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Parent Education Recap: Discipline - Outer Compliance Versus Inward Obedience

I want to thank the parents who were able to join us at Parent Education on Thursday, February 16.  Adriana Crane, the guest speaker, gave a presentation on Discipline: Outer Compliance Versus Inward Obedience.

Adriana's approach to discipline is in line with what we do in Montessori.  It is an approach that is based on respect, understanding, and observation.  Each child is endowed with a unique gift that is valued and appreciated. The children in a Montessori classroom develop intrinsic motivation from finding contentment and success with their work. They approach their activities with joy and excitement, not realizing they are learning complex concepts by simply interacting with the materials. They don't feel fatigued, rather satisfied and self-fulfilled.

Adriana discussed the importance of developing self-awareness in the children. At St. Stephen's Episcopal School, the children have the opportunity to develop that self-awareness by living in a prepared environment that meets their emotional and spiritual needs and by having adults who are there to nurture and support them. Their strengths are affirmed and built on and areas of growth are recognized and supported to develop. They learn that mistakes are learning opportunities and part of overall development and growth. 

Maria Montessori referred to "Inward Obedience" as "Willful Obedience". The first thing the teachers do at SSESH to promote willful obedience, is connect with the children and build relationships that are based on care and love. Once those are established, the children listen and respect the classroom rules, not because they have to but because they want to.

Nahla Nasser | Lower and Middle School Principal,

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Executive Order and Identity Crisis

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I happen to be a white heterosexual Christian American male. I say happen because most of my identity was not of my choosing. One could even argue that my Christianity was pre-determined, given my fierce evangelical upbringing. These cosmic happenstances, clearly beyond my control, have provided distinct privilege throughout my 38 years.

For the majority of my life, I have been ignorant of this privilege. And in many cases developed an inflated ego around these markers of identity. Or simply chose to believe that diversity was just an expression of God’s creative genius, without acknowledging the rampant discrimination that surrounded me on a daily basis. I have misunderstood (if not avoided) the doors opened by my male-ness. I have underappreciated the perspective of any minority group. I have categorized oppression as other-worldly, or just some phenomenon that only takes place in concentrated bursts. I have mistakenly believed that all religious groups have the freedom to express faith, noting that law says so. I have grossly misconstrued the plight of peoples in other nations, blindly assuming that my American life is commonplace. These demons are an ongoing struggle. Daily acknowledgement of my identity (what it affords), along with deep confession of sin (exploitation of this identity) are only a starting place.

Over the past few years at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and School, I have had the tremendous opportunity to be surrounded by faithful pilgrims with different identities. And the effects of their impact are transformational and beyond measure. I have been under the authority of a female Rector. I have served with and for a gay Head of School. I have worked alongside a Muslim Middle and Lower School Principal. I have ministered with an African-American Youth Missioner and Director of Admissions, along with a Korean-American Music Director and a Mexican-American Director of Communications. Both our church and school boast a variety of races, nationalities, religious affiliations, immigration statuses, sexual orientations and identities, along with lived experiences. This environment has undoubtedly enriched my soul. And invited a deep dive into my own reality as a white heterosexual Christian American male.

It is from this lens that I am offended and outraged by the recent Executive Order on temporarily banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. I am unbound and whimsically free to make travel plans with my family. A daily email solicitation comes my way from EscapeHouston.com, a subtle and now stark reminder that the world is open to my particular identity. All the while, documented students from other soils are strongly encouraged by colleges and universities to not leave this country. And many others are detained, trapped, or terrified of a return trip to these United States. Many others flee war, terror, and brazen persecution, only to be denied sanctuary and a life devoid of abuse. This divisive reality is a potent combination of extreme nationalism and isolationism. And must not be mistaken for anything else but a violation of human rights. This Executive Order reeks of me over you – and I am grief-stricken that this sort of odor was clearly intended. With the
burning of two Texas mosques in the last three weeks, the consequences of this orientation are already clear.

