How did I end up back at The Woods? Well, in 2004 we were living in Annapolis and decided to move back to Montgomery County – which we consider home – due to family circumstances. At the time, we had 3 children with another on the way, and our oldest, Charlie, was doing well with a Montessori program in Annapolis. So as we began our search for a new school, we knew we wanted our children to benefit from the Montessori experience. And of course, my history at The Woods ensured that this was the first school we visited. I remember my tour of the school and as I walked through the halls of The Woods it just felt like home – and not only because of the embarrassing 1985 graduation picture of me hanging on the wall. (Mr. Powers, can we please take that down?) In all seriousness, The Woods Academy – with its commitment to Catholic teachings, its co-ed environment, a strong sense of community, and of course its Montessori preschool program – proved to be the perfect place for our family.
I remember being so pleasantly surprised to see all of the new changes and improvements, and yet so comforted to see that so much had remained the same. I was especially thrilled to see two of my teachers still here at The Woods: Mrs. Piwko, my English teacher, and Madame Pelaia, my French teacher. The MPR used to be our gym, our lunchroom, our chapel, our theater, and our assembly room. I even remember eating at those very same lunch tables! While much has stayed the same, The Woods has changed a lot over the years with new technology, a renovated school with a new upper school wing and a beautiful new gym with a full stage for school plays and other events. But probably the biggest difference is the increase in the student body – we used to have just one small class per grade – and how our school is now balanced between boys and girls. When I was a student, there were way more girls than boys at The Woods – as you can see from that 1985 class picture.
The Woods has always been a hidden gem… and thankfully it still offers the same sweet, nurturing environment where students are academically, spiritually, and physically challenged by exceptional teachers.
Speaking as a graduate and a parent, I feel that what really makes The Woods so special and unique is the close community of students, parents, faculty, and staff. Many of my closest friendships in life were formed at The Woods, both as a student and now as a parent. Even though it has been a long time since I graduated in 1985, and even though some my closest friends and classmates have since moved back to their countries of origin, I am happy to say that many are still my dear friends. In fact, my very best friend from The Woods, Alexandra Barraza, moved to Mexico after graduation and now lives in Texas – but her child, Luz-Andrea, is named after me and my daughter Alexandra, or Lexi for short, is named after her.
As I consider my best memories from The Woods, in addition to the many great friendships and fun I had here, the biggest and most memorable event for me each year was the French Festival. At the time, The Woods did not offer Spanish so every student took French. The school’s “French connection” – rooted in The Woods Academy’s Montessori program – was celebrated each year in a fabulous community event called the French Festival where all the students, faculty, and families came together to celebrate with delicious French food and fun activities for the entire family to enjoy. I also remember really enjoying our class field trips and field day at The Woods. It was so much fun for me to hear how much Charlie and Lexi enjoyed their field trip to Williamsburg their 7th-grade year since it was my favorite field trip when I was a student there as well!
I feel that my time at The Woods Academy definitely prepared me for my future endeavors. After graduating from Woods, I attended Georgetown Visitation where I felt well-prepared to take on new academic challenges. I graduated from Visitation in 1989 and went on to Loyola University Maryland where I majored in Speech and Language Pathology with a minor in French (so see, my Woods French classes even helped me in college). After graduating in 1993, I continued my studies at Loyola to attain my Master of Science in Speech and Language Pathology which prepared me to work as a therapist in many different settings including early intervention, the Lab School, the Traumatic Brain Injury and Stroke Unit at Maryland General Hospital, and several nursing homes and assisted living facilities. So The Woods definitely prepared me for high school, college, grad school, and a promising career – but more than anything, I believe that the solid spiritual and moral foundation that I developed at The Woods continues to help me in all aspects of my daily life.
At The Woods Academy, there are so many great opportunities to become involved and to be an “Owlvocate.” In addition to giving to the last capital campaign and to the annual fund each year, I have enjoyed volunteering at Hot Lunch, serving as Room Parent, serving as a Woods Representative for the Parent Council of Washington, attending most auctions and co-chairing the 2014 Woods Auction, and serving as a member of The Woods Academy Board of Trustees.