Author Archives: Office of Communications and Marketing

A Note from Our Chaplain: Hope is in the Air

by The Rev. Kathy Boss, Chaplain

The Rev. Kathy Boss

Holi, Passover, Holy Week. This week that bridges March and April of 2021 is steeped in traditions that celebrate liberation from death, darkness, and the oppressive forces of the world. Winter is passing, and Spring, bursting with new life, is on its way, both literally and metaphorically. But this year, the Spring is a muddy one. We are celebrating, even as we wait with bated breath to see what life and love will rise from the devastation and revelations of the pandemic.

Holi, celebrated primarily by Hindus, as well as people from other faiths, is celebrated in an exuberance of color. Most years, the streets of Indian cities swell with crowds who smear one another with an abundance of color and cheer, chasing away winter and welcoming spring. This year the crowds are smaller. Many are celebrating in their homes, using social media to connect and send messages of love and hope to one another. Even as we wait, love is what endures.

Jews have had to find new ways of commemorating the miraculous exodus from Egypt and out of slavery—the Passover, or Pesach. This Festival of Freedom—celebrated across the world in gatherings of family and friends with stories, rituals, and traditional foods—has had to be downsized for many in this time of COVID-19. Some have only been able to be together virtually. There is a great deal of creativity happening; new ways of celebrating are cropping up!

Here at The White Mountain School, one of our students, wanting a live and embodied Pesach, asked me to help put together a Passover celebration for students, especially Jewish students who would not be able to go home for the holiday. We celebrated on Sunday evening, the second night of Passover. He led an amazing and fun service, using a Haggadah (the script and liturgy of the Passover service) he’d put together especially for the School. Our kitchen gathered together the elements of the Seder plate and cooked a delicious meal complete with matzah ball soup, kugel, brisket, charoset, and more. Students told stories, remembered, asked and answered the four questions, drank the four cups of wine (grape juice for our students!), and welcomed Elijah. We even put on a short skit. Again, love and creativity endure. New things grow up out of the winter’s fallow months. We hope to continue this tradition again next year.

Holy Week in the Christian church has also looked very different this year. During this week, we remember Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the last supper with his disciples, his capture and crucifixion, and finally, on Easter Day, we celebrate his resurrection—life and love triumphing over death and suffering. This Easter Sunday, I will preside over Holy Communion, the Eucharist, for the first time as a newly ordained priest. But it will not be in the sanctuary of the All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Littleton. Instead, we will be holding our Easter service under the portico of our church, facing out to the parking lot where cars and people can gather in chairs or in cars, safely distanced. We had thought, perhaps this year, we’d be back inside our churches, but instead, what we have come to appreciate this year, is how deeply our faith and church community has rooted itself inside of each of us. We are together in ways we hadn’t anticipated; community and love continue to thrive.

Hope is in the air. Spring is here, and a new life will grow, rich with color, tradition, memory, community, and ritual remade for this time and this place. Our job now is to continue to nurture the love and life that comes after winter. Much has been revealed over this year. The work has only just begun. Now in the revelations and debris of one of the most difficult years of our age, we begin hopefully, creatively, and carefully to lay the foundation of a bright future for our young people, as we send them into the world.

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

Out of an Abundance of Caution: College Counseling at White Mountain During the Pandemic

By Barbara Buckley, Director of College Counseling


Like many other aspects of our lives, this year’s college application cycle has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. From access to standardized testing, travel restrictions, remote learning, and changes in grading and schedules, our students have had to pivot and adapt to the new normal when applying to colleges and universities.

Last March, when we came face to face with the realities of the pandemic, programs across the country were forced to close or find alternative ways to continue to provide their services. The White Mountain School deliberately and compassionately made the decision to move to remote learning and pass/fail grades. Around the world, SATs and ACTs were canceled. Summer programs shut their doors. College campuses suspended college tours and accepted students’ visits, and admissions representatives discontinued visiting high schools in person. From a college counseling standpoint, it seemed like everything had changed. 

In an effort to provide equitable access to their colleges, many admissions offices made the radical decision to make standardized test scores optional. Some colleges went a step further and refused to even consider standardized test scores, while some states and more selective colleges and universities continued to require those scores. To provide more options for our students, we applied to the College Board and ACT to become a test center, so we were able to administer both of the standardized tests here at White Mountain, in a way that was safe for our students and the general public.

Traditionally, admissions representatives from colleges and universities travel to high schools each fall to provide insight into their programs and campus life. Unable to travel, colleges and universities need to innovate and be creative, so they developed virtual tours, Q&A sessions, webinars, Zoom meetings with admissions reps, and one-to-one Zoom calls with current students and faculty. As the application season progressed, the technology and the quality of admissions offerings improved and became more accessible. Our students took advantage of all of these formats and developed a better, deeper understanding of what each institution had to offer. Although it is not the same as actually walking on a campus, our seniors got some perspective to help them make better decisions.

