In Focus @ GWA

A news bulletin for the families of George Walton Academy

March 28, 2019

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Key Deadlines & Dates

  • Founders Day Celebration: March 29 at 9 a.m.
  • Spring Break: April 1-5
  • Coffee with Admin: April 11 at 6 p.m.

Please see a new section titled: Staffing Announcements.

We encourage you to check In Focus over the next few weeks to meet our newest team members and stay up to date on any staffing transitions. We have added some talented new faculty and staff and look forward to introducing them to you in In Focus.

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Bidding Farewell to the Renaissance...

For this year’s upper school intensive, GWA turned to the Renaissance for inspiration. Challenges, kings, queens, and kingdoms were all incorporated to make this intensive interactive and creative. “One part of the Renaissance that George Walton focused on was renewal because in some ways, renewal is part of George Walton’s journey,” said Dr. Dolan.


GWA also focused on the historic aspects of the Renaissance by bringing the era into the classroom and across many subjects. Some teachers included Renaissance lessons in their daily agenda. Ninth-grade students read Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet and attended The Shakespeare Tavern’s performance. Mrs. Maddox’s Spanish 1 classes watched the TNT version of Don Quijote, based on the Spanish novel from the Renaissance period written by Miguel Cervantes. Mrs. Bishop’s biology classes dissected the digestive tracts of various organisms and made precise observations, much like the great artists of the Renaissance who were looking to uncover how the human body was structured. Mr. Reagan led students through the recreation of some of the most important art pieces from the Renaissance, while Mr. Cole helped students build trebuchets and chariots. Lower and middle school art and dance classes took a cue from the upper school and created their own works based on the Renaissance.


While teachers enjoyed incorporating Renaissance elements into their lessons, the students enjoyed all of the exciting activities including tug-of-war, Pictionary, hula-hooping, and Ninja. “The challenges are super fun, and it gets your nerves going because you really want your kingdom to win,” said sophomore Julia Waldo.


The intensive culminated this afternoon during the Renaissance festival, featuring extra credit Renaissance projects created by students, dance and musical performances, more challenges and Renaissance-based games, and even a living re-creation of the painting, The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.


The ultimate kingdom champions will be announced once we return from spring break and see who won the most sand over the four week period.

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This fall, GWA will welcome Jessica Blevins to our lower school as a new first-grade teacher. Jessica graduated magna cum laude from Walden University with a master’s degree in elementary education. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Georgia. She served as a fifth-grade teacher and grade chair at Bethlehem Elementary and she also taught at Statham Elementary. One of her specialties is implementing differentiated instruction and engaging lessons through the use of project-based learning and STEM lessons. After attending our Gingerbread Christmas Festival and “hearing such great things about GWA from family and friends,” Jessica applied to be a member of the George Walton faculty. We are pleased to welcome her to the team!


Jeff Brandes brings a wealth of experience to GWA as our new Director of Lower School Academics. He is skilled at elevating schools to higher levels of accomplishment and achievement and also has experience as a school safety specialist. He comes to GWA after nine years of service to Anderson and Marion Community Schools as an Associate and Assistant Principal. Jeff earned a master’s degree in education administration from Butler University and a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Dayton. Our student-athletes will benefit from his more than 30 years of experience as he becomes the head coach for boys tennis and assists with the basketball program. You may recall that we introduced Jeff’s wife, Beth, last week. She will be joining GWA in the fall as the Director of College Counseling.


We are grateful to Elaine Millians for her 18 years of service to GWA and wish her the very best as she retires at the end of this school year. After working in public schools for 21 years, Elaine was hired to teach fourth grade at GWA before moving to fifth grade. She tells us, "I love this school more every day because of the exciting changes that are happening. GWA is an extraordinary place for students to be inspired, loved and challenged in all areas of their lives. Teaching has always been in my heart and I am so thankful to have been a part of the GWA family."

