The Magic of Mrs. Gregg

Whether its for a parking pass or a chromebook, a lunch card or a school picture, a prom ticket or tardy slip, Upper School students know where they can go. Whether the Upper School director needs a point by point schedule for her busy day or teachers need dry erase markers; whether parents need to schedule conferences or teachers need a dinner break on a late night of work, they go to the same place.  On the heels of Administrative Professionals Week, PA takes time to appreciate the Administrative Staff for all they do for the school. One person in particular keeps the Upper School running:  Mrs. Kate Gregg. 

The Upper School would not be the same without Mrs. Gregg. She supports everyone whether that means helping to solve a problem in the administration office or taking attendance to make sure that each Upper School student arrives at school safely every day.  

“Mrs. Gregg is basically my right hand,” glowed Mrs. Kelly Harrington, Director of the Upper School. “She is my go-to for everything from planning to problem solving.” 

Gregg works on responding to emails from parents as she wraps up for the weekend last Friday.

Gregg has not always worked in Administration. Over the years she has taught preschool, first grade, been a stay-at-home-mom, and also opened two restaurants. One could argue that her vast and varied resume prepared her–albeit, in a roundabout way–for the multitude of tasks that await her on a daily basis in the front office.

Mrs. Gregg has big jobs to complete throughout the day like making Mrs. Harrington’s schedule and working Athletic Director Mr. Daren Messmore on schedules for athletes who require early dismissals. But, she also always has everyone’s back, whether it be having all the answers to everyone’s questions, keeping supplies in stock for teachers, or replacing the printer paper. 

“When I first took this job as the Upper School Administrative Assistant, I was a little hesitant about working with older students,” remarked Gregg. “But over the years, I realized how much I really love them and they make my days.” 

Students return Cromebooks to Mrs. Gregg at the end of the day on Tuesday, April 27.

She is the inspiration for everyone around her to work hard and do their best every minute of the day. 

“Mrs. Gregg has taught me balance,” reflected Julia Dailey ’21, who was given the task of reading the announcements written by Gregg each morning during second period. “In watching her, I have learned to juggle different demands, even though it is so hard.” 

Gregg has been at Providence for nearly a decade and has loved every crazy second of it. Throughout these years her job has changed, especially since last spring. From the beginning of distance learning in March of 2020 to the hybrid model currently in place, Gregg’s duties have expanded and shifted to keep students equipped for their work and accounted for, even if logging from home.  

This hasn’t been a typical year, but, for Gregg, that’s par for the course, since no day is typical.  But her joy in serving students and staff remains constant, as does their gratitude for you.

Late Night Out (or in) with the Addams

Mae Monette ’21–in the character of Wednesday Addams–draws her bow to shoot an apple off of Lucas’  head, played by Bobby Hughes ’21.

Going to watch a play is one of the most enjoyable activities in the world. At Providence especially, the Drama program takes great pride in their productions. But even theatergoers may be in the dark when it comes to all the work leading up to opening night. In addition to the hours of practice put forth to memorize lines–to say nothing of music rehearsals and costume design–the performance itself demands a certain poise under pressure that many would find impossible to uphold.  This year’s Spring production, The Addams Family, is a perfect example of those typical preparations, and then some.

“[In the year of Covid] We changed a couple of big things; instead of a traditional musical [with a lot of movement] it’s a concert,” director and theater teacher Mrs. Simmons remarked.

The entire cast lines up to take a well-deserved bow on the PAC stage at the end of dress rehearsal last week.

The distancing guidelines prompted adaptations that allowed Providence to move forward with the production, rather than having to cancel altogether. Changing from a musical template to a concert version not only meant omitting dancing in this year’s play, but also eliminated the need for multiple set designs since there won’t be any scene changes.

Without any dance numbers, with fewer songs, and particularly in the absence of scene changes, the audience will find the welcome addition of a narrator.  Val Fish ’21 paints verbal scenery, calling the audience members to imagine various backdrops throughout the play.

“It was initially confusing to me that this character was added; I thought the projections would be sufficient,” noted the veteran member of performing arts.

“But Lupe Addams [the narrator] provides another source of dark humor in this production and forms a kind of solidarity with the audience, unabashedly pointing out the unfolding eccentricities,” Fish reflected.

Many actors find the concert version less stressful because they are allowed the use of their script throughout the play. But even with a script on stage, performers try to memorize most of their lines, and the time invested adds up quickly, especially during tech week.  Rehearsals could last until 9:30 PM as the cast runs tirelessly through every song with the full pit band and a practice run of all the lighting and sound effects.

Commenting on his methods for rehearsal, James Herrera ’23 shared, “I go to a quiet spot in the house or outside and usually go through the entire script once, seeing how it goes, or I go to specific parts of the scripts where I had big trouble in singing or acting.”

