Laissez les bons temps rouler! Donned in masks and feathers, The Wilson School families and friends gathered on February 25 to celebrate Mardi Gras during the 34th Annual Thistle Auction.
Parent chairs Heather Akred and Susy Stark planned plenty of New Orleans-themed fun throughout the night. After bidding on 200 silent auction items, guests joined in a second line parade led by St. Louis Big Band. After feasting on a New Orleans specials, including bourbon chicken and red beans and rice, the Wilson School class of 2017 performed. Adorned in beads and boas, the sixth graders hip hopped to Zydeco music.
During the live auction, emceed by Wilson parent Ray Hartmann, attendees bid on a shopping spree at Frontenac Plaza, a Neil Diamond concert package, a St. Louis Blues suite and more.
The head of the Alumni Leadership Committee, Steve Shepley, presented two alumni with achievement awards. Amber Draper, class of 2007, received the Young Alumni Award and Katie Vagnino, class of 1993, received the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Wilson parent Andrew Ruben led a celebration of the Excellence Program's 10th anniversary. He hoped to raise $10,000 for the program, which the community rapidly reached and even surpassed. With over $16,000 raised during the auction, the total funds for this year's Excellence Program reached $100,000.
Thank you to all those who helped make the night one to remember! Says Susy, "The auction was so successful because of the amazing Wilson community members who worked together to make it happen."
The Alumni Achievement Awards, one dedicated to a distinguished alum and one for a young alum, were established by Wilson School’s Alumni Leadership Committee to recognize and honor the accomplishments of Wilson alumni who continue to bring pride and inspiration to the Wilson community.
Congratulations to this year's recipients, Amber Draper, who received the Young Alumni Award and Katie Vagnino, who received the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Amber Draper graduated from The Wilson School in 2007 and from Westminster Christian Academy in 2013. Says Amber, "I still keep in contact with many Wilson teachers. They helped me so much and I was happy to see them at the auction to thank them in person for all that they've done for me."
Amber is currently a senior at Truman State University, studying broadcast journalism. Since starting at Truman, Amber worked for the campus new station, working her way up to holding positions as a reporter, anchor, videographer and producer. During her junior year, she launcher her own talk show entitled "Rising from our Roots," which she wrote, hosted and produced. She currently serves as executive producer.
Amber participated in the Alpha Phi Alpha Black and Gold pageant, in which she was crowned the queen. She spent a semester abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica at Universidad Veritas and created a documentary about her experience. She has volunteered for Convoy of Hope and the St. Louis Area Food Bank.
Following her college graduation, Amber plans to pursue a master's degree in public relations.
Katie Vagnino graduated from The Wilson School in 1993, then graduated from MICDS in 1999.
In 2003, she graduated with a degree in English from Yale University. In 2008, Katie moved to Boston to get her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Emerson College. Her thesis, a poetry manuscript titled "The Speed of Skin," was a nominee fro the Dean's Prize and earned a commendation from the Academy of American Poets.
Since 2010, Katie has taught creative writing, composition, research writing, and rhetoric at various secondary and higher education institutions including Emerson College, Roosevelt University and St. Paul's School. She has also led poetry workshops at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and the Newberry Library. Currently, she is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire.
As a freelancer, Katie has contributed to the "Minneapolis Star Tribune," "Time Out New York," "Time Out Boston," "Time Out Chicago," "Role Reboot," and Smithsonian's "The Torch". Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of journals including Poetry Quarterly. She hopes to publish her first book of poems in the near future.
"I am a better human being because of the empathy Wilson cultivated in me, and I move through the world grateful for the nine years I spent at 400 De Mun Ave.," says Katie. "Wilson taught me to be curious, to be creative, and to be kind."
On Friday, February 11, The Wilson School held its first annual STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) Night - The Art of Science.
The Wilson School families participated in science and art activities, including Wilson’s first ever Time Capsule. Students came with a Time Capsule worksheet, which included a profile and a record of life in 2017. The Time Capsule will be opened in eight years, when current pre-kindergarten students will be in sixth grade.
Senior Kindergarten hosted favorite science experiments including alka rockets, moon base building, telescope viewing and space helmet designs. Wilson parent Phil Skemer hosted an earthquake simulation, and other visitors included Bloxels Video Game Design and robotics hosted by the Webster Groves High School and DeSmet Jesuit High School teams.
Art projects included popsicle stick harmonicas and marble shake painting. Students created personal handprints to support this year’s Youth Uplift Challenge. With each handprint, the Youth Uplift Challenge will contribute $1.90 for the efforts. The funds support programming in Indonesia and Nicaragua.
This year’s visiting artist, Central Print demonstrated printmaking on a press, discussed letterpress and its history and facilitated a printmaking activity for Wilson families.