Along with a broad coalition of Christian leaders and evangelical groups, I am particularly dismayed that Christian refugees are given preference. As if religious expression should have any correlation with asylum, access, or freedom. As if Christians are less susceptible to extremism, the noted justification of this ban. A short second of thinking will recall our history of reprehensible violence (even against fellow believers). This preference jars my Christian privilege in America, a land where church and state are lawfully separate, and leaves me severely self-conscious. This white heterosexual American male has enough privilege to say grace over. My particular confession of faith need not fuel my identity crisis.

To all who enrich my life on this campus and belong – I give you my deepest gratitude. I am living fuller into a common humanity with your influence. And am learning to check my privilege and how it impacts the world around me.

To other white heterosexual American Christian males, along with any who are afforded privilege - I pray that faithful pilgrims with different identities enter your life.


Join us on Sunday eveningsFebruary 12, 19, and 26 at 5 p.m. in Pecore Hall for prayer, Eucharist and a rich discussion on how to be a Christian in America.  This discussion will take place in the context of a shared meal provided by the church and is open to all members, friends, and neighbors.  Childcare will be provided. During these three weeks, we will discuss our Christian identity in light of the current political climate, our relationship to powers of this world, and our call to live and serve in the public square.  

-  The Reverend Brandon Peete | Associate Rector + Director of Spiritual Life

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Recap of American Montessori Society Conference & practicing mindfulness

Every year in January, the American Montessori Society (AMS) holds a Winter Retreat for Montessori Heads of Schools.  The retreat is held at a foreign country to allow the heads to experience a different culture and to connect with each other.  There is always a speaker and a topic of focus for the retreat.  This year, the topic was “Nurturing Well-Being, Spirit, and Evolutionary Growth in Montessori Educators.”

This year, I was fortunate to attend the retreat that was held in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  About sixty Montessori heads of schools were there enjoying the camaraderie of each other, the blue water, and beautiful sunshine.  We spent a couple of days attending workshops presented by Dina Amsterdam who owns a company, Leadership Within. A yogi and meditator for over 20 years, she works with educators and a variety of organizations teaching mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and simply nurturing well-being.

Leaders of schools have a responsibility not only to nurture their own well-beings, but also the well-being of others.  Those can be achieved through specific practices in identifying our Inner Landscape – body, heart, and mind.  We did exercises with partners to practice recognizing our Inner Landscape.

The four foundations of Well-Being are awareness, kindness, breath, and ease.  Dina states that “The four foundations are essential skills that increase our ability to live with greater peace and balance and considerably less stress and strain. We use the four foundations to recognize support, as well as intentionally influence the ever –changing conditions of our Inner Landscape”.

“Was Buddha A Preventive Cardiologist?”  Dina shared with us an article she wrote based on research and linking mindfulness to cardiovascular disease.  She concluded that “As a scientifically minded yogi who has benefited greatly from mindfulness practice, the results of the research in this area are very exciting to me.  Under rigorous scientific evaluation, the Buddha’s ancient inner technology seems to be an excellent adjunct prescription, not just of cardiovascular disease, but for many stress-related illnesses and, most certainly, for a greater sense of overall well-being.”

I walked away from this retreat feeling validated for practicing mindfulness in my daily life as a leader, but also having practiced it in the classroom with the students when I was a teacher.  It really works!!  Those fewminutes of meditation every day uplift your spirit and energy and give you a push to continue your day in a peaceful and focused manner.  They help you to be present at each moment and to give your 100% attention to your daily activities and interactions with the community.  When I practiced mindfulness with the students in the classroom, I observed the benefits the students cultivated from those exercises.  They helped them to stay focused and to recognize their emotions and to calmly deal with them.

Dina recommends the following books:

  • The Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson
  • When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
  •  How to Meditate by Pema Chodron
  • Genuine Happiness by Alan Wallace

I am currently reading a book entitled Mindfulness For Teachers by Patricia A. Jennings.  I am considering sharing it with the student teachers I train during the summer at the Houston Montessori Center.  The book offers insights and practices the teachers may find beneficial to implement in their classrooms.

