End of School Year Letter from Head of School, Ann Goewert

Dear Mount Madonna School Families,

As the 2020-2021 school year comes to a close, I reflect on a journey which was ripe with challenges, meaningful relationships, learning opportunities, accomplishments, and memories.

For students, teachers, staff and parents, the first day of school is typically full of feelings such as excitement and hope, but also anxiety. This year, the pandemic amplified the latter and needs of the school community. Pre/K and elementary students were dropped off for in-person classes, while middle and high school students began the year with remote learning. Within two weeks of school starting, the whole school community returned to campus for in-person learning. Even with the uncertainty and challenges presented by COVID-19, the faculty and staff were resolute in their commitment to support the academic, social and emotional needs of students. 

As with any other year, our students developed meaningful relationships with their teachers, strengthened bonds with their friends and forged new friendships. Together, they engaged in new learning opportunities focused on developing their character as well as their academic and creative skills. In doing so, they also explored the wonders and magic of the mountain. For example, the preschool and kindergarten students honed their imaginations by dressing up as fairies and visiting the enchanted fairy forest. Magical moments are not limited to our youngest learners. The seniors, a joyous group of students, participated in MMS’ long history of rituals and traditions. On an early, clear morning in May, they gathered as a group at the upper school overlook to welcome the sunrise. That morning the sky was painted with a palette of pinks, oranges and yellows. Quietly the seniors sat on the hillside and I imagine they reflected on the beauty of that moment and the possibilities their futures might offer.  

To crystalize a love of learning and to develop curious and discerning thinkers, teachers design meaningful learning experiences that integrate academic excellence, creative expression and positive character development. Makers class serves as a vehicle for developing critical thinking skills and inspiring students to think innovatively by tinkering. Students build confidence by investigating and exploring independently. 

Our students are acquainted with overcoming obstacles and challenges. Students enter the fifth grade with both excitement and trepidation about the rigor and work load. Quickly, they overcome their fear and immerse themselves in the annual environmental project. This year, the fifth grade students enlisted the support of Congressman Jimmy Panetta to protect the blue whale. Similar to the fifth grade, middle and high school students begin the year with a challenge, the song share. Students gather together and sing individually in front of the group. The courage to overcome your fear is essential for being vulnerable and authentic. Developing the skills and capacity to overcome obstacles will serve students throughout their lives. Courage and determination are also characteristics observed in our student athletes. This year, we were thrilled that our middle and high school students competed in athletics. Notably, the high school track and field team sent a student athlete to compete in the shot put and discus in the Central Coast Section of the California Interscholastic Federation championship. The entire student body, guided by our performing arts team, came together to envision and create Ramayana! The Movie, continuing the time-honored tradition of the school and Mount Madonna Center. 

Memories are built each day during the school year. Some of the most meaningful memories occur at the end of the year. The school community has not gathered together in over a year, and the end of year rituals such as the rite of passage, moving on ceremonies and high school graduation take on a new importance as many gathered for the first time to celebrate the milestones and the accomplishments of our students. Transitioning from divisions represents a milestone in a student’s academic career. At MMS, we mark these transitions with rites of passage. In June, the eighth graders embarked on a three-day experience in which activities were intentionally designed to spark self discovery through introspection. As students returned from their journey, they were greeted by their parents and community celebrating their personal growth and achievement of a milestone. We look back and have learned that the shared experiences of this year have forged bonds and strengthened our community. To our seniors, we wish you success in your journey wherever it takes you.  

Sincerely,

Ann Goewert, Ph.D.

Head of School