Sunday, June 2, 2019

One Last Time...

Thursday was a special day. Not only was it Passing of the Light but it was one last time for gathering in the morning and catching up with friends, for morning circle and shares, for laughing and good-hearted teasing, for hugs and a few tears. This whole year has been special to me. I entered not knowing what the year would bring and left feeling full to the brim and actually slightly overflowing. So this is one last time for the Galaxy blog - I promise.

Keri and I both want to share the words spoken about the graduates during Passing of the Light. I'm including Ian Lowthorp because although he's not an official graduate, he is moving on to high school next year. I'll start with Keri's thoughts, then Birch's, and finally mine. So without further ado, here we go.

Jada Church

I was adamant that I was not going to speak today. Speaking in front of people never ranks high on my list of fun things to do. Add in the hyper-emotions of saying goodbye and a crying instinct nearly as strong as Mrs. G’s, and the task dropped even lower on that list. But Mrs. G was right, as she often is, that I would want to say a few things about these kids who I have loved the past two years. I often told people that it feels I now have 13 bonus children in addition to the 2 I actually gave birth to. I have prayed for them, defended them, worried for them, sorrowed and rejoiced with them. There are so many wonderful things to say about them, but with so many graduates, I am forced to focus it down to just one aspect of each kid.
Jada, 1 year: bold. Jada stepped in as the only new student this year, to a class where everyone else had known each other for at minimum 1 year, but often many years. Her first class job was to keep everyone on track with the more intensive clean up that happened on Friday afternoons. I am not sure what Mrs. J and I expected, but we were delighted to see Jada, completely unhesitant and with calm but certain authority, directing her new peers through their tasks. Our classroom had never looked so good! That may have been my first glimpse of Jada’s bold, but it wasn’t the only one. On the day that I came to school sad and unable to hide it, Jada, without stopping to ask what had happened, was the first person to walk up and ask if she could give me a hug.

Jada joined the Galaxy class this school year and immediately became a part of it. She added her own uniqueness to an already extremely unique class making it even better and just a little more interesting.

Her hair shines of copper and gold
She's quiet but also quit bold
It's been only one year
But we'll miss her I fear
Jada's memory will never grow old.

Jordan Wood
Jordan, 3 years: I have never had the privilege of blaming my gray hair on my children, as I found the first few before they were ever born. It was just this year that I realized those hairs showed up right about the time Jordan entered the world. His hijinks have kept me on my toes for the last two years. So I have to admit, I take a certain joy in thinking this word choice might embarrass Jordan at least a little bit: lovable. The truth is, I wouldn’t change a thing about Jordan. His smiles easily spread from student to student and when he laughs, everyone else does too. Even when he is upset, he is seldom alone, as his friends rally around to cheer him back up. Even the teachers are not immune to his charms. I would have gladly brought him home and raised him alongside my own children, except that my husband reminded me that that’s called kidnapping, which is frowned upon.

Energy.  Charismatic and mercurial, I've never seen anyone move with such agility and speed.  You never know when he's going to pop out of his seat and do a flip. Likewise, you never know when he's going to upstage professional actors at Colonial Williamsburg, or say something so true and honest from his big heart that time stops.  Jordan's well of abilities is deep and mysterious, and I wonder if he, too, is surprised when a new talent emerges.

Jordan, his smile's so contagious
With antics most often outrageous
He leaves with good tools
And the knowledge of rules
If followed will be advantageous.

Ian Burford
5 years: curious. What happened to the stapler? Burford tried to fix it. Why is there aluminum foil on the plasma ball . . . again? Burford wanted to charge a battery. Where did the prongs of my binder clips go? I don’t know, but Burford was sitting in your chair earlier. When did…? Burford. How is...? Burford. Why? Burford. Always exploring, always learning. If anything broke, Ian inevitably wanted to take it home to tinker. Ian dove whole-heartedly into all mysteries, riddles, and logic puzzles. With his quick intelligence, we sometimes had to remind him to let his classmates have a chance to figure them out too. Ian’s curiosity has served him well in his learning already: his social studies fair project displayed his own prototype for creating electricity by harnessing the power of the ocean’s waves. I eagerly anticipate seeing what big problems of the world will break down in the face of Ian’s gigantic curiosity.

