Welcome to a New Year!

Welcome to a New Year!

A small snapshot of the developments seen across our PS – Grade 12 day and boarding school community

From Head of School Autumn A. Graves

I hope this winter break provided a time for fellowship and renewal for you and your loved ones. Hearing the sounds of children once again filling our hallways and our classrooms is always a joyous way to ring in the new year. As some may know, this year I have been spending time in the classroom teaching our Upper School Entrepreneurship class. Having the privilege to engage with students on this level, I am reminded in a deeper way of the importance of a St. Anne’s-Belfield education. We are educating and preparing our children to become the next generation of engaged citizens and visionary leaders. I can’t imagine a greater need in our world today.

Students are at the heart of everything we do at St. Anne’s-Belfield. For more than 100 years, we’ve refined and adapted to ensure students have what they need to be successful, both while in school and far into their futures. The COVID pandemic in particular has brought with it a slew of implications for student academic performance, mental health, and well-being. In following our tradition of innovation, we as a school are rapidly taking the many learnings coming out of this period and employing new approaches to meet the significant and ongoing needs of children at all levels. All the while, we continue to hold strong to the foundation of the supportive, creative, and energetic community that makes St. Anne’s remarkable. As both an educator and a parent, I am in awe of the work being done each day by my colleagues on behalf of our students.  

A Snapshot Across Divisions 2022-23

The below provides a quick glance at the curricular and co-curricular work happening at each division. While it is certainly not exhaustive, we hope it provides you a glimpse of how our School tradition of innovation benefits every Saint. 

The Lower School (Pre-School)

One only needs to look at the weekly newsletters from our homeroom teachers to know that every day, our students are encouraged to explore and discover through our nurturing program that gently nudges each child to grow to their full potential. Pre-School parents and guardians have been building community this year with expert-led parent programming and social events like the recent holiday party with our Residential Life students. This year, our Pre-School and Kindergarten students have also benefited from the addition of two Early Childhood Fellows. In partnership with the UVA School of Education, our inaugural Fellows assist in classrooms supporting individual and small group instruction. They also serve as coaches in our athletic program for older students! They continue to grow under the mentorship of our expert educators while earning their University of Virginia master’s degrees, and we are actively seeking our second cohort. 

The Lower School (Kindergarten – Grade 4)

The Lower School is buzzing with life! Now in its second year, our inquireED curriculum engages students in inquiry-based social studies. Our new Bronze Key ambassador program introduced a leadership opportunity for Grade 4 students to welcome and support tours for prospective families (and they do so with great enthusiasm). Also, for the second year, Middle School interns have come into the Lower School, strengthening our community across age groups. The library has returned to full programming, with every Kindergarten – Grade 4 homeroom receiving weekly instruction from our librarian and scheduled time to read from the collection and check out books. Performances are also back for Music & Movement: our Grades 3 and 4 students just completed their Falling into Winter program, and grandparents and special friends should look forward to a special performance on April 21. We continue to add additional co-curricular and extracurricular activities with pop-up SAS classes; skills, drills, and meet the teams clinics with our varsity sports teams; library family hour after school on Tuesdays; and a return to assemblies and field trips. 

The Middle School (Grades 5 – 8)

Starting in 2019, we began to build a plan in the Middle School to capture lightning in a bottle — that is, to better capitalize on that period of rapid growth and wild creativity of the middle school years, messy though they are. And if the research coming out of the COVID pandemic about students’ needs is correct, we were on the right track all along. Over the past two years we began rolling out new methods and programming to increase middle schoolers’ resilience, agency, and excellence. This has included increasing co-curricular programs from seven to 23; fully staffing our student-support team with a full-time dean of students, counselor, and learning specialist; introducing Impact Block to help students build academic independence and skills over their four Middle School years; and retooling our feedback and assessment processes so students have more ownership and engagement in the learning process. 

The Upper School (Grades 9 – 12)

In the Upper School, we are eagerly anticipating the re-opening of a renovated Randolph Hall next fall. Upper School faculty and student leaders recently undertook guided visioning exercises to imagine how the learning center will transform academics and engagement in the life of the Upper School. We are excited for the opportunity to retool our curriculum to take advantage of what will be a light-filled, flexible, and high-tech space with a recording studio, makerspace, breakout rooms, food lab, and 100-person lecture space capacity. Our hope is that in addition to transforming learning in the Upper School, Randolph Hall will offer our boarding students new casual environments on evenings and weekends. With programming during the day and outside of school hours, it will become a convening space for the whole community — day and boarding students of all divisions, families, and hopefully the greater Charlottesville/Albemarle community. 

In line with our School’s culture of evaluation and optimization, we continue to evolve our curriculum to meet the academic interests of our students and their needs coming from the pandemic. 104 juniors and seniors will be pursuing AP Seminar this year, with St. Anne’s-Belfield being the first school in the state to offer AP Seminar through our junior American Studies course. 52 students are registered to take the AP exam from our new AP Human Geography course as part of our Humanities 10 program. And, we are piloting two new courses: a yearlong Data Science course that meets in the evenings via a hybrid online/in-person format and a single quarter Anatomy & Physiology elective. Elected student leaders are participating in new and robust leadership training, and many other Upper School students are leading dozens of clubs working to make an impact in their communities. It is no wonder that a visiting team member from our recent re-accreditation visit stated that, “students at St. Anne’s-Belfield are more engaged than in any other school I’ve visited.”

Community

One of our greatest resources is our tight-knit, PS – 12 community with engaged, successful alumni located throughout the world, and we’ve been intentionally strengthening those bonds of community. From our first DEIB family potluck and DEIB dinner with Residential Life students in Grades 9-12; introducing the Bronze Key program for Grade 4; re-launching the Residential Life Neighbors program to pair day families with boarding students; welcoming Grade 7 & 8 students into the Lower School as interns through our student-led Quest for a second year in a row; middle schoolers helping with transition events; reinvigorating the Chapel Buddies program; expanding the Parents’ Association; and holding alumni gatherings and visits in New York, Atlanta and Charlottesville this past fall. Furthermore, we launched our first parent engagement survey — thank you to those of you who completed it during Curriculum Night or via the link in our Belfield Bulletin emails! We are in awe of our brilliantly talented parents/guardians and appreciate so many who have offered to allow us to tap into your expertise as needs arise.

We are excited to see your children blossoming, and are dedicated to continue to grow and adapt to meet their ever-evolving needs.

Re-Enrollment Information for 2023-24

This Friday, Jan. 6, the re-enrollment process will begin. Look for an email and an announcement in your Veracross Parent Portal that will allow you to take action by Jan. 23 to secure your child’s place in the 2023-24 school year. The Board of Trustees has worked diligently to keep tuition increases as low as possible while also enabling St. Anne’s-Belfield to continue to deliver an excellent program to every Saint, every day.  Thank you for continuing to entrust St. Anne’s-Belfield with the education and care of your children, and partnering with us in educating tomorrow’s generation of world-changers.

Go Saints!

Dr. Autumn A. Graves
Head of School

 


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