Providence Day Magazine
SPRING 2019 - ON THE COVER
As part of PD's character education, Lower School students are "writing their own stories" of empathy, respect, confidence, courage, and perseverance. The concepts have a life at PD extending far beyond posters on the walls or words on a website. Lower School faculty start teaching them in the earliest days of TK and kindergarten and continue up through fifth-grade graduation. When students progress to middle and upper school, they go on to learn more sophisticated lessons in social responsibility — a major academic focus at Providence Day. Read more in the latest edition of Providence Day Magazine.
Read the full edition by clicking here (PDF file), or read selected Highlights below:
- Faculty Q&A: Jean Little reflects on 20 years in Lower School
- Be Our Guest
- Making History: First-ever endowed faculty chair at PD
- Alumni Spotlight: Colby Anderson '07
- News in Brief: Bidding Farewell to "the House"
Jean Little has taught at Providence Day since 1997. During her 20 years in the Lower School as a second grade teacher, Little’s roles have also included former Team Leader, assistant tennis coach, mentor, chaperone, and member of multiple committees. She earned her Global Educator’s Certificate at PD, an interest that grew out of her four years as a flight attendant prior to becoming an educator. Little is a parent of three: PD graduates Jenny Little ’08 and Sydney Little ’10, and Wesley Little, class of 2014.
Q. What's been the most rewarding part of leading second-grade classrooms here? The special relationships I have formed with my students and their families. We have amazing students and they are a joy to teach! I get to know our students for the unique learners that they are and it’s a pleasure spending time in the classroom with such creative, motivated, and respectful children.
The parents at PD are warm and caring. They are always willing to be supportive and involved in their child’s education. We invite them to our writing celebrations or a special event in the classroom. Sometimes they drop by to celebrate a birthday or meet us in the dining hall for lunch.
Q. Describe your classroom setting. I want my students to see evidence that the work they do is important when they walk into my room each day. The hallway and bulletin board displays are driven by the student’s work and the topics being studied in the classroom. My students’ desks are arranged into tables for easy access to collaborate on projects and to have the ability to turn and talk during discussions. Wiggle stools, standing desks, and weighted lap pads are just a few of the special modifications that have been set in place to accommodate the different individual learning needs of my students.
I love to start off our day with morning meetings. The students enter the classroom with happy smiles and buzzing with anticipation. We may do special greetings in different languages, sing songs, play a fun learning game or ask a question of the day. It’s a great way to build a sense of class community and develop morning routines. Our students love coming to sit on the rug, gathering in a circle, and hear what their classmates have to say.
Q. What are some of the ways technology is used in your classroom? For the past few years, we’ve had the opportunity to Skype with the scientist Dr. Jean Pennycook in Antarctica. Dr. Pennycook shares with our students about her daily life and work with Adelie penguins. She answers questions from our students. Our students create a PD flag and design postcards that we mail to Dr. Pennycook. It’s truly amazing when we see our flag flapping in the freezing winds outside Dr. Pennycook’s hut. When the weather is bearable, she ventures outside her hut to chat with us alongside a rookery of penguins at her feet. This is a fabulous highlight for our students every year!
I credit the brand new smart board technology with transforming the classroom. I love my Smartboard and use it every day! It enables me to involve my students in the lessons when I teach. During math, I use the touch screen so that students can work with virtual manipulatives. They are more engaged in the lessons and eager to participate when they can use smart tools and share their thinking with others.
Q. What have you incorporated from traveling in your teaching? In my former career as a flight attendant, my eyes were opened when I visited so many interesting places around the world. As a second grade teacher, we guide our students on their own journeys around the world and help them become global citizens. We stamp their passports at the beginning of the school year and will take virtual visits to the seven continents. They spend several weeks learning about geography, famous landmarks, animals, and holidays from each continent.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your trips to Africa and how they have influenced you? Through our Global Educator’s program I was able to visit Senegal, West Africa, and South Africa. I participated in a study visit in Senegal through UNC World View program along with a group of other professional educators from North Carolina. We spent 15 days learning about the people, culture, and education system of Senegal. We visited schools, museums, universities, and places of worship. We took classes in Wolof, the native language of Senegal, at one of the University language centers. I also loved my trip to South Africa. It is a very beautiful country and there is so much history. My favorite experience was visiting the home of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg and taking a ferry to Robben Island, where Mandela had been imprisoned for 27 years.
