10th Anniversary Spotlight: Mr. Henriques

In celebration of our 10th anniversary, we will be interviewing teachers and staff who have been with ACA since the founding of our school. This month’s spotlight is Mr. Henriques.

Beautiful music, a love for teaching, and a hilarious sense of humor – blended together is the perfect 10th anniversary spotlight: music and piano teacher Mr. Henriques. We sat down with him to hear about his time at ACA and why sometimes a change in plans can create the perfect recipe for a life’s journey.

Why ACA? What made you join this school, and what has kept you here through the years?

I originally moved to Georgia to pursue my PhD in musicology at UGA. I needed part time work and applied to ACA, thinking that a music program at a public school would demand one or two days of my time at most. In my first interview, Dr. Moore made it clear that this would be a full time position and asked if I would consider putting my degree on hold for a year. I agreed and started working at the school at the end of July 2014. When I saw the curriculum, I was floored. I think it was probably two weeks into the school year when I made the decision to put my degree on hold indefinitely. This place was too special and the mission too important for me to leave it behind that soon. 

What is your funniest memory at ACA?

Oh, I have a book’s worth of stories from ACA that will be a national bestseller and fund my retirement when I finally publish it. Chapter titles include “When colleagues go bald overnight”, “…just what word were you trying to spell?”, and “Yes, I guess Palestrina did look like Adam Levine.”

What has been the most rewarding part of your job?

Watching students master a new skill or develop a new appreciation for a piece of music tops the list. Whether it’s a student learning a piano piece on her own, calling something by its proper name, listening intently to an especially moving passage, or telling me they prefer one performance of a work over another; the smaller the moment, the more rewarding it seems to be. It tells me they’re living with and absorbing the beautiful, rather than studying it perfunctorily. 

What has been your biggest challenge you’ve faced during your time here?

The hardest part of ACA is saying goodbye. We build relationships with these students and invest ourselves in their education, so when they move on to other things, it’s tough. It gets harder with each passing year. 

ACA is celebrating “10 years of service” this year. What is your idea of service?

I once had a teacher tell me that working as a musician would mean I would constantly be fulfilling the oath to “go where I am needed.” That comment resonated with me 20 years ago and still comes to my mind often. 

What words or phrases do you most overuse?

Probably the music teacher’s greatest lie: “Alright, play it one more time.”

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I honestly have no idea what my greatest is, but I’m always happiest when a student doesn’t need my help anymore. We teachers are constantly working ourselves out of a job. 

Farewell to Our Fall Athletes: A Tribute to Seniors

In honor of the ending of the fall sports season, ACA Athletics hosted a Senior night at the final varsity volleyball game of the season. Senior volleyball, soccer, and cross-country athletes were honored alongside their parents for their perseverance, leadership, and investment in our athletics program. Each student was given a framed jersey to commemorate their final season at Atlanta Classical.

In a touching tribute to the senior volleyball players, Coach Warren recounted not only the growth he has seen in the seniors but also the growth he has seen in himself.

“Four years ago, you young ladies started your high school volleyball journey. It was my introduction to my teaching and coaching journey as well,” he said. “I’ve got memories that will last forever, and I appreciate the role you all have played in making me the coach I am today. I do not doubt that each of you will go on to do great things…I am forever grateful.”

Join us in congratulating these senior athletes: Sarah Adams, Sidney Hoefer, Michael Gullet, Andrew Heiskell, Mason Maynard, Harper Toberman, and Lauren Woods.

October Lower and Upper School Art Gallery

In our art classes, all grades have been discussing warm colors vs cool colors, which makes these photos from each class very cohesive!  

Lower School:

  • Pumpkins with Van Gogh’s Starry Night inspired backgrounds.  

  • Mark Rothko inspired pieces as a study of warm and cool colors.

  • Fall Trees and Pointillism Pumpkins, both exercises are to build fine motor skills.

Upper School: 

  • Fall Scenes in a stained glass window design with warm foreground and cool background.

Senior Thesis Dinner

On October 26, the high school veranda transformed (with a little help from our incredible operations team and the wonderful Mrs. Spangler) into an autumnal banquet hall that would make Keats sigh with satisfaction. Senior students and their teachers gathered in anticipation of good food, good company, and good conversation. It was time for the annual senior thesis kickoff dinner. Guests dined on Willy’s cuisine at tables adorned with handmade table runners fashioned from pages of classic books. The literary decor exemplified one of the main aims of the senior thesis project: to celebrate our love of great books by creating something wonderful from what is found within their pages.