To be sure that students were applying to a variety of colleges, the students and I used a variety of strategies to develop a list of reach, target, and likely colleges. We looked at their GPAs and PSAT scores to guide us. One huge unknown was the lack of grades during the fourth quarter. While this was explained on the transcript, students and parents were understandably concerned. To help address this situation, the Common Application added a section where students could include a narrative explaining how the pandemic had disrupted their academic progression. Ultimately, after talking with colleagues in college admissions offices, they concluded that the students’ personal statements, grade trajectory, and record of sports and other extracurricular activities such as volunteer work, leadership positions, jobs, and clubs would be significantly more instrumental this year in deciding who they would admit.

So, how did the pandemic impact the admissions process this year? 

  • The application process took longer, so many colleges and universities extended their application deadlines. 
  • Without standardized test scores to use as a benchmark, college and university admissions officers took more time to read each application.
  • Students with high GPAs and low standardized test scores were able to apply to colleges that, in other years, would have been out of reach.
  • Selective colleges and universities were overwhelmed with applications—some reporting increases of 25% up to 50%.
  • Lesser-known, less competitive colleges and universities reported a significant decrease in applications.
  • Many more students opted to take gap years or attend community colleges because they were reluctant to spend a lot of money to attend classes remotely. Others reported not feeling confident in committing to a college or university they had not visited.

What do our students need to know?

  • Just because scores are not required, does not mean colleges are lowering their standards. Having solid, high GPAs and taking high-level, rigorous courses are more important than ever! Colleges and universities will compare the courses a student took with the courses the School offers.
  • Students’ Personal Statements (college essays) are the best ways to convey who they are and how they will be successful in college and beyond. Don’t wait until September of the senior year to start this essay, and be prepared to make significant rewrites! Students should keep track of the noteworthy things they have done so they will have ample material to write about.
  • Take the SAT and/or ACT if possible, especially if colleges and universities the student is interested in applying to traditionally require them. This is a way for students to see how they compare to students who have been accepted there. They will need to submit their scores to all the colleges that go back to requiring them. 
  • Students need to stand out! What can the student do at school and during the summer that will set them above and apart from other students? Join clubs and apply for leadership positions here at School. Make careful decisions about the courses they are taking—especially during their senior year. Common Application has sections where students will include everything they have done that illustrates how they are different, better, and more desirable than any other student.
  • When supplements are required by colleges and universities, students need to take care when writing them because they are the key to a successful application.

Looking forward—some general, good information:

  • Most colleges and universities are continuing to waive the requirements for standardized test scores. The College Board has permanently discontinued the SAT Essay and the SAT Subject tests.
  • When students sign up for courses at White Mountain, they should carefully consider what they are taking. Are these the best courses I can take to expand my scope of knowledge and demonstrate my academic skills? 
  • Rising seniors should be aware that they should not make any changes to their course schedules after applying to colleges. Colleges will expect students will successfully complete all courses on their transcripts!
  • Develop a balanced college list of between 10 and 15 colleges and universities. 20-25% reach schools, 50-60% target schools, 20-25% likely schools.
  • Students should apply to colleges they want to go to! 
  • Visit college and university campuses. Many are fully open for tours, and some are open for outside or self-guided tours. Check with the college or university before you go to find out the status of the school because the level of openness changes from day to day.
  • Students should make themselves known to the admissions officers at the colleges they are interested in attending. They should attend programs the admissions office provides and try to visit the campuses. Students should make sure they make note of the names of the admissions officers they speak to and that the admissions officers know their names. Be polite! Be on time for meetings! Ask well-informed questions!
  • Many colleges offer summer pre-college programs for high school students. This is a great opportunity to get to know the campus, professors, and expectations of these colleges and universities. Many of the college programs are offering remote courses this summer. 

Now, as one admissions cycle ends and another begins, I can say with confidence that yes, the college application process was dramatically different this year, but it was also very much the same. The seniors and I researched colleges and universities that offered courses and majors they were in, that were located in areas they wanted to be in, and had a campus environment that they would be comfortable and eager to be in. Families and I conferred about early decisions and early applications. The students finalized college lists, wrote personal statements, completed their Common Applications, and then, with a combination of trepidation and excitement, finally hit “submit.” Then they waited. As usual, they were offered admission to some colleges and denied at others. As the admissions decisions continue to come in, I am in awe of the achievements of our students and how far they have come. It has been a joy to walk this uncharted path with them this year, and I am eager to start the journey anew with the rising seniors.

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

Engaging in Vigilant Self-Awareness

by Kim Cooper, Director of Equity and Inclusion

For the past twenty years, The White Mountain School has celebrated and honored Martin Luther King. Jr. Day by suspending our typical academic day in order to engage with Dr. King’s mission and vision of racial equity and justice. This year, MLK Day fell on January 15th, and we knew that not all of our students would be back on campus and out of their COVID quarantine. Because of this, we decided to postpone our programming until February, when the majority of our students would be able to engage in this important work with in-person workshops. This programming occurred recently on Tuesday, February 23rd, and Wednesday, February, 24th. With the combined efforts of the Equity and Inclusion Student Delegates, leaders from the Black Student Union, and a handful of faculty and staff members, we planned programming with this central question in mind: how do we inspire our community to actively engage in the conversations, to think critically about the inequities and injustices in this nation, and—as the powerful Dena Simmons puts it—to “engage in vigilant self-awareness”? 

