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."
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.
This winter, Central Print brought their mission of promoting the art of printmaking to Wilson for the Visiting Artist Program. Their medium inspired the art curriculum for the year. Prior to the visiting artist week, teachers Diane Signor and Mary Beth Tipton provided the students with a foundational overview of printmaking. Throughout the year, they will feature five prominent printmaking artists and will continue creating printmaking pieces.
During the visiting artist week, Marie Oberkirsch, the executive director of the non-profit, brought a clamshell and a flatbed vintage portable press, both of which date back nearly a century.
Each grade participated in hands-on printmaking and discussed the art form. The conversations included topics such as the mechanics of printmaking and press operation, the role of automation and the impact of letterpress on how the world communicates. The experience proved unique and fascinating for all students.
Throughout the visiting artist week, pre-kindergarten through first grade students focused on shapes and colors, printing with wood shapes carved by the artists, as well as block numbers and letters. They explored primary and secondary colors. Carrie Keasler, a Central Print educator who specializes in printmaking and bookmaking, helped the students focus on literacy and speech through printed type.
Second, fifth and sixth grade students worked with printmaker Julie Davis to focus on the principles of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). They used the antique machines to make postcards and other images. As a part of the creative process, the classes investigated the technical issues such as type height and font size, reversal, opacity and transparency in ink.
“The thoughtful process of the handset lettering surprised everyone,” said Mrs. Tipton. “For every line printed, you would have to pick up every letter and place it down backward.”
Making a site visit to Central Print, third and fourth grade students rotated through three stations. After learning about the history of the print press and watching a press process demonstration, the students then printed their own postcards using wooden blocks on a clamshell press. Following, Central Print held an open house for all students and their families to tour the studio.
“For kids with a mechanical mind and those who love to see how things work, this was a very exciting week,” said Mrs. Tipton. “That aspect of the art really motivated them.”
The visiting artist experience culminates with Wilson’s young artists exhibiting their work during the Family Art of Science Night. Central Print will host a station for students and parents to create together.
Thank you to the Excellence Program for allowing Central Print to enrich the lives of Wilson students. Said Ms. Signor, “This was something new for the children that they would not have learned without the visiting artist program.”
Wilson in the News