In the news
In the afternoon, you might see St. Luke’s Episcopal School (SLES) students sitting in middle level English teacher Jen Wentlandt’s classroom with their eyes closed, quietly breathing. This is exactly what they should be doing.
The new class, Health and Wellness is offered to all SLES 4th-8th grade students, who attend in small, multi- grade level groups. One of the great strengths and hallmarks of a SLES education is our holistic vision of educating the mind, body, and spirit of each child here. Our new, innovative Health and Wellness class embodies this integrated learning ethos. Once a week, students meet with Mrs. Wentlandt to learn about mindfulness, self-reflection, nutrition, peer relationships, conflict resolution, and practical skills for physical, social, and emotional well-being. Through class discussions, journaling, research, and documentaries, our students become better equipped to address the myriad of stresses and challenges of adolescent and adult life. This is one tangible example of the breadth and depth of a St. Luke’s education.
Studying mental health, mindfulness, and wellness has strong, long-lasting benefits for people of all ages, including young people. “The pre-teen and teen years are marked with significant and unique stressors, including identity and self image, peer pressure, parent and teacher expectations, social media, you name it,” says Mrs. Wentlandt. “Research shows that practicing mindfulness literally rewires the brain to become more powerful and able to concentrate. It can also decrease the likelihood of experiencing depression and anxiety.”
SLES students are experiencing positive results after just a few classes. “I love our class! Mrs. W has a passion for mental health and she puts a lot of thought into making sure we stay healthy. A healthy brain and a healthy heart will help us to be better and happier students,” says SLES 8th grader Irene Sheerin.
In recent years, a considerable amount of research and attention has focused on comparing the PK-8 school model with the elementary, then middle school format. What has emerged is evidence that the PK-8 model offers unique strengths for students during this period of considerable cognitive, physical, and social-emotional growth. At St. Luke’s Episcopal School (SLES), creating a nurturing environment facilitates the ability to provide a challenging, rigorous education. St. Luke’s prepares students with a solid foundation of learning skills and a strong knowledge base, ensuring a smooth and successful transition to high school. Our model also permits us to offer leadership opportunities to our Middle School students at a time when they are naturally developing these skills and need the exposure, encouragement, and responsibility that come with being the oldest students in a school. At SLES Middle School is not in the middle. Our sixth, seventh and eighth graders assume authentic leadership roles, which results in greater levels of confidence and self-esteem as they progress toward high school. As an Episcopal school, we value a truly holistic vision of educating the mind, body, and spirit, so developing leadership skills is an intrinsic part of our mission.
At St. Luke’s, everybody knows your name. There is a sense of belonging that deepens as a child grows from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, both for the child and for the family. Parents at a PK – 8th grade school are more inclined to stay connected and involved beyond the elementary school years, a factor which correlates highly with student success. The school becomes a virtual neighborhood in which families raise their children together, creating enduring bonds with one another and with the faculty and administration. In a culture which often diminishes the joy and wonder of childhood in a rushed acceleration to premature adulthood, PK-8 schools provide a measured and secure place to navigate the challenges of adolescence and emerging adulthood.
Students and their parents have the unique benefit of choosing the right high school at the right time: when students and their families more deeply understand the student’s strengths, interests, affinities, passions and challenges. Throughout the eighth grade year, we communicate with students and their parents to help determine the best high school options for every student. One of the most gratifying experiences is to hear from our alumni as to how well they were prepared to flourish academically, socially, and emotionally, in high school and beyond.
We invite you to join us on Wednesday, October 16 for our Admission Preview starting with registration at 8:45 a.m. Parents will have the opportunity to hear from school administrators and tour our hilltop campus. If you are not able to join us on October 16th please contact Margaret Ann Casseb, Director of Admission, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 210.826.0664 ext.239 to schedule an individual tour.
“Summer time and the living’s easy”. So goes the classic tune from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Certainly summer for children is a delight and wonder, a time to relax and explore. A time for travel with family and friends, a time to play at the beach, lake, or mountains. Our children need unstructured time to be themselves and to cultivate their imaginations without the ceaseless drone and distraction of social media and electronic stimuli. Ideally, summer can be a time for recharging and renewing ourselves, children and parents, and of deepening our family bonds.
As we prepare for the start of a new school year, we turn our focus on how best to prepare our children for an exciting and engaging year of learning and growth. Below are some time tested ways we can help our children to successfully start the school year.
- Transition to school year routines. School is a highly structured environment. Children need a good night’s sleep to function well. It is a good idea to start moving to good sleep habits in the weeks before school. Likewise with other activities, such as family meals or extracurricular activities (sports, dance, music, etc.), it is good to begin to move towards making such activities part of the daily routine. School can seem exhausting to children, particularly the first few weeks. Transitioning to a school schedule can help to alleviate this stress for children (and parents!).
- Talk positively about school. Children can be nervous about new classmates, new teachers, and a new environment, even in the same school. Parents can reassure their children that they will be with friends and teachers who know them and will support and care for them. At St. Luke’s, we continually stress the vital influence and importance of a strong partnership between parents and teachers. We want each child to flourish and believe that happens best when there is clear communication between the school and its families.
- Talk about their school day. Parents can talk about the many exciting activities their child were be participating in, when school begins and ends, how carpool will work, and how proud they are of their child.
