After cruising to district and regional titles, the SSES boys’ tennis team fell one victory short of its first state championship since 2015. The Falcons dropped the FHSAA Class 1A title match on April 27 in Orlando to Boca Raton St. Andrews, the same school that defeated Saint Stephen’s in the 2019 finals. SSES reached the deciding match with decisive wins against Orlando Trinity Prep and Tampa Berkeley Prep in the first two rounds. The loss to St. Andrews also spoiled an undefeated season for the Falcons, who went 10-0-1 in the regular season, dominated district tournament play, and swept Fort Myers Canterbury and Out-of-Door Academy in regional matches. With the 2020 season wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, Saint Stephen’s has now posted back-to-back state runner-up finishes. The team loses No. 1 and No. 2 singles players Kevin Jiang (Swarthmore) and Gleb Ibragimov (Sewanee) but will return plenty of talent for the 2022 season and should be a state-caliber contender once again for Head Coach Scott Shields.
The members of the Class of 2021 announced their college destinations at our annual College Pennant Ceremony on April 28 at the Moore Athletic Complex. One by one, the seniors made their way to the stage and pinned their photo on a map of the United States, next to a pennant of their intended college or university. The students were cheered on by their family members, faculty, staff, and students from the Middle and Upper schools.
The Class of 2021 matriculation list includes: Boston University, Davidson, East Stroudsburg University, Embry-Riddle, Oxford College at Emory, Flagler, Florida Atlantic, Florida Tech, Florida State, George Washington, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Louisiana State, Marquette, Miami of Ohio, Northeastern, Ohio State, Penn State, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, SMU, SCF, Swarthmore, TCU, Alabama, Tennessee, Sewanee, West Florida, Trine, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Arkansas, Cal-Davis, Cal-San Diego, UCF, Colorado, Denver, Florida, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi, UNC Charlotte, South Florida, Southern Cal, Wisconsin, Ursinus, Wake Forest, Washington University St Louis.
The entire ceremony was broadcast live and is now archived and available for viewing at the Saint Stephen’s Facebook page.
Saint Stephen’s lacrosse swept district competition, with both the boys and girls winning their respective tournaments on April 15 to advance in the postseason. The girls slipped past rival Out-of-Door Academy, 9-6, to capture their fourth 1A-District 10 crown ever and their first since 2018. The Falcons improved to 9-2 on the season and will host Tampa Berkeley Prep (9-3) in the regional semifinals on April 22. The boys’ team routed St. Petersburg Northside Christian, 17-1, at the Moore Athletic Complex on to win the first post-season title in program history. The Falcons (11-2) next host a regional semifinal on April 24 against Tampa Jesuit (13-2). SSES enters on a seven-game winning streak.
The Falcons cruised to a win the 1A-District 11 Tournament on April 12-13 at Payne Park in Sarasota, capturing their third district title in four seasons and the 16th in school history. SSES finished the regular season undefeated at 10-0-1 in dual matches and now advances to host regional play on April 20. The opponent has yet to be determined. The Falcons lost just one individual match – the No. 2 singles final – during the district tournament, as they consistently outclassed their opponents. Saint Stephen’s last won a regional crown in 2019 and advanced all the way to the state tournament final that season before settling for state runner-up honors. The Falcons are in search of their first state championship since 2015 and sixth overall. The SSES girls finished district runner-up, dropping the finale to Bradenton Christian, and will travel to Community School of Naples for a 3 p.m. regional match on April 20.
The annual golf tournament to raise funds for the Saint Stephen’s Athletic Department – the Green & Golden Golf Scramble – is scheduled for Saturday, May 1, at The River Club Golf Course in Bradenton. The event has an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start and registration includes golf, lunch, and beverages. There is a hole-in-one contest with a chance to win a new vehicle, sponsored by Cox Chevrolet. If you’re not up for a full round of golf, you can join us for a fun, western-themed Golf On the Range to test out your swing. To register your foursome, purchase chance drawing tickets and more, visit the Green & Golden Golf Scramble website. The tournament is presented by the SSES Parents’ Association and Athletic Boosters.
*If you missed the broadcast, you can now watch it on our YouTube Channel.