Traveling to different places in the world is a powerful learning opportunity. It exposes you to people in other parts of the world and deepens your understanding of their life and culture. You can discover commonalities, as well as some differences. Global citizens show a deeper sense of empathy to others facing challenges in our world. When we begin to think globally, we focus on making connections with other people around the world and working together to find solutions to problems. At PD, we encourage our students to have respect for all people and celebrate our diversity.
Q. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in the classroom? When not working, I can be found on the tennis courts either playing tennis in a USTA league or working as an assistant coach for one of the PD tennis teams. I fell in love with tennis in high school. I love working with players, helping them improve their tennis skills, and watching them compete in their matches.
During the past few summers, I have spent time working for John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program and Duke TIP Gifted and Talented program. These residential summer programs offer challenging academic courses for young gifted scholars. During the school year, I also spend a few weekends working for Duke’s TIP Academic Adventures program at Queens University here in Charlotte.
Q. How has PD impacted you and your family? I had three children who attended Providence Day School and am very grateful for all of the wonderful teachers who taught my children.
My husband Marshall passed away unexpectedly from a sudden heart attack in November 2017. It was devastating and such a difficult time for my family. But the outpouring of love and compassion that was shown to us by the PD community was overwhelming. The entire community surrounded me with so much love and support that I didn’t have to go through this time alone. When I returned to school after my bereavement leave, the support continued. Every day for almost the entire year, I would walk into the classroom to find a comforting note with words of encouragement, beautiful cards, plant, or gift of kindness sitting on my desk.
My students and even former students would greet me at the door with hugs. I don’t think I could have made it through this difficult journey without the love and support from my own family and all the caring angels in my PD family. I experienced firsthand what a strong and caring community PD truly is and I will be forever grateful for everything. Because of the support that was shown to me, I am now able to reach out to other families who have suffered a loss.
Q. What makes the Lower School a great place to work? I’m very humbled to be a teacher in the Lower School. I know that I am working with some of the most talented and dedicated teachers in the field. Our teachers are true professionals who are passionate about teaching and are committed to helping students be successful inside and outside of the classroom. Erin Harper and Jenny Tucker cultivated a positive and respectful school climate and lead with grace, compassion, and integrity. Teachers feel their support to help us do our jobs, and we see their dedication with the students and to their families.
I am very grateful to all of our families and contributors who donated to our capital fund campaign. I am looking forward to the new redesign in our lower school classrooms next year. The physical growth of adding new buildings on campus and the innovation of technology in the classroom has been exciting to witness.
Some families work and plan for years to be able to travel to Spain, France, England, South Africa, Israel, or the many other countries where Providence Day has developed its global relationships.
But some may forget that there’s a much easier way to have this international experience — right here at home.
“People are always traveling overseas, but hosting is like having that travel brought to your house,” says Johanne Hawk, mom to four PD students and frequent host to international students. “I’m amazed more people don’t do it!”
Each year, Providence Day offers its current families opportunities to host visiting international students — an increasing number of them from the international network of about 180 Round Square schools of which PD is a member. Typically the visiting students remain in their hosts’ homes anywhere from two weeks to two months, attending classes at PD and soaking up American life. And, of course, bringing experiences from their own cultures to families in Charlotte.
Some host families, including the Hawks, plan a full slate of activities for their visitors, from interstate vacations to museum visits to restaurant tours. But Jessica Williams, Director of Global Programs, emphasizes that no elaborate plans are necessary.
“The students are looking for a real American experience,” she says. “That might be Friday night pizza and a movie.” Some of the visiting students have been impacted most by an outdoor hike, baking cookies, or a trip to Whole Foods — a different shopping experience from what their home country offers. “It’s the average experiences that make a difference. It’s about welcoming someone into the experience you’re already having as a family.”
Twizzlers and Lucky Charms
Johanne and Patrick Hawk have opened their home to visiting international students at PD eight times and counting. They are parents of Chelsea ’12, Tyler ’15, Nathan ’20 (who now attends East Mecklenburg High School), and Sophie ’25, a current PD sixth grader.
