Looking Back With Gratitude

Sitting down to reflect on our year together, I could not believe how much has happened, how many big moments we shared, and how many new initiatives were launched.Connecting with FamiliesOur enrollment expanded across every grade this year. We welcomed 65 new students in the fall, and each of our new students and their families enriched our lives in so many ways. Our goal is, and will continue to be, establishing and strengthening connections with all our families – YOU are the reason we are here. Although the pandemic impacted the spontaneity of interactions, we created new traditions outdoors with parent coffees at the pavilion, hikes through the woods, and a beautiful evening celebrating the winter solstice together. Even our Curriculum Nights shared an outdoor component that gathered guests on our land, changing the experience in new ways for teachers and families.
We launched Forest Toddlers this year, with parents and toddlers spending joyful mornings exploring the Parker woods, fields, and pond with our lower school science teacher, Leiana Hawkins. Each week we smiled as this group of youngsters and their parents brought fresh enthusiasm and wonder to learning outdoors on our campus. The fall also brought a celebratory and well-attended Community Workday to spruce up the school grounds, build new bridges, clear our trails, and make other necessary repairs as we gathered together to support our cherished school. We were all treated to delicious pizza from our very own Carol Turnbull and her husband Craig’s pizza truck business, Bull & Basil.
Life in our Classrooms

Our students and their teachers spent the fall getting to know one another, exploring our beautiful campus, and developing classroom traditions and routines. This year we welcomed five new full-time faculty and three new part-time faculty who learned the ways of Parker and also offered their own creative contributions to learning in a progressive classroom. As we settled into the fall, students turned their attention towards two of our core values, ethical awareness and social responsibility, by taking on various community service initiatives. 1-2 and 8th-grade students ventured out for the Day in the Life of the Hudson field trip, serving as citizen scientists and spending a glorious fall day on the banks of the Hudson River. The entire school worked to gather necessities for families resettling from Afghanistan. The PreK led a drive for diapers and other baby items while our middle school collected personal hygiene products. Our students learned about the refugee experience and truly put our Parker mission of purposeful action to use. We collected four cars’ worth of supplies and brought them to the Muslim Soup Kitchen Project in Latham to be distributed to families. 
Winter brought sledding on our hills, ice skating on the pond, and snowman building! We also enjoyed the first-ever 8th grade musical, Beauty and the Beast, led by Sara Feltes. Families gathered in the gym for an outstanding performance by our students. This was the start of a new tradition, and we are already looking forward to next year’s performance! With the renewal of spring came even more special events and projects for our students, along with joy and relief for our entire community as we returned to some cherished in-person traditions. Our students experienced Read Across America Day, our 8th grade trip to Philadelphia, Middle School STEM week, a student-led Parker benefit, middle school field trips, Thesis Night, and PreK & Lower School Shows of Work.
Throughout the year, our classrooms continued to be abuzz with the challenging academic work that keeps our students engaged, motivated, and yearning for more. PreK 3’s studied mushrooms and learned from a professional mycologist. PreK 4’s immersed themselves in wolves, ultimately writing and starring in their own Wolf Play. Our Kindergarten class designed and executed plans for their own outdoor play yard with whimsical and stunning results. The 1-2’s learned poetry, both memorizing the works of famous poets and then writing their own to assemble into a classroom anthology. 3-4 students studied the history and architecture of the Capital Region, using their math skills to replicate 3D models of some of our area’s most famous buildings. Our 5th grade designed and then field tested their own kites in science class. 6th graders participated in Kids CAN Build, designing and building a structure out of canned goods while also raising donations for the Shalom Food Pantry. Our 7th grade took on the enormous task of changing the world through one small act of kindness with our Butterfly Effect Project. And 8th graders wrote 12-15 page thesis papers and then defended their positions to an audience of 70+.Despite the pandemic, life in our classrooms and at our school carried on with normalcy, tradition, and a great feeling of celebration. Next week we will gather outdoors to celebrate our 8th graders as they graduate and begin the next stage of their educational journeys.
New Initiatives

While the work of our students is often featured front and center, it is important to note that behind the scenes, many exciting initiatives also took place this year. We installed two EV electric car charging stations in our parking lot, made significant upgrades to our Wi-Fi and internet connectivity, and designed a new website. We are making steady progress on our new woodworking workshop and maker spaces, which will translate to new experiences, skills, and programming for our Parker educational program. All faculty participated in thought-provoking and valuable Diversity, Equity and Inclusion professional development work with Gemma Halfi, current board member and Interim Assistant Director of DEI at the Emma Willard School. Throughout the year, faculty and administrators examined our current programs and zeroed in on key projects through a DEI lens. This work is ongoing and will continue so we can provide the most inclusive, engaging, and innovative curriculum possible. 
Our Community Engagement committee of the Board completed a comprehensive survey of skills and talents within our community that will have far-reaching implications for future community partnerships. In the immediate future, we successfully paired each 8th grader with an expert in a field of their interest to complete a job shadowing experience this spring. Finally, we secured grant funding in partnership with three RPI professors and the Oakwood Community Center to create a sustainable food garden on campus and develop programming to engage our students in addressing food insecurity. Joint planning for this effort will begin in earnest in June and we are excited to see how this project will evolve in the year ahead.
In my new role leading Parker, I am thankful for the love, excitement, growth, and purpose our students and teachers bring to our days together. I am so grateful to know all of you. We look forward to our celebratory and bittersweet end-of-year events next week: Field Day, PreK 4 “Crossing the Bridge” ceremony, and 8th grade graduation. Together, we have experienced another unique year that has shown us both how strong we are and how much we have to celebrate. I will spend many moments this summer looking back and feeling so grateful for and proud of our wonderful Parker community. Thank you for all the ways you have enriched our beloved school throughout this year. I wish you a magical summer full of joy, discovery, and wonder with your amazing children.