Our work with equity, inclusion, and justice aims to create a culture of belonging for all members of our community. In order for people from marginalized groups to feel like they truly belong in our community, we must be cognizant of tokenization; tokenization, after all, is a real barrier to belonging. Tokenization says that we are “checking a box” without caring enough about the impact of our actions, or language, or our programs. This, for me, reads more as tolerance, as false inclusion, rather than belonging. So, knowing that, how do we move forward planning programming to celebrate a man whom this country loves to tokenize? How do we move toward our vision of a “culture of belonging” when, regardless of how effective our workshops may be, we still have a “one-off” day that may disappear from folks’ consciousness the minute after it ends? One of our Equity and Inclusion Student Delegates, Sylvie Cromer ’22, wrote about the complexities of this national holiday and how it impacts the work that we do here at the School. Here is an excerpt from an article that she wrote for a student-produced newsletter, The WMS Address

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a celebrated national holiday in the United States, a day dedicated to the progress MLK Jr. made throughout the Civil Rights Movement and all that he sacrificed for the country, including his own life. The White Mountain School is working to create an environment on MLK Day in which we are working actively, rather than passively, to further his mission for justice.

Across the country, many corporations and organizations will often put out a statement about Martin Luther King Jr. as a PR initiative rather than a legitimate effort to fight against the evils of American capitalism in conjunction with systemic racism that MLK was eventually shot for fighting against. Capitalist corporations and institutions that have historically and currently exploited workers commonly cherry-pick quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. solely to appease public opinion so that they can continue to accumulate wealth through rampant exploitation. For example, Amazon, a company infamous for its mistreatment and exploitation of its workers, doesn’t deliver packages on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a shallow and meaningless “action” step alone, but even more meaningless coming from a company that exhibits so many of the behaviors Martin Luther King Jr. so strongly opposed.

This is the challenge that The White Mountain School faces: how do we reject and actively eliminate the white-washing and co-opting of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideas? Is the act of having a “day” dedicated to MLK’s life inherently co-opting it? We considered these questions, and more, as we planned our programming.

Our response to these questions was complicated and complex, but these facets rose to the top of our priorities: ensure that we are not putting unwanted work on our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students, faculty, and staff; eliminate as much room as possible for students to disengage and be passive participants; keep the workshops focused on addressing hard truths while also celebrating Black joy and resistance. We decided to make our workshops more dialogue-based rather than the presentation style we’d been using for the past several years. We asked workshop facilitators to build their workshops around a common resource—an excerpt from a podcast, a short article, an episode of television, music, or Ted Talk, etc.—and then to cultivate questions for participants to wrestle with in response to this resource. Some of the workshops we created were White Women + Racism: What is a “Karen”?, Reparations, and Racism in the Queer Community & Homophobia in BIPOC communities. You can find a full list of the workshops and their descriptions here.

In order to help students have the right tools to engage in this kind of dialogue, we brought in Nicole Furlonge, director of the Klingenstein Center at the Teachers College of Columbia and the author of the book Race Sounds: The Art of Listening in African-American Literature, who studies and teaches about ethical listening and the act of listening as civic engagement. Nicole facilitated what she called a Listening Salon with our community and used music as the medium to discuss the complexities of listening. Through listening to Nina Simone’s “I Wonder How it Feels to be Free,” Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth,” and Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” we reflected on what we heard and what we wondered, which layers of the music got our attention and which one’s we disregarded, how the listening made us feel in the body, how we might aim to listen with our body and not merely with our ears. Nicole’s expertise allowed us to ask some beautiful and essential questions about listening as civic engagement: How do we coach ourselves to listen to not only what is familiar but also that which we don’t recognize? How do we hold two seemingly contradictory truths at the same time? How do we tell ourselves it is okay for two different things to be true? What happens if we see listening not as an act of agreement or complicity but as an act of understanding and exploration? 

As I reflect back on Nicole’s workshop and the moments of success in these challenging and beautiful workshops, two things Nicole said land most profoundly on my soul. At one point, she said that listening is an agreement to meet each other around the concept of being a human being. Later, in a different context, she said that to listen is to recognize the full humanity of a person. I often find myself in conversations with folks, especially young people, about how hard it is to listen to someone you don’t agree with or respect. And doing this is an incredibly difficult skill—there’s no doubt about that. But in the work of equity, justice, and belonging, it is imperative that we constantly practice that skill. And, if we return to Nicole’s idea that listening is not the same thing as agreeing, it might give us more space to work through that challenge. Perhaps we can look at listening to someone with whom we disagree an opportunity to understand a new perspective, to “travel” out into the world of opinions and experience. If nothing else, understanding other people, ideas, and perspectives will only help us to understand our own better. It is that nuanced understanding of self and others, I believe, that is needed in order to truly strive toward King’s beloved community, here at The White Mountain School, and extended across the globe. 

