Five months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the class of 2021 at The Franciscan School started their final year, unsure of what the year would hold and waiting for life to finally return to normal.
The class was prepared to say goodbyes to friends and experiences at the end of their time at TFS, but between new learning formats and cancelled after-school activities, the pandemic forced them to part ways with things much earlier than they planned – starting at the very beginning of the school year.
“It was challenging not being able to participate in sports this year, having to miss out on the awesome field trips that eighth-graders usually take, and not being able to interact with all of the cohorts,” says Megan Diamond, an eighth-grade student who has been at TFS since kindergarten. “But I am fortunate to have a lot of wonderful friends in my class.”
TFS’ new hybrid learning set-up required students to adjust to less interaction with friends and classmates – not to mention a completely new learning environment. But the class of 2021 took it all in stride.
A Year of Resilience
“This eighth grade glass has shown resilience and grit in the most unusual of school years,” says Linda Sullivan, eighth-grade language arts teacher at TFS. “I am incredibly proud of them for maintaining their faith and their sense of humor throughout the year.”
“While they may have missed their friends due to the cohort and distance learning situation, they have maintained positive attitudes about learning and have worked hard to be successful,” adds eighth-grade math teacher Patsy Thieken.
But for many students, the biggest challenge they’ve had to overcome this year wasn’t the pandemic – but eighth-grade science.
“Science was the most challenging part of my eighth-grade year,” says Ben Roberts. “I have enjoyed learning about all the concepts, but I’ve had to push myself to get the grades I desire.”
Everett Emerson agrees. “Keeping up with science was the hardest part of this year,” he says.
Eighth-grade science teacher Carolyn Moser doesn’t deny it – her class is a challenging one, she explains.
“I have set the bar high, but these students never cease to amaze me with their determination to be the best they can be. They are adaptable to whatever happens – and they amaze me by continuing to grow and learn leaps and bounds even during these unusual circumstances. They have embraced learning and have excelled in every way.”
Lori Giannaccini, eighth-grade social studies teacher, agrees with Moser. “I have had the pleasure of teaching most of these young men and women twice in their academic career at TFS. They are one of the most motivated classes I have ever taught.”
Looking Back and Looking Ahead
Though their final year has been filled with challenges and sacrifices, members of the class of 2021 look back on their years at TFS and remember all of the other moments that made their time at TFS special – attending morning prayer, visiting Blue Jay Point, playing sports, and making life-long friendships.
“I will miss the whole community of students and staff who have played a huge part in shaping me into who I am today,” Diamond says.
As for the staff and faculty at TFS, saying these goodbyes is just as hard.
“I can only imagine the wonderful year we would have had without COVID. On top of their desire to succeed, I find this class to be caring and kind – they give me renewed hope and optimism for the future,” Moser says. “This is a group that teachers hate to say goodbye to.”
Principal Mike Watson notes that while every class has a personality, the class of 2021’s personality is particularly unique – and particularly special.
“Generally, this personality is defined by the most outgoing members of the class. They tend to set the tone and the rest of the class often follows their lead… but this is not so with our current eighth-graders,” Watson explains. “This is a class of quiet leaders and tremendous perseverance. They have weathered the storm of the pandemic for more than one year, navigating the hybrid learning environment with hard work and a great outlook. I am so impressed with how they have responded to the various challenges of this year – they truly represent the mission of our school and do so under the most difficult of circumstances. We are so proud of all they have accomplished and know that they have bright futures ahead.”