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.

A Second Grade Sacrament

Spring is in the air, which often brings with it flowers blooming, weather warming, and kids and adults alike eager to shove off jackets and run around.  But for those in the second grade at PA, spring also brings white dresses, small tuxedos, and excited relatives.  In other words, the sacrament of First Communion is just around the corner. Over the winter, parishes prepare young congregants for their First Communion and typically celebrate the sacrament during the Easter season.  The PA community shares in the excitement of this commemorative moment by guiding Catholic students in their steps toward this sacrament and by helping them to receive “Second” Communion here at PA.

Parents and teachers help students form a foundation for understanding the meaning and importance of the sacrament of First Communion. Mrs. Kesney McCarthy, parent of second grader Fallon McCarthy, reflected on how she helps her children prepare to receive Holy Communion for the first time, “As a parent, I consider it my job to help my children understand what the sacraments really mean and how we can apply them to our daily lives.”

Second Grader Wells Martin poses in his First Communion suit in front of the alter in the Providence Academy Chapel. (Photo Credit: Mrs. Karen Dierberger)

Providence Academy intends to help students accomplish this very task.  Second graders learn crucial elements of the sacraments in their religion class, focusing on Reconciliation the fall curriculum, and First Communion during the spring. 

Second grade teacher Ms. Katie Bjorgaard elaborated, “We help our students prepare for their First Communion throughout the school year using our Religion curriculum, school Mass, classroom visits from Father McClellan, and in our day-to-day interactions and discussions.”

Father Michael McClellan, Chaplain at Providence, explained what is crucial to a student’s understanding about Holy Communion, “They need to understand how much Jesus loves them. I make it a habit to remind them that Jesus is always even more excited than them when they receive their First Communion.”

Father McClellan commented on how parents can guide their children in preparation for this sacrament, “Parents should model weekly reception of Holy Communion, making sure that their students go to Mass.”

Students in Mrs. Dierberger’s second grade class (Lucia Barron, Liliana Barron, Hank Polich, Roman Crow, and Wells Martin) prepare for their second Communion at school. (Photo Credit: Mrs. Karen Dierberger)

But Providence Academy goes beyond teaching the students about First Communion.  After Easter and throughout the month of May, Providence Academy invites students to take their official second communion in the chapel.  Students who receive their First Communion at their parish over the weekend celebrate at school the following Monday with all the pomp and circumstance of a First Communion.  Students are able to dress up in their First Communion outfits, partaking in the procession for the Mass, and receiving a blessing and prayer card. This year, a total of 31 students have celebrated their First Communion in this way at school.

Bjorgaard emphasized the joyful spirit that accompanies acknowledgement of First Communion at school, “We love getting to celebrate our First Communicants as a school family.  It is a chance to congratulate and uplift each other, and it allows for more discussion about the Sacrament.”

The PA community actively supports the Catholic faith life, and as a result, students are encouraged in their faith in school in addition to church. McCarthy commented on the significance of this, “I think it helps children know they are surrounded by people that support them in their faith journey at school, home, and church. It’s an opportunity to share in a hopeful, loving tradition of our faith.”

Class of 2021: A Literary Year In Review

Fall: Plato’s Republic

At the beginning of senior year, there’s a certain amount of excitement that comes with knowing that while it’s the beginning of the year, it’s also the beginning of the end. A strange equilibrium is struck between the excitement of a new year after summer break, yet at the same time, nothing can really compare to what’s coming in a few short months.

No matter how much the class of 2021–or any group of seniors–might think they know or believe they’re prepared for, there is still a lot to be learned. College application deadlines loom. In some cases, other future plans hover with uncertainty. Given the weight of these decisions, provokes some important questions: who am I? What am I working towards? What makes a just society, and what’s my place therein?

Plato’s Republic is thus aptly timed as the first senior reading assignment of the year.  This timeless work makes an effort to answer all of the above questions. Socrates dialogues with various citizens throughout the piece in an effort to discern what makes a just society and what is required to attain that justice for oneself as well as others. 

Bobby Hughes ‘21 commented on this theme of justice by saying, “I believe this is a virtue everyone needs in their life in order to truly live a good and holy life. Knowing right and wrong and being able to choose the right is a very important task every human must undertake.”

Providence opens its doors at the beginning of the fall, eager to help the class of 2021 complete their high school career (PAW photo courtesy of Mrs. Rachel Hope).

Winter: Crime and Punishment by: Fydor Dostoyevsky

After The Republic, most college applications are due. After a month passes by filled with only a few short literary piece, November arrives, and with it, senior speeches, thoughts of coming finals, and the next sizeable text in the English curriculum: Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment takes the themes explored in Plato’s Republic and puts them into practice. In a world of cold and bitter winters not unlike Plymouth’s and Russia on the brink of a communist revolution, a young academic struggles to come to terms with his actions and the repercussions they have on those around him, friend or foe. 

Stephanie Lanterman ‘21 noted that Crime and Punishment was her favorite book in the course for the very reason that it explores just how far one is willing to go in order to pursue what one believes to be just. “It was a psychological thriller that provided advanced insights into what a murderer thinks and how he chose to execute his plan. It taught me that not everyone thinks the same and that not everyone possesses the same moral compass.”

Snow on the campus gives Providence a dream like feeling, a warm glow in winter’s chill (PAW photo courtesy of Mrs. Rachel Hope).

Spring: The Wasteland by: T.S. Eliot

“April is the cruellest month”, Eliot writes in The Wasteland, and by the time the class of 2021 read those words, they couldn’t help but agree. Most had made their decisions in regards to which college they will attend, and even those who hadn’t quite decided yet had gotten fairly close. Such decisions grossly overshadowed things like school and literature and brought out a particular indifference that isn’t unusual for the class of 2021.

However, by discussing The Wasteland, the class of 2021 was able to make sense of the apathy around them and rise above it, given that Eliot’s piece deals largely with making sense of tragedy through various perspectives presented in his poetry. By taking seemingly unrelated events and memories from a world torn by World War I, Eliot paints a picture of life at its rawest and most complicated while still holding onto the hope of rebirth and forgiveness.

Graduation: The Old Man and the Sea

The final book examined by the class of 2021 was one that actually hadn’t been on the curriculum for a while: Earnest Hemingway’s masterpiece The Old Man and the Sea. “I’ve taught the piece once before, though I don’t believe I taught it successfully,” admitted senior literature teacher and English department chair Adam Schmalzbauer, “but I believe it was worth the challenge this year.”

What makes this story such a challenge?  Schmalzbauer commented that while the plot is deceptively simple, there is a lot more to the story than, as the title suggests, an old man and the sea. Instead, it’s a story of loving until there is no more love to give, and the justice that inevitably comes from patience. 

“I’m preparing the seniors to write at the academic level of their collegiate futures to be sure, but I’m also preparing them to write on a moral level, too.” Schmalzbauer concluded.