Idea.  Always questioning, always wondering, always designing.  This one is always tinkering with something, the pencil sharpener, perhaps, or the problem of efficient, sustainable energy.  Ian is perhaps the most naturally curious human I know, finding something interesting everywhere. Everything is experimental.  Lovely melodies emerge from the imagination of this one.

This Ian - his brain doesn't stop

As flautist he's over the top
But one thing is actual
His facts - sometimes factual
Most the time makes my brain want to pop.

Victoria Arce
Victoria, 7 years: My first instinct with Victoria was to say “kind.” While she is one of the kindest people I know, always looking out for her friends, I felt the word “kind,” however great and rare an achievement that is, was insufficient for what I see in her. So I chose the word shining. Victoria shines by being purposefully, persistently happy and optimistic. If you aren’t watching closely, it is easy to miss the moments where she is upset. But Victoria is worth watching closely. She quietly pulls back, buoys herself up, then re-joins the group, back to her usual, pleasant self. She also shines through her creativity, which spans writing fantastic stories, singing and writing her own songs, and drawing beautiful pictures, sometimes even on her math worksheets.

 Love.  Always the one to reach out, to run up and give a hug, to put her arm around a sad-eyed student, to feel deeply troubled when someone has done something wrong.   Victoria lives with an open heart, speaking and acting with others first in her mind. At first a hesitant student, she followed her love of stories and of people into reading, writing, and learning about the world, finding true grace as a student.

Victoria, now what can I say
Her smile always brightens my day
With pencil in hand
She draws when she can
Her talent will carve its own way.

Indigo Graves
Indigo, 10 years: enthusiastic. If I ever worried that a student would groan about an activity, I made sure to put them in the same group as Indigo. Her confident excitement about everything life offers is sure to brush off on others. And why shouldn’t it? She is always doing such cool stuff! I have come to think of Indigo as a friend as well as my student. She was the first student to turn the tables and begin recommending books to me (and they were always good recommendations!). She was the one I told my bad puns to and the one most attentive to what I came to call Mrs. Troyer’s Useless Facts. Indigo strikes a perfect balance of mature and giggly. Basically, I hope I can be more like her as I grow up.

Care.  There is none like this one.  Such light, such color, such profound awareness and exuberance for every day.  She truly delights in your joy, and she wants you to be well. Perhaps more than any other, she has grown up within this school, from Pre-K to 8th grade, sleeping at GES when her parents had to work late, sharing them with this school, but also sharing this school with them.  Tremendously capable, this young lady gets how things work and how to do them well, but it is her care toward others--how she knows the interests and foibles and allergies of every last kid in the school--that makes her papa the proudest.

These next two students, Indigo and Maxine, have spent most of their waking hours at GES -- together. They are their own persons, very different from each other, yet so intwined that I often call them Maxigo. Mariah shared these words with me. “I was lucky enough to start preK at GES along with Indigo and Maxine. Even then it was easy to see the girls were going to be good friends - that they were special in their love for learning and their delight in the world around them. These qualities have only grown over the years. I’m very glad to share this day with Indy and Maxine.

Positivity is Indigo's muse
A trait I'm sure she'll never lose
Her outlook is one
That can outshine the sun
Are assets that she'll always use.

Maxine Casto
Maxine, 11 years: excellent. Maxine puts her whole heart in everything she does. Her drawings look 3-dimensional and downright realistic. She can deliver her presentations with details and passion, which took her all the way to the state level for the social studies fair this year. Her writing is vivid and emotional. She is a quick and independent learner who not only completed her math course, but made a bit dent in next year’s curriculum as well. And last year she made me a cake that was simply divine. All this work and talent is developed with her own motivation: as her teacher, I provided the assignments and ideas and she was off! completing each one to her own high standard, which consistently surpassed my expectations.
I could tell so many more stories of each of these kids (and the ones not graduating besides). But my time is up. Just know that they are all wonderful in these and so many other ways. I look forward to seeing what paths they take from here and I am honored to have walked beside them for a stretch. I thank you all for the great privilege of sharing your children with me.

