Christmas Cheer For All This Year

Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders opened the annual Upper School Choir and Band Concert by saying, “It’s no secret that at Providence Academy, Christmas is a big thing. I mean, we put it on a billboard…” 

Christmas is celebrated in a big way at PA, not only because it honors our Lord and Savior’s birth, but it is a time for all the students and teachers to come together and participate in fun activities filled with the Christmas spirit.

Even students from other schools know Providence goes above and beyond during the holiday season. 

A co-op athlete from Heritage Academy, Lisey Langhus ‘24 says, “I can’t wait to see what the school looks like, all decorated. I just know it is so fun there during Christmastime.”

The PA community is grateful for the fact that we can be open about our faith and celebrate during the Christmas season. This is partially why everywhere you look, you will find wreaths; large trees complete with lights, ornaments, and garland; poinsettias; Nativity scenes; and many other ways showing that Christmas is not just about presents. 

Even in the library, the Christmas cheer is apparent with this special arrangement of holiday books and a Nativity scene.

These decorations stay up well into the new year to serve as a reminder that the Christmas season is not over on the 26th. Mrs. Nancy Galgano, Lower School Director explains, “Especially with the younger kids, we really do try to teach them early on the real reason behind Christmas. It is all about preparing for Jesus, who came to give us grace.”

Along with traditional methods of celebrating, the Lower School is especially active during this time, with their annual caroling during the last hour of school before break, Advent prayers, Jesse trees, crafts, Christmas concerts, and an all-time favorite celebration of St. Nicholas. Each child puts out a shoe overnight on the 6th of December for St. Nick’s Feast Day and comes back the next day to receive a special treat in his or her shoe.

Santa greets a class of kindergarteners by the fire on the last day before Christmas break.

Santa even makes an appearance every year at Providence to surprise the little ones! There are also multiple charity drives to help those who may be less fortunate, making sure they also have a blessed Christmas. The Hat and Mitten Drive has been very popular for years, and the school receives so many donations of winter accessories that multiple, mini-Christmas trees are adorned with the donated items before they are distributed to those in need. The Toys for Tots pile under the tree in the Great Room overflows, requiring the path around it to be cleared several times a week. The festivities don’t even end in December: after the break, on the Feast Day of the Three Kings, each classroom gets blessed by Father McClellan to celebrate the Epiphany. 

While the Lower School is drawing pictures of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in the stable, the Upper Schoolers have final exams, but they still find ways to show some Christmas cheer during this time with the school choir caroling throughout the halls, students decorating hallways, Secret Santa gift exchanges, an ugly sweater competition, “story time” with Mr. Skemp before finals, and last but certainly not least, Mass, to let us remember why we can celebrate this lovely time in the first place. 

This Just In: Mr. Jaeger Now Permanent Director of Upper School

From building relationships with teachers to greeting people in the hallways, Mr. Kurt Jaeger, now permanent Director of the Providence Academy Upper School, made a great first impression in his first semester as the interim head of Upper School. Jaeger’s short term position was meant to be a bridge between Mrs. Harrington, former Director of Upper School, and a future face in the office, but Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders announced in his “Headmaster’s Blog” on December 6, 2021, Jaeger’s position will now be permanent. 

Each day, Jaeger can be found talking with students in the atrium between classes and reading school announcements.

“Mr. Jaeger is such a great guy,” glowed Mrs. Kate Gregg, Upper School Administrative Assistant. “I have known him for years and have always had great respect for him. I was very excited to hear that he is now permanent.”

Jaeger could not be more qualified for his new role, given his long history at PA. He served as the Athletic Director for thirteen years and has taught in every division at the school. Jaeger has seen Providence through all of its changes and growth and even his family is deeply ingrained in the community. His children have studied at PA, and his wife, Mrs. Danette Jaeger, teaches third grade in the Lower School. 

“One of the best things about coming back to PA is reuniting past relationships as well as getting to know new faces,” exclaimed Jaeger. 

Jaeger is using his qualifications to make positive changes throughout the Upper School.  In his first semester as the Director, he began checking in with students in the hallways, talking to them at lunch, and communicating more with teachers. 