By: Nahla Nasser, M.Ed. | Lower and Middle School Principal

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IB Students Visit Genetics Conference

Last Friday, the IB biology students got the chance to take part in a genetics conference where they learned about human embryology and stem cells in great detail. The topic of embryology included extensive details about the development of the fetus throughout eight weeks in a lab, and then for the remainder of gestation in utero. The second part of the lecture was about the process and benefits of stem cell research and cell replacement therapy.

The professor also mentioned applications of CRISPR technologies and its importance in genetics, which was very interesting and explained the concept of being able to remove genes and heal illnesses and diseases with the help of gRNA. He also mentioned that pig organs could be drained of cells and transplanted in a human with no complication due to compatible size. The skin stem cell research was also fascinating. He explained that by taking skin cells one can make a new organ for someone who really needs it and has specific compatible conditions. It is impressive that it could solve many issues regarding health complications, including experiential growth of human brains in a lab and exploring how scientists could discover deterioration quickly and with little difficulty. All in all, the conference was a really nice experience, and the students seemed to gain a lot of information and enjoy it. 

By Maggie Hewitt & Aubrey Bryan

 

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St. Stephen's Church and School Combat Hunger at the Houston Food Bank

Twenty one members of St. Stephen's Church and School braved the weather and the traffic Friday, December 2 to work at the Houston Food Bank.  With the help of several student and community groups and a little music,  we sorted and boxed approximately 8,000+ lbs of goods which will supply a little over 7,000 meals.

Many thanks especially to St. Stephen's Episcopal Church parishioners: Maura Joyce, Roberto Argentina, Francesco Argentina, Sheri DeBruijn, Mary Orrison, Gunnar DeBruijn, Chris Gibson, Ralph Leal, Patty Pagan, and Crystal Kitigawa.  Also big thanks to St. Stephen's Episcopal School's HS teacher Meg and students Cassandra, Callista, James, Luis, and Maryn. Also many thanks to the friends of Lee Lozano who helped us out.  Working together to provide for the neediest in our community was a truly rewarding experience for all!

Join us again in combating hunger in our community on Saturday, January 21 from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Before volunteering at the Houston Food Bank, I was unaware that so many people lacked access to food and other resources. My experience there not only taught me about the significance of food, but it also taught me how valuable our efforts are to others in need.  
-Callista Wilson, HS Student
Houston Food Bank

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The 11th Annual Nutcracker Performance

Another year with a Nutcracker performance from the primary students is behind us...11 years. This St. Stephen’s tradition is a wonderful experience for both children and teachers. As I watched this year’s play, I was reminded why we have this event. Seeing how much the children enjoyed what they’re doing, as well as the smiling faces of their parents and families watching them, gives me the greatest satisfaction. I remembered that all the practice and preparation is worth it! I enjoyed every moment of today’s performance.  Moments like these are when I really love my occupation as an educator.  I know that here at St. Stephen’s, we really do change lives and help children grow.

Thank you all for another wonderful performance.  The children were great, but without the assistance of the staff and support of our Directors, we couldn’t have pulled it off.

I would like to give a special thanks to Anita and Stefan and their students for their professional work in videotaping and photographing the whole event.  

Love and peace,

Ms. Gladis           

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Middle School Student Council Reflect on Seafarer's Collection

This past Wednesday, December 7th, the Middle School Student Council from St. Stephen’s Episcopal School-Houston took part in the annual collection for traveling seafarers. Once a year, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School and Church provide basic supplies for men at sea and on cargo ships. Every grade level is asked to bring in certain supplies such as socks, boot laces, medication, toothpaste, toiletries, etc. The school did a collection drive to receive these provisions. We do this in the Holiday spirit so the seafarers who cannot be with their families still receive gifts like they’re at home.

Here are some of our thoughts.  For many of us, this was our second year doing this.  It is always an unforgettable time.  