Join us on Facebook on Friday, March 12 at 6 p.m., as we continue our celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary year. The Green & Golden Game Show broadcast will be an evening of fun that’s filled with surprises! Head of School Dr. Jan Pullen, Social Studies Department Chair Patrick Whelan, Class of 1995 graduate Steve Horn, and senior Taylor Vara will match wits in a game show format, answering questions about Saint Stephen’s facts and history. The broadcast will also include the induction of the latest members into the Falcons Sports Hall of Fame, a conversation with former Headmaster Rev. Louis Hayden (1971-76), and much more. The show is hosted by Preston Boyd, beloved drama teacher and chair of the Arts Department at Saint Stephen’s from 1990-2014. Visit the Saint Stephen’s Facebook page to view and cheer on your favorite contestant. This special online event is presented by Neal Land & Neighborhoods.
On the strength of a thrilling 2-1 victory on the road at local rival and top-seeded Bradenton Christian, the Falcons (11-4-1) captured the Class 2A-District 10 tournament championship on Thursday evening (Feb. 11). It was the 21st boys soccer district title in school history and Saint Stephen’s tenth trophy in the past 11 seasons. The victory against BCS (11-4) gave Head Coach Blake Hoonhout a championship in his first season in charge of the Falcons. After a first-round bye, the second-seeded Falcons advanced to the title match by defeating St. Petersburg Catholic in overtime (3-2) on Feb. 9. Regional playoffs begin at home on Wednesday night, Feb. 17, against St. Petersburg Keswick Christian (8-10-1) The Crusaders were runners-up to Shorecrest Prep in the 2A-District 9 tournament, losing 4-2 in a shootout after a 2-2 tie in regulation. Saint Stephen’s will enter on a four-game winning streak.
On Wednesday (Feb. 11), Saint Stephen’s students and faculty were treated to a visit from Kirby and Curry, two African penguins who traveled to campus with their keepers from Busch Gardens in Tampa. Middle School science teacher Dr. Paul Suprenand, who holds a Ph.D from the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, helped arrange the visit. Students lined the walkways from the Middle School to the Turner Upper School building while the inquisitive penguins waddled their way through the crowd for about 30 minutes. We learned that most penguin species actually prefer warm climates and water temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees. Nearly all penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere. Busch Gardens features a colony of African Penguins (native to the rocky shores of southern Africa) at its Penguin Point habitat. Kirby and Curry were born and raised in captivity. In the wild, African penguins can swim at speeds of more than 12 mph and dive up to 400 feet to catch their prey: small fish, squid, and crustaceans. To view more photos from the visit, link to our Facebook community.
How do we do this? What will it look like? Are we ready?
Teachers across the country were asking these questions and many others in August as they prepared for the beginning of the academic year. While each school faced its own unique challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic, there was no denying one thing they all shared in common: the familiar and comfortable routine teachers have become accustomed to when opening their classrooms to students was going to be turned on its head. The real question was, how much?
Faculty members at Saint Stephen’s were no different. Although they adapted quickly and admirably to distance learning when the campus shut down from March through the end of the 2019-20 school year, re-opening for in-person instruction while still under strict health and safety protocols would be a different animal altogether.
“I think we were genuinely excited to come back. The spring made us realize how important it was to be on campus, but there were still a lot of unknowns,” Intermediate School teacher Tanya Creneti said. “We always feel a little pressed for time, so I think with having to be aware of health precautions we wondered how this was all going to work. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you it was nerve-wracking at first.”
Opening school not only presented a challenge to the SSES faculty as a whole, but many times each division, grade level, and classroom faced its own unique circumstances. Often, that was based on how many virtual students needed to be integrated into the classroom on a real-time basis. Some subject areas also lend themselves more to social distancing than others.
Third-grade teachers Lee Ann Pritchett and Amy Ivin began their year with the highest number of online students of any grade – nine. That meant they had to reconsider how they approached their preparation and how they addressed their classrooms to ensure that students who were live-streaming in via laptop could stay engaged and feel part of the lessons.
“I just have to think a little differently. I can’t point the laptop screen toward the other students in the classroom, because that would be distracting. But if I walk away from the screen to another part of the room, they can’t see me,” Pritchett said. “It’s things like that where I have to be aware. We’re kind of writing the book as we go. I tell the kids, ‘We are warriors! We are making history.’”
