Letter from the Head of School

Dear Collegiate Families,
As we look forward to spring break and the rest of our year, it is with a pure heart and great gratitude that I reflect on the past twelve months and write to you about something other than logistics and mitigation strategies. What a journey this continues to be for all of us.
A year ago, Collegiate began preparing for the unknown of Covid-19. Spring break was indeed a time to press the brakes and change course as my thoughts continued to turn to the what ifs. There was no playbook or expert to consult. However, just as spring reveals that which has been growing out of sight, our community’s well-rooted values and commitment to excellence have given us what we needed as we navigate the pandemic. As Responsible Cougars, we have a shared commitment to each other, and we remain on this journey together as one Collegiate squarely focused on preserving and enhancing community.
Caring for all and being a carpenter of hearts and minds is the foundation of an educator’s craft. My colleagues and I feel so very fortunate; being on campus to practice our craft, with the children of Collegiate, is irreplaceable. We know how very rare and precious “together” is. Gathering in any sense of the word is a touchstone for a strong community, and gathering is more complex these days. However, we continue to find our way as a learning community, and this nourishes our hearts and minds. I am buoyed by “ordinary” interactions with community members, which are extraordinary in today’s world.
Last week, I met with Upper School students who expressed gratitude, optimism and specific ideas for finishing our year with strength and courage. A theme of co-creating was established, and together, we will collaborate and advance-teachable moments surround us as we respond to challenges with empathy and a “can do/will do” attitude. Your children understand complexity and are helping us employ resilience and creativity.  We spoke joyfully about the change in seasons and the sunshine is contagious.
The following day, warmer temperatures led me to find two colleagues enjoying lunch without supervisory duties. They reminded me that the encouragement from you, your children and the togetherness they experience on campus is the magic. In the spirit of community, I was invited to practice morning yoga and mindfulness with JK students. With a commitment to well-being, a joyful group of young Cougars ushered me into their space of inspiration and renewal. It is as if the world is right side up when in the company of curious, respectful and engaged children, who are shepherded by my talented colleagues.
In preparation for the Winter Party and Auction, which was a tremendously successful example of pulling together, our Middle School students interviewed me for the schoolwide design thinking challenge. An outdoor classroom project and auction paddle raise opportunity was the catalyst for our visit. The students are eager to ensure that we continue using nature as a classroom – an everlasting silver lining of the past twelve months. Watch the video for a view into this exciting student-initiated project.
We have such good fortune at Collegiate. These twelve months have been rich in learning. Forces greater than our own physical strength appeared. Daily, we model collective teaming and problem solving. This has been difficult, but I am confident these life lessons and the palpable teamwork will serve our children well. More than ever before, independent school leaders are collaborating. We spend time conversing with educators near and far. We consider the future, our hopes for our students, and how to prepare mindsets, skills and resilience for a world that continues to evolve. While reflecting on our good fortune, I am mindful of and deeply saddened about the great losses of life, experiences and hardships of so many, both near and far. Tending to social emotional needs is a part of our mission delivery, and we will continue to harness empathy and promote responsible citizenship in action.
Your children, our North Star, constantly guide and inspire. Our Collegiate students, faculty and staff have performed with grace, humility and bravery. Yes, we have worn masks in the physical sense, but from my vantage point, we have shown more vulnerability, courage, creativity and potential than ever before. Together, we have risen to what has been the most challenging time in most of our lives. The distance we have learned to keep has brought us closer; the unity in our commitment to community and to finding a way – even if it is not the way it always was – is palpable on our campus. It is with great certainty that I share the strength of Collegiate, the people who make the place, and for them I am grateful.
As we head into spring break, I hope you will join me in celebrating how far we have come in our “moonshot” of a year. We are not done, and as I look toward spring and our efforts to remain healthy, I thank you for your continued patience. As communicated, we are taking hopeful steps forward with more opportunities – ranging from using the playground equipment, having outdoor artistic performances with guests, athletic competitions and spectators, youth sports, year-end celebrations and running summer programs on campus. All of this, of course, is dependent on the dynamics of the pandemic. We will continue to plan with optimism and respond with health as our priority. 
I wish for you a safe, healthy and rejuvenating time away from school. Please continue to be Responsible Cougars. I am looking forward to further celebrating the Class of 2021 and the strength and sense of community they represent and radiate. In closing, thank you for sharing your children with us and for your ongoing support and partnership as we daily live Collegiate’s motto Parat, Ditat, Durat – prepare, enrich and endure.
Penny B. Evins