As we look forward to opening another school year, I am anticipating how this year will be a historic one for HCES.
As you will immediately notice, lots of exciting changes have taken place over the summer including the “learning cottages” being moved in order to begin construction on The Commons. In our most recent edition of the Spirit Magazine, we introduced The Colonnade Campaign, featuring the addition of The Commons: Performing Arts Center and Cafe. Over the past two years, we have been working towards the goal of opening this final “piece” to the Colonnade that will complete our PK – 8th grade program and campus. In the fall of 2019, we will be opening the doors to The Commons, a unique building that will provide the opportunity to create a gathering space for our children to enjoy healthy lunch options in a beautiful open-air dining hall. This building will also provide us space to expand upon our nationally-recognized STEM program and enhance our fine arts department with the ability to transform the space into a true performing arts auditorium, which will allow us to transition from a STEM to STEAM program. We are thrilled with the movement of this project and the opportunities for growth it will afford our students and families.
Click here to read the latest edition of the Spirit Magazine highlighting The Commons.
Take a look back as we reflect on the programs and unique initiatives that serve as the foundation for this next endeavor.
- iEducate™Holy Comforter began the iEducate™ program, a technology initiative formed to create a roadmap for 21st century learning. The mission of Holy Comforter iEducate™ is to engage students in learning, enrich the classroom environment, and empower every learner with the tools necessary to be productive citizens in the 21st century. Our unique integrated teaching program is designed to incorporate technology applications and instruments into the curriculum. The specially designed iEducate system empowers teachers, engages students, and enriches the classroom experience through hands-on participation with technology. Through this, children are taught to use technology as a valuable resource to enhance the learning process. iEducate supports the Holy Comforter academic experience touching every grade, every subject, every classroom, every student, every day.
- 21st Century Skills
In the fall of 2012, HCES infused a set of 21st Century Skills into the curriculum to ensure that the education we provide would be relevant.We know academic training that emphasizes innovation, collaboration, communication and the development of unique and creative solutions to problems is more important and relevant than ever. At HCES, we have taken aggressive steps to ensure the education we provide will be relevant by infusing 21st century skills and STEM programming into our curriculum.“Classrooms need to become learning studios in which students participate in designing their own pathways to knowledge and understanding and teachers design deep learning opportunities in which students discover how to access, evaluate, organize, and communicate information in creative and innovative ways.” (ASCD, Teaching 21st Century Skills)What our students learn at HCES not only prepares them for participation in the complex digital, global and highly interconnected society they will encounter but equips them to lead it.
- The Knight STEM Building
In the Fall of 2012, the Knight STEM Building opened. The two-story 12,385 square foot resource-rich science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) facility, the Knight STEM building was the 1st and only one of its kind for an independent school in the area, dedicated solely to STEM-based hands-on learning for students in grades K-8. The building itself incorporates environmental best practices and serves as a teaching tool, with features such as 2 fully-equipped science laboratories, a Lower School STEM classroom for grades K-5, an interactive energy monitoring system featured on a large screen in the hallway, rain barrels for collecting water, 2 classrooms with ceiling tiles removed so that structural, electrical and mechanical components are exposed, and more. With project-based learning, students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which encourage imagination and productivity.
In addition, the STEM curriculum, gives teachers the opportunity to develop real-world, complex and open-ended problems; to act as facilitators, making sure students are staying on track and finding resources; to raise questions that deepen the connections students make within the concepts they are being taught; to teach in the balance between providing guidance and encouraging self-directed learning. In a true STEM environment, students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which will encourage imagination and productivity.
- Inspiring Children to Be the Difference
In January of 2013, Holy Comforter launched a powerful new brand, “Inspiring Children to Be the Difference.” Over the past 63 years, Holy Comforter has become a superior academic establishment and a leader in independent schools. The purpose of the branding process was to reintroduce Holy Comforter as not only a safe, warm, faith-based environment, rich in tradition but also a destination for challenging academics.“We want to promote how we embrace academics differently. It starts with our talented and dedicated faculty and staff who are experts in guiding children through a K-8 educational experience. We attract new families by communicating our premium and diverse qualities while delivering exceptional academics. Our brand speaks to the inspiration of students through 21st century learning, differentiated instruction, state of the art campus technology, integrated hands-on learning and especially our new and enhanced presence in the STEM segment of education.” – Peter Klekamp, Head of School
- Apple Distinguished Program & iEducate
In February 2013, Holy Comforter Episcopal School’s iEducateTM program was named an Apple Distinguished Program for 2012-2013 school year. iEducate joined a select class of institutions that Apple recognized nationwide as exemplary learning environments and centers of innovation, leadership, and educational excellence.