The event was crammed with highlights. Ms. Lawson and Ms. Spangler gave rousing speeches about their personal senior thesis experiences. Mr. Andrew and Mr. Schepps spoke with passion about the significance of the project and their high hopes for the class of 2024. Remy Hughes received a college acceptance notification (Go, Remy!). Geoffrey Quick shrieked (with delight?) after discovering the identity of his senior thesis advisor.

Advisors and advisees spoke by candlelight, exchanged excitement, and discussed the daunting yet thrilling journey ahead. Huckleberry Finn and friendship, East of Eden and grief, Hamlet and mortality, the air swelled with passion for texts and topics the exploration of which is fundamental to living well. A spectacular time was had by all, and we can’t wait to see the fruits of this year’s seniors’ labors.

Congratulations to our Lower School Quarter 1 Award Winners

Each quarter, Lower School students are awarded for a virtue that they have modeled and grown in throughout that quarter. Our K-2 students are awarded based on a specific virtue and our 3-6 students are awarded based on their overall modeling of virtues. 

Congratulations to the following students for demonstrating and excelling in our school virtues:

Art – Stryder Lemos and Virgina Bonapfel

Music – Asa Jett and Reese Stowell

Courage – William Kalen and Sarani Shabazz

Courtesy – Sammy Gray and Anna Setterberg

Honesty – Gaines Psiaki and Bennett Allvine

Humility – Jackson Hand and Leah Peel

Perseverance – Ridley Hill and Emerson Songer

Self-Government – Henry Hayes and Frances Lemos

Service – Rock Phelps and Emily Maddox

Visual Arts – William Dollacker and Riley Bayless

Music – Sebastian Herrera and Annie Hill

Athletics – Ian Grozdanoff and Evenlyn Wickstrum

3rd – Kai Anderson and Gemma DeMichina

4th – Omar Diallo and Wren Vogeltanz

5th – Davis DiCristina and Elle Stanfill

6th – Knox Bruley and Clare Germany

Virtue – Ansley Seymour

Drew Heiskell selected for “Roots of American Liberty Tour”

ACA senior Drew Heiskell was awarded the opportunity to attend Hillsdale’s Roots and History of American Liberty summer experience this past July. Drew was selected based on his work on two essays, one of which he had to write about the most overlooked moment in American history which he argued was the Barbadian colonization. 

The program began at Hillsdale College, followed by a visit to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where students visited the national battlefield, museum, and cemetery where the Battle of Gettysburg took place. The next stop on the tour was a brief stop in Philadelphia for philly cheesesteaks and a visit to Benjamin Franklin’s grave, Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell. The final stop on the tour was exploring Washington D.C. and its surrounding areas. Though the tour covered all of the major historical sites in D.C. including a White House and Capitol tour, Drew noted his most impactful experience of the trip was actually in Baltimore, Maryland. 

“One morning, we visited Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner,” Drew said. “I had the privilege of lowering and folding an American Flag with some other participants in the program.” (pictured above)

Mr. Schepps noted that this experience for Drew is well deserved for his unwavering commitment to learning and growing.

“Drew, as much as any student I have taught, feels the personal and moral weight of his education,” Mr. Schepps said. “He believes every class discussion stands to change him as a human being and he views that as an opportunity not to miss. This makes him the perfect candidate to have received the chance to go on a trip like this and to benefit from it maximally.”

Our First Kindergarten Class Graduates 8th Grade

In honor of ACA’s first class of kindergarteners, who are now finishing their eighth-grade year, middle school faculty members set out to implement an event to celebrate these students’ time at ACA and wish them well as they enter high school. The result was an unforgettable first annual 8th Grade Convocation Celebration. Hosted on ACA’s turf field over a family-style BBQ dinner, over 200 parents and siblings were in attendance for this new school tradition.

Each eighth-grade student played their part in this variety show meets awards night, whether it was as an em-cee, teacher impersonator, storyteller, performer or rubix cube record breaker. 

 “The heart of this event was, as best we could, to bring out the flavors of the eighth-grade class by allowing them to host, serve, perform, remember, and celebrate,” said Mr. Nugent.

