Being at St. Albans School for 44 years has been a tremendous privilege, honor, joy, and pleasure. Lou Gehrig, famous first baseman said at his retirement celebration that he considered himself, “The luckiest man on the face of this earth.” Well, he was wrong. I am. In the Lower School lobby, gold lettering on the wall reads, “Great teachers are the very foundation upon which this school is built.” I am truly humbled to have worked with a tremendously talented faculty, past and present. Their support and hard work have been the underpinnings of my role as the head of Lower School. I want to thank the entire St. Albans community—students, parents, staff, alumni, grandparents, and all friends of the school—for the support over my 44-year career. I thank them. I believe I have been as blessed as any human being in the world. Is there any other place I would rather have been? No. Does it get any better than this? I don’t think so.
My final annual report captures the energy, the excitement, and the enthusiasm that resonated on the Cathedral Close in the Lower School. May the readers enjoy the highlights captured here by the Rev. Patton-Graham, Mr. Johnsen, Mr. Wilkerson, Mr. Levner, Mr. Drewry, and Mr. O’Malley.
Our chaplain, the Rev. Heather Patton-Graham, reports that the chapel remains the heart of the community. It is our primary place of gathering. If the refectory is our dining room, then the chapel is our living room. This school year has helped us find our “chapel rhythm” with regard to the academic schedule. We have met twice a week, at least, and have continued our monthly Cathedral services with the boy choristers. We have also shared in the Eucharist monthly. The Lower School vestry grew to forty-seven members, with five Form II boys having been designated as junior wardens, and one as senior warden. Each warden was expected to preach once during the year and lead worship in the Cathedral. Each junior warden led a vestry team of Form I or Form II students and served as acolytes and ushers as needed. Other speakers in Chapel over the course of this year have been Mr. Wilson, Mr. Herman, Mr. Brown, Mr. Wilkerson, Mr. Houston, Mr. Stephany, Mr. O’Malley, Ms. Castellanos Evans, and Dr. Viola. Mr. Glosh, program manager of the boy choristers, led us in special music during our March Cathedral service. We are grateful for the organists we have had over the course of the year—Mr. Lang, Ms. Sutton, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Goen have led us in the music we love to sing. We deeply miss Mr. Hutto and shared in a hymn sing of his favorite hymns to play and lead around the time of his memorial service. The CBA Chorus offered music for us, and all of the foreign language classes offered chapel experiences. With spirited hymn sings, reflective times of silence, important reflections and the gift of the community gathered, time for prayer for each other and members of the community who are hurting, the opportunity to share Communion together, and times of laughter and tears, we, more than ever, value our chapel time. Thanks be to God.
Mr. Robert J. Johnsen reports that in keeping with tradition, this C Form class brought a relentless energy, enthusiasm, and optimism to their inaugural year at St. Albans. Joining the St. Albans community from a distinguished and diverse group of schools the boys brought variety and unique points of view to their classes. As the year progressed the differences in their reality become the diversity of their St. Albans experience. This group of boys from all over the area has bonded into a singular St. Albans Form of boys on the verge of becoming St. Albans men.
This year the boys shared the experiences of athletic competitions like Field Day and the Blue-White Swim Meet. They learned about the Amazon Rainforest at the National Geographic Society and touched jellyfish, horseshoe crabs, and stingrays at the Baltimore National Aquarium. They learned the painstaking diligence required to be thorough mathematicians, and they improved their grammar, spelling, and vocabulary. The boys journeyed to “The Lands Beyond” in Norton Juster’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and they traveled the high seas with Tarheto and John Charleton in the adventure book Stowaway. They were introduced to the Spanish Language and learned the Old Testament. They drew, painted, and sewed in art class and sang songs in two concerts in music. In science the boys built boats and paper airplanes and learned about robotics. As the Form C year came to a close, the boys shared essays about one another and enjoyed a diverse buffet of foods representing all of the countries they studied worldwide. Their first year here takes this group of boys from all over the area and bonds them into a singular St. Albans Form of boys on the verge of becoming St. Albans men.