“This was a really great experience knowing that we are helping so many people.” -Emma Pierce

“We worked together as a bonded community for the betterment of others” -Rowan Painter

“This was a very moving experience. It gave me joy as I packed everything up when I thought about the smiles this would put on their faces.”  Sarah Powers

“I’m glad that we’ve done something good and that our gifts will be used well.”  Tuck

“I feel that if I received any of these boxes, I, too, would be grateful.”  Brandon Ortiz

“Taking part in the Seafarers collection was a way we could spread the “Christmas cheer!”  Brooks Farish

“I found this to be a great experience; it felt good helping those who simply need to be reached out to during the Holidays.”  Max Boubel

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Festival of Lessons and Carols

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School will gather on Friday, December 16 at 8:30 a.m. for our annual Festival of Lessons and Carols. The first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols took place at King’s College in Cambridge in 1918, connecting us to our Anglican roots in the Church of England.

This hour of prayer is a special time to gather and hear the story of Christ in word and song. Our students and faculty, under the direction of Shannon Hesse and Stephen Bachicha, have spent many hours in preparation for the musical offerings of this service. We look forward to hearing many joyful noises on Friday, along with lessons offered by our High School students. Be sure to reach out with a hearty thanks to all involved.

Our church and school both embrace a warm welcome of all traditions and faith affiliations, leading from a posture of inclusion and hospitality. This is one of the many wonderful attributes of our Episcopal Identity. Another aspect of this identity is the observance of common prayer, as we strive to remain faithful to our tradition. We seek authenticity and transparency in communicating who we are, while always respecting the diversity of our community.

In the Episcopal Church, all of our services are framed as offerings to God. Our prayer, whether in word, song, movement, or silence, is oriented on giving thanks to our Creator, Redeemer, and Giver of Life. As such, applause and flash photography is not appropriate in the context of our prayer. We surely want to lift up and celebrate the gifts, talents, and hard work, but we humbly ask that all parents reserve this form of affirmation for after the service. Please know that our Director of Communications and Growth, Toni Morales, will be tastefully capturing moments of our prayer together to share with our community. This approach is also in line with Montessori philosophy, for we are careful as educators to leave space for accomplishment to emerge from within the child.

We have been deliberate in our weekly chapels to maintain reverence during gatherings of prayer, noting that our chancel is not a stage, that the altar is more than a table, and that we do not gather to be entertained, but rather to be united in prayer and challenged to grow spiritually.

On behalf of our Head of School, David Coe, we look forward to the Festival of Lessons and Carols on Friday, December 16. We pray that all who come may be enlightened and sent forth as beacons of hope in the world.

With the Blessing of Advent,

The Rev. Brandon Peete, Director of Spiritual Life

Mr. David Coe, Head of School

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Dialogue and Respect

In this heated post-election climate, healthy dialogue is essential for reconciliation and healing. Yet helpful conversational models have been few and far-between, with social media rants, slanderous accusations, and harmful rioting leading the news feeds. Clearly, words are being spoken, but we are left to wonder the ongoing effects of reactive and defensive postures in our future as a country. These conversations are happening on national and international stages, for sure, but they are also taking place in local communities, in peer groups, and within our own families. To that end, establishing a sacred foundation for dialogue at all levels is of utmost importance. 

The Friday of election week I had the opportunity to gather with our High School students and faculty in their weekly community meeting. During that time, we engaged The Rev. Eric Law’s Respectful Communication Guidelines (listed below) as a starting place for healthy dialogue. I invited students and faculty to consider how they were engaging the “other” they are in conversation with. And to prayerfully wonder how to respect the dignity of every human being in every encounter. Regardless of where we stand, reconciliation and healing is sorely needed for a peaceful transition of leadership in government, as well as moving forward within the spheres we walk in daily.

Please continue to keep our country, our leaders, our students, our families, and whoever the other is in your life, in your prayers.

The Rev. Brandon B. Peete, Director of Spiritual Life

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New FAA Offering! Creative Writing from The Fig Writer's Studio

 

Creative Writing?  You asked for MORE and we are bringing it to YOU!

SSESH  is pleased to welcome The Fig Writer's Studio to our wonderful after school Fine Arts Academy!

