At Sycamore, we moved to our Distance Learning Plan with 1st through 8th Grade on November 19. Mayor Joe Hogsett and Dr. Virginia Caine held a press conference to communicate Marion County decisions about restrictions to try to mitigate the current surge in prevalence and positivity rates of COVID-19. Although we have not experienced this at Sycamore, the number of infections in school children has also risen significantly. Dr. Caine has issued Public Health Order #35, effective as of November 16, 2020. In the order, all Marion County K-12 schools must transition to total virtual learning no later than November 30. We have prepared well for this moment, and I believe it will be much smoother and stronger than it was last spring. We plan to continue to have Preschool, PreKindergarten, and Kindergarten in school in person. The order does not prohibit in-person learning at those ages, and we believe it is extremely difficult and disruptive to try to have effective distance learning with very young children. We will offer Quest for only these classes and only after school, not before school.
Sycamore School has learned two of their eighth-grade students, Nate Liang and Emily Hackwelder, have been named national award recipients of the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship for the class of 2025 from the Institute for Educational Advancement (IEA). They are two of only 28 national winners of a four-year high school scholarship for gifted learners to attend an optimally matched high school program.
“Teachers were my heroes through the whole process. It was obviously a tough situation that everyone was thrown into unexpectedly, but the teachers were great about soliciting feedback and making changes as needed until they found methods that worked.”
For the mom of two Sycamore students, Sumi Maun was confronted with the challenges that many families were faced with in mid-March when schools closed their buildings and went to a distance learning model for the rest of the school year: suddenly, the kids were at home, doing their school work, while the parents were also working from home and having to figure out where everyone will do their work, how they will get fed, take breaks, and not feel like it was all too much.
“Distance learning is really a complete reconfiguration of how you teach, but not necessarily what you teach. While it is different, in no way does it have to be lesser than. Going through something like this together is something we'll never forget, and the kids' resilience, positivity, and perspectives will stay with me forever.”
In the past couple of weeks, we have highlighted a few of our Early Childhood and Lower School teachers. Today, we talk one of our Middle School teachers, Beth Simpson, who teaches Language Arts, about how she was able to incorporate group discussions of books, one-on-one time, and teach the writing of allegories from afar.
After learning she was selected to present at the upcoming Purdue University eLearning teacher training, we talked to Sycamore 3rd grade teacher Tiffany Stahl to ask her to talk about elements of teaching via distance learning, and how she changed parts of her daily interactions to better serve students and families.
I hope you are all safe and healthy! If nothing else, I believe we all have an increased appreciation for the blessing of good health during this time. We are certainly wrapping up this school year in a different way than we expected-and in a different way than we have ever done before. As we have been creating new ways of schooling during these last ten weeks, I have especially appreciated the gratitude and support you have offered to our faculty and staff and to me. I also have appreciated your heroic efforts to be part of your children's learning team in ways that you haven't done before. Thanks for your patience, your flexibility, and your perseverance.
Though this summer will look very different from summers past, Sycamore School remains committed to offering a variety of worthwhile options that provide challenge, enrichment, and fun. And so, it is with this commitment in mind that we used our knowledge of gifted students and survey data collected from our parent population to guide us in preparing a list of virtual summer programming options.
Three Sycamore Middle School students will be honored for their work in the National Scholastic Arts and Writing Contest as part of the "virtual" presentation at the national awards ceremony, on June 4 from New York City. In all, Sycamore student writers earned 28 awards at the Regional Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, with nine pieces advancing to the national competition.
After 21 years at Indiana’s Cathedral High School, Duane Emery decided to make a change, to get back to what he loves to do. Emery begins his new role at Sycamore in July as the Director of Enrollment Management, a revamped and retitled position that was created following the June 30 retirement of long-time Sycamore Director of Admissions, Susan Karpicke.
As the new Director of Extended Programs, Melissa Branigan moves into a position that allows her to build programs for and give opportunities to students not just in Lower School, where she has taught both 1st and 4th grades at Sycamore, but for the entire school.
