Striving for Excellence

Posted by Dr. Beth Reaves

Each school year we choose to focus on one of our core values as a way to highlight these important attributes throughout our school with students, faculty and staff, and in our daily activities within WSG. This school year we are focusing on the core value of Excellence. Booker T. Washington is noted to have said, “Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.” But what does that really mean to our students? How can we encourage our students to reach for excellence in their own lives and in their school community?

We want our students to understand how to pursue their learning as a way to expand themselves, take ownership of their school studies and ultimately their future lives. We have high expectations for their success at WSG and their ability to grow into their best selves. We also provide important scaffolding along the way as they grow, helping them to bounce back from setbacks and mistakes. Students may be offered opportunities to reflect on their work and identify areas for improvement. They participate in student led conferences, confidently explaining their strengths and areas for growth. They celebrate being on the honor roll, perfect attendance and other achievement measures, but also are also acknowledged for personal growth in a class, excelling as a classroom leader and overcoming a bump in the road. Excellence, they come to understand, is not something that you instantly arrive at. Instead, through hard work, perseverance and an ongoing commitment to growth, students become better at what they undertake. They come to demonstrate their excellence and that excellence is reflected in each student in different ways, as we all have unique gifts and talents. But it is the dedication to not settling for something less than what we deserve and know we are capable of that drives our message to our students.

This week, I attended the NCEA (National Catholic Education Association) Philanthropy Symposium and Seton Awards Gala. Each year NCEA chooses to honor organizations and individuals who have made a significant contribution to Catholic education. This year, our Board Member Emerita Maury Devine was honored as one of the Seton award winners; nominated collectively by WSG, WJA (Washington Jesuit Academy) and Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School for her dedication and commitment to Catholic education as exhibited through her generous philanthropy and tremendous service in each of our schools. At WSG, Maury served as a Board member during an important time of institutional growth, and through her leadership established excellence in governance by serving as an advocate for WSG to others, expanding our circle of benefactors, and helping to create the infrastructure for fundraising at the school. One of Maury’s legacies at WSG is establishing our Auxiliary Board, a group of young professionals who support WSG’s fundraising efforts, which still continues today. Her excellence has inspired others and stimulated the growth of WSG into the school it is today.

As an added benefit of the Seton Awards, Maury selected a WSG student, Za’Niyah Martin, as her Seton Scholars’ Award recipient. Za’Niyah, a current 8th grader at WSG, was recognized for her personal growth in school and her commitment to enhancing the school community through her leadership. Za’Niyah is a member of student council, an honor roll student and an active participant in the WSG community. It was wonderful to see an acknowledgement of a student’s success by someone who has achieved so much success in her life.

As we continue our school year reflecting on excellence, I am reminded that for each us, excellence may be defined uniquely. At the same time, as a school, we want our students to understand that holding themselves accountable to a pursuit of excellence in their learning and academic studies can lead others to success. “Water seeks its own level” and each girl’s own personal achievement may inspire others.

I am deeply appreciative of Maury’s commitment to excellence in her role at WSG and allowing our school to reap those benefits – and for students such as Za’Niyah who demonstrate that same commitment to excellence here at school.