Due to the success of iEducate, the one-of-a-kind program was trademarked in February 2013 and iEducate was once again named an Apple Distinguished Program in 2015.
- 1:1 Technology Program
Holy Comforter officially launched the 1:1 technology program, where each student in Kindergarten through 8th grade has their own technology device. 1st through 5th grade students have iPads and 6th through 8th grade students have laptops for use in and out of the classroom. From an early age, technology skills are intertwined into the classroom curriculum teaching coding, programming, keyboarding, and more through everyday lessons. In addition, middle school students are taught digital citizenship – how to use the internet and social media in a socially responsible way.
- Inaugural STEM Saturday
Holy Comforter hosted the 1st STEM Saturday in January 2014 with overwhelming success! The event welcomed 87 students from 29 local schools to an exciting morning of hands-on, interactive science experiences taught by Holy Comforter STEM teachers. The students, in Kindergarten-8th grade, and their parents rotated between various classes in our state of the art Knight STEM Building. Each session focused on one core science concept that included both technology and engineering and includes a take away for the student to repeat the activity at home.
The event has now grown to welcome over 130 students from over 30 schools, each year with the addition of the “arts” in 2018, now called STEAM Saturday.
In addition to the sessions, several sponsors and local business have partnered with HCES over the years including Coaxis International and their mobile flight simulator, The Sea Mobile Marine Life educational program and traveling aquarium from Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, MoLab, and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
- Campus Master Plan
A comprehensive Holy Comforter Episcopal School Master Plan was completed which outlined a multi-phase campus growth project. From 2013-2015, the HCES Board and various design professionals worked tirelessly to listen to the needs of our school community. Teachers, parents, students and alumni served meaningful roles in the completion of our updated master plan.
- Celebrating 60 Years
During the 2015-16 school year, Holy Comforter Episcopal School celebrated 60 years of educational excellence within the Tallahassee community. HCES is the oldest fully-accredited independent school in the area.
- MakerSpace – “If you can imagine it, you can make it”
In the summer of 2015, Holy Comforter renovated the media center/library space with beautiful new hardwood shelving, carpet, paint, reading nooks and more, through generous gifts to the Head of School Special Projects Fund made at our annual Gala. In addition, HCES was able to build a MakerSpace – a room specifically designed as a new creative learning environment for all students. The space is an extension of the classroom where students come to create using critical thinking, problem-solving and collaborative skills.
If you can imagine it, you can make it. As part of our 21st Century Skills curriculum, we enable our students to learn through hands-on interactions. The new MakerSpace provides creative time and space for project-based learning. Students and teachers can identify problems, formulate ideas to solve problems, build prototypes, and analyze the success of the solution in this space. analyzing the functionality of the solution will allow students to decide if the idea needs to be reworked. if so, they begin the sequence again. The MakerSpace will allow for exploration of questions and a forum where students can bounce ideas off one another as they collaboratively build something together. it’s a learning environment where it is safe to fail and retry.
In this space, students use traditional tools and materials (such as hammers, screwdrivers, saws, wood, glue, paint) as well as new technologies (like 3D printers), to work on meaningful projects. The physical space is large enough for small groups to work together easily, but also allows space for students to work on their own. One of the exciting additions of the space was the addition of 3D printers. Students work in their STEM classes to create objects that can be printed on our new devices and the space has an area to display these completed projects.
- Middle School Astronaut Challenge Team
The first HCES Middle School Astronaut Challenge Team was established and swept the State Championships at the first ever Middle School Astronaut Challenge held at Kennedy Space Center in February of 2016. The Middle School has sent a team each year placing in the top 3 across all categories.