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A Star-Studded Grandparents' Day Celebration

It was a pleasure to have so many GWA grandparents and special friends on campus last Friday to watch all of our lower schools students shine! Our guests were treated to a delightful musical program, then enjoyed visiting classrooms and shopping with students at the annual lower school book fair. The theme of this exciting event was "At the Movies," and students certainly loved treating their special visitors like stars!
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Consider Hosting an International Student

GWA families have the opportunity to make a dream come true for two students from Germany and Spain. Our partner, Education First (EF), provides opportunities for students to spend a year studying in another country and they have identified two students - Amanda and Gerard - that they feel would be a great fit for GWA.


Dr. Dolan and his family believe in the benefits of this meaningful program and are hosting a student in their home this year. "I can say that the students who are drawn to participate in these kinds of programs are really neat kids," said Dr. Dolan. "We enjoy hosting Thea very much. It is a time and financial commitment on the part of the host family, but the school has arranged for two new scholarships to be dedicated to international students next year and students come with their own spending money. We highly recommend this experience and encourage other GWA families to consider hosting Amanda or Gerard for the 2019-2020 school year."


For more information, please contact Sherry Coffman, EF Local Coordinator, 770-866-3884, sherrycoffman@comcast.net.

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Invite Your Friends to Discover GWA

We are excited to announce two Open House events in April! These events provide an opportunity to learn more about our school and our programs from administrators, staff, students and parents. Contact Director of Admissions Cari Bailey for more info at cbailey@gwa.com. We can't wait to show prospective families everything GWA has to offer!
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Not Your Ordinary Summer Camp

Throughout the summer months, GWA is offering exciting day camps for all ages and a variety of interests, from STEM and robotics to athletics, art and foreign language. Summer Camps are open to the community, and attendees do not have to be current George Walton students. Click HERE for more information and registration.
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Join Us For Founders Day - Friday, March 29

George Walton Academy was incorporated in March 1969. Founders Day is an assembly to mark the occasion of the founding of the school, recognize those who helped in the beginning, and to celebrate our accomplishments over 50 years. Founders Day is open to GWA parents, grandparents, alumni, and friends. We will have first-year memorabilia on display and offer tours for those wishing to see the campus.

Back by Popular Demand

GWA's Beyond the Bell program will offer tennis lessons once again, beginning April 24 and 25. Tennis instructor Alex Lussi will introduce the fundamentals of the game, including technique, scoring, footwork and teamwork. The session is open to K4 through fifth graders, it will last four weeks, and the cost is $100. Click HERE for further information and to access the registration form.
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Rotary Student of the Month

Cole Aukes was selected as Rotary Student of the Month for March. He chose Jeff Lalaian as Rotary Teacher of the Month. Cole has earned Best of the Best and Headmaster’s List awards as well as Star Student recognition. He is a member of the GWA Band and serves as drum captain and GWA Band vice president. Cole also participates in Gavel Club, Junior Classical League and Socratic Circle. He volunteers in his community as a summer camp leader at Nativity Lutheran Church, serves at FISH for Kids and helps others through tutoring. Cole plans to attend the University of Georgia in the Honors Program to study general mathematics and pursue a career in education. Congratulations to Cole and Mr. Lalaian!

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Winning Writer

By Jenna Lo, GWA Student and Essay Winner


The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) had an essay competition for high school students called "The Voice of Democracy" and the theme for 2018 was "Why My Vote Matters." I wrote an audio essay that had to be between three to five minutes and submitted it to my local VFW post. I heard about the contest from an email that was sent out by one of the school counselors back in October, and I worked on it for almost the entire month with the help of my AP Language teacher Ms. Vitello. I ended up winning a regional award and attended an awards banquet with Mrs. Cote, Ms. Vitello, and my mom where I received my award, a medal, and a $250 check.
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Sharing Stories of Perseverance

GWA fifth-grade students are wrapping up an important lesson on life with presentations before their peers. They have studied the meaning of the quote from Alexander Graham Bell, “When one door closes, another opens.” Each student chose a famous individual who overcame adversity during his or her lifetime including Steve Jobs, Scott Hamilton, Bethany Hamilton, Moses, Serena Williams, Helen Keller, Andrew Jackson, Dr. Seuss and many more. They dressed in character and took to the auditorium stage to share their life stories with examples of overcoming health issues, business setbacks, and personal challenges...Read More.
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An "Intensive" Lesson In Digestion