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

Finding Normalcy in an Abnormal Year: A Return to Learning

by Mike Peller, Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning

In this year described platitudinously now as “a year like no other,” one is more likely to hear “you’re muted” than “you’re welcome.” Those who typically seek dynamic innovation now yearn for “precedented” times, and even positive change right now is felt by many not as progress but instead as volatile and uncertain. It’s easy to think there is no “normal” left. Given that, how do we stay grounded? For me, staying grounded is simple: I return to moments of learning. That is the normalcy I grasp. How lucky I am to be at White Mountain because these moments of learning are rich and abundant. I offer this article as an opportunity to ground you, too.

As a preface, just as a historian sifts through primary documents to understand a perspective in history, I have often found myself sifting through students’ biweekly comments. (What are these, you might ask. Thanks for asking.) The biweekly comments are written by teachers to students every other week, and they include areas of strength as well as opportunities for improvement. Their purpose was aptly described by a parent: “This type of communication is so useful in helping [parents] stay connected with our student and avoid end-of-quarter surprises.” 

In reading the following examples of learning and even some of the—dare I say—banalities of school, you will hear our mission echoing loudly. In these excerpts, taken directly from feedback written by our teachers to our students, you will hear words describing inquiry and engagement. You will bear witness, at least through words, to students being curious, courageous, and compassionate. And through this, I hope you too will find comfort in the normalcy. 

(Note: I took the liberty to bold and underline certain words in the student feedback to help draw attention to our mission.)

Geometry: Students were working on congruence and similarity in triangles, culminating in a project where they used similar triangles in order to indirectly measure the height of various trees on campus. Sam, the teacher, described one student’s work in the following way: You’ve continued to do excellent work. Your most recent assessment (#3) showed true mastery of triangle congruence and a solid understanding of parallel and perpendicular lines. You were engaged and working hard on the Tree Height project, and I’m excited to see what you come up with during our 3-D Modeling mini-LASR!

English II: Students began reading Persepolis, a graphic memoir by Marjane Satrapi. They recently completed their personal or creative narratives as a response to Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. Daria, the teacher, described one student’s work in the following way: “You have engaged in asking questions and offering solutions in class discussion, and you made steady progress in your personal narrative work over this time period. You showed receptiveness to feedback in your narrative drafting process as well as keen self-awareness.”

Chemistry: Students finished work on classifying matter during the past two weeks and have moved on to temperature and heat, including specific heat calculations. Emily, the teacher, captured the work of one student as follows: You continue to do excellent work exemplified by your willingness to ask questions and engage with the material even while remote. I have enjoyed working with you, and hopefully, you are looking forward to our lab this week on micro-rockets.

Spanish II: Students focused on describing preferences. To practice this skill, they have been talking about their preferences in relation to pets, seasons, and activities thus far. The teacher, Leah, described one standout student as such: “You continue to demonstrate the habits of an engaged student. You find joy in your language learning while also improving your skills. In class, you continue to engage actively throughout and bring joy to those around you with your positive attitude and willingness to play in the language. Keep up the great work!” 

Environmental Literature: After students wrapped up their rhetorical analysis essays, they began reading the class novel Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. Students researched background information for the text, presenting on topics such as “The Sublime,” “Eco Lit,” and “The Ecology of Florida.” Students also continued making progress on their self-selected writing assignments, writing on prompts related to Annihilation and major essays from prominent environmental writers (Henry David Thoreau, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Annie Dillard, etc.) Meredith, the teacher, wrote to one student: You’ve continued to be a strong, steadfast presence in Environmental Literature. You’ve been consistent in your class participation in discussion, both in-person and digitally on myWMS, and you have strong ideas about our class novel. Your rhetorical analysis essay was well-organized and contained plentiful examples, but there are places where you can shift into deeper analysis/assessment of what the speaker does rather than simply recounting their methods. If you are interested in revising a section or the entirety of the essay, let me know and we can discuss this in class. 

U.S. History–The Presidency: Students recently explored some of the nuances of historical thinking while researching the president as a problem-solver, setting the stage for our final project, a student-designed stand-alone gallery exhibit relating to the theme of “Presidential Leadership as a World Power,” focusing on an international event which tested the leadership of a president in the years between 1946 and 2005. JJ, the teacher, described one student’s exemplary work as such: You have found your stride in this class, and the combination of high interest and high motivation is great to see. Your work on Andrew Jackson was of remarkably high quality, bringing in nuances of a fascinating and troubling era with sophistication and control. You make the most of processes and intermediate steps, so you’re never rushed and are routinely deliberate and on-track. As we round out the course with our final projects, I‘m eager to see what you share regarding multiple narratives and the complexity of modern presidential leadership.

As we approach the one-year mark of shutting down in-person school and moving to emergency remote learning, despite the exhaustion that so many of us feel, I am inspired and energized by the amazing work of our students and faculty. So I end with the paradox. While this was written as a way to add normalcy to an abnormal year, the paradox, of course, is that students being able to learn in person with such purpose and meaning during a global pandemic is not at all normal. It is nothing short of miraculous.

