So Much to be Thankful For
For many alumni, the annual Thanksgiving Assembly is a favorite Potomac memory. It’s a joyful event that gets everyone into the spirit of the holiday, bringing the community together in a celebration of gratitude.
Like so much else, this year’s Thanksgiving Assembly had to be reimagined because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Potomac’s leaders were determined to incorporate the assembly’s traditional highlights in new ways, creating the same kind of happy celebration the community has long known. While most of Potomac watched the event via livestream, a small group of administrators, faculty, and students were on hand in the Spangler Center gym to lead the program.
Head of School John Kowalik began the assembly by acknowledging the challenges that 2020 has brought but reminding his listeners “not to lose sight of the abundance of opportunity, and yes, privilege, that we all have as part of the Potomac community.” John praised the creativity and resilience that have enabled the school community to respond to the pandemic effectively, and he encouraged everyone to remain optimistic, noting, “When conditions improve, we will be back here together.”
Performances by student musical groups are a staple of the Thanksgiving Assembly, and this year’s program featured pre-recorded numbers by the Upper School chorus and band. Reflections on gratitude are also a tradition. This year, students Teddy Goldfarb ’30, Grady Robbins ’27, Hannah de Souza ’25, and Isabel Tierney ’21 and IS science teacher Matt Scharf offered remarks.
A relatively new tradition, begun just four years ago, is the presentation of the Generosity of Spirit Award to a faculty or staff member who exemplifies Potomac's core values and whose character and contributions to the life of the school inspire the campus community. This year, for the first time, there were two award recipients – physical education teacher Carol Hilderbrand and technology and innovation coach Jenni Ashley.
Of Carol Hilderbrand, John said, “She has been a positive spirit during the pandemic and a source of strength for her colleagues. ...Carol's commitment to excellence, keen sense of humor, and humility have earned the respect and admiration of our entire community.” In recognizing Jenni Ashley, he observed, “Her generosity knows no bounds, whether she is filling in for a class, mentoring a new colleague, or simply standing by a camera at graduation to make sure it doesn’t get knocked down. ...We shine a light on Jenni for continually giving of herself so that Potomac may be a stronger community.”
Finally, it was time for the assembly’s biggest crowd-pleaser, the Turkey Tango. Traditionally sung and danced by Potomac’s youngest and oldest students – the kindergartners and the seniors – this year’s tango was no less entertaining for having been filmed in advance, with the little ones and their older friends socially distanced. The spirit of fun and love of school traditions that unite students across the K-12 spectrum were on full display. And once again, the Potomac community was reminded of an eternal truth: Any turkey can tango. Even in a year as unexpected and unusual as 2020.
"COVID-19 has forced us to change our routines and make many personal sacrifices to stay healthy and to keep others healthy, too. We've redesigned our school day and we operate classes differently. We've had to reimagine activities, events, and traditions, including today's Thanksgiving Assembly.
While the times have challenged and limited us in many ways, let us not lose sight of the abundance of opportunity and yes, privilege, that we all have as part of the Potomac community. We have a spacious campus and the resources to safely accommodate a good percentage of in-person learning...
Despite all that's going on, we are fortunate in so many ways. So as we approach Thanksgiving, let's be thankful for our teachers, advisors, and coaches; for our teammates and our classmates; for our parents, our family members, and our friends; and let's appreciate the many advantages we enjoy at Potomac and the many blessings we have as Americans."
-Head of School John Kowalik