Main cast members like Herrera have to do blocking rehearsals, or dialogue practice, in their place on stage. The blocking rehearsals push actors to polish their teamwork, one of the more difficult components of a group production.  “You have to make sure your parts fit in with the other parts,” said Mae Monette ‘21, another member of the main cast.  Timing, rhythm, and vocal blending were some of the main focal points last week.

Characters play their part convincingly not only with what they say, but what they wear as well. “Costumes are a key part in telling the story and signifying to the audience certain things about a character,” commented Sarah Huebschen ‘23, a member of the cast and design team. The design team goes through extensive research to find the perfect costume for each member of the cast.

After weeks of preparation, efforts culminated in a private showing of the Addams Family last Friday night.  There won’t be any public showings of the play but it will be available for viewing (for $20) beginning later this week and through the rest of the school year.  The link will be published in the Ebulletin.

Teachers Tell the Truth about High School: Mr. Hickel Takes a Trip Down Memory Lane

“Chillax,” said Providence Academy Science teacher Daniel Hickel when asked what word comes to mind when he thinks of high school.

“It was the coolest word in the early 2000s,” Hickel added defensively after revealing his class’ senior word “chillax”. Perhaps the word is no longer widely used, but Hickel’s relaxed nature, compassionate relationship with students, and excitement for his discipline still carry with them an element of the seemingly well-worn word. 

Providence Academy Science teacher Mr. Daniel Hickel poses confidently on his [then] new moped in 2005, his senior year of High School. He recalls the day, “I felt really cool.” After pausing for a moment, he added: “No, actually, I was really cool.”
The much-loved Science teacher’s compassion for students is rooted in his experiences from high school. Hickel was most impacted by teachers who understood that students have responsibilities and activities outside the classroom. He valued the relationships he was able to build with these teachers as a result of their patience and understanding. 

The impact of his own teachers led Hickel to strive to be a considerate and understanding teacher while also pushing his students to succeed.

Physics student Mary Rillens Lee ‘22 commented, “You can feel his energy when you walk into the classroom and see his passion for teaching in how he helps students.”

“I love what I teach. It’s my hope that my interest, passion, and enthusiasm about science make students think differently about the world around them,” Hickel noted. 

Physics isn’t an easy class, but Hickel’s energetic approach complemented by his relaxed nature makes him approachable and the course material more accessible. 

“No matter how long it takes, Mr. Hickel is always determined to make sure I understand the material before I walk out the door,” Lee reflected happily. 

Parts of Hickel’s relaxed high school self keep him in tune with a high school student’s schedule and priorities such that he can relate to his students and build relationships with them. 

“He is who he shows his students he is. He isn’t a different person outside the classroom,” reflected Hickel’s friend of seven years, Providence Academy Math teacher Ms. Erika Greene.

Daniel Hickel shows off his senior smile for fellow members of the Class of ’05.

Greene commented that this authenticity is very important to Hickel. He truly loves having meaningful connections and relationships with his students. She believes he has the perfect balance of being his energetic, friendly self while also expecting respect and proper conduct from students.

Always eager to help his students, Hickel advises, “Don’t take life too seriously.” 

He reflected that throughout all his schooling, jobs, and life in general, he has always been able to make anything fun. 

He added energetically, “Because if I didn’t, I would go crazy!” 

This mentality is truly present in his teaching and, according to Hickel, was also present when he was in high school. 

Hickel embarrassingly recalled the day he dissected a pig in biology class, during which he unraveled the intestines and wore them like a necklace. In hindsight, it wasn’t the most respectful decision, but, seasoned by more prudence and maturity, the same lighthearted, goofy mindset permeates his personality today.

Hickel recalled another high school memory in which his chemistry teacher accidentally started her sleeve on fire with a Bunsen burner. Despite the fact that her students had to spray her with a fire extinguisher, she was able to laugh about it afterward. This taught Hickel that science can be fun and accidents happen, but you can always laugh about it in the end.

Whether Hickel is smiling enthusiastically while his students launch tennis balls for a physics project, or using his distinctly expressive voice to teach a lesson, he never fails to get his students excited about his life’s passion: science.

PA Fans Fill the Stands: Girls Basketball State Runner-Up

After an abrupt ending to the Lions’ basketball season last year with the COVID-19 outbreak, the Lions came back this season ready to roar. Though their season had a slow start with limited fans and less opportunities for games, the Lions were undeterred, finishing their season 22-2. As runner-up in the Section AA State Tournament, the Lions have created lasting memories, whether strengthening relationships with teammates or having the opportunity to play two games at Target Center.

Varsity Captain Maria Counts ‘22 reflected, “Last year, none of us had any idea that the quarterfinal game in the state tournament would be our last game of the season. We carried over the mindset this year that we should play every game like it was our last because we did not want that disappointment again. It taught us to play our hardest every single time and value the time together on the court.”

PA Lions take the floor at Target Center for the Section AA State Championship on April 9th.

