Letter to Collegiate Families Nov. 2, 2020

Dear Collegiate Families,

Let me begin by expressing deep gratitude for each member of our community. Since Sept. 1, we have gathered on campus to create a supportive learning environment for our nearly 1,700 learners, 5% of whom are learning remotely, and roughly 350 professional colleagues. It is clear we are committed to each other and seeing beyond ourselves. Your children and my professional peers are treasured; the sights and sounds on campus are inspiring. As we enter our 10th week at School, amidst a global pandemic, we are thankful for your continued support, partnership and adaptability.

Looking towards Election Day, we maintain our commitment to preparing your children for a lifetime of inquiry, compassion and responsibility, per our Portrait of A Graduate. Within the next 14 years, every child in our current learning community will be of voting age. We have first-time voters in our Class of 2021, and this will be a momentous day for them. My colleagues and I hope that civic engagement is central in your children’s lives. This was our founder Helen Baker’s vision - growing good citizens in the widest sense. 

In early October, I communicated with my colleagues; my hope was to underscore our roles, professional responsibilities and community expectations. The following is an excerpt:

As we feel the political conversations gaining energy, I think it is good to level set and focus on our role as professionals. You are certainly welcome to your thoughts and beliefs. However, as educators, our roles call us to facilitate conversations and not to influence our students with our own opinions. Our mission is why we exist – to be a diverse and inclusive learning community. Our values of honor, love of learning, excellence, respect and community, are how we behave.

It is both a wondrous privilege and tremendous responsibility to be an educator. Using our mission and values, our Academic Team, JK-12th Grade, establishes age-appropriate opportunities to engage in dialogue; just as Helen Baker called us to “learn beyond the book.” A range of opinions, beliefs and inquiry related to the upcoming election, as well as past, current and future events are a part of classroom discussions. Collegiate’s faculty and staff help your children to learn and live in the now. Simultaneously, our interactions are meant to cultivate mindsets, skills and habits that will serve your children well into their adulthood as responsible citizens.

Lower School
JK-4th Grade students learn how to listen to each other’s answers and take turns sharing their thoughts and questions. In partnership with the faculty, our guidance counselors established age-appropriate ways to reinforce essential dialogue skills during guidance lessons and throughout the curriculum. Such habit formation helps our Cougars to learn how to stop, think, choose and learn from each other.

Middle School
In Grades 5-8, students engage in advisory and community conversations. Students are learning how to share their beliefs, listen and think through self-reflection, as well as gain insights from others. Embedded in the History curriculum, different aspects of the election process are covered. Discerning facts and opinions is a part of every subject as our students research, communicate and conclude. We hope to cultivate curiosity and habits of lifelong learning.

Upper School
In Grades 9-12, History class has a focus on basic understandings of the election process and past events. Last week, the students watched an assembly overview of who is running for offices in Virginia and the electoral college. Student leaders and faculty members underscore and will continue to underscore the importance of our core values of respect, love of learning and community, especially during cooperative learning experiences. 

If each of us focuses on Collegiate’s core values every day,  I have no doubt that we will learn, grow and become our best. Thank you for your attention and for considering how we may partner in the days ahead for our shared commitment to the individual children and purpose of our School. As we live our aspirational mission and further our commitment to your children and our shared future, I am grateful.

Penny B. Evins