves an incredible legacy with all she has accomplished during her time within the ‘yellow walls.’ 

Harrington made the decision to move to Hill-Murray School on behalf of her family. For multiple years now, her three children have been at three different schools and it has become increasingly difficult to manage everyone’s schedule. 

“I really wish I could stay at PA,” articulated Harrington, “I love it here, and it is so hard for me to leave. This is a decision I had to make for my family and it is truly what was best for all of us.”  

Harrington has taught in all three divisions at PA–Lower, Middle, and Upper school–and has loved every part of it. She started her career at PA in the Lower School as a fourth grade instructor.

A warm memory from a cold day, Harrington recalled a funny present from Mr. John Wagner in her fourth grade classroom.  Wagner delivered a real snowman in her room while she was out. (PAW Photo credit, Kelly Harrington)

“She has always been my right hand,” commented Mrs. Nancy Galgano, Lower School Director. “She never stopped working, even when she was on her maternity leaves. I had to remind her what a leave was! She just cared so much about her job as well as her students.”

Harrington then coordinated pre-K for a year before moving to the Middle School wing, where she served as Director and history teacher. Her most recent title will be the last she holds at PA as Upper School Director.

Though known for her dedication to PA’s faculty and administration, Harrington has also made significant contributions to athletic programs, a natural outlet, given her passionate involvement in student life.  She has coached softball and volleyball in the course of her tenure at PA. 

In 2004, Harrington took the position of JV Volleyball coach with Physical Education teacher, Mrs. Colleen Carron, who began teaching at PA the same year as Harrington. They coached volleyball together for two years and then, in the spring of 2006, Harrington started the softball program while Carron was her JV team coach. Carron and Harrington have coached a total of five years together and become very close friends.

 “Though this is not the end of our relationship, what I will miss most about being around her often is her ability to make me laugh and her support through life’s ups and downs,” lamented Carron. “I will also miss her passion for students and their education; they have always been her priority.” 

Carron and Harrington have experienced a number of milestones in their lives throughout their friendship:  not only have they started two sports teams and a chapter of their teaching career together, they have also endured pregnancy at the same time.

Carron and Harrington (center) pose for a picture with their 2005-2006 Volleyball team. (PAW Photo credit, Kelly Harrington)

With children only fourteen days apart, Harrington and Carron have enjoyed sharing stories and experiences as they have journeyed through motherhood together while still investing in the lives of their students and their own professional development.

Carron recalled a funny story that neither she nor Harrington will ever forget. During a fire drill, then fourth grade teacher Harrington told her students not to talk. What she didn’t know was that there was a snake on her foot. Her obedient pupils did not tell her about the overly friendly reptile. Carron can still recall the expression on Harrington’s face when she saw her new companion.

A woman who has worn many hats, Harrington will be greatly missed by everyone in the Providence community. As she begins a new chapter, students and faculty alike wish her the best of luck in her next adventure at Hill-Murray. 

Field Day Festivities

Egg in spoon races, potato sack hops, and obstacle courses can only mean one thing: Field Day in the Lower School! An annual favorite for kindergarten through 5th grade students, a sunny but windy day set the stage for a fun-filled Field Day last Friday May 28. 

Mr. Tim Subialka, Lower School physical education teacher, organizes this full day event, and ensures that there are enough parent volunteers to help run the stations on the football field, where Field Day takes place. In past years, all participating grades were out on the field at the same time. This year, due to COVID-19 protocol, third, fourth, and fifth graders participated during the morning, while kindergarten, first, and second graders participated in the afternoon. 

Some Field Day activities, including the obstacle course, potato sack race, 50 yard dash, hurdles, and egg balancing race, were conducted in heats, boys against boys and girls against girls. Girl and boy heats ended in a final round to determine winners. The other activities consisted of the long jump, egg toss, shoe kick, and softball throw. Students practice these events in PE class in anticipation of Field Day to prepare students for full participation in the day’s events. 

Second graders Gunnar Bassett, Nolan Hubbard, and Calvin Connelly enthusiastically jump over hurdles as a part of Field Day festivities last Friday on the PA track. (PAW photo credit: Mrs. Rachel Hope)

Though the day is full of unique activities and competitions, some students are still most excited for traditional foot races. Second grader Calvin Connelly commented, “My favorite activity for Field Day was the 50 yard dash.” In this activity, students simply had to stay in their own lane until the finish line. The winners of each round faced each other in the final race. 

Fourth grade teacher and PA track coach Mrs. Amy Hohenecker reflected on the student favorites, “Students tend to like the ones where they’re competing simultaneously.” 

Field day cultivates a competitive spirit which also teaches students important lessons regarding teamwork and good sportsmanship. Hohenecker elaborated, “It’s a big team building event that teaches kids to be okay if something doesn’t go the way they want it to.” 

