January 26, 2017
Dear St. Anne's Families,
As we celebrate St. Anne's 15th year of growing the hearts and minds of young people, I want to share with you why I believe so strongly in the mission and future of our school. My confidence is based on what I see and hear every day in our classrooms and hallways, the comments in our recent parent survey about what you value most, as well as on the perspectives of our alumni.
Conversations and data gathered from high schools, our alumni, and their parents confirm overwhelmingly that our graduates are well-prepared for high school. Even as we strive to improve instruction, we know that St. Anne's instills much more than academic readiness. We have found that St. Anne's graduates are...
independent thinkers who are empowered to learn and lead,
confident communicators who advocate for themselves and others,
community conscious and globally minded citizens grounded with a sound moral compass,
respectful of all religions and cultures.
At St. Anne's we challenge our students to become capable problem solvers and independent thinkers. When I visit classes, I look for the ways that teachers are inviting children to think critically, shape an opinion, support it with evidence and observations, and listen respectfully to those who might have a different idea.
While St. Anne's has always valued the process of learning and the concepts of understanding, our new Singapore Math program in Lower School seeks to further the teaching of mathematical concepts at a deeper level and encourages students to expand their exploration of the many ways to get to a solution.
With the engineering and Design Thinking that is integrated into our lower school STEM lab and the Project Lead the Way curricula, our students are learning how to create, collaborate, and communicate in a variety of ways.
Our Middle School robotics and Girls Who Code groups share their different approaches to making devices perform a certain task.
Our art teachers consistently ask students to solve a creative design challenge at the same time that they are learning about the great master artists.
At St. Anne's our students are challenged to think critically, to synthesize, to create, and to express their understanding and individuality in a variety of ways.
"I see my child growing in leaps and bounds before my eyes. She is excited to be in Science class because the teacher connects the material to a fascinating world of constant discovery... I am enjoying watching her stretch her mental limits." - MS Parent
"We value the small class size where my child is safe, is heard, and where he is encouraged to be creative in his thinking process." - MS Parent
Empowered to Learn and Lead
While some schools in our region struggle with overcrowding, as a small school we can provide a variety of opportunities for students to feel empowered to make a difference, even at an early age.
When the fourth graders have their weekly "big buddy" moment with their young Pre-K friends, they are experiencing the importance of being a good role model for others.
When our middle school students on their own manage the backstage logistics for the Christmas tableau, lead the weekly middle school meeting, tour our open house visitors, or seize the opportunity to serve on Student Council, the Tech Team, the Diversity Leadership Council, or the newly formed Chapel Council, they are experiencing first hand what it takes to be effective leaders.
Even our youngest friends learn the skills of conflict resolution and problem solving from the examples of Kelso the Frog that serve them well in their school days and beyond.
One of the important markers of "growing up" is recognizing that you are part of something much greater than yourself, and at St. Anne's we think that lesson is one that you cannot learn too early.
"We treasure the absolute loving, community feel. Everyone is welcoming and the teachers are nurturing and dedicated. We value the leadership skills that the children are taught from a very young age." - LS Parent
"St. Anne's helps students to feel socially and emotionally free to learn and lead, because you cannot learn or lead when you are feeling afraid." - Peyton Beard ('10) - Junior at the Pratt Institute
"The teachers are dedicated, professional educators, and the small class sizes distinguish SAES. Having so many opportunities for public speaking by all the students is great for teaching leadership skills." - MS Parent
Communicating and Advocating with Confidence
St. Anne's students have frequent opportunities to express themselves. As a result they leave us confident in their communication skills. Whether it is teaching us about Martin Luther King Jr. in chapel, sharing their solar system research with a gym full of listeners, discussing the theme of a favorite novel, debating the best U.S. President, or speaking before more than 500 people at their graduation, our students have regular practice in finding their voice. They learn to self-advocate for their learning when they seek out a teacher for extra help, lead their own conferences in middle school, and craft their high school admission essays. They also learn to take a stand for others when they make the case for a service agency to receive funding from our philanthropy project or when they lead a food, clothing, or gift drive to benefit those in need.
