As the spring sunshine warms campus and students migrate out of their dorms onto the pathways and fields around campus during this post-Spring Break quarantine, we are filled with hope for the term ahead. At the same time, our community processes the loss of a long-time community member to cancer last week and walks alongside another as she battles late stage cancer. Both far too young, both remarkable humans who have made this school a better place and touched the lives of countless students, colleagues, and friends over the past decades. We find ourselves, again, learning how to hold the contradictory emotions of joy and mourning with grace.
In Michael Porter’s 1996 Harvard Business Review piece titled “What is Strategy”, he outlines the concept of strategic fit, the idea that an organization’s success is not determined by isolated attributes, but by the interconnectedness, or fit, of all its components. This notion of “fit” explains how Proctor’s unique combination of on-campus experiential learning opportunities, integrated academic support, authentic relationships among faculty and students, term-long off-campus programs, and high level arts and athletics all work in synergy to provide an unparalleled educational experience. The complexity of Proctor’s USSA/FIS Ski Program serves as a microcosm of how this concept of strategic fit operates within the greater Proctor model.
Amidst today’s chilly late-March rain showers and heavy clouds, we welcome students to campus for the Spring Term. A two-week Spring Break allowed us all to hit reset, to take a few deep breaths, and to reflect on all we have accomplished this year as a school community. During a year of “Can’ts” for so many institutions, we have been a school of “Cans”.
The creative studies concentration provides added perspectives for students who are passionate about the arts by requiring them to engage in multiple artistic disciplines throughout their time at Proctor. As a prolific studio artist and 3 year junior, Beth jumped into the Winter drama performance her junior year and stuck with the challenge making a fantastic impact on stage. For her capstone she returns to her visual art to create dozens of surreal portraits inspired by reclaimed glass she collected along the East River while in quarantine. This was a shift from the oils and markers Beth used to create portraits previously.
Each student finds Proctor for a reason. For about 35% of our students, Proctor’s integrated academic support program, Learning Skills, serves as a key component of the independent school search. For others, it might be our term-long off-campus programs, athletics, the arts, or maybe the sense of togetherness that exists at a place like Proctor because of the faculty and staff who have dedicated their lives to nurturing and sustaining our community.
Over the past months, an alarming rise in incidents of hate and violence towards Asian American and Pacific Islander communities reminds us of the deep seated racism, xenophobia, and misogyny that lives within America. Last week, yet another incident saw eight victims of irrational violence in Atlanta, Georgia. Regardless of the stated motivations behind this shooting, the fact remains that six of the victims were Asian women during a time when racist language and imagery against Asians has been stoked by anti-Chinese bias related to Covid-19. Racism and misogyny are intertwined in American history, and it is up to all Americans to stand up to it.
Over the course of this week and next, our Admissions Team is welcoming small groups of accepted students and their families to campus, many for the first time ever, to tour our facilities, connect with our faculty, current parents, and some local day students. While the rest of campus is on Spring Break, this Covid-19 friendly version of our traditional Revisit Days has the same goals in mind: present an authentic view of the Proctor experience to help our newly accepted students see if Proctor feels like the right match.
Sometimes it’s the little things like holding a door or saying thank you, and sometimes it's the moments that ask for much more sacrifice. Tuesday reminded me of this when I got the call early evening that one of the weekly saliva pool tests had pinged positive and 50 faculty and staff had to be antigen and PCR tested by our Health Center staff. We wanted to hustle the new round of tests off to the lab, so the call went out for folks to come back to campus. Immediately. The Health Center staff, some of them just having gotten home from their day shift, all showed up. The employees who needed to be tested left families and drove back to campus to stand outside the Health Center and wait their turn to be swabbed. They did so with humor, patience, and caring, and by 9:30 that night the task was complete.
Two months ago, a group of ten Proctor students and two instructors arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada to launch Proctor’s winter Mountain Classroom program during what would be the most challenging months of the Covid-19 global pandemic. The past eight weeks have been nothing short of life-changing for those ten students. Read about their final independent student group expedition through the eyes of Ayla below.
The power of Proctor's community has sustained us during a most difficult year. It is a community that values each individual's journey, while embracing the power of together. It appreciates the diversity of our life experiences, yet is solidified by a shared vision for what education could and should be for this generation of adolescents. Today, we have the honor of inviting an incredibly talented, unique, and down-right fun group of Accepted Students to join us in our pursuit of community building.
For the first time ever, Proctor Academy offered a winter Ocean Classroom program. Based in St. Croix, the program partnered with the World Ocean School to offer eight students the opportunity to study, explore, and serve others within the St. Croix and surrounding island communities. Read student journal entries from the past two weeks below. A huge thank you to the World Ocean School, Holly, Ocean Classroom director Brooks Bicknell '77, and the crew of Roseway for making this adventure happen!
For Proctor’s drama department, it has been exactly one year since students last took the stage. With the annual spring musical canceled due to Covid-19 last spring, director Jen Summers is thrilled her company will produce Peter and the Star Catcher this week for the community. An extended production run over four nights this week has provided the cast and crew the invaluable feedback of a live audience, something every performer and lover of the performing arts has missed over the past year.
February 15 2021: After a hearty breakfast it was time for the long awaited and highly anticipated solo briefing. After being constantly reminded over the course of the term that “all questions about solo will be answered at the solo briefing”, we were extremely curious and prepared. Quinn and Erica explained what we were doing and how solos would work. Three nights in the wilderness in complete solitude. Upon being briefed, the room was filled with mixed emotions, some were excited to have some quality time to themselves to relax and others were anxious to be left alone in the wild with no one to talk to. I was somewhere in between.
What began as a summer professional development trip by late faculty member George Emeny to learn about Native cultures has evolved into a forty year relationship with the Lakota Sioux. For eight summers, George learned alongside Lakota professor Albert White Hat at Sinte Gleska University in Mission, South Dakota before their friendship brought Albert and his family to Andover, New Hampshire in the Spring of 1985. For one of Albert’s children, Emily '94, receiving the news of moving to New Hampshire was hard to hear. "I remember exactly where I was when my father told me we were moving to New Hampshire. I was in third-grade, and I thought my world was ending. But, when it was time for us to leave and return to South Dakota, I knew Proctor was a place to which I might return."
At the core of Proctor is human connection, a group of talented educators ready and willing to help adolescents through their high school years. Each Proctor journey includes its own challenges, and it is the navigation of these moments of difficulty alongside caring faculty that most powerfully shapes the student experience. For Justin Donaldson ‘01, the intersection of human connection and supportive adults during his time of crisis not only defined his time at Proctor, but laid the foundation for his work supporting others today.
In a term that bridged remote learning, on-campus quarantine, and in-person instruction, Proctor’s Arts Department has shown the entire community what perseverance looks like. On Friday evening, the Dance Team and Jazz/Rock Ensemble shared their talents with the community in back-to-back performances, and while rehearsal time was roughly half of what it would have been during a “normal” term, the students shone as brightly as the full moon over campus this weekend.