Mr. Mark D. Wilkerson, Form B teacher, reports that it is so hard to write a year’s summary for a group you don’t want to see move on, but the boys must move on and the teachers must prepare for the Class of 2024 in September. The Class of 2023 brought from C Form a reputation for hard work, fun, and cohesiveness that pervaded its B Form year. From day one in September, the boys were ready to hit all their marks no matter what class, activity, or function. Whether the boys were banging through the finer points of grammar in daily grammar practice or working on their slides and presentations for a history project, they brought a zeal and enthusiasm that infected (sometimes over-infected!) their classmates. But the good nature and humor of the boys always provided the right mix of fun and work. A few homeroom highlights where the boys really shined this year: discussions in Life Skills classes; Greek shield and map projects; the new B Form Reading Wall (Ms. Haas’s class particularly); the Walters Art Gallery field trip; and, of course, the Voyageur kayak trip on the Potomac River. The boys endured all the exams, projects, homework, schedule adjustments, and other daily duties and paved the way to what will surely be a great start in September in A Form. The Blue-White competitions and Mr. Herman’s all-Lower School Running Club will remain favorite topics of discussion and one-ups-manship for years to come.
Away from the homeroom, the Form B boys engaged in a plethora of activities and groups. The Choristers made us all proud, whether performing in the Cathedral or somewhere else in the world; the Science Fair gave teams and individuals chances to become “the expert in a field” for a few weeks (hopefully not too much over Spring Break); on the stages and in the art room, individual performances and projects delighted and surprised us all. Todos los estudiantes trabajan muy bien! In short, the Class of 2023, through diligence and joix-de-vie earned an asterix next to their year; they have left a mark of distinction for many classes of the future to follow.
The A Form, Mr. Jack Levner, reports had an exciting year as the grade level was departmentalized for the first time in our history. Mr. Grant Brown taught math, Mr. John Stephany took the helm of the history classes, Mr. Jack Levner taught English. On the whole, this year’s students handled the transition of switching classes for the first time as well as met the challenge of a rigorous, creative curriculum and distinguished themselves in the academic, artistic, and athletic arenas. Departmentalization especially enabled teachers to focus on their individual disciplines and subsequently design units that explored topics in more depth. As in years past though, the teachers still continued to specifically focus on fostering critical thinking skills and collaborated to create cross-curricular lessons and projects. Mr. Stephany and Mr. Levner were especially effective in creating writing structures applicable in both history and English, and Mr. Brown consistently went beyond the textbook to demonstrate the applications of the material. With projects such as Lego robotics, under-water ROVs, the weather-balloon launch as well as the Science Fair, Form A’s science class continued to be an exciting, hands-on experience. In their first year of competitive sports, the students represented the school well; highlights included the baseball team posting a 2-1-3 record as well as strong seasons by the soccer and basketball teams. In addition, several A-Formers participated in the Spelling Bee, and one student advanced to the higher rounds of the city-wide competition. Overall, A Form had an excellent year, and we wish them continued success in their St. Albans academic careers.
Mr. Anders Drewry characterizes this year’s Form I as a time of transition as the boys move from Forms CBA to assume leadership roles for the whole Lower School. Form I started the year with this theme in mind, visiting the ropes course at the Madeira School, where students worked with advisee groups to face small challenges. Athletically, the cross-country team gained early success with strong finishes, earning second place at both the Landon Invitational and the IAC championships, and the football team finished with a 5-2 record. Academically, the boys adjusted to their new schedule, changing classes and meeting the expectations of different teachers. During the winter the performing arts stole the show, as the boys worked to pull together a stirring performance of A Capitol Christmas Carol, and the choristers continued to shine at the Kennedy Center and in the Cathedral’s holiday events. We again ventured back in time to experience George Washington’s Mount Vernon at Christmastime, including the camel, and several students travelled far and wide to compete in various sports competitions.
