Every day, students use their imaginations in class, whether it’s to solve an algebraic expression or to write a persuasive essay. Often, the first idea of how to approach a task may not always be the most effective way, yet students should not feel discouraged. That is why, for the 2016-17 school year, Saint Stephen’s has chosen the theme, Re-Imagine-What if? The theme can be defined as thinking from different angles about the task at hand in and out of the classroom.
Ever since 1988, it has been the tradition of the school to have a theme for the school year. The first ever theme was “Fly High with Books!” Themes operate as a method of unification for the student body, faculty and school community. Bradenton is no exception.
Along with Saint Stephen’s, several other local schools embrace the idea of themes, such as Bradenton Christian School and Manatee High School. Bradenton Christian’s theme is “From Root to Fruit,” (signifying growth), originating from the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22.
An administrative assistant at Bradenton Christian said, “As a Christian school, we would like for our students to exhibit the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’ in their lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control.”
Manatee High, on the other hand, has a homecoming theme: “All Around the World,” while the prom theme has yet to be announced, said MHS student vice president Anthony Cucci.
According to Dr. Jan Pullen, head of school at Saint Stephen’s, there have been themes ever since 2003. “It’s something everyone can rally around and it helps us all be one. You have an umbrella of the school year under a theme,” she said.
Upper School Director Andrew Forrester also said that the theme “allows us as faculty to think in a similar way and look at similar views, as well as inspire our students to rally around this idea.”
The 2015-16 school year’s theme was #change, which promoted open-mindedness to new paths.
“Education is moving and changing and no other time has it been changing so much because of technology, awareness of the world, or mobility of the people,” said Pullen. “It helped people think about change to see what could be beneficial from that.”
Forrester said that “following the success of #change, we decided that our school was so adept at adjusting to what is happening in the world that we wanted to look at the things we did really well. ... We came up with some ‘what if’ questions and looked at different ways that we can re-imagine all the things that we do very well.”
Social studies department chair and teacher Patrick Whelan said that the school’s theme this year can encompass many different types of visions that people have for the school. “It’s a time for us to think about our vision of what we are to do here. Many teachers come up with an idea of what their purpose is for their class,” he said, “and this provides an opportunity to stop and think about how that purpose meshes with the larger goals of the school. What it very much comes down to is our mission and how we can fit the different visions that we each have into our school mission.”
Pullen said that in order to decide on an appropriate theme, the idea must be relevant to the times of where we are in the world, whether technology or the current government are being re-imagined.
“All of the themes over the last few years are individual,” said Forrester, “but all come around the idea of making Saint Stephen’s better than it already is." Teachers are able to teach in the way that they feel is best for their students and classes each year, which makes no class the same year to year. “Each teacher grows and changes their curriculum and delivery based on the students that they teach,” Forrester said. “We’re always excited to offer them both another area to consider, as well as all of our initiatives.”
Forrester said that he hopes “students gain an understanding of looking at the world in a different way, facing challenges with a different view point, having an open mind about the world around them and really beginning to grow as learners in a re-imagined way.”
Junior Victoria Arias agreed: “The school’s theme helps me see myself as a student who focuses more, participates more and focuses more on college.”
As Pullen said, re-imagine is “framed around time, place, path and pace to help people be more open-minded about the possibilities that are out there.”
Already, the 2016-17 is full of re-imagined ideas, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Indre is entering her fourth year on The Gauntlet, Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School’s upper school newspaper. This year, she was selected as the paper’s editor-in-chief, and looks forward to serving the school community with quality journalism each and every day.
Outside of the newsroom, Indre plays piano, and she participates on the swim, basketball, and lacrosse teams. Additionally, she spends much of her time working on her project, Baltic Bridge, which is an online website preserving Baltic history and identity through video, interviews, documentary films, and a language program.