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

A Note from Our Chaplain: Slowing Down for Deeper Time

by The Rev. Kathy Boss, Chaplain

The Rev. Kathy Boss

In Littleton, New Hampshire, right down the road from The White Mountain School, there is a quintessentially New England covered bridge, which spans the Ammonoosuc River. A few weeks ago, I stopped on that bridge to look out over the river and take in the beautiful winter scenery. Ice has taken over most of the river, but the water runs fast, and it has found many paths through, around, and over the ice. The water is crystal clear, and looking down into it you can see beautiful blooms of ice, smooth as summer clouds coating the bottom’s river rocks—rocks worn smooth by years of flowing mountain water.

Something caught my eye as I was looking out at this beautiful scene: movement on the water. It was a small duck swimming furiously upstream. There is no doubt that we, too, are in some icy rapids right now. Things feel like we are swimming upstream, to an unfamiliar place, no less. But this little duck was onto something.

It didn’t spend all of its time on the surface. Instead, it would frequently dive down and swim below the surface to the place where the ice was billowy and the water far more still. While it was under the water, I would lose track of it. When it popped back up, it was many meters further upriver. For several seconds the duck would swim on the surface almost playfully, skittering now and again with its feet across a rock just below the surface or hopping onto an ice flow for a quick preen before jumping back into the water and diving deep into that calm space below the rapids.

These times can feel like that rush of the river skimming around jagged ice flows, foaming as it tumbles over itself—so much to navigate, so much to fight against. It is especially hard for our young people as they also negotiate the transition from childhood to adulthood. This little duck who blessed my walk around Littleton beautifully illustrates the need to slow time and life down sometimes, to go deep.

The Exploratory Learning (EL) Courses we are offering at White Mountain this semester give students time to slow down to go deep for a little while before resurfacing. Their time outside on mountains, trails, even cliff faces, immerses them in a world with more organic, natural softer edges where they can lose themselves for a little while and resurface with more energy and lightness of being. This kind of deep time is critical to our well-being, especially now.

It is Lent in the Christian tradition. It is a time when we are asked to slow down to consider, to give up things that clutter and bustle in our lives, and take up compassion and contemplation, to remember the suffering and love of Jesus and the kinship of all human beings. Seasons like this, where we are asked to go deep, are a part of almost every religion, as are daily practices like prayer and meditation. They also create spaces for slowing down, for deeper time.

I invite you in this season of lengthening days, as the rapids and icy waters of COVID-19 stretch out before us to find ways to go deep, to find places where the water is calmer, the ice smoother. Before you know it, we will be up the river and ready to fly, and there will be a whole new world to greet.

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

The White Mountain School Wins 3 International Marketing Awards

InspirED Award Winner 2020

The White Mountain School recently won three—two gold and one silver—2020 InspirED School Marketers Brilliance Awards for its admissions viewbook, winter 2020 issue of Echoes, and a featured article within the latter about the School’s robotics programs. The Brilliance Awards are the only international competition that recognizes excellence in private and independent school marketing and communications exclusively and are sponsored by InspirED School Marketers, a website that provides “brilliant ideas and brain food” for private school administrators around the globe. 

“I’m so glad that the team of people who produced this work will receive some recognition, particularly Luis Ruuska, our communications and marketing manager,” said Head of School John Drew. “White Mountain has good stories to tell about how we help students learn and grow, and it is essential that we tell them to help this community thrive.”

The entries were judged by a volunteer panel of 69 marketing experts from around the world who are professionals in private schools or businesses that specialize in school marketing. The entries were scored on creativity, persuasiveness, design, copy, photography, and overall appeal. 

In judging White Mountain’s admissions viewbook, which received a gold award, judges said: 

  • “Beautifully designed and written. I was an engaged reader from cover to cover. A good viewbook sparks further curiosity about the school. After reading this piece, I certainly want to learn more about this wonderful school.”
  • “Imagine you could magically teleport yourself to a far-away school and stay as long as it took you to really have a good understanding of that school’s culture, ethos, priorities, program, and outcomes. Somehow, The White Mountain School pulled off that magic with this viewbook. Through a perfect balance of philosophy and program, bold claims and ‘that’s so cool!’ examples, they managed to give me an awesome ‘visit’ experience from nine states away. As a mom, triple bonus points for the Essential Skills + Habits.”
  • “White Mountain pulls off a difficult feat with this piece — putting a lot of information about its program into a piece that still feels cohesive and allows the reader to walk away with an understanding of what this school offers and why that might be different from the school down the street. There is also a balance of ‘Independent School’ language and colloquialism that conveys both rigor and accessibility. Your child will get an excellent education in an environment where people don’t take themselves too seriously, and that’s clear in this piece.”

In judging the winter 2020 issue of Echoes, the School’s magazine, which also received a gold award, judges said: 

  • “A really cool and different cover stood out in the crowd. Other design elements – including photos and artwork – made this a beautiful and well-designed piece. This magazine also carried a theme through the feature more than almost all of the others – this made it more readable. It didn’t feel like I was skipping from one unrelated topic to another.”
  • “Gorgeous design, clever content. Especially impressive for a small school.”
  • “Love the graphic cover and layout of the table of contents and sections — very eye-catching with lots of white space and original! I like the “state of the state” from admissions following the introduction of the new head — great strategy to accentuate the strength of the school. Love the use of color, illustration, and terrific photography in the spaces piece and how its focus is not just on the space, but on the student creativity and ingenuity they inspire. Great idea taking what could have been a construction story about the new dorm and turning it into a profile piece about the CFO!”