The Fig Writer's Studio Children’s Workshop is a lively and intellectually engaging program that introduces children in Primary, Lower El, and Upper El, to the art and craft of writing through storytelling and imagination.  The program endeavors to entertain and foster creative expression, as well as explore the function and values of writing, stimulate our children’s imaginations, and clarify thinking.  The Fig Writers Studio’s goal is to teach our children to write compelling stories, with creative transitions, character desires, obstacles, climax, dialogue and resolve.  The company believes creative writing offers children a safe space to make sense of the world around them, as well as a way to explore humor, narrative complexity, abstraction, and metaphor.  The Fig Writer's Studio also believes in having fun, encouraging whimsy and wonder, and being inspired to write!  

Classes will be offered Tuesdays for Primary students from 4:30 to 5:30, Wednesdays for Lower El students from 4:00 to 5:30, and Thursdays for Upper El students from 4:00 to 5:30.  We will conclude the Spring Semester with a Student Reading.  Parents will also receive an anthology of student writings.  Cost: $380 per student.  For more information and to check out The Fig Writer's Studio, visit them at here and say hello!

Registration for The Fig Writer's Studio Children’s Workshop will open up at the same time as our re-enrollment for our other FAA 2017 spring classes.

Please join me in welcoming the program to our campus and take advantage of this terrific opportunity for the young writer in your home.

Holli Richardson, Director of Fine Arts

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Catechesis + Montessori

We invite all Primary and Lower El students and families to consider joining us on Sundays from 9:30 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. in the Bentley Room (where Spanish meets). Our Christian formation is offered through Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a hands-on formation experience (video). Our Atria teachers are trained and ready to invite your child into a calm, prepared, and nurturing learning environment.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is in concert with the Montessori philosophy espoused by our Lower School. As you can see from the picture, the environment is ripe for exploration and wonder. Please see the testimony below from one of our Catechists, Mary Cole, who also is a Substitute Teacher at the school. Please contact The Rev. Brandon Peete, Director of Spiritual Life, with any questions. Welcome!

Several years ago, I worked as Ms. Andrea’s assistant in Lower Elementary. When I would walk children to Spanish Class in the Bentley Room, I would tell the children that I taught Sunday School in that room, so please be respectful of all the materials. Because they knew that, I was occasionally asked questions about God and Jesus throughout the school day. Children are already thinking about God and when they have a resource to ask, they will.

As catechists, we believe that children already have a relationship to God. My job is to assist that relationship through providing materials to work with and specific presentations that tell them about the books of the Bible, the New Testament narratives of the life of Jesus, or the parables of Jesus.

We use the Montessori Method to present lessons. This enables children to meditate on Scripture or the information given by working with materials at the same time. We present the lesson and talk about it a little. Once the lesson has been presented the child may work with it whenever he or she feels called to do so.

We have some materials that closely correspond to Montessori materials.  In the beginning of the year we use a long ribbon, similar to the long black line (The Coming of Man), that is used to illustrate the Kingdom of God, beginning a long blue ribbon for the time before land appeared, then brown for when land appeared, towards the end of that there is a tiny strip of ribbon for the time when Jesus came until now. We do this work in the Nave because the ribbon is so very long.

We also have a Prayer Table at which we meet at the end of class.  We have had children offer up prayers for such wide ranging issues as pets dying, to the destruction of the Amazon rain forest to prayers for the children at Sandy Hook.

Children often dive into the materials, causing stirring questions to emerge. In this way, the Spirit moves in wonderful and mysterious ways.

-          Mary Cole, Catechist and Substitute Teacher

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From Trees to Paper to Trees

Yvette Grutter - Mexican, American, Swiss artist received a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1992 and has continued to take workshops and courses, such as printmaking in Florence, papermaking in the USA, Japan, Mexico, and Spain, painting from well-known artists, art history and criticism, as well as curatorship courses.

She has participated in countless solo- and group-exhibitions internationally for over two decades and has received several awards and scholarships, including an artist in residence in Spain granted by the UNESCO..

Her true conviction for transmitting aesthetic values is present throughout her artwork and in her teaching.