While the true impact of what is now nearly a year of U.S. education altered by the pandemic will take time to fully determine, a study published in October 2020 of more than five million math and reading assessments in grades 1-8 indicates there is work ahead. Achievement in reading is, on average, one percentile point below where it should be in a normal school year. Math achievement has been more significantly affected, falling an average of seven points. According to the study, translated in terms of instructional time, students in grades 4-7 will need 4-7 weeks to catch up in reading, while grades 1-3 and 8 are on track. Students in grades 5 and 6 are more than 12 weeks behind beginning-of-year expectations in math, and students in grades 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8 will need 4-11 weeks to meet the expectations of a typical school year. The analysis included students in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Schools involved were in suburban, urban and rural areas, serving various income levels, and approximately 85-percent were public.
By comparison, at Saint Stephen’s the overall feeling is that students are well on schedule. In fact, they may actually be ahead. With limited movement on campus, no field trips, and assemblies and school-wide gatherings now held via videoconference, there are fewer interruptions to the school day. Those limitations, however, do impact the vibrant school culture that helps to make SSES such a unique community. Great care has been taken to make sure those traditions continue – even if they look different.
“We’re all about building community here. We’re used to seeing parents on campus, so it’s definitely different when the first time I see a parent’s face is on a screen during conference time,” Creneti said. “But one thing I think all of this has done is it has led to a lot of great conversations and empathy. When I listen to the kids, I hear them relating to each other’s experiences. I hear them talking about how this is affecting them and their families – making a friend feel better because they haven’t been able to visit grandparents and things like that.”
The experience has also provided Saint Stephen’s teachers with unexpected opportunities for professional development. Many have discovered virtual discussion groups where they regularly share ideas and resources with peers around the nation and the world. It has also been a crash course in the use of technology as a tool to improve the classroom experience.
Teachers have become experts with a variety of hardware and software that help them do their jobs. In the Upper School, Charity Clough’s chemistry students use Facetime to bring virtual students into their group lab work.
“Many of us had never heard of Zoom,” Clough joked. “I’m not sure anyone had ever done this kind of daily simultaneous teaching before with some students here, some at home. It has changed our rhythm, but we’ve gotten comfortable with the technology and the kids are super adaptable. I’m really paperless at this point. With a tool like Classkick, I can see the students writing in real time on my screen and work along with them.”
A year ago, it would have been rare to see a Saint Stephen’s classroom set up with aligned rows of student desks facing a teacher at a whiteboard. Social distancing requirements have made that more traditional setup the norm. For Pritchett, it reminds her of her own school days.
“I’ve never had to stand in front of them so much because we’re typically working in groups and I’m moving from group to group. But I still try to make things fun,” she said. “It’s made me realize I can do things that I didn’t think I could. The kids make you strong. Their attitude helps our attitude.”
“This age group wants to be here. Their enthusiasm is high. We can find new ways to do things and they’ve learned that about themselves,” she said. “We’ll all be glad when this pandemic is over, but we’ve found new opportunities to collaborate with each other. We’re more nimble, flexible and resourceful.”
After battling for two days, the Falcons finished seventh at the state golf tournament and brothers Ben and Alex Long both placed in the top 10 individually. SSES shot a two-day total of 635, while Lake Mary Prep won the 16-team Class 1A title at Mission Hills Golf Club. Ben Long, a sophomore, shot 75-71-146 to finish third overall. His freshman sibling, Alex, carded 78-72-150 to take seventh place. The tournament marked the return of Saint Stephen’s to the FHSAA state championship for the first time since 2017, and the return of a Falcon to the top 10 of the individual leaderboard. SSES recorded four consecutive top-7 finishes from 2014-17: 5th (2014), 7th (2015), 3rd (2016) and 2nd (2017). Individually, Saint Stephen’s also placed at least one golfer in the Top 10 at those four tournaments – Ryan Kinkead (6th/2017), David Hu (9th/2017), Alan Klenor (10th/2016), Justin Wynen (8th/2015) and Jack Cen (6th/2014).