Their most recent visitor was Mariana Felix, a 10th grade student from Le Lycee Notre Dame de la Merci in Montpellier, France, who stayed six weeks from February through mid-March. As it happened, the family had already planned a vacation to visit their son at Tulane University during a week that overlapped with Mardi Gras festivities, providing a glamorous excursion for Mariana. They also took her to a program about White House chefs at a local museum; a lecture on Charlotte history at the Morrocroft Public Library; to sample Southern barbecue at Mac’s Speed Shop; and to a "Courageous Conversations" event on the PD campus.
But what Mariana will remember the most, she said in an interview during her final week at PD, are experiences including her first Twizzler. Her first bowl of Lucky Charms. Peanut butter. The opportunity to compare pancakes to French crepes (pancakes might be better, she said). Her biggest impression from the New Orleans trip? “So many billboards. I love billboards!”
And, of course, she’ll remember the differences between Providence Day and her home school. She has enjoyed PD assemblies (“we don’t have that in France”); the many clubs; attending the musical “Grease”; and basketball games. “We don’t have sports in our schools. Here, school is like a city. There is so much you can do!”
She continued: “I miss my family, but I’m really happy to be here.”
Johanne chimed in: “It’s been fun with Mariana because she will try anything and everything. Not all of (our visitors) will!” she said with a laugh. “The things in our culture that we take for granted….You have a different lens on that.”
Williams says the families often develop relationships with their visitors that go on for years after they host. It’s not necessary for a family to have a child the exact same age as the visitor, she adds. While that arrangement can work well, sometimes the deepest relationships are with younger siblings, where the visiting student can take on a nurturing role. For Mariana, who has one sister at home, “I learned what life would be like if I had more siblings,” she said.
There’s another important reason many families volunteer to host, Williams adds. “They want their students to be prepared for working in an international environment.
“They know that what the future holds is that we are all growing more interconnected around the world.”
A Taste of Spain
Providence Day families hosted four eighth-grade students for four weeks in February and March. Here are two experiences:
“Hosting Celia, an eighth grader from Madrid, was a wonderful experience for our family. We were a bit hesitant because our daughters were younger than the exchange student and because the duration of the visit would be one month.
As it happened, the grade differences didn't turn out to be an issue, and the month flew by. The three girls got along well, and we all learned a few new Spanish phrases.
Exposure to people from other parts of the world and different cultures is important to our family. Vacation travel is one way we try to achieve this. However, having an exchange student live with you really provides a deeper level of understanding.
Our kids learned first-hand how much people are alike, no matter where they come from. We look forward to hosting again sometime in the future.” —Susan & Dan Scanga
“PD’s global emphasis is a key part of what drew us to becoming part of this community. Experiencing new cultures and traveling is something that is important to our family and it was a natural extension for us to open our home to an international student.
Both our children (Ayla ’23 and Ethan ’25) are taking Spanish, and when the opportunity came up to host an 8th grade student from Spain for a month this spring, we were eager to put our hand up.
Hosting was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for our entire family. We were excited to learn about our student's home and share ours. We tried to devote snippets of time to practicing Spanish and certainly spent a lot of time speaking in English (and explaining idioms!).
We realized how much is universal, like music, and how some aspects of our daily lives are very different (such as when we eat dinner). We were reminded about what a great campus, staff, and collaborative learning environment we have at PD.
We learned that the best thing you might have eaten in the United States was macaroni and cheese. We learned that it takes work to be gracious host students and that everyone needs a different amount of space. But more than anything, we learned that our daily lives were made brighter by sharing them.” —Amy & Marc Andrews
In the midst of her sixth year on Providence Day School’s Board of Trustees, and just a few months from the finish line of the Charging Forward campaign last fall, Nancy Downing was no stranger to the case for giving to support Providence Day’s mission — after all, she’d spent years helping to deliver the pitch to others as chair of the Advancement Committee.
