WES Students Recognized at the MAESA Scholars’ Fair

WES gathered with seven other area Episcopal schools at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School for the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal Schools Association Scholars’ Fair. The Scholars’ Fair provides an opportunity for students who have excelled in science, geography, spelling, art, or multimedia to learn from their peers at other schools. The fair inspires, motivates, and celebrates our students on their learning journeys.

Our WES Dragons did very well this year! Congratulations to the following students who received awards:
Science, Grades 4-6 Category:
1st Place: Christopher ’24
2nd Place: Kate ’24
3rd Place: Francesca ’24

Multimedia, Informative, Grades 4-6:
1st Place: James ’25, Marie ’25, Evie ’25, Evelyn ’26 (group submission)

Multimedia, Creative, Grades 4-6:
1st Place: Everett ’25

Art, Grades 7-8:
1st Place: Gloria ’22

Art, Grades 4-6, 2D category:
3rd Place: Cara ’24

We’d like to congratulate all of our MAESA Scholars’ Fair participants for their excellent representation of our school today. We are so proud of our Dragons!

Geography Bee:
Isaac ’22, Alexandra ’22, Ross ’26, Matthew ’24

Spelling Bee:
Joey ’23, Daisy ’23, Samuel ’26, Sophia ’24

Cara ’24, Sam ’23, Finn ’23, Meg ’22, Sophie ’22, Gloria ’22

Everett ’25, James ’25, Marie ’25, Evie ’25, Evelyn ’26

Maria ’24, Francesca ’24, Hank ’24, Katie ’24, Christopher ’24

Honoring Dedication and Service: Ali Bratun & Joyce O’Donnell

Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the year–St George’s Chapel. During this very special Chapel, we honor the faculty and staff who have completed their fifteenth year with WES with induction into the St. George’s Society.

These incredibly dedicated women and men are the glue that holds our community together. Not only are they carriers of critical institutional knowledge, but they provide a backbone of continuity for students, parents, and employees alike. They are the encouraging voice and the kind hug that envelop WES alumni when they return home for a visit. 

We were honored to have Isabelle Schuessler, the Founding Head of School, join us for this year’s ceremony as we welcomed two new members into the St. George’s Society: Assistant Director of Development Ali Bratun and Kindergarten Teacher Joyce O’Donnell. 

If you have warm memories of a WES community gathering, Ali most likely had a hand in creating it. From the Auction Gala to the Founders Day Picnics to alumni reunions and beyond, she has a gift for making events (as well as swag, invitations, or spaces) beautiful. She is the editor-in-chief of The WES Magazine, and if you visit campus, you will likely find her with a camera in her hand, capturing the cherished experiences, big or small, of our Dragons every day. But I think if you were to ask Ali’s colleagues their thoughts about her, they would mention how Ali will drop anything she is doing to help others. She is generous with her time and her talents, yet remains exceptionally humble.

Joyce is a true lifelong learner who has served in multiple positions–as a floating substitute teacher to Nursery Associate Teacher to Pre-K and beyond–with excellence. She even spent time in Middle School teaching Latin and ASC classes. Her experience shows her ability to flourish in a number of roles. She cares deeply about her students, modeling our “Be Kind” motto in her daily interactions with children. She consistently seeks to add new ideas to an already exceptional Kindergarten program to ensure the deepest learning experiences for her students. And she is able to expertly layer humor and structure and joy to ensure a safe and engaging classroom environment for our Kindergarten Dragons.

Thank you, Ali and Joyce, for sharing your talents, your passion, and your dedication with WES. 

I’d also like to recognize the other members of St. George’s Society and thank them for their extraordinary contributions to our community: Deighton Alleyne, Ruthann Arnsberger, Kim Bair, Michele Baker, Amy Barnes, Jane Boynton, Frances Caterini, Janice Davis, Linda Durling, Caterina Earle, Mehdi Elkassem, Matthew Frentsos, Dawn Harding, Jacqueline Hassanzadeh, Claire Henderson, Jayne Hood, Bill Isola, Martha Jenkins, Tolek Kozlov, Marguerite Miller, Mary Lee Nickel, Brenda Patterson, Annette Poston, Jane Reeves, Dave Schuessler, Petie Schuessler, Anne Smalley, Susan Stern, Nancy Wright, and LaKisha Yirenkyi. 

Yesterday’s Chapel reminded us all that when you have a deep love for something, and you add hard work and dedication to that passion, you can build something incredible. That is what Mrs. Schuessler did when she founded WES and that is what the members of the St. George’s Society have done and continue to do. 