Mr. Jaeger stands with his 2001-2002 second grade class.

“My favorite aspect of Mr. Jaeger is his friendliness,” stated Olivia Menzel ‘22. “He always makes a point to ask me how my day is going.”

Jaeger’s important position at the school does not come without challenges. The spectrum of his responsibilities – from managing students and teachers to letting parents know that PA will be closing early due to snow – can seem daunting. But Jaeger accomplishes the tasks set before him with ease and compassion, and he cannot wait to see where his new job will take him. 

The PA community is very excited to see where Jaeger leads the Upper School; but one thing is for sure, it is in very good hands and its future is bright.

Senior Sentiments: Wham! It’s the Seniors’ ‘Last Christmas’

Seniors are soaking up every second of the 2021 Christmas season. Realizing this is the last Christmas spent living at home, the Class of 2022 is focused on spending time with friends and family. 

Leia Gable ’25, younger brother Elkana Gable, and Sophia Gable ’22 pose in front of their carefully decorated gingerbread house. “I enjoyed using our creativity to make something together. Finding something small to do as a family made it so special,” Sophia reflected.

Whether it’s making gingerbread houses or planning holiday fun for House period at school, seniors are getting in the Christmas spirit. They are finding ways to make the most of this Christmas season because it won’t be the same next year. 

Many Senior House leaders are planning festivities for the last House period before Christmas break. These include organizing Secret Santa gift exchanges, decorating gingerbread houses, enjoying Christmas cookies and hot chocolate, and watching Christmas movies. Through these activities, seniors are bringing all grades together for the Christmas season. 

Members of the Class of 2022 also look forward to Christmas traditions with family. 

Although it may seem unconventional, Elle Wiederholt ‘22 and her family make a birthday cake for Jesus every year on Christmas Day. Then, they gather around the red and green cake to sing “Happy Birthday.” 

“It’s Jesus’s birthday, so why wouldn’t we celebrate like that?” Wiederholt laughed.

Nina Von Dohlen ’22 poses with her gift for Sandra Alb ’24, her Secret Santa, during House period, Wednesday, December 15th. They also enjoy hot chocolate and cookies as they prepare for Christmas.

Sadly, going off to college means the inevitable discontinuation of some Christmas traditions. Seniors have mixed feelings about the end of these customs, but are prepared for the change and excited to make new memories.

Seniors also eagerly anticipate family gatherings. Next year, coming home for Christmas will feel much different, so they appreciate the privilege of spending time with family for all of December. 

Kristin Welch ‘22 confessed, “ I think I’ll appreciate family gatherings more next year since I won’t be seeing my family as often when I’m in college.”

Kylie Onserio ‘22 expressed a similar sentiment. Until her older siblings left for college, her family always went ice skating, made gingerbread houses, and baked cookies throughout the month of December. Although some of these traditions ended when her siblings went off to college, her family has still been able to celebrate the holiday season together in different ways. This gives Onserio reassurance that she’ll be able to stay connected with family while she is in college as well.

Seniors’ parents are also prepared to make the most of this season before their children leave for college. 

Mrs. Megan Wohlwend, parent to Emma Wohlwend ‘22, acknowledges things will be different next year, but she is prepared to overcome the challenge. 

“We’ll share our Christmas preparations and festivities via FaceTime and photos!” exclaimed Wohlwend. 

Despite the fact that it’s the seniors’ ‘Last Christmas’ living at home, they know their hearts won’t be ‘given away the very next day’ just because they’ll be gone at college next year.

Ready to Roar: Girls Basketball Begins Their Season

A crowded gym. A loud bench. Teamwork. These are three things that have already led the Providence Academy Girls Basketball team to success early on in the season. After being the runner-up in the state tournament last year, the Lions have high expectations for this season. With numerous weeks of practice and hard work under their belt, the girls are ready to dominate on the court with aspirations to make it back to the state championship game this year and walk away with the trophy. They know this will not happen without determination and dedication, but they are up for the challenge.

Brigitta Nelson ’27 gets excited for the 2021-2022 basketball season and poses for a silly picture while inside the cage of basketballs.