Two of the most memorable elements of the evening were the presentation of each 8th grader’s epithets – a phrase given by teachers that best describes what makes each student unique – and the “True, Good, and Beautiful” reflections from six students. Evyn Vogeltanz shared a moment when Coach Reed challenged her to see a limitation as a strength instead.

“This moment embodies the beautiful because the teachers and coaches care just as much or even more about forming our character rather than just our academic achievement,” Evyn said.

Thank you to Ms. Younker for spearheading this event, and to our parent volunteers Illeane Kreafle and Shelly Ellerhorst, who helped bring this evening to life.

Congrats, Class of 2023!

On the morning of Saturday, May 20, our beloved seniors, spruce in smart gowns and adorned with gold-trim caps, marched up to greet Mr. Andrew and receive their diplomas. On Mr. Schepps’ command, golden tassels moved from right to left, and thirty-two graduates left the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. Many of these new graduates have lived and breathed ACA since arriving in fourth grade. All of these new graduates have been integral parts of ACA’s community. 

One highlight of the event was a beautiful performance by the choir, led by Mr. Franklin. Our very own graduating senior, Lucy Kirby, crafted the music and lyrics as a homage to her school and fellow graduates.

Our main speaker this year was Ian Rowe, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, author of Agency, and former CEO of Public Prep. Mr. Rowe spoke eloquently about the importance of community, family, and virtue. Mr. Clausen gave a rousing and heartwarming charge, which included a final life-long homework assignment. Speeches from ‘The Elizabeths’—Stinespring and Richter, our salutatorian and valedictorian respectively—expressed the bitter-sweet nature of the day and awakened our tear ducts. Friends, family, teachers, and students lingered outside the church to celebrate (and wave goodbye to) our newest Atlanta Classical alumni.

2023 Track Team Wins State Titles

The Cavalier High School Track team completed a successful season after making it all the way to State! ACA girls placed 7th overall as a team out of 36 teams. ACA boys placed 23rd overall (with only 2 runners) out of 40 teams. Every Cavalier athlete achieved a PR (personal record) time in their races.

Not only were our athletes successful this season, but the camaraderie built this year was also evident.

“We had a great time going to State and staying overnight so we could watch ALL of our teammates compete,” said Clegg Cousar. 

Kindergarten + 6th Grade Buddy Program

Attending a K-12 school can offer a number of exciting opportunities for students of all ages to connect with one another. In an effort to continue fostering these opportunities, Lower School Principal Dr. Han implemented the Kindergarten/6th Grade Buddy Program. The program pairs a kindergartner with a sixth grader (sometimes two), who serves as a friend, playmate, and mentor to his or her buddy throughout the year. Read below to learn more about Dr. Han’s vision for this program. 

Tell us a little bit about the Buddy Program. How did you come up with the idea?

In thinking about the beauty of being in a K-12 school, we wanted to establish the sixth-grade’s identity as the leaders of the lower school. I get the question all the time – are they a part of the lower or middle school? Even though the sixth grade can enjoy some perks of being in middle school (e.g., lockers, dances, and the House System), I want them to know that lower school students look up to them, and they have a great opportunity to be role models to the younger students. 

What types of things have the kids done together this year? 

Students play together during recess and attended the Lower School Science Fair and Zoo Atlanta together (pictured above). Sixth-grade students read to their kindergarten buddies, and at the end of the year, the kindergarten students will read to their sixth-grade buddies to show how much they have learned!

What feedback have you heard from kindergartners and sixth-graders? 

They absolutely love this! I see sixth-grade students getting hugged by their kindergarten buddies all the time.

What do you think the advantages of the program are? How do you think it helps each age group?

We hope that our current sixth-grade students will continue to connect with their buddies throughout their educational journey at ACA, so that when our sixth graders become seniors, our kindergartners will be in sixth grade and have a new kindergarten buddy of their own! Through this program, our kindergartners have a student role model, and our sixth graders are empowered with a new sense of confidence as they enter middle school.

How does the program tie into our school virtues? 

We highlight Service for our sixth-grade students as we emphasize the joy of serving our younger ACA students. We will begin next year with a sixth-grade leadership retreat to reiterate their identities as lower school servant-leaders. We have planned out some fun and meaningful activities throughout the school year as well. We’re excited for what’s to come.