But when the time came for Nancy and her husband Bruce to decide how to give, they did something unprecedented: they established the school’s first Endowed Chair. The selected faculty member will be named at the end of this academic year, and will hold the Downing/Williams Endowed Chair of Teaching Excellence position for 12 months, earning an honorarium and professional development money provided by the fund. It’s named for both sides of the couple’s family, to honor a longstanding philanthropic tradition.
“I wanted something that could continue to give back to what I think of as the lifeblood of the school: the faculty,” says Nancy. The couple are parents of Yates ’12, Charlotte ’14, Tommy ’17, and Michael ’19. That means they’re closing in on 20 years of history with Providence Day.
“Twenty years is a long time in the life history of our family, and PD has been such an integral part of our family,” she says. “I just benefited so much from these faculty members. Not just by helping (our children) in the classroom, but by shaping them into the people they are now.”
The Downings don’t want to single out a particularly influential faculty member by name — because every one their children encountered was influential in his or her own way, she says. “I wanted them to have a special honor and a special recognition.”
She’s gratified that the couple’s gift was part of the successful conclusion of Charging Forward, which exceeded its $27 million goal. Nancy Downing was there for the entire five-year journey of the campaign. “To see this community come together in this way has been really special,” she says. Now, like the rest of the PD community, she loves grabbing coffee on her trips through the Global Café and enjoying the sunshine in the courtyard on nice days — though she admits to some fond memories of the dearly departed West Wing. “It has transformed our campus,” she says.
Endowed chair positions tend to be a hallmark of prestigious institutions — and that’s the idea the Downings were going for. “I think it will help continue to draw really high quality faculty to the school — and with retention,” she says. “It elevates a school, and that’s where we need to be, and that’s where we deserve to be.”
Colby Anderson, a member of the class of 2007, remains in the minds and hearts of many in the Providence Day community who were touched by the story he told at the 2011 Founders' Dinner about the life lessons he learned during his time here. Anderson has served on the Board of Alumni from 2014–19, including the past three years as its president. As he prepares to move into his next phase, we caught up with him for a few quick questions:
Q. Where has your path since Providence Day taken you? I attended The George Washington University for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I currently manage digital marketing for Bojangles'.
Q. What do you do for fun? Recently my hobbies have been serving on the Board of Alumni. Joking aside, I enjoy spending time with my friends (two of my best friends are also PD alumni), and my mom and her dogs.
Q. What was it like for you to come back and serve on the Board of Alumni? It was an honor to be able to help, in some small way, the institution that taught me how to lead, think critically, and work hard.
Q. What involvement or initiative do you consider most significant from your Board of Alumni term? It has to be aligning the board of alumni's goals with the head of school's goals. We're incredibly blessed to have the unqualified support of our head of school. Dr. Glyn Cowlishaw is an incredible advocate for alumni engagement, and I'm sure will continue to listen to feedback, exchange ideas, and be a champion of the board's goals.
Q. What advice would you give to future members of the Board of Alumni? We have such an incredibly competent board, and a very talented incoming board president. After setting priorities, I just kept the trains running on time. They've got this down, and do not need my advice!
Q. After this experience, what are your current feelings about where Providence Day is as an institution, and moving forward? What are your hopes for its future? I'm incredibly proud of the progress our school has made, and I'm eager to see it continue to move forward. Some may be anxious when we talk about progress, I understand that, and I also understand how deeply this community, including the administration, holds our core values and mission. So long as we stay true to those, this school and community has an incredibly bright future.
A piece of history dating to the origins of Providence Day School in 1970 will soon be departing — though it will live on in other forms.
The “original house” in the rear of the current campus, which served as PD’s first building, will be taken down this summer, says Head of School Dr. Glyn Cowlishaw. “Despite its amazing lifetime of service it has given us, the building is sick,” he says. Suffering from a variety of issues ranging from structural to cosmetic, and not in active use for several years, the school’s Board of Trustees and leadership determined it was best to remove it as the school prepares for its next phase of master planning. Nothing is slated to replace it in the immediate future.
But the house will live on in the memories of the PD community, with a variety of tributes in the works. Watch for a special “Charchives” display of memorabilia from the school archives to debut this spring, along with other artistic homages. A limited number of bricks from the house will be made available to any alumni or other members of the PD community who would like a memento of an important part of our school's history. Contact email@example.com to find out more.