A Glowing Spring Experience at VA

All faculty and staff remain in the glow of our spring experience at Vermont Academy. We are still talking about so many of the special moments as well as the closing traditions here! VA traditions instill a marvelous consistency of experience that is one of our trademarks.
I do want to acknowledge, however, that we as a faculty took a moment of silence prior to our professional development days to think of and pray for the students, families and community of the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. I shared that I grew up in Newtown, CT (was born there, moved back for middle school and got married there). The Sandy Hook tragedy had a huge impact on the lives of all of us from that area of CT and also all educators and compassionate citizens nationally and globally. Here we are in another place and time with nineteen students and two faculty killed by a gunman with an assault rifle. I told the faculty that we need to draw a line in the sand and say “no more.” What this will look like will be part of ongoing conversations, processes and perhaps proposed legislation. One of the challenges of our society today is that we do not know how to compromise or undertake conflict negotiation to get an important problem addressed. I know that we can do this as a nation. I want to do even more work with our students in the future to help them to gain the skill of compromise and conflict resolution. That is how our country was founded – and everyone has to understand that compromise implies loss. We cannot get everything we want, so loss accompanies solutions. Please do join us as a community in sending strength to Uvalde and to the families and community there.

The spring trimester on campus had the busy energy and excitement of transitions. The underclassmen know that they are on the threshold of moving up, and the seniors and PGs anticipate their next steps while also luxuriating in the togetherness of being with faculty and peers. As the campus was greening up and the blossoms animated Long Walk, we enjoyed the traditional, well planned academic celebrations as well as spontaneous spring events.

Academically, students were often seen running off to take an AP test, to prepare for a final project, to practice for Capstone presentations or to finalize an independent arts project. Many of our students choose an independent path in their final year here, specializing in an area of passion and interest. There are many opportunities to embrace a concentration – the capstone program, which is year long and involves an independent project, a 25-page research paper, a mentor on and off campus, and a public presentation in addition to a culminating project or product. We also end the semester with various arts activities. This spring, the Arts Week included a 37 minutes film, and a series of “shorts,” including animation and cartoons. The visual arts were represented by a senior art exhibition in Fuller Hall. The spring concert included vocal, jazz, and chamber ensembles, and this concert included many solos and improv moments. Lastly, Mia Hennum’s full-scale musical production of Standardized Testing was a huge hit, and a phenomenal endeavor. Other academic highlights included our undergraduate awards assembly and the baccalaureate. Needless to say, I am very proud of our students and their achievements.  It is significant that these accomplishments culminated in a brief window of time during the shortest of semesters–the spring.

Other highlights included Spring Fling with various games and a waterslide, the prom at Chivers, the senior day at Six Flags, the Varsity Baseball team winning the Lakes Region, pickup flag football games on Alumni field with faculty and students, grill and chill events, and a smoothie bar run by students in the Wildcat Den. We have made many discoveries during COVID, and one of them is that we love having food trucks for festive occasions. We did so for our senior dinner before baccalaureate, and we will continue to incorporate this idea in the future. 

We will miss our departing students, and remember all of the highlights of this year – a year where many campus activities were hybrid but where classes were held in person. Next year we will bring back Community Lunches, Formal Dinner, and so many other traditions of Vermont Academy that we all missed this year. We have begun to follow a few graduates into their next year and will report back to the community on how they are doing in their new endeavors – whether college or university, work experience, travel, gap year, athletic commitments, etc. Please alumni, keep us posted. Send updates to alumni@vermontacademy.org

Looking back over the year is something that comes naturally for us all when we go through culminating events. As I recall other highlights throughout the year, I am reminded of the Wildcat Games. One of my favorite memories was seeing the seniors rush over to help the freshmen as they sang the school song, helping them with the lyrics and tune so that they were not floundering in the competition. That speaks of our Core Values and what makes Vermont Academy so special, authentic, and caring. 

I hope that you have a wonderful summer and that, like me, you are in a reflective frame of mind, grateful for our community, for spring, and for perseverance, tenaciousness and the joys of working with young people!

Dr. Jennifer L. Zaccara

Education for Life - One Student at a Time

Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.