- Visit the school and classrooms before the start of the new school year. At. St. Luke’s, we begin our school year with “Meet the Teacher” day where students and parents can come and visit the teachers and classrooms, set up their lockers, meet their friends and classmates, and hear more from their teachers what they will be learning and about exciting upcoming classroom events and activities. And then, everyone goes to the Rollercade to enjoy some great fun!
I hope everyone enjoys a great start to the new school year!
St. Luke’s Episcopal School is pleased to announce the Rev. Dr. James Hamner as interim head of school for the 2019-2020 school year. Hamner comes to San Antonio from Atlanta, where he has had a long and successful career in independent school leadership.
As chance would have it, this appointment as interim head of school is not Hamner’s first direct experience with St. Luke’s. In 1969, he attended SLES in the sixth grade when his family temporarily relocated to San Antonio while his father worked on a three-year project with the National Cancer Institute. Following his graduation from SLES, Hamner continued to pursue his passion for education, eventually earning his master of divinity degree from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. and his doctorate from the University of Oxford. Almost exactly 50 years later to the day, he returns to the hilltop eager to share his wealth of experience and continue St. Luke’s tradition of excellence.
“I am very excited to return to St. Luke’s to work with the board of trustees and all members of the SLES community as interim head of school,” says Hamner. “St. Luke’s is an excellent Episcopal school with a strong and proud legacy of nurturing students of intelligence and character. Building on the wonderful work of the board, administration, faculty and staff this past year, I am committed to facilitating a strong transition to what will be a bright future for SLES.”
Hamner knows a thing or two about the importance of having a smooth transition in school leadership. Two years ago, he retired from his 17-year-long post as Headmaster at St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Atlanta. Under his leadership, St. Martin’s was transformed from a quaint, neighborhood school into one of the most academically rigorous and competitive pre-K-8 independent schools in Atlanta. With his “own brand of professionalism and innovative spirit,” Hamner steered St. Martin’s into the 21st century leading a revitalization of the school’s physical structures, academic curriculum, arts and sports programs, and spiritual education.
An ordained Episcopal priest for over 35 years, he has always recognized the value of chapel services for the spiritual development and character education of students. He is thrilled for the opportunity to return to his pastoral ministry through daily, morning chapel services at SLES.
Following his retirement from St. Martin’s, Hamner returned to his higher education roots as an adjunct professor at not one, but two Atlanta schools. Since 2017, he has been teaching at Mercer University’s Tift College of Education, where he is currently in the process of developing a doctoral program in independent school leadership. In addition, he is also an adjunct professor in the Anglican Studies Program of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
Hamner began work at SLES early this summer and has been hard at work planning for the upcoming school year. Through his conversations with community members, he has heard about the many wonderful things happening at SLES and is excited to be a part of its future. “James has hit the ground running working to advance SLES,” says Board Chair Will Collins. “Having spent more than thirty-five years in Episcopal school education, administration and leadership we are excited for him to share his talents and passion to strengthen every facet of our school and continue to propel our growth.”
St. Luke’s Episcopal School announces a new collaboration with the Dance Center of San Antonio to provide in-school dance programs for its pre-K to eighth-grade students. The Dance Center of San Antonio, founded in 2015, has quickly risen to become one of the city’s most premier dance schools and pre-professional training centers for classical ballet. SLES students are now able to enroll in dance classes taught during the school day under the leadership of DCSA founder and Artistic Director Vanessa Bessler.
The partnership between SLES and DCSA, which began in January of this year, has already received a positive reception from students, parents, and DCSA faculty. “We are so excited by our new relationship with St. Luke’s,” says Bessler. “At DCSA, our mission is to inspire hard work, develop confidence and self-esteem and form leaders. Raising the leaders of tomorrow with a strong appreciation and love for the arts! Dance and academics work hand-in-hand to educate the whole child. Through this collaboration, we have an amazing opportunity to share the benefits and joys of dance with new students.”
Bessler, with her fifteen plus years of teaching experience, knows what she is talking about. A former principal dancer with the National Ballet of Panama, she has trained all over the world under renowned teachers in a variety of styles, including the Vaganova method, modern dance, and jazz. Bessler’s students regularly compete in national and international competitions and progress on to professional dance companies and college programs. She has been a recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award of the famous Youth America Grand Prix three times. In 2015, Bessler also founded the Children’s Ballet of San Antonio, which recently put on productions of the Children’s Nutcracker at the Majestic Theater and Cinderella at the Tobin Center for Performing Arts. Both productions featured a number of St. Luke’s students.
During the 2019-2020 school year, students at SLES will have the chance to sign up for ballet, contemporary, tap, jazz and hip hop classes taught on campus by DCSA instructors. Classes will be available for all students after school with fourth through eigth grade students having the added option of taking in-school dance classes during their physical education periods. “I have been impressed with the partnership between SLES and DCSA," says SLES parent Dr. Marquel McCabe. “My daughter has improved greatly as a dancer under the leadership of Vanessa Bessler and her team. As a parent, I appreciate the convenience of having my child take dance lessons at her school and with the comfort of her classmates. We really value the inclusion of dance in the SLES curriculum and appreciate the school’s efforts to offer a variety of classes taught by experienced instructors. It seems that together SLES and DCSA make the perfect pair."