She has a studio where she makes mostly paintings and printmaking, but her favorite technique, that is always present in her work, has always been papermaking. She has done intensive research in several countries over the years and is always excited to share her passion with her students.

This artist was pleased to participate as a guest artist at the da Vinci Lab during the fall semester of 2016. Students were guided through a nine-week adventure using various papermaking techniques. They were exposed to videos and small talks on subjects that helped them gain more knowledge and appreciation for nature, recycling, aesthetics, and creativity. Each student showcased their art work during the art opening of the da Vinci Lab Wednesday, November 2nd.

To view Grutter's current exhibition at the Silos on Sawyer Yards, please contact her for more information. You can also view Yvette's Instagram and website.

I am honored to be a scholar at the da Vinci Lab at the St. Stephen´s School this semester and to have the chance to share some of my knowledge as a visual artist and my passion for paper making with an amazing group of students. I am very proud of them!
— Yvette Grutter

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Fall Festival: Thank you to all our sponsors / donors / volunteers

Thank you to all our sponsors/ donors/volunteers for Fall Festival.  The team effort to bring all the fun attractions, games and crafts were outstanding!  A huge thanks to April Lord, Assistant Director of Admissions for coordinating.  The Committee Chairperson, Tamala Singleton, and lead committee Parent Volunteers, Lisa Mak and Chevonne Greaser took the Fall Festival to new heights.  Thank you to the class parents and everyone that donated to the silent auction.  The baskets were a huge hit.  There was quite some competition on the bidding.  We could not have done it without you!  You truly make St. Stephen’s a welcoming and fun community.

 

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Congratulations Junior Beta Club!

On October 27, Sponsors Jamie Shick and Michael Stambaugh took their newly inducted Junior Beta Club to a Leadership Summit in Grapevine, TX.  

Six middle school students participated in sessions that served to motivate, encourage and promote the four principles of the association: Growth, Values, Character and Connect.

As an additional experience, our students participated in two challenges:  Rapid Response and Service Snapshot. 

The first group activity was a critical thinking challenge that allowed them to create a STEM based project in a short amount of time and reflect on the experience.  

The second activity was the development and planning of a community issue that they would like to help/serve. With limited prior knowledge and time, they created a logo, and plan of implementation to work with our Church community to feed homeless individuals in the Montrose area.  

Other school participants had elaborate boards, props and flyers to win over the judge but all our students had was themselves and a sheet of paper. They faced the challenge head on, remained calm and optimistic and ultimately got recognized for it.

Because of these accomplishments, the six students have been invited to participate in the National Convention in Orlando this summer.

Congratulations Junior Beta Club for qualifying to participate and share your service ideas at the National Convention!

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Wildly Generous: the 2016-17 Annual Fund

Have you checked your mailbox in the last few days…that old-fashioned physical one? In it, you’ll find an invitation to support the St. Stephen’s Annual Fund, signed by a parent volunteer. Can we count on you to Wildly Generous and contribute to the 2016-17 Annual Fund before December 31?

Our St. Stephen’s Annual fund goal is to raise $150,000 in gifts and pledges by December 31, 2016, with 100% participation from our school community of families, faculty, staff, board, grandparents and alumni. 

Can’t wait for snail mail? Click here to learn more and to support the Annual Fund.

- Singleton & Uriarte Families, Annual Fund Co-Chairs

Special thank you to our Annual Fund Parent Volunteer Committee:

  • Tamala & Lincoln Singleton, co-chairs
  • Jessica & Ian Uriarte, co-chairs
  • Chandra & Adam Attayi
  • Jennifer & Steve Boubel
  • Stephanie Capps & Raul Pavon
  • Lou Castañeda
  • Joan & Gabriel Chavez
  • Rania Elkhatib
  • Larisa & Ghislain Fai-Yengo
  • Elizabeth & George Farish
  • Chevonne & Dan Greaser
  • Carol & Clinton Heider
  • Ted Jurek & Brian Little
  • Allison & Clark Kellogg
  • Nicole Van Nood & Chris Lewis
  • Melissa & Robert Lomax
  • Gladis Martin
  • Jessica & Christopher Parkerson
  • Jayne & Brian Piana
  • Debbie Resendez
  • Jamie Shick
  • Leslie & Paul Strug
  • Christine Vigil-Thompson & Louie Thompson
  • Christine Tyler & Tony Stergio
  • Mary Esther Vigil
  • Susan Wootton & Bernhard Bodman

