Spreading the Love as We Wave Goodbye to 2020

One of our 2021 i2 New Year’s Resolutions is to get this blog active again, reinvigorated with regular bursts of faculty voices and ideas. But make no mistake.  The low quantity of verbiage in the Fall 2020 i2 blog in no way correlates with the quantity and quality of innovation that has been going on in the SA community. Just look at the sprinkling of photos above for evidence.

The past eight months have been a veritable marathon, one that we sometimes sprinted and sometimes slodged our way through.  We have figured out ways to allow students to collaborate while staying physically distanced. Our assessments have morphed from physical to digital form nearly overnight. Chapel services and our signature lower school performances have shifted from stage to video, in some ways affording even more varied participation and access. We have much more intentionally utilized outdoor spaces and tables and created new school traditions. The idea of simultaneously teaching students at home and students in person, once unfathomable, has now become just another (albeit still extra exhausting) Tuesday.  We have all been very much in the business of innovation.  But it hasn’t always been pretty, and all of the reinventing most certainly hasn’t left us time to blog about it.

So how about we end the i2 2020 blog with a little bit of inspiration? 

We asked you to send in a note about who in our community inspires you.  You had things to say.  These tidbits are just samples of some of the goodness that makes our shared institution a supportive community.  Of course the list below is non-exhaustive. We know that many, many stories and names here are left unsaid and uncelebrated.  Our gratitude extends to each and every one of you at St. Andrew’s.  May these stories of inspiration send you into the holiday with warmth, light, and hope.

Our Fourth Grade Team!

Val is incredibly organized and always on the ball. She’s stuck across an ocean from her family (Thanks Covid!) yet doesn’t complain. She is so good at developing relationships and making sure to foster those relationships with regular time for fellowship and fun – not just work!

Susan joined our team this year and immediately got to work making sure we made time to have fun as a team to get to know one another. She has eased into her new role seamlessly, and watching her interact with students is awesome. She is also juggling being a teacher and a mom to two kids, which I know from experience is not always easy. 

Mary Grace jumped right in to teaching a whole new subject area this year and hasn’t batted any eye about it. She knows what she wants to do and gets it done in all things. I have not once her heard her complain or blame anything on the fact that she is in a whole new territory this year. And, she put on a rescheduled wedding on a Saturday, and was back in the classroom by Tuesday – that’s impressive! 

Anna Frame

My team! What an amazing group of ladies I get the opportunity to work with in fourth grade! Val, Mary Grace, Anna, and Huma are a blessing to work with because they encourage each other and help to find ways to solve problems that arise. Go 4G!

Susan Pace

Ruthie Taylor!

Even though she has a full teaching load and is also Department Chair, she has created opportunities for the students, like the Middle School Film and Theatre Club, where they can have creative outlets while we are void of usual performances. And she always, always answers my texts/calls/emails right away whenever I am in need…which has been often this year since there are so many wonderful new things on my plate. And she loves teaching students so much that those days full of classes are what actually energizes her!  She is, to quote her, Awesome Sauce!!!

Catherine Bishop

Kathy Vial!

I have had the pleasure of watching small bits here and there of Kathy Vial’s teaching, as she has found a way to bring science to my classroom, to my students. She comes with a cart full of experiment supplies, equipment, and always in covid-friendly, individually prepared setups. She has, in the midst of a bizarre year, maintained impeccable work ethic, and a true passion for teaching. She lays an opportunity for discovery learning at the feet of every lower school student at St. Andrew’s, and brings a little magic with her each and every time. She does this with both in-person students and virtual students, which is challenging. Kathy even brought to life a replica of the solar system in our cafeteria, one of two rooms our students get to visit (every other week). She uses her space well, and has demonstrated dedication on a level I admire. When I pick up my class from the lab, they are all busy, engaged, and happily exploring in an environment outside of their homeroom. In a time when many might opt for less, I have watched Kathy opt for best. For more. 

