Even though physically apart, the Wellington community has never been closer or stronger. The spirit of our school, our unflappable optimism and infinite capacity to grow and learn, remains steadfast during this unprecedented moment in history. Having now launched a robust Learning from Home plan, with a mindful focus on the well-being of all our families, Wellington Jaguars will continue doing what we do best, face the future together.
Connecting with one another and supporting each other during this challenging time is what it means to be a Jag. Even as we first began to come to terms with a new reality of social distancing, members of our school community found creative ways to reach out to families, extending a “paw” of friendship and support. Head of School Dr. Jeff Terwin, with the help of quaranteammate Duke the Jaguar, made special deliveries to students in need of essential learning supplies like Chromebooks as well as other goodies and treats. Middle school teachers put together a video compilation of some of their favorite activities at home with a message of how much they missed students. Kindergarten teacher Vicki Jacobs P ’22 drove by the homes of children in her class for a reassuring wave from her car window.
Helping others was foremost in the minds of many Wellington students, many of whom spent their spring break finding ways to give back. Katherine Armitage ’25 sewed masks at home. Sisters Yunruo ’21 and Annie Shen ’26, on behalf of Wellington’s Chinese Club, collected and donated surgical masks for medical professionals on the frontlines fighting the coronavirus. Student council raised money for the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. And many students shared their own heartfelt messages of appreciation for the thoughtful care and hard work of teachers, including 3rd grader Sayf Shihab’s rocking drum solo and 9th grader Zach Sagone’s string bass serenade outside faculty homes.
As faculty found themselves quickly pivoting to a distance learning model, families were excited to dive into their own LfH preparedness and shared images of students setting up home offices on Wellington’s social channels with the #JagsTogether. The Cooke family (Chris, Laura ’90, Christine ’21, Caroline’21, Emma ’24, and Elizabeth ’27) took their distance learning to the next level, quite literally, when they constructed an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine from the top floor of their home all the way to the basement.
Many teachers reached out to students during the break and in the days leading up to the launch of LfH to check in and offer their support. Prekindergarten teacher Sharla Starker P ’17 ’22 guided the 5-year-olds in her class through meditation and breathing exercises while also hosting weekly parent support meetings. Upper school art teacher Jaime Bennati created a huge sidewalk chalk mural to encourage seniors to “just keep swimming” when they sometimes feel disappointed or frustrated by the reality versus vision of their remaining time as Wellington students. Pete Collopy, sports performance coach, has been hosting workouts on Instagram as well as sharing training tips from other Jag athletes. Wellington alumna and registered dietician Ashley Koff ’91 led a live chat on Facebook about navigating health and wellness from home.
Helpful how-tos also came from many other members of our community. Wellington Food Service Director Desiree Lajoie is sharing videos of favorite recipes, and Joya Elmore, director of gardens, is providing gardening tips for families. Book recommendations and ebook resources have come from Patty Dunn, middle and upper school librarian. Nothing is better than curling up with a good book...read aloud by someone else, so lower school teachers have been recording themselves reading books for students to enjoy, including in French merci à Madame Hans P ’17 ’20. Middle School History teacher Berc Backhurst introduced the concept of fireside chats to his students in recorded videos of him reading from a history book, à la Alistair Cooke, with cameo appearances by his cat, Otis.
As Wellington faculty and students took the plunge into LfH, nothing could have been more apropos than prekindergarten teacher Pete Kaser ’96 P ’27 ’29 jumping into his own bathtub, in full snorkeling gear, in the name of science for a lesson on buoyancy. Upper and middle school students have been flexing their leadership muscles by creating daily morning meetings on Flipgrid for their peers to stay connected. Many clubs, including Oho Youth in Government and GSA, and middle school dives have continued to meet, bringing students closer to the activities and subjects they are most passionate about. While virtual town hall meetings and morning coffees have given parents the opportunity to reconnect and see some friendly, familiar faces.
Reflecting on these extraordinary past few weeks, Middle School Language Arts teacher Marianne Crowley shared, “I think I speak for both students and teachers alike when I say that this pandemic and our Learning from Home has renewed and strengthened our appreciation of and our thankfulness for this Wellington community that we have built together.”