The Spangler Center for Athletics and Community 

A Potomac School education integrates academics, arts, and athletics, challenging students to develop their interests and talents in diverse areas. Physical education and athletics are an important part of the overall picture, reflecting Potomac's commitment to health and well-being, sportsmanship, teamwork, and the development of leadership skills. 

The Spangler Center, opened in November 2019, supports Potomac's robust athletics program, which fields 71 teams at various levels (intermediate, junior varsity, and varsity) in 25 interscholastic sports. The facility also offers resources to promote health and wellness, including a fitness center, a strength and conditioning room, a multipurpose studio, and an indoor jogging/walking track. 

The Spangler Center's flexible spaces can be configured for a variety of academic, athletic, and social events -- and its gymnasium is an indoor space large enough to accommodate the entire Potomac community for K-12 assemblies and other gatherings.

At Potomac, school spirit and a strong sense of community are important. The Spangler Center is an amazing resource that brings the campus community together and fuels our PANTHER PRIDE!

Spangler Center for Athletics and Community
Spangler Center
Thanksgiving Assembly

The Center will include:

  • a gymnasium with two full-size competition courts for basketball and volleyball, and divider curtains that allow for three full-size cross-court practice spaces
  • an indoor jogging/walking track
  • seven squash courts with spectator seating
  • a fitness center, strength and conditioning room, and multipurpose studio, all outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment and technology
  • a team meeting room, athletics offices, and conference room
  • the "Panther Den" student lounge
  • flexible gathering spaces that can be configured to accommodate a wide variety of academic, athletic, and social events
Seniors Achieve National Merit and College Board Success

Congratulations to seniors Ariana Ghafouri, Christopher Joe, Christopher Kang, Katherine Rebhan, and Ryan Selig, who were named National Merit Semifinalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program. They were among 16,000 semifinalists nationwide, representing less than 1% of the students who took the PSAT/NMSQT in their junior year. Of these 16,000 semifinalists, 90% are expected to go on to attain finalist standing, and about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship.

In addition, Potomac is proud to recognize 26 seniors who were named National Merit Commended Students. These honorees are Andrew Bernstein, Rocco Bognet, Carl Brinkman, Kalani Chan, Dana Christopher, Maxwell Cristinzio, Sophia Egge, Elizabeth Egger, Isabel Engel, Michael Fields, Isabell Friedrich, Jordan Greenslade, Patrick Hullman, Elena Huppe, Julia Jackson, Alexander Joel, Damien Kanner-Bitetti, Caleb Kassaye, Saif Nasr, Elisabeth Oskoui, Avery Richardson, Katherine Rollins, Evelina Swigart, Charlotte Thompson, Alexandra Vuono, and Tessa Weinreich.

Additionally, the College Board has recognized Andrew Bernstein, Elena Huppe, and Matthew Granovsky as Hispanic Recognition Program winners; Kalani Chan as an Indigenous Recognition Program winner; and Christian Herald as an African American Recognition Program winner. Congratulations to all!

Sandra Heard award

Potomac began the 2020-21 school year with its traditional Opening Assembly, held in an untraditional way. A small group of masked and socially distanced school leaders were on campus to host the ceremony, which members of the Potomac community watched via live stream. The program began with visual presentations featuring the students at both ends of Potomac’s K-12 spectrum – this year’s kindergartners and seniors.

Setting the tone for the year ahead, Head of School John Kowalik, Student Government Association President Will Fearey ’21, and Senior Class President Ariana Ghafouri ’21 shared thoughts about the importance of community, Potomac’s core values, and each individual's power to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Mr. Kowalik reflected on the fact that Potomac was beginning the year with virtual learning, noting, “Being physically separated is hard, but our identity as members of the Potomac community – as classmates and friends, teachers and learners, and people who take pride in our school – will unite and sustain us no matter where we are.”

The ceremony concluded with the presentation of Potomac’s Bill Cook Excellent Teaching Award, given annually to a faculty member who exemplifies the commitment to excellence and love of learning that define a Potomac School education. This year’s recipient was Upper School History Teacher and Grade 10 Dean Dr. Sandra Heard, who has been a member of Potomac’s faculty since 2012.