In judging the Echoes article “‘It’s Really Not About the Robots’: How White Mountain’s Robotics Programs Are Inspiring Compassion, Courage, and Curiosity,” which received a silver award, judges said: 

  • “Loved this story and how it shows STEAM activities like robotics have a “soft skills” side. I really appreciated the inclusion of student voices in this speech. Your opening is brilliant and I loved the descriptive imagery.”
  • “Very strong intro paragraph. I loved seeing a female student in robotics as the lead photo.”

To view the complete list of 2020 InspirED Brilliance Awards winners, visit:

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

A Note from Our Chaplain: Tending to Mending

by The Rev. Kathy Boss, Chaplain

The Rev. Kathy Boss

Mahatma Gandhi sitting peacefully in his loincloth spinning; it is one of his iconic postures. Gandhi began spinning while he was in prison, using the thread he spun to weave his own clothing. This simple and repetitive act of making khadi, the homespun cloth from which clothing had been made in India for many years, became something much bigger. It became a proclamation and a path to independence for India, a path to peace, and to greater connection.

In the Christian scriptures of the Gospel, we encounter the first apostles as they are called by Jesus to follow him. They are brothers, fishermen, who have just come in from fishing. James and John are mending their nets. This was a daily act for fisherfolk—finding the tears and the holes, repairing them, looking for the next one. Nets would have been laid across the laps of several people as they chatted, sang, and mended. From this place of mending, Jesus called them to follow him. Jesus invited them to become fishers of people—an enterprise that would take a different kind of mending—mending the nets of love, compassion, and relationship that they would need as fishers of people.

These acts of sewing, mending, weaving, spinning show up in the sacred texts of almost every religion. Metaphors based on these acts are some of the most familiar. We spin stories, our lives are tapestries, we mend our relationships, and so much more. But this familiarity, the domesticity of them, can make them easy to brush aside. Yet, little ordinary moments of mending—of repairing a hurt, reconnecting with a friend, making a small gesture of love when someone is sad—these are more important now than ever before.

There is no getting around the fact that this past year has been hard on schools, that it has created wear and tear in the hearts and bodies of students, parents, faculty, and staff across the globe. In the last six months as chaplain at The White Mountain School, I have witnessed something that, I believe, sets this school apart—a willingness to tend to the mending, to pay attention, and respond with calm, compassion, communication, and, yes, love.

When the pressure of COVID-19, of the political climate, and even of those everyday stresses of life at school arise, we assess and address, stitching together, spinning new thread for a better fitting garment, responding to the needs of the community. It can be tedious work. It can feel overwhelming looking at the pile of mending to be done. But there is also a beautiful creativity to it, a creativity that will make our school and students stronger and more compassionate, curious, and creative in the long run.

In Japan, there is an art of mending called Kintsugi, in which broken pottery is mended using precious metals like gold and silver that have been mixed into a strong and enduring lacquer. The result is something different, but equally, if not more beautiful. White Mountain and schools across the world have endured much, but there is something in the mending and the healing that is making us stronger, more beautiful, more connected, and that is where the hope lies.

I invite you to consider what needs mending in your life. It may literally be a piece of clothing, or a toaster in your kitchen, or it might be a relationship, or a creative impulse you’ve had for years but let fall into disrepair. Take it out, love it, see it, and begin the work of mending. It may be slow work; it may seem too simple for such a grave time as this. Try it anyway. These are the  acts that will rebuild us, that will make us anew in courage, compassion, and creativity.

Be well, and take care.

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

Bo “Eric” Yan ’24 Wins VEX Championship in 2020 World Robot Contest Finals

This story was originally written and submitted by Bob Yan P’24. If you have a story about your student that you are interested in sharing with the School, please submit it to

Bo "Eric" Yan '24

Bo “Eric” Yan ’24

First-year student Bo “Eric” Yan ’24 recently won the VEX Robotics Competition Championship in the finals of the 2020 World Robot Contest (WRC), a competition widely acclaimed by mainstream media as the Olympics of robotics competitions, competing under the name of The White Mountain School. Held since 2015, the 2020 WRC Finals—held this year on December 3 in Foshan, China—attracted more than 120,000 competitors from over 20 countries around the world, retaining its status as the largest official global robotics competition. The VEX Championship is one of many sub-tournaments at the WRC and is also one of the most influential global robotics tournaments.

As part of the Vex Championship, Eric and his teammate competed in a challenge called Change Up against other contestants on a 12’x12’field. In Change Up, there are 16 red and 16 blue balls, and 9 goals placed around the field. The ball must hit a goal to be scored, and each team occupies a goal of the same color. If a team wins three goals in any direction (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal), they can acquire a six-point bonus for a connected row. According to the rules, all teams must independently design intelligent robots with different functions, mainly on automatic robots and manually controlled robots, and then compete with other teams in two-minute matches.