The Lions did just that: working as a team, cherishing every game, and once again making it to the state tournament. Coach Connor Goetz commented on the successful season, “Some of our greatest memories as a team were created during this years’ state tournament. Winning our first state game against Duluth Marshall where one player alone scored 67 points and winning a game at Target Center were definitely highlights of the season.”

The Lions were thrilled at the opportunity to play in Target Center. Mrs. Jean Miller, mother of two Lady Lions, added, “Seeing the girls achieve their goal of going to the State tournament and seeing the support the school brought was so rewarding.”

Miller noted, “School support is key, from a simple, “you got this!”, to lining the hallways to send them off in style, to actually going to every game and cheering for the Lions.” School spirit wear day, a sold-out fan section at the championship game, and a decorated team bus were just a few ways community members showed their Lion pride in the girls’ run for the state title last week.  

PA community members cheer as the Lions process down the walkway to get on the team bus to head to the Section AA State Championship game at Target Center last week.

Guard Brooke Hohenecker ‘24 said, “The school always supports us in every way possible, whether it’s them putting something out on social media or preparing a send off for us! It makes the whole team feel so loved.”

Point-guard Maddyn Greenway ‘26 echoed Hohenecker’s sentiment, “I love how all of the students and staff are invested into our games and how we do. It was great, especially during the state tournament, to have their support.”

Despite a hard loss for the Lions, the team dedication is still there. Miller remarked, “These women are the hardest working, motivated and tenacious teammates I’ve met. And, thanks to Coach Goetz, they are hungry for a W.”

Goetz asserted, “Something I told the girls in the team huddle was that I want them to “remember this feeling”. I told them that we need to work incredibly hard this off-season to make sure that we don’t have to feel this way again. It’s my hope that the girls can reflect on the amazing accomplishment that it was to get to the state championship game, but let that pain of losing fuel them to get back there next year.”

The end of the 2020-2021 season does not mean basketball is over until the fall. The team has high hopes for bringing the trophy home next year, which will not happen without practice.

Greenway concluded, “Of course we wanted to finish the season with a win but that makes us even more determined for next year and it will push us during the off-season. I look forward to hopefully making it back to the state championship next year!”

Colorful Classes: Lower School Art

In addition to the beautiful campus, visitors to PA often notice student artwork adorning the schools walls. Undoubtedly, one important method of fueling PA’s youngest minds is art class. Through the work of Mrs. Lara Johnson–Kindergarten through 3rd grade art teacher–and Mr. Christopher Santer–4th and 5th grade art teacher–students learn early on the skills and lessons of making art to foster (teachers hope) a lifelong appreciation for beauty and the creative process.

Each Lower School class meets with their art teacher once a week for 40 minutes. Johnson commented on the nature of her classes, “It’s art class, so it’s an adventure.” 

Johnson introduces new projects, artists, concepts, and materials during her classes. Her students then use those skills to create their own artwork. 

The Lower School art curriculum focuses on an outline of art history and art concepts. Many of Santer’s projects, for example, are centered around the technique of the Renaissance, as well as traditions from around the world. 4th graders learn about art and architecture from Medieval Europe, Africa, China, and the Islamic world. 5th graders dive into Renaissance art, landscape painting, and Japanese art, and even learn how to sculpt and design their own Japanese clay garden. 

Santer reflected on the importance of art, “My first hope is that students learn about the beauty of being alive! Beauty is everywhere and learning to recognize it and respond to it by creating is one of the great joys in life.”

Lower Schoolers learn how to apply skills and ideas to their work inside and outside of the art room. 

Mrs. Danette Jaeger, a fourth grade teacher, explained, “The students often comment on different things they have learned about in art”. She continued, “Sometimes it’s connections to historical places that they have studied, and other times it’s a connection to artistic techniques they’ve learned as we work on new projects.”

Clay pots that Mrs. Johnson’s second graders crafted lay out to dry in the Lower School art room.  Clay is one of the more difficult mediums students work with throughout the year.

Johnson uses the story of the famous artist, Henri Rousseau, to teach her 2nd grade students an important message: Rousseau was not classically trained, and persevered through failure. 

Johnson reflected, “Even though he failed, he continued to persevere in art because he liked to do it. It’s important for kids to know that they can fail and try again.”

Johnson’s students work on a multitude of projects each year. Every grade completes some sort of project involving fabric, such as a yarn. For example, her first graders are learning how to weave on a loom.

For younger, Kindergarten students, Johnson begins with basic skills, specifically learning how to use art materials properly and clean up in order to gain experience. Her students also enjoy working with clay, but it is a difficult art, as it is tricky to work with.

Will, a Kindergarten student, poses proudly with his skillfully made clay pot.

Art class helps students learn new skills that they can apply to everyday tasks at school. Jaeger clarified, “I think art forces students to exercise different parts of their brain, and it stretches them to have to think outside the box.”

From the chairs in the art room to the desks of the classroom, Lower School students cultivate creativity and skill through art class. 

Johnson concluded with her perspective as an art teacher, “I hope they learn to have confidence in themselves and in their art-making process.”