Dalton Howard

Kathy Vial never quits! I walk through her space every day, and she is ALWAYS working on a lesson, prepping for a lesson, finding new resources for the lesson, teaching a lesson, or working on her tech skills to better share the lesson with our friends at home. She is so dedicated to her students, the school, and her discipline, and she is not afraid of a new challenge. Tucked over in the Discovery Center, not everyone gets to see it every day like I do, but I hope others know her dedication and are also inspired!

Kate Dutro

Linda Rodriguez, Emily Philpott, Julie Rust!

 These three kind souls have spent countless hours helping me learn new programs, especially Google Classroom, among others, and making me feel competent. They always took time, even when they are busy, to help me, and they always did so with smiles on their faces.

Jim Foley

Kim Sewell!

She is always approachable and has creative, thoughtful, student centered ideas and materials to share. She is an excellent friend, coworker, and teacher!

Erica Smith

Kim  has given of herself and her time to the PK4 team without hesitation. She has been our fearless technology leader and continues to keep us on target as we navigate these uncertain times. We could not function as well as we do without her! She is a true team member and blessing to us.

Betsy McKee

Jessi Crawford!

 I have seen how Jessi has totally redone admissions because of Covid and have adapted screeners, meetings, and tours to make everyone feel as comfortable as can be in a very high-stress situation when applying to a new school. She is wonderful at making connections for families by remembering friends, family, or work connections. She is such a calm and warm presence amongst such unknown times. Admissions has been busier than ever this fall and Jessi never acts flustered or exhausted. She is thoughtful in thinking about teachers’ schedules as well as visiting families. She walks teachers through every step as we do virtual meetings with new families. She is a true gift of gentleness and kindness to all who encounter her. St. Andrew’s is so blessed to have her as one of the faces of St. Andrews that families first get to encounter.

Kim Sewell

Susan Pace!

Susan Pace. Susan does scholastic book orders with her 4th grade classes every once in a while. She then receives points for each book ordered. Susan selflessly spends these points on books for ALL 4th grade classes, not just her own classroom library. She picks great books that are diverse or talk about current events. My students are always THRILLED when these book arrive. What an amazing way to encourage and inspire our young readers!

Val Dembny

Linda Rodriguez!

 Boundless optimism. Consistent willingness to try new things as a teacher. Generosity in listening. Confidence in asking for help or to trade ideas.

Matt Luter

Robyn Touchstone!

Robyn is truly inspirational in her enthusiasm and love for her students.  Her excitement about the special things the students do and say is contagious.  She helps all of us remember the true wonder that these students have and what a beautiful time it is to be a part of their little lives.

Honey May

Rob Rennie!

 Rob is a champion. In the same way that Tom Brady is GOAT, Rob is GOAT. I know this sounds a bit cheeky, so let me explain. When 2019 was rounding the corner into 2020, Rob looked cancer in the face. Did he buckle in the fourth quarter? No. He looked at cancer and said, “come at me, bro.” And when cancer tried to get even more aggressive as fall turned to winter, Rob toughed it out, like The Patriots did in 2017 when Tom Brady led them to a 34 – 28 win in overtime against The Falcons. The only time in history a team has come from behind to take the Super Bowl into overtime and win. Not only that, Rob survived cancer into the start of what would become one of the worst pandemics in recent history. Through it all he’s managed to stay positive, work hard both in and out of school, (we were regular gym buddies before COVID hit hard and the gyms closed) and be a loyal friend to those were also struggling with isolation & stress. He has been there for me, but more importantly, he has been there for Mr. Lowe, who has battled with the anxiety of a tumultuous year. To have colleagues like Rob, friends like Rob, is something I think all of us can only hope for, and I am so grateful and fortunate, frankly, to have him as and example. 2020 has asked for a lot of grit, patience, and courage from all of us, but it has asked for a hell of a lot more from some of us. And Rob has taken those 2020 punches in stride and, in my view, is winning the bout.

Dean Julius


I can’t pick one person! Our entire community (especially LS) inspires me! Seeing everyone working so hard and supporting each other this year has been amazing and inspiring! 

Saana Watson

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