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Rachel E. Skiffer
Middle School student working with younger student at Achieve Academy
On and around campus this past week, we have witnessed joy and gratitude. Certainly some of it is because we have a holiday break next week and people are looking forward to time with family far and near. But much of it comes from everyday activities. The joy of packed sidelines and auditoriums cheering on our various teams in championship games or in our amazing school plays…the happy sounds of our youngest students excitedly sharing the Lower School with their Grandfriends…all the pride our Middle Schoolers felt in serving others during their first ever Community Engagement Day (21 teams…18 organizations served…incredible!).  
Joy and gratitude go hand-in-hand. In fact, research shows that gratitude is directly correlated to greater happiness and results in better health, stronger relationships and an increased capacity to deal with adversity.

At this time of year, most of us pause and reflect on the many things (and people) for which we give thanks.

Gratitude Graphic

For me, this school year has been one of wonder and inquiry, and as I have met with various members of our professional community, I have heard the themes of gratitude and joy echoed again and again.What a blessing to join a community of people who enjoy students and colleagues, and who believe in iteration and growth. It is a reflection of who we are and where we want to be in the future as a community.

I found multiple versions of this graphic online and found it to be a good reminder of why practicing gratitude is a healthy choice. 

So as we embark on this season of thanks…as we take some time to be with loved ones…as we enjoy laughter, games and family movies…and as we consume a week’s worth of calories in a single meal (as we did eagerly just this past Wednesday)…I hope you are able to carve out some time to sit in gratitude. 

With thanks and appreciation to all of you!


Rachel E. Skiffer

I recently celebrated my first 100 days at Head-Royce! It is hard to believe how quickly the days have gone by. I marked the occasion with our graduates in Washington, D.C., the venue for one of three receptions we held on the East Coast last week. What a treat it was to connect the present with the past, and how affirming it was to hear from alums how Head-Royce impacted the trajectory of their life journeys.


What I learned on this tour—which could honestly be called an “appreciation” tour— is that our graduates have a deep love for the school. The vast majority of those that I asked connected experiences at Head-Royce—from teachers to classes to clubs to extracurricular activities—with their life now. Hearing that their closest friends were from Head-Royce and not college or later highlighted an important part of the Head-Royce culture—that relationships developed here are both deep and lasting.

Traveling with Coach Mike Talps was a treat…and an incredible draw! The adoration our alums have for Coach Talps is universal. With 42 years at HRS under his belt, he had (and still has) an incredible impact on generations of students.  His impact was among several mentioned by graduates of the School. We heard much appreciation on this trip for the writing skills that alumni developed at Head-Royce, including tales of serving as writing tutors in their first-year dorms. Some of the younger alums now pursuing PhDs discussed APs and the fact that those courses did not help them to accelerate in their majors. This is one of many reasons that we are decoupling our curriculum from the College Board and setting standards of academic rigor that better align with our core educational philosophy—as defined in our strategic plan—of “enhancing and amplifying a student-centered academic program with opportunities for choice, real-world problem solving, creativity and intellectual engagement.” We did have great discussions about how Head-Royce set them on a path of lifelong intellectual inquiry and true adulthood

Our alums were joined in Boston by former 3rd grade teacher Carol Kennedy, and in D.C. by former film and photography teacher, Jeff Key. I loved that siblings and friends in one city on the tour reached out to siblings and friends in other cities to make sure they showed up at the other alumni receptions—and special thanks to the parents who reminded their HRS grads to come out to visit with Coach Talps and me! It was also wonderful to see that older graduates recognized and appreciated the increased diversity of younger graduating classes.

I have been reflecting on the importance of relationship building over these last few months as I get to know members of Head-Royce’s professional community, current students and their families and graduates. If you have a Head-Royce story of connection you want to share, we would love to hear it.

In the meantime, enjoy hearing other stories in our recently launched alumni podcast!