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Me and my Shadow

Me and my shadow, My shadow and me, Were always together, As close as can be, We make pictures, On the floor and the wall, Like rabbits and dogs, And that’s not all, Wherever we go, We have company, Me and My shadow, My shadow and me - Peter Pan

Me and my shadow, My shadow and me, Were always together, As close as can be,

We make pictures, On the floor and the wall, Like rabbits and dogs, And that’s not all, Wherever we go, We have company, Me and My shadow, My shadow and me - Peter Pan

About two weeks ago, I was paused to reflect as I spoke to the eighth graders about their upcoming shadow to the high school.  I gazed around the room looking at how much each one of them had grown so much in my two and a half years as Art Director, here at St. Stephen's.  I wondered 'are they ready?'  In four brief years, they will graduate and head off to new adventures of their choosing and I thought to myself, 'wow, time sure does fly'.  I reflected on how much I cherish each and every student as they have brought so much laughter and joy into my life.  Watching them take risk in the fine arts has been so incredibly rewarding not only for them but for us as their teachers.  I also pondered the word shadowing...  Why do we call it that?  Then Peter Pan came to mind: 

St. Stephens’s community of family is like Peter Pan's shadow.  Always there for one another and we are never alone.  My heart came to a resting place of peace and joy as I thought about Neverland.  Neverlandisn’t a place but a state of mind. And growing up doesn’t have to be so hard!

Holli Richardson, Director of Fine Arts

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The Rhythm of Prayer

Episcopal tradition reminds us that habits of prayer shape belief. As we come together weekly in chapel, intention is given to help surface the beliefs that are expressed through our prayer. In this way, we hope to make meaning out of our practices and rituals. For example, we stand during prayers because we are people of resurrection. We come forward to receive Communion out of the belief and we are also called to offer who we are to God during this holy encounter. We pray for the dead because we believe that any gathering of faith transcends space and time in the communion of saints. We sing hymns of praise in joyful response to God’s abundant provision for the world.

While our entire school community gathers to break bread together a few times a semester, we observe age-appropriate elements of Morning Prayer during our routine weekly chapels. This service includes a greeting and Collect of the Day, a song of praise, reading from the Psalter and Scripture, an interactive homily as a response to the reading, prayers of the people, a blessing, and dismissal. The Scripture mirrors what is engaged the previous Sunday at our church, and follows a 3-year cycle of appointed texts called the Revised Common Lectionary. We also observe periods of silence during the service as an invitation to breathe, look inward, and be still. Parents are always welcome to pray with us in chapel.

The bones of this ritual remain the same throughout the year, as we believe structured prayer connects us with tradition and fellow Episcopal schools, along with providing assurance, comfort and familiarity. In time, this prayerful rhythm lays the framework for the movement of the Spirit among us.

Of course, St. Stephen’s values the richness of diversity in all aspects – including religious affiliation. As such, we invite all students and faculty - Episcopalians and non-Episcopalians, Christians and non-Christians, people of no faith tradition—both to seek clarity about their own beliefs and religions and to honor those traditions more fully and faithfully in their own lives. This orientation aligns our Episcopal Identity with other schools in the National Association of Episcopal Schools.

We invite your prayers as we seek to be faithful.

