As Grymes Memorial School prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2022, it is certain the past two years will be an important chapter in the school’s long history. The 2020- 2021 school year challenged teachers and school administrators every day to seek new and innovative approaches. That challenge was met by an unflinching faculty, determined to create a new year of joyful learning with students safely on campus.
“There are many pieces that we will keep when the pandemic is in the rearview mirror. Teaching tools like Google Classroom and Google Meet spring to mind. More important than these tools, however, is the understanding that when we work together, we can overcome some formidable obstacles” noted Rod McLeod, Upper School History teacher.
Despite the challenges, progress continued on many fronts, with exciting developments throughout the year, such as the introduction of Singapore Math, a program designed to pre- pare students for real-world math applications and deepen their understanding of the concepts behind mathematical operations. Julie Sherman, Science teacher in the Lower School “Rad Lab,” played a key role in the implementation of Singapore Math last year.
“During a normal school year, the implementation would be a welcomed challenge, but during a ‘pandemic’ year, it was just really incredible. We are so proud of our teachers’ determination! In a short time, students grew in their ability to try new and different problem-solving methods, and the confidence this inspires in their work is amazing and even more visible in the program’s second year at Grymes,” commented Julie Sherman.
While many other schools were returning to campus in the fall for the first time in more than a year, Grymes faculty had a full school year of teaching with pandemic safety protocols in place. This afforded teachers more energy to focus on teaching strategies and classroom plans. “2020-2021 had a touch of uncertainty that loomed quietly in the background, but this year I’ve noticed a renewed, deeply hopeful spirit on campus which gives us a lift each day,” noted Anissa Frantz, Visual Arts teacher.
With 152 students enrolled in Junior Kindergarten through eighth grade, the size of Grymes has been a strength. Small class sizes have allowed teachers flexibility with their in- door teaching spaces, and teachers take full advantage of the 42-acre campus. The creation of a carefully constructed and unique outdoor classroom space was a great source of pride for fourth-grade students. Whether planting a garden,
building wooden bluebird boxes, or creating sun prints from objects found in nature, opportunities to learn are limitless in and out of the classrooms.
Off-campus, field trips provide extended learning opportunities. “Archeology at Montpelier, picking apples at Grelen, taking a hike in Shenandoah National Park, visiting The Fralin Museum of Art, exploring Luray Caverns – these are just a few of the many occasions to travel off campus for fun and enriching experiences,” said Jonathan Brand, Head of School.
“The pandemic has meant that teachers are working harder and longer than ever before. We are also adapting to change very quickly. We are fortunate, however, to have a supportive community in which to work. We are also blessed to have strong leadership. So perhaps the most positive thing to come out of the pandemic is an understanding of our own resilience and the compassion of our community,” observed McLeod.
None of this would be possible without the close-knit, supportive Grymes community. Last year, parents were restricted from entering school buildings and gathering on grounds before and after school. Kimber Keating, Assistant Head of School noted, “We missed the daily interaction with our parents and I think they’ve really missed that too. Having parents and families back on campus, visible, and allowed to participate again is wonderful!”
After a year-long hiatus, class plays have returned in an outdoor or limited, in-person audience format. The Virginia Commission of the Arts has awarded Grymes Memorial School two grants this year to support the drama program. These Artists in Education grants provide students the opportunity to learn the arts through work with professional artists. Seventh and eighth-grade students have the opportunity to work with Virginia Commission for the Arts Teaching Artists as they create and perform their productions.
Parents have enjoyed attending beloved school events and traditions, like the opportunity to honor family veteran member in person at school.
“Parents can also attend most events live, virtually, a direct benefit of pandemic safety measures, and this often allows extended family and friends who would otherwise likely be unable to attend to be with us,” said Jill Solek-Giles, Director of Technology.
The school’s four pillars—honor, respect, responsibility, and kindness—continue to be the strong foundation ultimately supporting the Grymes mission of nurturing character, building thinkers, cultivating creativity, fostering community, and launching joyful learners.
“Anyone who has spent time on the Grymes campus knows Grymes to be a school where children can be children even as they grow and flourish as inquisitive, joyful learners.
Although the past year tested our school’s ability to carry out our mission, I am proud of the way our teachers, students, parents, and our entire community rallied together to meet the challenge of a global pandemic,” noted Brand.
Learn more about Grymes Memorial: grymesschool.org