Eric and his teammate finished in fifth place in the qualifying round. In the knockout, they successfully got through to the second round where they would face the top qualifying team. In the automatic part, the pair encountered a tricky situation when their robot suddenly had a minor malfunction. However, Eric and his teammate quickly recovered from this challenge and regained the lead in the closing seconds of the game. In the championship and runner-up final, they played steadily and strategically to victory. This championship win was the best possible outcome for the pair after three months of designing, constructing, and refining their robot. Just two days before the WRC, they only rested 2-3 hours each day in order to debug the robot and prepare it for peak performance during the competition. The Vex Championship win validated these months of constant dedication.

White Mountain was honored, along with Fuzhou No.8 High School, and appeared on the official championship certificates presented to Eric and his teammate. The pair have been supported in their work by teacher Lin Qiang from Create Future Robots Club.

Eric has been interested in robots for over a decade and has been participating in VEX Robotics Competitions since the fifth grade. In 2017, he won the gold award in the VEX Robotics World Championship Final. In recalling that experience, he says: “I saw all kinds of robots from all over the world, and everyone communicated happily, just like a big party.” At that time, he told himself that he must stand on the stage of the VEX Robotics World Championship Final again. Now he is very close to his goal.

Next, Eric will continue to play in the regional selection of the 2021 VEX Robotics World Championship. We wish him luck and success in his progression toward the finals.

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

Teaching and Assessing What Matters (Part 2 )

by Mike Peller, Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning; Sam Talcott, Mathematics & Robotics Teacher, and; Matthew Williams, English Teacher

Read Part One Here

White Mountain is helping to lead national conversations on student-driven inquiry. This December, we presented at TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) Conference, a national conference focused on boarding school education. The presentation—Change Management in the Competency Movement: Accelerating through Crises, Responding to Crises—explored how competency-based education loosens the constraints with regard to what we teach, what students read, and what projects students choose to engage in. In February, we will present on a similar topic at the annual NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) Conference. While schools around the country and world are exploring the opportunities and implementation of competency learning, we embrace competency learning because it provides a method to truly unlock student-driven inquiry. Let me give you two examples of this.

Consider Sam Talcott’s statistics class. Sam engages students in learning through a hands-on approach. Motivated by 2020’s reckoning on race, Sam altered his course to focus on the data behind structural racism and mass incarceration. His students learned and applied the same statistical skills—frequency tables, box plots, linear regression, confidence intervals—but on real data sets of national relevance. Students had agency in what questions they wanted to ask about the data, and thus, what variables would be analyzed. Sam recognized that although the data, context, and conclusions drawn from each individual student project would be different, the skills they used were the same. This is the essence of competency learning—putting an emphasis on underlying skills instead of the specific content through which students demonstrate those skills. And what it allows and unlocks: authentic student-driven inquiry.

At the conference, Sam presented on some of the other benefits he’s seen in his classroom as a result of shifting towards a competency-based model. In the past, when Sam asked students to reflect on how they were doing in his classes, he often heard “I need to do better on tests” or “I’m really good at projects.” Students’ attention went to the method of assessment, not to the actual skills Sam wanted them to learn. This, of course, makes sense because when they looked at their gradebook, that is what they saw. For example, it might show: tests = 85%, quizzes = 78%, homework = 92%. But each of those methods are simply the mechanism by which we can assess a student’s skills in what truly matters: our Essential Skills and Habits. When his students look at their gradebook now, they instead see their scores and feedback on the underlying skills.

The result of this difference is subtle yet transformational: students can see where their strengths are and what they need to focus on. Sam has found, because of the shift to competency learning, that he is much more likely to hear students say, “I need to get better at using the rules of probability” than “How do I turn my B to an A?” The move to competency learning has opened up opportunities for more student ownership and direction. Students are encouraged to monitor their progress on the skills covered and given the option to design their own assignments to demonstrate proficiency in skills they haven’t yet mastered. As an example, one student felt that she had improved in one of the class competencies—quantitative data and box plots—since her last assessment. She’s passionate about animals and, after some searching, she was able to find a dataset of zoo animal life expectancies by species, class, and gender that she could use for her analysis. This was a project the student developed entirely on her own, and was based on her interests; it also targeted a specific skill, aligned to the core knowledge of the course that she knew she needed to improve on. This is truly a radical change that is so empowering!

Or consider Matthew William’s Creating New Worlds class. In this course, students grappled with the question, “Can we create an equitable world?” In order to answer this question, students read a variety of short stories and watched several short movie clips. While doing this, students were simultaneously creating their own fictional worlds that were designed around a real-world issue in hopes of finding a solution to this issue in our reality. Matthew activated students through the medium of fiction to enter into the critical conversations of creating a just world. Students were able to pick meaningful topics to them and bring their worlds to life in whatever medium they saw fit as long as they were demonstrating their understanding of the competencies assessed.

One student in the class wanted to explore the topic of police brutality. While this student is a strong analytical writer, creative writing didn’t come naturally to her. She had the ideas in her head but didn’t know how to express them on paper. This student chose to engage in this class by creating a portfolio of amazing artwork that highlighted the beauty and struggles of her planet and then complimented her artwork with analytical writing explaining what she had created and how it was metaphorical for the real-world issues she was creating. Thus, the student was able to leverage their strengths while still demonstrating her mastery of the competencies being assessed in the course.