First graders Jack Illies and Rey Sharma approach the halfway point in the potato sack race on the football field during Field Day. (PAW photo credit: Mrs. Rachel Hope)

Mrs. Becky Connelly, a parent volunteer, assisted at the softball throw station, where students threw a softball twice, recording their best score. At the end of the activity, the top four scores for boys and girls were recorded. Connelly reflected on her experience with the students, “The kids were adorable, good little listeners.”

Subialka commented on the purpose behind Field Day, “Mrs. Galgano (the Lower School Director) and I both agree that Field Day is all about the classes having a fun class experience.” He added, “The fun comes from sharing the day with your classmates.”

Teachers Tell the Truth about High School: Mrs. Claypool Takes a Trip Down Memory Lane

“Idyllic,” said PA Middle School Dean of Students and Literature teacher Mrs. Teresa Claypool when asked what word comes to mind when she thinks of high school.

“Pretty much what you picture when you think of high school,” Claypool added candidly.

PA Middle School Dean and Literature Teacher Mrs. Teresa Claypool poses confidently in 1995. She recalls this time in high school saying, “I was a little quirky.”

In keeping with her straightforward nature, Claypool confessed that she skipped study hall one day to get breakfast with friends. Who would’ve thought a future Dean of Students would have to be escorted back to school by her police officer father dressed in full uniform?

This candidness is characteristic of Claypool. Anyone can attest to her frank, but lighthearted approach to life, so it’s not surprising she’d have this perspective when speaking of high school as well. 

Similar to other much-loved PA teachers, Claypool wanted to teach by the time she graduated high school. Her instructors instilled her with confidence which motivated her to make the same impact on others.

Mrs. Teresa Claypool smiles for senior pictures in 1995. “Be your authentic self,” she advises students, based on her own experience in high school.

Claypool expressed that teaching Middle School perfectly aligns with her personality. She admittedly didn’t enjoy Middle School much herself, so she values having the ability to help students through these years that many consider awkward. 

“It’s a time when you’re caught between blending in and being true to yourself, which is difficult to navigate,” she expressed compassionately. 

Throughout high school, however, Claypool became more comfortable in her skin, leading her to pursue a career that allowed her to help others achieve the same. With this understanding, Claypool believes building relationships with students is of the utmost importance, and that as a result, teaching becomes more compelling and effective. 

“All my students–former and current–know my door is always open. And I mean that,” Claypool shared.

While she feels at home in the Middle School wing, she loves maintaining connections as students move through the Upper School.  

Mrs. Teresa Claypool cheers for her high school as their mascot, the coyote, during her junior year in 1995.

“That’s why I love teaching here. I get to see everyone transition into beautiful adults,” reflected Claypool. 

Her humor and candor draw Upper Schoolers back to the Middle School to visit their beloved former teacher. Who would’ve thought students could be so eager to “head to the Dean’s office”? 

“The fact that she’s still invested in my life even though I haven’t had her as a teacher for four years is so meaningful. You don’t find that with many teachers,” reflected Adriana Azarian ‘22, one of Claypool’s former students. 

Mrs. Teresa Claypool shows off her cap and gown after graduating from Williston High School in North Dakota in 1996.

Claypool has impacted the lives of so many by simply being herself. 

Ms. Bridget Taylor, Claypool’s friend of eleven years and Middle School Assistant fondly remembers her first encounter with Claypool: “She was running across the field to save a student who had just fallen during a softball game…while [Claypool] was eight months pregnant! I remember thinking to myself, ‘Who is this teacher?!’ It was a die hard moment.”

As a PA parent herself, Taylor also remembers her first parent-teacher conference with Claypool. She recalled thinking, “This is why my child goes to Providence. This teacher makes my daughter feel like she’s the only student in the building.”

It took only minutes in a room with Claypool for Taylor to know exactly why her daughter loved her so much.

Mr. Daniel Hickel, PA Science Teacher and Claypool’s friend of five years, was also touched by Claypool’s magic upon joining the staff himself in 2016.

“When I started working at PA, she was one of the first people to reach out and get to know me,” Hickel enthused. 

Whether it’s a student, parent, softball player, or colleague, Claypool has a way of making everyone feel valued, and that rare gift encapsulates part of what makes Providence Academy “a school like no other.

Thinking *Outside* the Box: Middle Schoolers enjoy second semester Stretch Activity

Change isn’t always a bad thing.  Even difficult changes sometimes prompt more positive ones in their wake. A year of mask wearing, hybrid learning, social distancing, and many other changes to Middle School life at PA , may have been the catalyst for a positive, popular change in students’ midday schedule. For the last month, middle school students have been getting to go outside for 5 minutes after lunch. This Stretch period, as it is being called, was originally proposed by MS teachers.