All the while, students continued to explore new endeavors in their classes, considering the nuances of poetry and drama in English class and examining the causes of liberty in the country’s transition to a Constitution in history, while Mr. Wolfe asked the boys to consider the more practical issues of “buoyancy.” Mr. Walsh challenged them with complex practical problems. The Form I class excelled in their study of foreign languages, including 80 percent earning awards on the National Latin Exam, 71 percent earning certificates or medals on the National French Exam and 95 percent earning a commendation in Spanish. All the while, they were directing plays in drama, creating amazing artworks, thinking about sublime theological issues, and asking the important question: What’s happening to my body” We finished the year in much the same fashion that we began, with the boys earning high marks on their first final exams, staging a rousing production of The World We Live In, the tennis teams achieving a nearly perfect season, putting on a wonderful display of visual art in the Art Show and more than a third of the boys assuming leadership roles in the vestry and making applications as wardens for next year. The challenges have grown greater, but our boys have risen to these expectations. We send them out over the summer, some to France with Mr. Martone and Mr. MacIntyre ’05, and some to other places, but all to do some intensive reading and experiential learning to bring back to share with us all next fall as the leaders of the lower school. Finally, we wish to thank the support of our parent volunteers who kept us supplied with snacks, supported the school dance, and created new opportunities for us to come together as a group including the Saturday Night Out event this spring. Thank so much!
Mr. O’Malley characterized this year’s Form II as a group with positive energy, enthusiasm for life, and a true understanding and appreciation for what it means to be members of the St. Albans community. Academically, the Form II boys had a very impressive year. As a whole, they dramatically improved their critical thinking and writing skills, and tackled the stress of midterms and final exams with diligence and grace. One hundred percent % of the Form II Latin students received awards for strong performances on the National Latin Exam, with one boy getting a perfect score. The Form II “Math Dogs” dominated the area’s Mathcounts competition, winning first in the District competition, and qualified St. Albans students for three of the four spaces (and Ms. Meunier as the coach) on the team competing in the National Competition. The form also possessed the winner of the D.C. Area Spelling Bee, who qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Additionally, the form boasted a Haslam Award recipient at the 60th Annual Lower School Science Fair. Athletically, the boys had a great year with strong seasons by both the soccer and cross-country teams. Specific highlights include an undefeated season by the baseball team, commanding performances by the swim team and tennis team, and yet another white team win in the Lower School’s annual Field Day. In the arts, Form II took leading roles in productions of A Capital Christmas Carol and The World We Live In. The Lower School Art Show also provided a forum that highlighted the artistic talents of the Form II boys in drawing and three-dimensional art. In and outside the classroom, the boys had a variety of experiences that this year that they will look back on fondly: acting as mentors and role models to their Form C Study Buddies; reading Unbroken and discussing the importance of leadership and determination; negotiating an end to the First Indochina War at the Geneva Conference of 1954 in Dr. Schiller’s class; many powerful Vestry talks in chapel; thriving during another memorable and soggy Woodlands camping trip; and the Form II prefects organizing a whole-school Running Club to celebrate the 44-year tenure of Mr. Herman. All in all, it has been a great year for the Class of 2020, and the Form II teachers look forward to hearing about their experiences in the Upper School.
This year we say farewell to Chinese teacher, Ms. Li Ji, Form A teacher, Mr. John Stephany, and Form I mathematics teacher and head lacrosse coach Mr. Robby Walsh. Ms. Ji, while here for one year, has done an excellent job teaching Form I and Form II students Chinese. Her classroom is one of productivity. Her lessons inspire the boys to work hard as they transition their way through one powerful lesson and activity to another. What talent Mr. Stephany brought these past four year: helping with the School of Public Service in the summer, teaching Form A students history, coaching Upper School basketball and Lower School baseball and basketball, and working as the team leader of Form A. We shall miss this multitalented teacher and coach as he joins his wife in the Philippines. Mr. Walsh shared many strengths with us, for five years as a part-time coach, the final four as a full-time employee: excellent Form I mathematics teacher, extraordinary lacrosse coach, personal integrity, high standards and countless contributions to promoting excellence. We shall miss Mr. Walsh as he heads to graduate school.
This has been a wonderful year, and I shall cherish the spirit, camaraderie, and support shown by all in my final year.
Paul E. Herman
Head of Lower School