Science specialist Mr. Taylor hopes that The Art of Science event inspired students to become involved in science and to explore new ideas. He looks forward to Wilson students investigating new topics for this year’s science fair.
This year, The Wilson School celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Excellence Program, which supports professional development for faculty, the expansion of the library’s collection and innovative programming for students. The program began with Hal and Catherine Faught pledging $2 million to Wilson’s endowment. Their generosity marked the single largest gift to an academic program ever given in Missouri history to an elementary school. Since its inception, the program has made a significant impact on the lives of everyone in the Wilson community, from students and their families to the faculty.
Thanks to the Excellence Program, renowned and respected authors and artists visit The Wilson School each year to work with the students and engage the faculty, inspiring both with their stories and examples of excellence. Recent visiting artists include those from Central Print, Cbabi Bayoc, Michelle Katz-Reichlin, Maria Ojascastro and Marlon West. Authors Ridley Pearson, Jonathan Auxier, current Wilson parent Angela Liebermann and alumni parent June Herman, as well as her writing partner Julie Desloge Dubray have shared their work with Wilson students.
The Wilson School has enjoyed unique partnerships in the wider St. Louis community, made possible by The Excellence Program. Wilson families benefit from an exclusive writing partnership with Washington University, collaborations with the Saint Louis Zoo and speaker events that are open to the public. In the last few years, the program has helped to strengthen the social-emotional skills of students through curriculum on healthy relationships, self-esteem and managing emotional energy through breathing and creative movement.
The Excellence Program allows Wilson to foster exceptional educators by investing twice the resources in their development versus other area schools. Almost half of Excellence Program funding is allocated for ongoing professional development for faculty and staff, allowing every teacher to attend conferences and workshops to inspire new ideas. Wilson also selects an Excellence Award Honoree from among the faculty to recognize innovative and exceptional projects – an award funded by the Excellence Program. Most recently, Technology Coordinator received the award for her original coding curriculum and art teachers Diane Signor and Mary Beth Tipton were recognized for the visiting artist program.
The Wilson School library’s print collection can be refreshed and enhanced each year thanks to The Excellence Program. The best in children’s literature, whether a classic or the most current must-read, always can be found in the School’s library. The nonfiction collection is extensive and contains books with the most up-to-date information. In fact, this collection is one of the most current in the St. Louis region. Says librarian Ms. Poth, “The Excellence Program is the heart of the library program, enabling us to supply all nine grades and the professional staff with the necessary reading and instructional materials.” Because the library receives approximately 1,000 books annually, Wilson is able to make significant donations of books to other area elementary schools.
Sadly, Hal Faught passed away in 2009, but Catherine remained remains highly involved in the life of The Wilson School. After serving two terms on the Board of Trustees, she is now an Emeritus member. An integral member of the Board’s Excellence Committee, she continues to find ways to enrich and promote the program.
Currently, The Excellence Program is funded through a dollar-for-dollar matching grant. You can make a gift to The Excellence Program here to help Wilson’s students and staff live the Faughts’ mantra every day.
Level Up Village is keeping environmentalism and internationalism forefront in the third grade. Participating in the program for the first time this winter, Level up Village facilitates global science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) collaboration between students from around the world. Third grade students collaborated with a class in Nicaragua, sharing project files and exchanging video letters.
The students embarked on this global research project to find out more about water usage and conservation. Students learned about water, how it can be polluted, cleaned, tested, stored and understood at an atomic level. Third grade student Rafe explains, “We found out water drops form a dome because of surface tension. A lot of atoms of oxygen and hydrogen stick together to form the dome.” Focusing on helping the environment, the students brainstormed creative and interesting ways to lessen their usage and conserve.
While the Level Up science curriculum remains strong, the partnership with Nicaraguan students has proven to be a true highlight. Says third grade teacher Carolyn Cady “what our students are most excited about is getting to know the kids in our partner classroom and finding similarities that they share and recognizing differences.”
In learning about Nicaraguan culture, students were shocked to learn that some of their counterparts lack flushing toilets. This discovery allowed students to become more environmentally conscious and globally aware. Third grade teacher Mara Goldschmidt adds, “the experience has given more acceptance of differences of others that we promote here at Wilson.”
Video messages are most exciting to the students. Says Rafe, “we really enjoy sending videos back and forth with our partners in Nicaragua. The program translates them for us, but we get to hear the Spanish, too.” The partners get to know one another by asking questions and communicating about their daily lives. The experience prompted the students to learn rudimentary Spanish, making sure to pronounce their partners names correctly. Creating the videos also provide opportunities to practice communication and technology skills.
Says student Perla, “we love learning about the kids in Nicaragua. That’s what Level Up Village is all about!”
Wilson in the News