- HCES STEM Fair
The 1st STEM Fair was held where 5th and 7th grade students turned the traditional science fair into an interactive, hands-on STEM experiment.
- Nationally Recognized as a Leader in the Field of Education
In August 2017, HCES was nationally recognized for our innovative approach to education, our unique school community and what we do best – fostering independence and creativity while developing children’s intrinsic motivation to learn, and Inspiring Children to Be the Difference both in and out of the classroom.
HCES was one of only 2 schools and the only private school in Tallahassee asked to host the United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, as she toured campus visiting Lower and Middle School classrooms. Secretary DeVos was greeted by students upon her arrival and welcomed onto our campus. She interacted with the students, as they coded Lego Robots in the Lower School STEM Lab, played a language arts game in 5th grade, observed the design process in the MakerSpace and talked to Middle School Foundations in Technology students. She also had the opportunity to read a Dr. Seuss favorite, “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” to kindergarten students. At the conclusion of the tour, Madame Secretary DeVos addressed members of the press, answered questions and had this to say about our incredible school community.
“My team continues to look for great opportunities to see ways that schools are addressing the needs of students differently and uniquely. It was fun to see the MakerSpace here and some of the STEM lab work done over in the building next to us, here. This school has been an innovator and a pioneer in meeting some of the broader needs of society around focusing on STEM related subjects.” – Secretary DeVos, Press Conference
“I think they’re examples of what a lot of schools should aspire to be and look for opportunities to become more innovative.” – Secretary DeVos, Press Conference
“They (HCES) started STEM programs before STEM became the cool thing to do. It was just great to visit a variety of the classrooms and see some of the fun things that they are doing to get the kids interested.” – Secretary DeVos, Wall Street Journal
- Re-Accreditation Review
In February 2018, Holy Comforter Episcopal School completed its 5-year evaluation with several accrediting agencies. The evaluation team included teachers and administrators from other independent schools throughout Florida and the southeast. The agencies represented were the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS), the Florida Kindergarten Council (FKC), and the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS).The purpose of the evaluation was two-fold. HCES was being evaluated on its Academic Quality School Improvement Plan as mandated by FCIS, SACS, SAIS and FKC plus the evaluation team reviewed almost every aspect of the HCES school environment to ascertain that all of the standards of each accrediting agency were being upheld in order to retain all of our accreditations. This is a very detailed process and one that involved every member of the faculty, staff and administration of the school for more than one year in preparing for this review. Members of the Board of Trustees and several of the standing committees, which involved our parents, were interviewed as well.This Spring, the Board of Trustees received the Final Report from the FCIS Board. Each of the different agencies reported their findings, and as you will see from some of the excerpts below.The FCIS team was impressed with the exuberance of learning at HCES. Nine specific commendations, which the evaluation team as a whole presented, included the following statements:
- The mission is evident in the student body. Students are respectful, relational, cordial, kind, welcoming and show a sense of pride in learning and their school.
- The faculty and staff are dedicated to the school, their students and one another.
- Teachers appreciate their autonomy with their curriculum as well as the “open door policy” between administration and teachers.
- The Character Education program is seamlessly integrated into the school community throughout each division of the school and through Chapel and the TARGET program.
- The school should be commended for the strong academic program provided to all students that successfully prepare them for the future.
- We commend the collaboration among the Head of School, Trustees, Advancement, Communications and Marketing, and Admissions personnel to advance the school.
- The school’s commitment to safety and security is evident throughout the campus.“From the moment we stepped on campus, we could feel your mission and your sense of call. One of the highest compliments we can give is that every one of us with children came out of the classrooms saying, ‘Gosh, we wish our children could go here.’ It’s the type of teaching, the methodology, the nurturing environment, the caring and that’s a high compliment. If we want our students here, then all students should be here.” – Tane Bonham, FCIS Chair
As we look back proudly at the success and growth of our program over the past decade, we know that excellence doesn’t stop here. We are looking toward a bright future where we are working on new and innovative ideas to continue to build upon the foundation of our program. In our ever-changing world, we have proven and will continue to serve as the leader in education in the Tallahassee area.