“I believe in the Extended Programs. I have worked within a variety of them, with Quest, both before and after school, and summer camps,” Branigan says. Last year, she added Athletics Director to her duties, working with coaches and Middle School students. “As a Sycamore parent myself, my family is heavily involved with Extended Programs each day. When I learned about this position, I couldn't help but get excited about the possibilities, how it would benefit the school, and at the chance to grow the programs.”
I hope this update finds you safe and healthy! The spring weather we've enjoyed this week has buoyed the spirits of many, and I hope you are feeling some new life.
There is no doubt that this time is unpredictable, frustrating, and challenging. We do, however, have to be in sync with the world and face the reality of our times. It is our calling to be resilient in the face of uncertainty, and at Sycamore we will do that to the best of our ability. There are constants. Our mission and our core values of respect, moral courage, empathy, and relationships haven't wavered.
Stuart Hyatt, Sycamore 4th grader, Bea Hyatt's, dad, was a guest speaker on "You Are an Artist Friday Night", which was held live on April 17 on Facebook. "You Are an Artist Friday Night" is hosted by Sarah Urist Green and her husband John Green.
Longtime Sycamore teacher, Linda Mihm, has been nominated for the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award! Each of the 58 National History Day affiliates may nominate one middle school teacher for this award, and Ms. Mihm is the junior division nominee from Indiana. She teaches history to our middle school students. Every nominee for the $10,000 national award is a teacher who demonstrates a commitment to engaging students in historical learning through innovative use of primary sources, implementation of active learning strategies to foster historical thinking skills, and participation in the National History Day Contest. All nominees will receive $500, each, as a result of their nominations.
I'm sure you are all aware of Governor Holcomb's announcement yesterday that all public and non-public schools should close through May 1, which would mean that schools would resume on Monday, May 4. In the interest of the health of our community, Sycamore will comply with that request. In light of that decision, we will go forward with our Distance Learning Plan, with the exception of Monday, April 13. That is the day that we had planned to return to school, and teachers had planned to implement our DLP until then. On April 13, we will allow our teachers back in the building to plan and gather additional resources. We will resume our Distance Learning Plan on Tuesday, April 14.
We are all dealing with the unusual and far-reaching challenges of the presence of coronavirus, or COVID-19. At Sycamore, we have been paying close attention to the situation and planning for possible consequences. After digesting all we know about COVID-19, we have decided to close Sycamore for students beginning after Quest on March 13 until the beginning of school on April 13.
More than 40 Sycamore students competed in the Regional History, Academic, and Science Bees at St. Richard's School on February 29. Many students earned the opportunity to compete at Nationals held in Chicago from June 12-15.
Sycamore's two teams of students traveled to Terre Haute to compete at the Indiana Regional Science Bowl Competition and took the top two spots in the event, and one of those Sycamore teams earned a spot in the National Science Bowl in Washington D.C. this spring.
Sycamore hosted the Central Indiana Chapter MATHCOUNTS competition on February 18. More than 160 students from 19 schools participated in the first round of the popular middle school math competition. Sycamore was led by Akshay Guttikonda, who placed 2nd overall, trailing Creekside's Kevin Hu by a single point. Taking home 3rd place was Sycamore's Alex Lu. Finishing in 5th, 6th, and 7th place were Jonathan Yang, Michael Fryburg, and Insia Zaidi, respectively. Kaden Xu was 9th place, Kaitlyn Park 11th, Nelson You 16th, Justin Puno 19th, and David Jiang 20th place. This was the first time Sycamore placed all 10 students in the top 20 and we are happy to report this qualifies all 10 students for the state competition on March 14th at Rose Hulman.
The Regional Scholastic Arts and Writing awards have been announced, and Sycamore student writers have earned 28 awards, including 9 pieces advancing to the national competition. Students competed against almost 340,000 entries written by Indiana students through the twelfth grade.