Greenwich Country Day School parents and faculty & staff members gathered virtually and in person, respectively, Thursday, Oct. 7 for the school’s Annual Meeting. The evening included student performances and remarks by Board of Trustees President Vicki Craver, Annual Fund Parent Chair Magdalena Miguens, and Head of School Adam Rohdie. In addition, the school’s Board of Trustees 2021-2022 slate was voted upon by parents electronically.
Four community members, who are celebrating their 25th anniversary of working at GCDS, were honored as Distinguished Faculty and Staff: Nursery Teacher Chrissy Baird, Custodial Foreman Sandra Fuentes, Middle School History Teacher Tony Hasapis, Grade 5 Teacher Elizabeth Lowe. Head of School Adam Rohdie spoke about the special qualities of each honoree and they shared heartfelt reflections about their time at Country Day.
The evening concluded with an address by Mr. Rohdie about the school’s strength as a large institution with a family-oriented culture.
“We’re big, but we’re small…. Simply put, that phrase explains the uncanny ability of the Country Day community to include so many and yet still know, love, and value each individual,” said Mr. Rohdie.
2021 Distinguished Faculty and Staff:
“Wisdom begins in wondering,” and there is no better place to begin the journey of wonder than in Chrissy Baird’s nursery classroom. Chrissy began as a co-teacher—or as she describes it, as “an apprentice to a master”—in Martha Sugrue’s classroom. She is now a master herself, with a deep understanding of how to instill the love of learning and the magic of discovery in her very eager young learners. She took a few years off to start her own family, but after visiting GCDS for an assembly during that time, she felt the power of what it means to belong and yearned to be part of the Country Day community again. Returning to the wonderful colleagues, staff, families, and students that are her “GCDS family,” she believes you can’t give your child a better start than at Country Day. Her twin daughters are enrolled at GCDS and she is deeply appreciative of their teachers and the education they are receiving at the school.
Chrissy’s colleagues marvel at her grace, calm, and humor as a teacher, ensuring that every decision she makes is based on how it will benefit the children and will ensure that they feel safe and loved in her care. She understands the value in the precision of language and is “an exceedingly articulate, intentional, and gifted educator.” Holding herself to the highest standards as an educator, she instills the sense of wonderment in each of her students in the way she conveys her excitement and joy in learning even the simplest things—and in sharing her love of snow days! We are so grateful to you, Chrissy, for your love of and commitment to our community.
As the Custodial Foreman overseeing both GCDS campuses, Sandra Fuentes feels an immense sense of pride and responsibility in her own and her team’s work. Arriving from Colombia as a teenager, her first experience at Country Day was attending the Spring Fair. She recalls how impressed she was that you could have so much fun at school. After graduating high school, she began working at GCDS as a custodian. In addition to her cleaning responsibilities, she supported many construction projects, packing, storing, and unpacking furniture and classroom supplies. She now oversees the daily and summer intensive cleaning of the buildings as well as managing the supply orders, furniture moving and assembly, repairs, event set-up and break-down, snow shoveling, and even helps with traffic management. She does not ask her team to do anything she does not do herself. She has facilitated a number of safety and efficiency improvements including the introduction of vacuum “back packs,” machines with the ability to clean floors for an entire division in the time it used to take to clean two classrooms, and the use of healthier and more environmentally friendly cleaning products.
Sandra deeply values the GCDS community and the opportunities that are provided. She held her wedding at GCDS, one of her two children attended Country Day, and she traveled to Kenya on a service trip, which provided “an eye-opening experience and a new appreciation for all that we have.” Sandra’s colleagues attest to her strong work ethic—always with a smile— and devotion to the community, “no task is too large or too small to tackle,” “she is helpful and attentive to the needs of others,” and “extremely reliable.” Thank you, Sandra, for your invaluable service to Greenwich Country Day.
Tony Hasapis, shares, “ It is so important for students to have that moment at school to know that there is someone that notices them and cares about them. At Country Day, students are surrounded by people that do care, do notice, and do take the time to act and support.” As a 6th grade history teacher, colleague, coach, friend, husband, and father, Tony takes these sentiments to heart and plays them out daily. He truly understands adolescents; he sees beyond their outward behaviors, noticing moments of struggle, and he acts. Whether it is extra tutoring outside of class, coaching football, baseball, or hockey, or as a champion for the Waterside School summer program at GCDS, Tony shows students that they can succeed and he is there to help them. As a coach, he understands the importance of his role— not in coaching to win— but in coaching to build character, to challenge physically, to gain self-confidence and to learn the value of working together toward something bigger than yourself. The impact is evident with so many students remaining in contact with Tony for many years after leaving Country Day.
He is intensely loyal to and cares deeply for his students, colleagues, friends, and family. They share that Tony’s expressive enthusiasm conveys his passion for history, fishing, Cape Cod, music, coaching, his Greek heritage, and his family. His friends describe him as “hilarious” and “the consummate storyteller,” remembering the 6th grade camping trip with the traditional teacher skit to entertain the students and Tony’s 1920’s gangster act that left students and colleagues alike crying with laughter. He is “insightful,” has the “biggest heart,” and is “remarkably empathetic to kids and adults alike.” Tony, we are forever grateful for the care and compassion with which you approach every person you come in contact with every day.
When Elizabeth Lowe came to Country Day as a co-teacher in 1994, she quickly realized this was “not an ordinary teaching job.” She was drawn to GCDS from her visit, seeing the beautiful campus and feeling the palpable love of teaching and learning. As a young woman far from home and family, she also valued the deep and genuine sense of community. She felt welcomed from the start and was grateful for the thoughtful invitations to the homes of faculty, staff, and parents alike on holidays. Before becoming a head teacher, Elizabeth spent two years teaching English to high school students in Japan, an experience she has been able to share with her students. Beginning as a 3rd grade teacher and moving to 5th grade in 2014, she contributed immensely to the elementary math curriculum development as a team leader and she taught art for the GCDS Summer Camp. She is appreciative of the many opportunities Country Day has afforded her, including a sabbatical to Scandinavia and the support she received while pursuing her MBA while working full time—a learning experience she was also able to share with her students. In particular, her realization that working in a collaborative group with different levels of knowledge and areas of expertise is more effective at solving problems than working alone.
Elizabeth’s colleagues highlight her sense of adventure, “she’s always up for a last-minute ticket to Broadway.” They appreciate her sincere and thoughtful conversations—“you always know you’re getting honest feedback when she begins with, ‘So, here’s the deal….’” Her colleagues compliment her extraordinary planning, thinking through every detail and possibility that could occur while teaching. She always puts the needs of her students first and uses that knowledge to guide their learning and always with a sense of enjoyment in her expression. Congratulations and thank you Elizabeth!