Focus. Would you like a breathtakingly detailed cake?  How about a lovely piano piece. Or a rock beat on the drums, perhaps?  An acutely rendered short story, a breathtaking poem, the best student essay I've ever read?  Everything Maxine does, she does very, very well. It is expected of her--by herself. Quiet strength, and fierce drive.   And under it all is just her... down-to-earth, funny, aware.

She's pleasant and thoughty and sweet

A more driven girl you won't meet
Her writing's sublime
Her best every time
Knowing Maxie has been this year's treat.

Ian Lowthorp
Impressive. In a casual conversation earlier in the year, I told another teacher, “It’s easy for me to forget that Ian is only 12.” When I related this to Ian, he looked at me strangely and said, “I’m 13. I’ve been 13 all year.” As you might guess, that wasn’t really that much easier for me to remember: he seems so much more mature than his years. Ian always came to school excited to talk about his latest adventures, which could be anything from practicing Jiu Jitsu to foraging for mushrooms to creating original D & D campaigns to crafting jewelry to reading great books to cooking for his family . . . And the list goes on. I joked that I wanted to hire him as my personal trainer, but the whole truth is, I often felt like I had as much to learn from him as he did from me.

He's fit in both body and mind
No stronger leader you'll find
He's so very charming
Which is somewhat alarming
There may just be one of his kind.

I wish everyone the best of all things. Thank you for all your support. I'll remember this year fondly.
Mrs. J

Monday, May 27, 2019

Passing of the Light

Well here we are... the last three days of our school year. Thank you so much for entrusting your children to Mrs. Troyer and me for most of their waking hours over the past school year. The Galaxy experience has truly been one that I will treasure. We laughed, cried, and most of all learned; not just academic stuff, but the stuff about relationships, honesty, integrity, productivity, and living a full life. During these next few days, we'll just enjoy being together and wrapping up the year.

Tomorrow we'll take some time to sign yearbooks and begin taking things off the walls, reminiscing, and finishing our Passing of the Light gift. Wednesday, we'll practice our Passing of the Light ceremony and then on Thursday we will all participate in the real thing, 2018-2019 GES Passing of the Light Ceremony. Please join our community in this beautiful ending of this year.

What is Passing of the Light?

A candle loses nothing by giving of itself. As a matter of fact, as long as a candle is lit, there is no limit to the number of other candles it can light. Its ability to share its brilliance is limited only by the length of time it can stay lit.

Each of us has our own source of light. Our source, of course, is what makes each of us unique. And like a burning candle, each one of us can touch numbers of others with our unique light. We can keep touching as many other people as we can with our love and our light, never having to fear for one moment that we will deplete or diminish our own source in any way. In fact, as we become more aware of this idea of passing on our light, we will discover that we do not lose any of our own light--we actually strengthen and intensify it! Unlike a candle, the glow is "turned up"--brightened--the more we share it. Each child that comes to Greenbrier Episcopal School shares their light and creates a classroom community that burns brightly as classroom communities are formed.

Our classroom communities ceremoniously define the light that they brought together as individuals and as classrooms and symbolically create a gift that represents the light they have created to be passed on in our Passing of the Light Ceremony.

Unlike a typical graduation, the students reflect upon their year together and each contribute to creating a gift that represents the time together in the classroom.

It is a beautiful end to the year!

Fast Facts:

- It is considered a school day so ALL students should be there.

- Passing of the Light will be held in the GES cafeteria beginning at 9:00 am. Students will gather in their classroom by 8:15 am.

- Students dress up for the occasion. (Think Sunday best)

- Students sit with their class.

- A reception will follow (also in the cafeteria).

- The day is over around 11:30 as we say goodbye to another great year!

I hope to see everyone this Thursday.
Mrs. J

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Field Trip

Isn't this picture gorgeous? The Galaxy class created this masterpiece with the help of Jennifer Orr. It was auctioned off last Saturday night and our own Mrs. Troyer was the highest bidder so it gets to stay in the "family".

We have lots happening this week.

  • Monday - Wednesday: Standardized testing. The students need to be rested, fed, and on time each day. Snacks will be provided but students are welcome to bring their own.
  • Tuesday afternoon: Sacagawea will be visiting the school.
  • Friday - Sunday: Field Trip!
All students must be at the school by 5:30 am Friday morning. Please follow the packing list. I've looked ahead at the weather and it's going to be hot. Make sure to pack sunscreen and a hat. Summer clothing is encouraged but everyone needs to be dressed appropriately, as representatives of GES.