In fact, Matthew’s classes are over the brim with student-driven inquiry. Rather than assigning all students the exact same homework (which is a model built of efficiency, not efficacy), he allows students to choose from a well-curated “playlist.” Students have agency in choosing from a list of different writing assignments that demonstrate understanding of the text they are reading. Each option is labeled with different competencies, so students can pick assignments they are interested in pursuing while simultaneously picking which competencies they want to work on for that week. This gives students the opportunity to choose how they want to engage with the material, as well as push themselves on a daily basis to demonstrate and/or improve on their courses chosen competencies. This is a brilliant solution for differentiating the learning to allow for both student interest and student need.

Of course, we are a community of adult learners as well. Our teachers model the same curiosity and thirst for learning as our students. With increasing urgency, we seek to make sense of critical questions: How might we create mission-driven cohesive programs throughout our school, and thus a cohesive singular program, that inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion? How might we create a truly inclusive community where all students and faculty feel a true sense of belonging? How might we actualize the critical work of anti-racism throughout our school? How might we create equitable grading practices? How might we inspire students to engage civically?

To inspire and encourage our faculty this year to grapple with these questions, we built an in-house four-day White Mountain Equity and Inquiry conference. The conference will support faculty in wrestling with our overarching focus this year: How might I lead with anti-racist actions while teaching and living with compassion and humility? While this question that was written in July continues to feel like a strong guiding question as we examine it in December, we know that it is just lip-service if we do not provide intentional school-wide learning to support faculty in this work. The idea behind the White Mountain Equity and Inquiry conference is this: transformation only happens when learning and conversations and shared across all members of an organization. How many times have you sent people to a conference—spending lots of money on a select few—only to have them return to the torrent of school-life and not having the time and space for their learning to provide institutional change? What if, instead, the conference is brought to campus so that everyone can engage and thus increase the likelihood of institutional change?

Over the first week of January, all faculty will engage in the White Mountain Equity and Inquiry conference. Faculty will be presenting to one another, elevating the wisdom in the room. We also will bring in expert keynotes to motivate and inspire our collective focus. Topics and speakers include:

  • Grading for Equity with Joe Feldman and Mark Boswell from The Crescendo Group
  • Four-Dimensional Education with Charles Fadell from Curriculum ReDesign
  • A discussion on equity in the outdoors with Mirna Valerio, and
  • Building an anti-racist school, with Paul Gorski from The Equity Literacy Institute

Our commitment to student-driven inquiry (as a central ethos) and competency-based education (as the method for actualizing student-driven inquiry) is grounded in equity. We unapologetically engage in work outside and alongside the canons, thus allowing students to pursue that which is interesting to them as well as focusing on topics critical for us all to wrestle with, such as climate change and anti-racism. We loosen the constraints with regard to what we teach, what students read, and what projects students choose to engage in. We throw fuel on the flame of student-driven inquiry.

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

A Note from Our Chaplain: In a Time of Waiting

by The Rev. Kathy Boss, Chaplain

In the Episcopal Tradition in December, we celebrate Advent. Advent is a time of anticipation and transition—a time to take stock and to remember what is important as we prepare for the promise of Christmas. Each of the four Sundays before Christmas, we light a candle. On the first Sunday of December, we light a candle for Hope; on the second, we light a candle for Peace; on the third, for Joy. Finally, that weekend before Christmas, as the days begin to get lighter, we light a candle for the greatest of these, Love. 

Christianity is not the only religion with a tradition of taking stock in December and lighting candles that bring warmth, hope, peace, joy, and love into our homes. The menorah is lit in Jewish homes across the world, celebrating Hanukkah and the rededication of the second temple. The story is that for eight days, the Maccabeans held their ground against the Syrian-Greek occupiers, refusing to leave the temple. Despite having enough oil for only one day, they were able to keep the lights lit for eight. All over the world, cultures celebrate the winter solstice, that moment when the day begins, once again, to lengthen, and the night to retreat.

Our students are back home now, taking a deep breath and enjoying family. These teenage years are never easy. They are fundamentally a time of transition and anticipation. And this past year has been one of the hardest in many, many years. Advent, Hanukkah, Solstice celebrations, family gatherings, and traditions help to gather us in and remind us that, while there is much work to be done, there is also an abundance of hope, peace, joy, and love.

We do not know what next semester will bring. We hope that the vaccine will quickly stem the tide of COVID-19, and we all will be back together on our beautiful campus, able to see one another’s smiles and sit around the table together. But we are also at peace with the knowledge that this may not happen and take so much joy in the community here at The White Mountain School. Love does see us through. And we have teachers, staff, and administrators who love and are passionate about these young people.

I invite you, whatever your tradition or your beliefs, to consider how hope, peace, joy, and love continue to show up in your lives. Light a candle or two, remember, imagine, and celebrate the promise of warmth and light that the longer days bring.

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.