- The Reverend Brandon Peete, Director of Spiritual Life

Brandon and Primary students wonder about the concept of enough and the generosity of God

Brandon and Primary students wonder about the concept of enough and the generosity of God

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Wall of Hope

Wall of Hope

“But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more.” – Psalm 71:14

These words help frame the latest spiritual life undertaking, The Wall of Hope. In September, each class level was asked to wonder about hopes for the upcoming school year. What followed was creativity and deep insight, as collages began to form on the bulletin board in the Monro Building (opposite the kitchen). In later conversation, teachers commented that the exercise provided the opportunity to begin with individual hopes, but then to ponder hopes beyond the self. One Upper El student noted, “I hope for all wars to end.” Another said, “I hope that one day we will have a perfect democracy and everyone will have a voice.” These, and many more, express a spirituality that reaches further than the classroom, across a campus that truly is called to nurture and serve our neighbors.

Next time you are on campus, please make it a point to walk by the Wall of Hope. Many thanks to our teachers and students for accepting this call to wonder, as well as the Fine Arts Department for inspiration.

With encouragement,

The Rev. Brandon Peete, Director of Spiritual Life

PTO Successfully Kicks Off First Meeting of 2016-2017 school year

Thank you to all who were able to attend the first PTO meeting held last week. It was a huge success and the room was full of energy and hope. The PTO addressed our goals and dreams for the future. The main goal for this year will be to continue to build a strong community. We had table conversations about what we would like to see achieved by the PTO. The 2016-2017 budget was presented and provided an account for the modest dues and donations.

The overall theme of the evening was building relationships and community. There was much laughter and conversation as we reflected on what makes St. Stephen’s so special and unique. The PTO’s new logo is a beautiful reminder of our support for the school as our most important effort and our uniqueness as individuals and as a community being one of our greatest strengths.

If you were unable to attend the meeting we hope to see you in December at our next gathering. We will finalize the date and details of that meeting very soon so stay tuned. If you have not registered, please go to the PTO website and sign up here. There you will also find more detailed information about who the PTO is and what we do. 

PTO 2016-2017 Group

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Alumnus Perspective: Returning to Campus, Teaching for Summer

For the past two summers, St. Stephen’s has offered intensive summer coursework to elementary and middle school students in conjunction with U-Prep, a non-profit organization that pairs academically challenging private schools with students from lower-performing school environments. The focus on these summer sessions is to increase Math and Language Arts critical thinking skills. The goal is to be able to award scholarships to those students who would be a good match for the school with a financial need.

This year, St. Stephen’s high school alumnus, Teddi Utley, class of 2015, returned to campus to help our Middle School Math and Science Lead teacher Jamie Shick teach a U-Prep summer intensive to six elementary and middle school students for a month. Teddi, now a sophomore at Texas Southern University, discusses the experience of being UPrep summer teacher, a former U-Prep student, and a St. Stephen’s alumnus.

My name is Teddi Utley, and I graduated from St. Stephen’s in 2015. I began SSESH in August of 2010 as a freshman. Some of the qualities that I gained through U-Prep such as dependability, cooperation, punctuality, leadership, and speaking up helped me tremendously though my 4 years at St. Stephens. One of the objectives of U-Prep is betting our education to help uplift and help our community. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl. Being a teacher meant more than being able to help children learn, to me being a teacher is the opportunity to spread one’s love for education and knowledge. Although the Montrose area is not my initial community where I grew up, it soon became my newfound community thanks to St. Stephen's.
Having a four-year scholarship to St. Stephen's gave me more then an education. I gained confidence, the ability to think critically, the opportunity to question the things I was learning, lifetime friends, as well as numerous networking opportunities. The door at St. Stephen's remained open even after I graduated. This allowed me to go back and teach Language arts over the summer to sixth and seventh graders. The students were U-Prep students seeking a scholarship to attend St. Stephen's as I did 8 years ago. Just as Ms. Berger and Mr. Benson (the leaders of U-Prep) saw something in me, I saw the opportunity for greatness in them. I did not only want them to have the U-Prep experience that I had, but also the St. Stephen's experience as well.
Although teaching sixth and seventh graders after only my first year of college proved to be challenging, it was possible through the skills I gained from both St. Stephens and U-Prep. Having the opportunity to lead students to a school that gives more than just an education, justified all of the hard work facing me in my next two and a half years of college. 
- Teddi

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