Mrs. Bishop’s biology students used dissection to take a closer look at the digestive systems of different organisms and compare how their digestive system is related to what they eat. They removed the digestive tract and measured the length of the stomach and the small intestine. They also observed the internal structure of the stomach to understand how it is related to the function it performs. The lab is also a tie-in to our upper school Renaissance Intensive. The class made precise observations during this dissection lab for their study of the digestive system, much like Renaissance greats Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci used anatomical dissections to provide a detailed understanding of the human body. Their works depicting the human figure demonstrated a high standard of anatomical mastery.
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Middle Schoolers and the Big Growth Spurt

By Lynn Robinson, Middle and High School Counselor


Most often between fifth and ninth grades, children hit a major growth spurt. This growth spurt is different from the growth spurts of early childhood, because it tends to happen quickly, and at the end of it, students are very close to having their adult bodies. When a student will begin his/her growth spurt is determined by heredity and nutrition. Some students start their spurt as early as the fourth or fifth grade and finish during sixth or seventh grade...Read More.
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A Lovely Night at the Opera

Prom-goers enjoyed “A Night at the Opera” on Friday, March 22. At the conclusion of the “Senior Walk,” the 2019 prom queen and king were crowned. Miss Sydney Senical was crowned queen and Mr. Brelan Holston was crowned king.

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A "Tutu" Wonderful Cause

The GWA Beta Club and National Honor Society made tutus for patients at Children’s Hospitals with Tutu Capers - a non-profit organization started by Barbara Mock that is based in the Atlanta area. They make and deliver tutus and superhero capes to children with long term illnesses at Egleston and Scottish Rite Hospitals in Atlanta. GWA upper school students made 35 tutus!

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GWA Hosts Relay for Life

We invite our entire community to get involved: volunteer, donate, honor a loved one affected by cancer and help raise awareness and funds to fight cancer. To be part of this life-changing event, CLICK HERE to access the registration form, or contact Director of Dawgs 360 Elizabeth Mcdonel at emdonel@gwa.com for more information.


Survivor Dinner: GWA is partnering with First Baptist to host this special dinner on Friday, May 3. If you are a cancer survivor and/or know someone who is, please email Elizabeth McDonel by April 26 to receive an invitation to dinner.


Honor Your Loved One: If you would like to honor a family member or friend with a picture during the survivor dinner program, please email your picture, name, and in honor or in memory of to telesa.kendall@walton.k12.ga.us


Dedicate a Luminaria: Light up your community and honor every life touched by cancer. Dedicate a Luminaria to a loved one lost, someone currently battling, or anyone who has overcome cancer. Dawgs 360 is selling Luminaria Bags at the price of two for $10. If you are interested in purchasing bags, please CLICK HERE to access the order form. You may contact Elizabeth McDonel at emcdonel@gwa.com for more information. If you would like a student from our art department to decorate your bag for you, please let her know.


100 volunteers are needed on May 3! We are in need of volunteers in different areas, from unloading to loading tents, traffic coordinating, joining or starting a team, helping at the survivor dinner, as well as providing and driving golf carts! If you are interested, please email emcdonel@gwa.com

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Show Your Support!

In partnership with Dawgs 360, Zaxby’s and the American Cancer Society are holding a fundraiser on Tuesday, April 15 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Zaxby’s location in Monroe. Attendees must mention to the cashier that they are there in support of GWA and the American Cancer Society and 10% of the sale will go back to the American Cancer Society! This is a great way to give back to the community and support the Relay for Life efforts. Please email Dawgs 360 Director Elizabeth McDonel at emdonel@gwa.com with any questions or if you need further information.

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We need YOU!

Opportunities for Involvement:


Relay for Life Volunteers:

Set- Up: Fri., May 3 from 9 a.m. -1 p.m. & 4 - 6 p.m.

Host/Hostess’ for Survivor Dinner Clean- Up: 11 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.