“Teachers were looking for a way to give students a mask break and to take advantage of a few free minutes at the end of lunchtime,” commented Middle School Director Mr. Kyle Rickbeil, who was happy to oblige the request if logistics lined up.

Because of the increasingly good weather, middle school students have been able to take advantage of the opportunity for fresh air most days since the end of April. 

Originally, the hope was was to have middle school students spend time in the gym, but unfortunately scheduling didn’t permit the plan. However, when the weather got better, it was a perfect time to implement this unique outdoor addition to the day.  

“If we had enough teachers to supervise the middle school students, then why not?” continued Rickbeil. 

At the end of April, the plan took effect and will continue through the remainder of the semester, weather permitting. Each day, a different middle school grade is allowed to go outside.

Stretch is basically the equivalent to a brief recess for the middle school students and it gives them the time to “stretch” from sitting all day. This also allows students to get exercise outside of gym class. It also gives them the ability to interact with their friends without masks and have some quality time outside.

After finishing lunch, middle school students can use the Stretch activity to relieve stress from the day before continuing afternoon classes.

Mrs. Hannah Wegner, 6th and 8th grade instructor is delighted to help facilitate this opportunity.  She noted, “Students often come into [the class period immediately following lunch] with high energy, but still I think Stretch enables them to focus more quickly.”

Wegner added, “The afternoon can get very long and by pink or purple periods the students are either very antsy and do not want to sit still, or they are starting to get sleepy and their brains are saturated.”

Teachers agree, Stretch has been a good way for middle students to get out, exercise, and socialize. The students are able to get moving, which can help them focus throughout the rest of the day. Given the spaced seating at lunchtime, it allows students time to socialize with more of their friends and simply enjoy the weather and fresh air. 

Stretch period gives students a much needed break from their regimented schedule, to finish the school day–and school year–strong.

PA Prom 2021 is a Full House

Chips were down but spirits were high last Saturday evening during “Casino Night” at PA.  Extensive effort and collaboration between student council, upper school administration, faculty, and custodial staff delivered a fun-filled memorable evening for upperclassmen.

Prom is undoubtedly the most memorable dance of a typical school year for Providence Academy students. This year, that’s more true than ever, as it was the only dance. All year, students waited anxiously for news of the upcoming night in the wake of other canceled events. But, in the spirit of keeping life as close to normal as possible, and thanks to extensive collaboration in the PA community, Prom was held for the first time in two years.

Kristin Welch ‘22 commented in anticipation of the event, “Most schools didn’t even have prom this year so I think anything we have is going to be a fun first prom for the juniors and seniors.” 

With Providence standards for student conduct as well as COVID regulations to uphold, in addition to the logistics involved in hosting Prom on campus, nothing could be left up to lady luck. Student Council and faculty put in hours of work planning, while monitoring a very fluid public health situation. Staff and student council members set up decorations, food, music, prizes, tickets, and scheduled eating times for social distancing, to ensure the evening was a success. 

This year’s theme, Casino Royale, was unique compared to past themes in that it encouraged activities other than dancing. Raffle tables were set up around the perimeter of the Great Room with large tables in the middle for card and casino games. It worked perfectly to have the setup in the Great Room, leading outside to the courtyard, allowing half the space to be mask-free for eating and dancing. 

A.J. Hedberg ’21 and Seamus Healy ’21 play a game of blackjack while Mr. Skemp watches the fun.

Betting on good weather, a large tent was pitched for a dining space to eat a quick dinner from the My Burger food truck. The courtyard also housed the DJ booth, with Mr. John Wagner playing both classic and contemporary songs from a student-selected list.  S’mores, snacks, and yard games completed the affair

Even teachers dressed up for the event. European and US History teacher Mr. Edward Hester wore a kilt, complete with all the traditional Scottish accessories.  Hester’s attire was much talked about among students in anticipation of Saturday evening.

He commented, “If the students are going to dress up, I might as well have fun with it too.”

US and European History teacher Mr. Hester with his kilt, watching the festivities.

Other than the venue change and mask requirement, a noticeable difference was the initial lack of dancing. Perhaps this was due to the original thought that dancing wouldn’t be allowed, or the wide variety of alternative activities available that drew people away from the dance floor. 

Alumnus Charlie Rossman ‘20 commented, “My heart goes out to the seniors this year; I remember (and probably will never forget) how much fun my [junior] prom was.”

Imagining dancing wouldn’t be permitted, Rossman continued, “Prom itself is a dance, so the fact that [students] could have a fun night planned even without that big aspect is great.”

Although prom was atypical, it was still a blast, with yard games, a fun socially distanced food option, professional-grade photo booth pictures, poker and other card games, raffles with great prizes, and much more. 

“I am so glad that we can end such a tough year with one fun night together”, remarked Student Council Member Emma Kelly ‘22.