Point guard Maddyn Greenway ‘26 commented, “I’m most looking forward to picking up this season from where we left off last season: playing together and playing well. I’m also excited to be challenged by the bigger schools we are playing as I think it will push us to be better.”

The girls’ season started off strong at the Twin Cities Thanksgiving Tip-Off Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend, winning their first game, against Hutchinson. This past weekend, the Lions participated in another tournament, the annual Breakdown Tournament hosted by Hopkins, and walked away with a win against Benilde St. Margaret, one of the top-ranked teams in Class 3A with many strong players. This game was far from easy, but the teamwork and energy brought by the team and crowd alike allowed the Lions to shine and walk away with the W. 

Sisters Ellie Millerbernd ’22 (left) and Emma Millerbernd ’27 (right) put their game faces on as they get ready for a fun and competitive season together on the court.

Seventh-grader Emma Millerbernd added, “Being on this great of a team, you never know who’s going to show up and what opportunities you will receive. I have gotten the opportunity to play against some of the greatest basketball players in Minnesota or playing against [future] D1 athletes which has made me a better basketball player and overall a better person.”

Not only is their hard work going to drive them to succeed in the coming season, but their bond as a group is also a crucial factor. “Family on me, family on three” is a classic cheer for the team, and the words hold special significance. The team has a strong relationship on and off the court and they all show support for each other in every circumstance. The bench energy is like no other, with everyone cheering their teammates on, showing continuous positivity throughout entire games.

Ellie Millerbernd ‘22 reflected on their relationships and said, “I think the fact that we are such a family, along with the bond we have off the court, help drive our success because of our positivity and attitudes towards each other. Everyone on the bench is always cheering as loud as they can for everyone, and it’s really cool knowing that everyone has each other’s back.”

A Day in the Life of Mr. Jones

“From his energy to his cheerfulness, Mr. Jones is the best,” explained Macallister Clark ‘22, Providence Academy tuba player.

This sentiment is shared by many in the Providence community. Cheerful, caring, and highly competent are three ways to describe the Upper School Band Director, Thomas Jones. 

Mr. Jones assists Ms. Catherine Ratelle with the Upper School Choir during light blue period.

Since he started teaching at Providence nine years ago, Jones has had many different roles. Last year, he served as Middle School Band Assistant, as COVID spacing regulations required the band to be split in half. As a result, Jones taught half of the Middle Schoolers each day, while Middle School Band Director, Mrs. Nicole Clark taught the rest. Jones is also Upper School Choir Assistant this year, helping keep choir students engaged in the songs. He even teaches Lower Schoolers, giving individual lessons to fifth grade brass players on Wednesdays. 

In addition to these many responsibilities, Jones’s day is also filled with either lessons, monthly Aviation Club meetings, or weekly Upper School Jazz Band. In the afternoon, he will supervise his Upper School House Xi or Activity group depending on the day.  And after the 3:15 bell officially ends the school day, Mr. Jones will continue administering lessons or attending meetings. 

The bulk of Jones’s day consists of the individual music lessons. Every band student has the opportunity to meet with him for ten minutes a week. Because of this, Jones will administer anywhere from around nineteen to twenty-five lessons per day. Throughout the week he will teach at least ninety-five lessons. 

“I love working with each student individually,” glowed Jones. “It is so fun to see where each student is at in their musical journey and then be able to take that and comprise it into a band. It is the best part of my job.”

In between all the lessons, Jones gets to fulfill his main role of directing the Upper Symphonic Band for an hour. 

Mr. Jones teaches Gretta Martin ’22 a lesson after school.

“I love being a part of the Upper School Band,” articulated Gretta Martin ‘22, clarinet player. “Mr. Jones always has a positive attitude and makes every rehearsal memorable.”

Despite having an already full schedule, Jones still wants to do more. He likes working with the Symphonic Band so much he wishes he could have longer class periods. He also is advocating for a music course in which students could learn about all the different aspects of music as well as how it developed in different time periods.

No matter whether Jones is working with a student in a music lesson, conducting the band, or running the Aviation Club, the community can be sure that Jones will be on it with his usual energy and enthusiasm.