Presenting the award, Mr. Kowalik observed, “All who know Dr. Heard attest to her intellect, her moral conviction, her empathic nature, and her passion for teaching. A colleague recently told me, ‘She pours every ounce of herself into her classes and her students, who then respond in kind.’ …While her intellectual prowess is enormous, Dr. Heard has range and the ability to always meet people where they are in any conversation.”

Dr. Heard holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Mississippi State University, a Master of Theology from Xavier University of Louisiana, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from The George Washington University. She has lived in Mississippi, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and – as a young member of the Peace Corps – in the Dominican Republic.

She reflects, “I was after knowledge – I just wanted to learn. While I was in the Peace Corps, I had a lot of time to reflect on what path I wanted to take, and I realized that I wanted to pursue education – but I didn’t know what that looked like yet.”

Upon returning to the U.S., she worked as an architect and studied theology at the graduate level, with a focus on Afrocentricity in sociological and historical contexts. “That experience had a huge impact on me,” she recalls. “I really grew in terms of how I wanted to approach sources, literature, and being in the classroom. And those studies prompted me to question everything I thought I knew about American society.”

After earning her doctorate and teaching at the university level for a time, Sandra Heard arrived at The Potomac School. Within a couple of years, her dynamic, engaging teaching style made her a favorite among Upper School students looking for thought-provoking, discussion-based classes.

“I set a high bar for myself and push myself to be a better teacher every day,” she says. “But I also don’t use a lot of bells and whistles. Teaching is about going on a journey with students and discovering new ideas; it’s about showing students things they haven’t seen before.”

Dr. Heard adds, “I’m also not just teaching them – they’re teaching me, too. I haven’t stopped learning; my work is a constant exchange of ideas and engagement around interesting topics. And that’s why I love it.”

A Commencement to Remember

On the morning of July 24, after extensive planning, careful attention to safety protocols, and a rain delay, The Potomac School hosted an on-campus Commencement celebration for its Class of 2020. Each of the 111 graduates was permitted to bring two guests, while other family members and friends watched the ceremony via live stream. Potomac’s originally scheduled Commencement date was June 5, but the ceremony was postponed to allow additional time after the end of the academic year to work out the details of a safe, socially distanced celebration.

With the graduates and their guests gathered outdoors on the Upper School Quad, Head of School John Kowalik, Head of Upper School Doug McLane, and Senior Class President Kat Plaza ‘20 offered words of welcome. Faculty members Dr. Giovanna Bello and Torrye Parker then shared inspiring readings. William Bailey ’20 was selected by his peers to give the senior address, and Dr. Giorgio Secondi spoke for the faculty.

While acknowledging the serious challenges that the Class of 2020, America, and the world face, Bailey also highlighted many positive developments that have taken place during the graduates’ lifetimes. He observed, “I think we have tremendous reason for hope and excitement about what lies ahead. I recognize that some might find it odd to find positive impacts from recent tragedy, but I think it is important to be an optimist, perhaps now more than ever.”

Secondi’s address, laced with humor, focused on the importance of thoughtful decision making. He concluded, “Let me express the hope that, at least in some parts of your life, you will focus on something that challenges you. Things that come easy tend to be those that we already know; you need to take on hard things if you want to learn something new and grow as a person. And growth is what makes life a rewarding journey.”

As the graduates came forward one-by-one to accept their diplomas, Board of Trustees Chair Sameer Bhargava, John Kowalik, Doug McLane, and K-12 Academic Director Juna Kim McDaid greeted them with smiles and applause.

In his closing remarks, Kowalik offered the graduates some valuable advice: “It has been observed that ‘nothing in nature blooms all year round.’ Life, like nature, has its cycles. Knowing this, I strongly advocate optimism; it’s a mindset that we can cultivate if we try. By looking for the bright side of situations, by being grateful for what we have rather than focusing on what we lack, and by remembering that things do, inevitably, change – often for the better – we can keep our own spirits up and continue to move in a positive direction, even in the toughest of times.”

He also assured the graduates that they are well prepared for the next stage of their lives, noting, “As you leave Potomac, you take with you all that you have learned here. You also take our admiration, appreciation, and affection. We know that you will do great things.”