On Heathwood—Faculty and Staff Reflect on the Holiday Season at Heathwood

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

What makes the Christmas season a special time at Heathwood? A lot of things, according to our faculty and staff.


The thing that has always impressed me about Heathwood at the holidays is the emphasis on giving to others.  Students, faculty, and staff are involved in many ways in doing something for other people.  They may never meet any of the people who benefit from their generosity or even know their names, they won’t see the joy and amazement on the face of the child who awakens on Christmas morning to find what he/she hoped for, but perhaps thought they wouldn’t get.  They won’t know how much their Salvation Bell ringing helped someone in need.  The Heathwood community’s joy comes from being able to make Christmas a little bit better for someone else. In the gimme-gimme of holidays that have become so commercialized, the entire school is focused instead on helping those who are in need.  We never meet the people who receive our gifts and that’s all right because there is a special joy in being a Secret Santa.

--Nancy Reeder, Middle School and Upper School Librarian


-Heathwood is a very special place year-round! I find December to be an especially beautiful time at Heathwood Hall.  There are so many opportunities for students, faculty members, and families to participate in the giving back spirit of the season.  My very favorite Heathwood tradition is the All-School Sing-Along, which takes place each December on the last day of school. There is nothing like that special time when we all join together as a community in JOY! 

--Kellie McElveen, 2nd Grade Lead Teacher

One of my favorite traditions at Heathwood during this time of year is the All School Christmas Sing-Along.  When I began teaching at Heathwood in 2001, I instantly fell in love with the idea of our students in grades 1-12 singing “The 12 Days of Christmas” together, listening to the classic, ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, and watching the little ones’ faces as Santa Claus appears at the end of our program.  

I also love how our students perform in the Winter Choral Concert beginning in third grade. 

--Brooke Whiteman, 3rd Grade Lead Teacher


I’ve always been partial to the start of the basketball season, but Heathwood’s Winter Chorus Concerts, the Kindergarten Play, and the All-School sing-along are three things that make this a special time of the year at Heathwood.

--Chris Hinchey, Head of School


Recently I happened to be here working late the night of our December Coffee House. My door was shut, but I could hear and enjoy the music. I was focused as usual on yet another deadline :).  However, at one point a voice made me get up, grab my Yearbook camera, and go see who was singing. Junior Samantha Gaton was playing a guitar and singing. I watched her sing this beautiful song and didn’t want to ruin the moment taking pictures. (I did, of course, snap a few.) I then proceeded to go back into my office, focused on the work at hand, and was again pulled out of my office by two more singers. This time, Senior John Weiss sang and played a small piano and then faculty member Tim McKnight spoke first a little about the song he was to sing and then sang with his guitar.  All three sang beautifully! I did of course capture the moments on camera. The fifteen minutes or so I spent watching, listening, and taking pictures were amazing.  I looked around at the full house in the Robinson Center Lobby and the camaraderie was evident.

It was later after I got home I sent out the following text message to our US Admin team: “Coffee house was just what this soul needed. Such talent and wonderful young people. HHES is a very special sanctuary.”

Sanctuary has a nice ring to it and the meaning is what you feel every day on this campus.

--Cindy Scannella, Upper School Administrative Assistant and Yearbook Teacher


The All School Sing-Along tradition is my favorite. I love that we come together as an entire school and sing classic Christmas carols. It is so much fun to see each grade level participate. I also really enjoy hearing Mr. Hinchey read ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. These are wonderful traditions that we are lucky to be able to do. The kids are making such wonderful memories.

--Sarah Bolden, 2nd Grade Lead Teacher


Heathwood is a special place to be as a student, parent, and as an educator, especially at this time of the year.

During this time of the year when the holiday spirit is at its peak, Heathwood takes on that spirit and displays for the community what Heathwood is all about, and that is giving. During this time of the year when we receive many things, Heathwood and the Heathwood community share in the season of giving. From the Turkey Trot for Harvest Hope, Deck the Halls, food drives, and collecting for the homeless shelter, Heathwood and the Heathwood community enjoy the benefits of sharing the blessed wealth to all. What a place this is!

--Rob Bauer, 6th Grade Math


I enjoy being able to teach our youngest Heathwood students about the birth of Jesus Christ. It brings me such joy to hear them interact with stories and sing songs about the true meaning of Christmas.

--Lauren Delk, EC 2 Lead Teacher


For the last three years, I have enjoyed having the opportunity to teach our third grade class about Advent and the true meaning behind why we celebrate Christmas. Each morning between Thanksgiving holidays and Christmas, we begin the day with a Bible verse (memory verse for the students) and discuss Advent and the story of Jesus' birth. I love to watch the children make connections with Bible verses and the stories I tell. I am so happy we can have these discussions in the classroom—especially at this time of year. As we discuss the importance of Christmas and giving/reaching out to others, the children proudly share their acts of service to others, which also connects to our character development disciplines. 

Our class looks forward to devotion time (which we have all year long), and I am happy we can implement this time into our daily routine—another reason I'm happy we send our children to HH every day!

--Katherine Draffin, 3rd Grade Associate Teacher


I have had the pleasure of celebrating Christmas on the Heathwood Hall campus for most of my life. When I reflect on what December at Heathwood means to me, I can hear the voice of Elsie Lamar as she recited her beloved stories. I can see her standing in her hat while we would all sit on the floor in the Gayle Averyt Building and listen very, very carefully. She could keep two hundred children silent with just a smile and a nod.

Heathwood in December always involves giving, and I can remember vividly the time I delivered gifts to a local family during my senior year. I walked into the home and realized that the living room floor was merely cold dirt. There was no true floor. That was one of the most valuable lessons I learned at Heathwood, and I am forever grateful that I was pushed beyond the comfort of the classroom that December. 

As an adult and teacher on campus now, I can feel the pulsing of energy and expectation as the all school sing-along approaches, and I confess to shedding a few tears when the little ones launch in to “Silent Night.” As we all go home to rest, there is the promise of January, of another frosty field welcoming us back to plan new lessons and set greater goals, and that in itself is a gift beyond measure. 

--Lynn Cooper, 5th Grade English Teacher


There are so many things that make Heathwood special--although I haven't been here long enough to begin to count all the ways.  What I already know for sure, though, is that Heathwood is a place where every single person is valued, and where enrichment of both the mind and the soul are its highest priorities.  I couldn't have found a better place to work, and I'm grateful to be here.

--Mary Beth Fry, Director of College Counseling


Helping others, spreading kindness, and following the Golden Rule are all part of the Heathwood culture. We teach it, we live it. This Christmas, the third grade decided we would all participate in 12 days of Christmas Kindness. Each day for 12 days, students have a specific act of kindness to do. Some examples are: Give a compliment to someone today, make a card for someone, tell your parents about a happy memory… Students are so excited to carry out their acts. Some acts lend themselves to be accomplished anonymously, which students say is their favorite. At class meetings, we love discussing what we did, and seeing what is next. The best part: they want to continue this activity throughout the year. Yea!

--Kim Bain, 3rd Grade Lead Teacher