Danny Vogelman
Head of School

Supporting Mental Health in Your Middle Schooler

Middle School is a time of enormous growth; students experience tremendous physical and emotional changes, while their need for social connection and recognition deepens. Over the course of the year, we’ve discussed our approach to social-emotional learning in Early Childhood and Elementary, now I would like to share a little about our approach during these crucial Middle School years. Our Middle School program focuses on increasing independence in students in a number of ways; our social emotional learning and wellness class, in particular, seeks to empower students to take ownership of their mental health and the decisions they make. 

Our Grade 6 students this year have discussed negative and positive peer pressure and how to make choices that align with their personal values. Grade 7 has learned about how anxiety impacts the brain, as well as some practical tools to calm it. Grade 8 has addressed depression and anxiety–particularly how these may intersect with social media usage–and nutritional habits that support mental health as well as harm it. 

Understanding and processing the physical changes their bodies are undergoing is extremely important as well, and Nurse Bailey and Counselor Meghan Keller work closely together to cover puberty and reproductive health in Grades 6 and 7.

You can help support your student in their mental health journey too. We are pleased to host Dr. Adam Pletter, Psy.D, a prominent local psychologist who specializes in adolescent mental health issues, tomorrow morning from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Dr. Pletter will be speaking primarily about children learning to navigate social media and the digital world, and how parents can partner with them in this work more successfully. Parents of students in Grades 4-8 are cordially invited to join us. If you are unable to attend, you can watch the livestream here; a recording will also be available next week. 

Providing our Dragons with the tools they need to protect and promote their own mental health is one way we help our students nurture kindness, build confidence, and become prepared for the challenges life invariably brings.

Danny Vogelman
Head of School

Grade 2 Teacher Named a Finalist for the Post’s Teacher of the Year Award

Congratulations to Grade 2 Teacher Amy Davies, who was selected as a finalist for the Washington Post‘s Teacher of the Year Award!⁠

Mrs. Davies was nominated by the Alagno family for the creative ways she built and sustained the community during the challenges posed by virtual learning during the 2020-2021 school year, as well as her commitment to knowing each of her students deeply and helping each one of them thrive. ⁠

We are so proud of Mrs. Davies and all of our exceptional and dedicated faculty!⁠

Living Out Our Mission

I recently attended a special lesson in Mrs. Lindbloom’s Grade 4 class. The speaker began with an icebreaker, revealed a dazzling display of pedagogical knowledge, and even worked in a quiz. The presenter, however, wasn’t one of our usual line-ups of expert speakers, but a Grade 8 student presenting on responsibility as part of her Capstone Project for Ethics class. 

At WES, we believe that character matters. Our religion program helps our students understand the historical and cultural components of Christianity and other faith traditions and also encourages the development of universal values such as perseverance, generosity, and thankfulness, among others. In the early years, religion classes focus on the traditions of the Episcopal Church and major themes in the Bible. In Grade 6, our Dragons learn about world religions, and for the final two years of their time with us, our students take an in-depth look at Ethics. 

As the children enter formally into their study of Ethics at the beginning of Grade 7, Chaplain Kristen helps our students reflect on their individual values and they create a personal moral code to act as a compass for their lives. During the spring semester, our Dragons apply these newly developed moral codes to contemporary issues under the guidance of Middle School Director Kristin Cuddihy. I teach Ethics and Leadership in the fall of Grade 8, as the students take a deep dive into what makes a great leader and how to be effective while remaining ethical in our decision-making. To conclude this two-year course, our students design a Capstone Project to demonstrate moral leadership in our school community.

 These Capstone Projects have already begun and will continue over the course of the next several weeks:

  • Two students are creating an interactive art project for Grade 6 in which they explore the value of forgiveness. 
  • Several students are making a playlist of contemporary music illustrating our virtues of the month for Chapel.
  • One group is developing a new game, a special type of scavenger hunt, to illustrate the value of cooperation. 
  • Several students have made children’s picture books illustrating one of the virtues or another moral lesson. They will be sharing these books with younger classes.
  • Several have developed classroom lessons or chapel talks about topics such as generosity, responsibility, and self control. 

Human development research reveals that the seeds of empathy, caring, and compassion are present from early in life, but that to become ethical adults, children need positive adult role models to nurture these traits into full development. Our dedicated faculty build loving, nurturing relationships with students from their earliest years here to establish themselves as role models our Dragons can trust. They then model our community values of kindness and empathy, supported by virtues lessons woven into the curriculum. Our children are provided opportunities to put these values into action through our community-wide service learning projects and other class assignments. And they are challenged to be ethical thinkers and positive changemakers in their community through projects such as these amazingly creative Ethics Capstone Projects, SGA fundraisers, and so much more. 

Make sure you follow us on Facebook and Instagram at @GoWESDragons to learn more about these individual Capstone projects. We are very proud of the thoughtfulness that has been put into these personalized demonstrations of our students’ emerging ethical codes. 

Danny Vogelman

Head of School