"SAES cares about raising productive citizens. You see it in the actions that the school takes, in its priorities. Learning is more than just memorizing texts, passing exams and right or wrong answers. Learning is pushing past the 'comfort zone' and exploring ideas we don't know about, we don't like/agree with and figuring out how to express those conflicts in productive ways. Lessons that will carry them far beyond SAES" - MS Parent
"Academic work is always more powerful when you engage with a small group of similarly motivated students. You are driven to study the material and write amazing papers because you care about the quality of your classmates' education and you want to support them academically just as much as you want to support yourself." - Neel Puri ('12) - Freshman at Columbia University
Building Community Conscious Citizens
At our 15th Founders' Day service, Bishop Wayne Wright reminded us of our Episcopal calling to "respect the dignity of every human being," a timeless message that feels especially important in our current world climate. Indeed, the word "Dignity" has been the theme word this year at St. Anne's. When we ask our alumni to tell us some of the valuable lessons they took away from their time at St. Anne's invariably they speak about the key values of "respect, responsibility, and compassion," the hallmarks of character education at St. Anne's. Having studied World War II in 7th grade and read Elie Wiesel's Night in 8th grade last year, the class of 2016 then visited the Holocaust Museum in D.C. where they had an opportunity to reflect on all of the lessons that they had learned at St. Anne's. At a group debrief near the WWII Memorial we challenged them to consider how they can "be the change they want to see in the world." I was deeply moved by the keen insights that the students shared, as well as by their global awareness. St. Anne's students recognize the powerful impact when a society values respect for differences and compassion for all.
"The dedicated teachers really love my child, and we appreciate the 'whole child' educational approach that stresses academics as well as moral character development." - LS Parent
"There was a big emphasis on service and leadership here... St. Anne's taught us compassion and to be leaders to the younger kids." - Laura Kemer ('04) - School Psychologist at Silver Lake Elementary
Respecting All Religions and Cultures
As an Episcopal school it is part of our mission to make sure that our education is inclusive, so that people of all backgrounds, faiths and cultures feel that they belong in our community. Of the 100 respondents to our recent parent survey, we had 17 different faith traditions and denominations self-reported. While we teach the Judeo-Christian traditions through our religion classes and chapel services, we also teach the other major world religions. This year we look forward to celebrating the Hindu festival of Holi, as well as inviting a Jewish rabbi and an Islamic Imam to share some of their faith traditions. We provide opportunities for students of all ages to explore their own spiritual growth and faith journey, and to discover the values that unite us rather than divide us. We also consistently emphasize the issues of social justice that are at the heart of ethical community living.
"I am thrilled that my children are able to be confident, and empowered to change the world." - LS Parent
"I really like the religious aspect of St. Anne's. That's something I noticed that I missed in public school. At St. Anne's you could talk more freely and openly about your religion. Having religion class and weekly chapel helped you stay grounded in your own faith." - Nathaniel Twining ('12) - Freshman at Harvard University
The mission of St. Anne's could not be more important in today's world, and our community continues to count on your support of our promising future. I am excited to share the following news and initiatives:
In this past year we have received over $335,000 from three generous Delaware foundations in support of faculty professional development, Singapore Math, our early literacy and writing programs and training, and a future redesign of the 5th and 6th grade STEM lab.
We have launched a need-based scholarship to support new students whose parent or guardian currently works at an institution of higher learning.
We are researching a new school-wide database that will be more robust and user-friendly than our current system.
We continue to make St. Anne's as accessible as possible with more than 40% of our students this year receiving some form of tuition assistance with an average grant of $7,600.
We are exploring how more flexible furnishings might enhance the learning of students in the classroom.
Following a training at the Stanford D(esign) School last summer, we are considering how we might reconfigure the technology lab and adjacent spaces to make for more flexible work areas that could accommodate other subjects as well as more engineering, media creation, and design thinking for students of all ages.
We are seeking support for more outdoor learning at St. Anne's so that we can outfit the Outdoor Classroom to be a more functional learning lab and can provide water and electric to the classroom and lower fields.
We will carefully analyze the parent and alumni surveys that we have received this winter so that we can continue to grow and improve from this feedback.
We will be offering a new four-week summer program featuring our own St. Anne's faculty that will be an affordable full-day camp experience for ages 5 to 13, with a few additional options for older campers.
I hope that you can sense my confidence in where we are as an educational community and where we are headed as a school, focused on the whole child. We aspire to broaden the mind and open the heart of each child at St. Anne's by meeting them where they are, and we take pride in having your child and family as a part of our community.
Peter C. Thayer
Head of School