Golf Carts and Drivers: Fri. May 3


Teacher Appreciation Week:

Week of May 6 - 10

We need breakfast bakers, mailbox treats, desserts for appreciation lunch and small tokens of appreciation!


Please email Elizabeth McDonel at emcdonel@gwa.com to get involved!

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Art that's Fit for a King

From learning about castles and palaces, to chiaroscuro, atmospheric perspective, and foreshortening- lower school art has been filled with a Renaissance flair! While studying artists like Da Vinci, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, and Masaccio, students also learned a little about themselves: they are each beautifully and wonderfully unique in their art. Lower school students grew in their knowledge and abilities and their teachers could not be more proud. These treasured pieces will be on display soon outside the lower school art room!

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GWA's Croker Chosen to March in Macy's Parade

Congratulations to Bailey Croker for being selected as a member of the 2019 Macy's Great American Marching Band! This prestigious band will take an honor position among the gigantic helium balloons, impressive floats carrying celebrities, and the nation's top marching bands in the 93rd Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Bailey will have the honor of joining students from every state in America as a member of this elite marching band.
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Shoot for the Stars

Congrats to all of our Walton County All-Star game basketball players- Taryn Shelnutt, Grace Short, Torie Johnson, Savannah McBee, Brelan Holston, and Hamiton Allen. Senior Grace Short was named All-County Second Team and Emma Adair, Kendall Garrett, Torie Johnson, Taryn Shelnutt received All-County Honorable Mention. Senior Brelan Holston was named All-County First Team for boys basketball.

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Strong Debut for GWA Lacrosse

GWA lacrosse kicked off the season and the program with an impressive first-ever game, that ended in a 17-17 tie vs. Grayson HS! Edward Downey scored ten goals, Darius Barnum scored six and Liam Chirrey scored one goal. Be sure to come out and cheer on the team this Friday, 5 p.m. at Dacula HS. Way to go, BULLDOGS!
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Middle School Tennis on Top!

Success on the court continues for middle school tennis following wins for both teams over Prince Avenue. The girls remain undefeated at 5-0 and the boys stand at 4-1 for the season. Congrats, Bulldogs!
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Big Victory for Varsity Boys Soccer

The Varsity boys soccer team had an awesome region win last Thursday night. They beat Prince Avenue 5-1 at home. Cody Carnes scored two goals and Tommy Long, Jacob Engelbracht and Matthew McMain all scored one. That brings the team to 4-1 in the region! Their next game is tonight at home against Lakeview. Boys start at 5 p.m. and the girls start at 7 p.m.

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Sign Up for Cheerleading

Calling all middle and upper school students interested in cheerleading for football, competition, or basketball! If you play a fall sport, but are interested in cheering for basketball, please come to tryouts starting April 9!


Practice clinic will be held Tuesday – Thursday, April 9-11, then again the following week from Monday – Wednesday, April 15-17. Cheerleading tryouts will be held on Thursday, April 18. All practices will begin around 3:30 p.m. in the middle gym. Tryouts on April 18 will begin around 3:30 p.m. and will be held in the lower gym. All participants need a current sports physical on file in order to attend practice clinic or tryout. Physical forms are available in the front office and Mrs. Vickie Rollins and Mrs. Tanya Rainford can let you know if your physical on file is still current.


If you were not able to attend the parent meeting held in February, please contact Coach Holly Atkinson at hatkinson@gwa.com for information or any other questions.

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Youth football registration is coming soon! Please plan to attend the mandatory meeting on April 9 at 6 p.m. in the cafeteria. Click HERE for further information and to download the registration form.
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MANDATORY UPPER SCHOOL ATHLETIC MEETING


On Thursday, April 25 from 6 - 7:30 p.m. there will be a MANDATORY athletic meeting for all rising upper school students and their parents who plan on participating in a GWA athletic program during the 2019-2020 school year. The meeting will be held in the cafeteria. Areas that will be covered include general information- “The Dawg Way,” strength training, recruiting and team parents.

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Today's In Focus is Proudly Sponsored by Element Funding

Interested in advertising through our Corporate Partnership program? Contact Jeanie Beach at jbeach@gwa.com or call 678-635-3812.