I'm excited for our trip. It's going to be fabulous.
Mrs. J

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Testing Begins

This week the Galaxy will be learning more about renewable energy, the 1930s, and writing short stories. We will be busy! Standardized testing begins this Friday (8th graders) and will continue through next Wednesday (whole class). Make sure that your child gets to school on time, rested, and fueled up with a good breakfast.

Important dates:
1. Friday, May 17 - Sunday, May 19. Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Busch Gardens. I've included the agenda and packing list. FUN!
2. Thursday, May 23 9:00 am - GES Variety Show. Please come join us and be amazed at all the talent.
3. Friday, May 24 - GES Field Day and picnic. This is a family affair so plan to come. Students may leave with their parents after the picnic and all students may be picked up at 1:00. Our class is providing side dishes and salads. Text me about what you will provide.
4. Thursday, May 30 - Passing of the Light (more information to come)

Mrs. J

Sunday, April 28, 2019


We are now officially counting down the days until this fabulous year is all wrapped up. Please pay attention to the calendar so that you don't miss out on anything. The only change is that the golf tournament has been cancelled.

I have just a couple of events to add that are specific to the Galaxy.

  • Tuesday, April 30 will be the first meeting of the Gentlemen's Club. Be on the look out for an email from Tara Wooton.
  • Friday, May 3 we will visit the Beckley landfill. This field trip will serve as part of our Ecology study as we learn the importance of proper waste management. Lunch will be provided. Thank you, John Wooton.

I hope that everyone is rested and ready to cross the finish line as a winner! I know that I am.

Mrs. J

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Happy Spring Break!🌹

As I relax, regroup, and reorganize for this last month of school, I want to share some thoughts. My own child's academic life will soon be changing drastically as will yours. I've experienced public school, private school, and homeschooling my children as well as others. I have some suggestions that I hope you will take to heart.

Take advantage of being involved with your child's academics now while it is easy to do so. They are young and need guidance from all of us. It will be harder to do this in public school because the teachers will not be able to take a personal interest in every child and every family. It is a well documented fact that parent involvement is one of the key factors of a child's success in school as well as in life.

What do I mean?
1. Brainstorm with your student about ideas for their short story. We've read many in class. Help him/her recall the story lines in some of these.

2. Read over the Lord of the Flies or Fahrenheit 451 discussion questions and discuss. Better yet, read the book together. Look up and define unknown words.

3. Have him/her tell you about renewable resources and help find sources for their upcoming energy project.

4. If you are fairly solid in English grammar, have your student find a sentence and let him tell you about it. (Parts of speech, independent and dependent clauses, prepositional phrases, etc.) This will help with standardized testing.

5. Spend some time on Google classroom and help your student stay organized in order to complete assignments on time and to the best of his/her ability.

During this last month of school, I'm expecting students to use all their acquired skills and knowledge in their work - from writings and projects to classroom/field trip behavior. I'm looking forward to a strong finish of the 2018-2019 school year.

Mrs. J

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Almost there...

We're almost there... but not quite. The need for Spring Break is real but we have three little days until that time comes around. These "little" days are actually big days, chock full of learning experiences, so please encourage your child to stay positive and focused.

This week we'll be learning about fossil fuels and renewable energy - important stuff - and we'll be reading about the hows and whys of American expansion into the Pacific Islands. This evening I posted two longish assignments. 1. The students will write their own short story. 2. They are reading either Fahrenheit 451 or Lord of the Flies and preparing for two Socratic discussions. These assignments are on Google Classroom in the ELA thread.

I'm looking forward to the goal conferences this week. It's been an honor to mentor your children and I'm anxious to share my thoughts with you as well as listen to yours.

The students embraced our latest project. They each chose an inventor from the Industrial Revolution Era to research. Some wrote three paragraphs about their inventor while others wrote a five paragraph essay. Along with the writings, they collected items about their person and displayed these in a shoebox. Here are their final products.

Cyrus McCormick 
Elias Howe/Isaac Singer 
Alexander Graham Bell 
Thomas Edison 
Nikola Tesla
Charles Goodyear
Richard Gatling
George Eastman
Eli Whitney
George Westinghouse