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  Tuesday, July 29, 2014  
   
 

 
  

 


St. Margaret's School: Belong. Believe. Become.

 

St. Margaret’s School began, as most enduring institutions do, with a simple idea—the idea that girls’ deserve a quality education that equips them with the moral and spiritual foundation to carry them through their lives.

Founded by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in 1921, St. Margaret’s School began, as most enduring institutions do, with a simple idea—the idea that girls’ deserve a quality education that equips them with the moral and spiritual foundation to carry them through their lives. After 90 years, the school’s tradition as a place that provides a quality education to boarding and day students is conveyed with three simple words: Belong. Believe. Become.

From the moment school opens in late August, St. Margaret’s welcomes girls in grades 8 through 12 to its campus home. The school’s location along the banks of the Rappahannock River is significant and plays a major role in the relationships that are built from trimester to trimester, year to year. Opening receptions and dinners are held in the Community/Technology center, St. Margaret’s riverside dining hall.

The Blue/Grey drawing is held on the river lawn. After the drawing, the year’s first Blue/Grey competitions take place and involve kayak races and other events involving the river. Blue/Grey is a long-standing St. Margaret’s tradition in which the student body is divided into two teams, based on the school’s colors. Throughout the year, these teams compete in a variety of academic and athletic competitions. At Commencement, two plaques are awarded, one each for athletics and academics and are received by the team captains on behalf of their team.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of St. Margaret’s connection to the river is its annual River Days celebration, during the first weeks of school. Part class bonding, part conservation awareness, this event allows the St. Margaret’s student body to fan out across the Rappahannock River and experience all aspects of the river and how it literally flows through their lives. During River Days, each class is sent to a specific part of the Rappahannock River. For example, the eighth grade explores the headwaters near Shenandoah National Forest. At the same time, the sophomores visit Wheatland Plantation; the junior class participates in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation education program; seniors spend their time in Virginia Beach. By the end of River Days, St. Margaret’s students collectively explore all parts of the Rappahannock River, and, in the process, create memories that will bond them together as they enter a new school year.

The river has always been central to the life of the school. In fact, St. Margaret’s first graduate, Nancy Berry ’23, traveled the Rappahannock to attend the first day of school in 1921. The focus on conservation began in the early 1990s. By 1998, the first iteration of River Days was held. Dubbed CRAB (conserve, recycle, and benefit), the opening day seminar emphasized community building and energy and natural resource conservation.

In the spring, the river becomes a symbol of forward motion, as the school holds its annual May Ball, a dance in honor of the senior class, on the river lawn. Just one month later, seniors dressed in white gowns and carrying red roses will walk across the river lawn to receive their diploma. “Commencement is more than the culmination of their
academic achievements,” Head of School Margaret Broad says. “It is a celebration of who they are as women, what they have been able to achieve, and who they will become. It is about the connections that our girls have made and the continually evolving possibilities that they have here.”

Those evolving possibilities are present in the day-to-day experience of St. Margaret’s and are centered on a traditional, college preparatory curriculum that is designed to help each girl reach her academic potential.
One way in which St. Margaret’s accomplishes this is through scheduling. Every St. Margaret’s student has a personalized schedule, tailored to her strengths and academic needs.

“Every student is unique. Everybody has their own path,” Director of Studies and Academic Dean ViAnn Farmer says. “We are able to place students based on their habits, their aptitude, their motivation, their interests and their strengths. We push them to challenge themselves and to do some things that may be uncomfortable for them, at times, but when they go to college they all come back and say I was so prepared.”

In addition to personalized schedules, students have a myriad of academic resources at their disposal. At the end of each academic day, students have the opportunity to meet individually with their teachers during a Teacher Available period. Additionally, all new 8th, 9th and 10th grade students are required to take Study Skills, which reinforces and develops appropriate and consistent study techniques and habits. These resources, coupled with day and evening study halls and the Advisor Program, provide students with the support needed to create a solid academic foundation. For students requiring additional support, St. Margaret’s offers writing and math labs that provide one-on-one attention from teachers in core subjects. For those seeking additional challenge, dual enrollment credit may be awarded for St. Margaret’s courses at the honors and Advanced Placement levels in all disciplines and students may elect to take Advanced Placement courses and examinations.

Of the academic program at St. Margaret’s, one student noted, “It is a tough and steep journey getting there, but the view is great and the sense of pride is overwhelming.” Preparation for life beyond high school also extends outside the classroom. At one time or another, most St. Margaret’s students will undertake some form of leadership responsibility. Whether it’s becoming the student body president, being the captain of the soccer team or working as a desk aide, St. Margaret’s students are encouraged to try their wings as leaders and have plenty of opportunities to explore. In addition to a traditional student body government, St. Margaret’s leadership program includes courses in leadership and opportunities to lead other students as prefects or peer leaders. These experiences allow students to learn crucial leadership skills while building relationships with their fellow students.

The type of growth and development experienced by St. Margaret’s students is rooted in trust and this begins with the school’s Honor Code. Students pledge not to cheat, steal or lie and to take responsibility for those who do so. This pledge allows students to live in a community where they can trust each other and builds a foundation for growth and exploration. Even the smallest elements of campus life are infused with the pervasiveness of the Honor Code. During the academic day, backpacks line the sidewalks, their owners trusting that their possessions will go undisturbed.
The access to a wide range of experiences, inside and outside of the classroom, results in students who are confident—academically, socially and spiritually. Recent college acceptances have included William and Mary, University of Virginia, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Haverford College, New York University, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and Wesleyan College.

St. Margaret’s art program has also received recognition in the arena of college acceptances, with students attending the Rhode Island School for Design, Pratt Institute, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Parsons The New School for Design.

Art Teacher Ignat “Konst” Konstantinov and, his wife, Artist in Residence Konstantina Konstantinov have crafted a visual arts program that allows students to express themselves with a wide variety of educational opportunities. Students have access to drawing, painting, art history, ceramics, mosaics, illustration, fashion design and more. Using an artist in residence model, the KonKons, as they prefer to be called, teach through instruction, inspiration and example.

In the classroom, they draw out each student’s creative vision and guide them toward the completion of their project, providing gentle instruction along the way. One recent graduate noted, ““My acceptance into Parsons came from being at St. Margaret’s and the ‘K’s helping me to find my way. They pushed me to reach my creative peak. They saw potential in me, potential that I didn’t necessarily see.”

Whether it’s on the river, in the art studio, on the athletic field or in the classroom, St. Margaret’s opens up possibilities for girls. It allows them to discover the women they will become. It teaches them that they can achieve their highest potential and, in doing so, enrich the lives of others. It gives them the moral and spiritual foundation that will allow them to always grow in grace. And, it nurtures them so that they believe, unequivocally, that nothing is impossible, with a little hard work and the right attitude.

St. Margaret’s School actively seeks and admits qualified students of any race, color, religious affiliation, national or
ethnic origin. If you would like to learn more about admission or affordability, contact our Admission Office by calling
(804) 443-3357, sending an e-mail to admit@sms.org or visiting our website at www.sms.org.