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Upper School Division Director

Dr. Tila Hidalgo

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February 25, 2022

In the spring of 2020, the world made a dramatic shift overnight. We went home, hunkered down, tried to flatten the curve, and transitioned to completing our everyday routines in an online fashion. And, we are still managing the impacts of that dramatic shift from face-to-face communications and in-person collaborations to Zoom-led interactions. I am so grateful for the time we've had together thus far this school year, as many academic institutions continue to face challenges brought on by eLearning. For example, the school I came from in Vietnam returned to in-person learning only just last week for the first time since April 2021, and it is not lost on me what a gift the CSS academic year has been for faculty, students, and families alike

Though we are a school that was able – earlier on than others – to revert back to much of what we thought of as normal learning in "pre-COVID times,” there are still lingering challenges due to massive disruptions brought on by the pandemic. Brené Brown refers to this time in our world’s history as “the great awkward.” Over the past two years, we’ve been forced to adapt to new situations at a moment’s notice. While I am confident this flexibility will serve us – particularly our students – well in ways we cannot yet fully understand, I also believe the abrupt changes that took us beyond normalcy, even if just for a brief period of time, have resulted in unforeseen stressors caused by navigating “the great awkward.” 

As witnessed worldwide, sporadic and inevitable illness experienced throughout the Upper School division since 2020 has led to quarantines and, ultimately, disrupted opportunities for students to work together; to manage conflict in healthy ways, and communicate in a face-to-face fashion. Regularly practicing these social cues is considered vital for successfully making interpersonal connections, collaborating with others, and understanding and sympathizing with our peers. Left unpracticed for some time during adolescent growth and maturity, the eventual application of such skills can feel even more uncomfortable, awkward, and stressful than it once had before this unfortunate pandemic occurred. 

Being a student today just might be harder than at any other time in history. But, together we can help our students recover and thrive. In partnership with our families, the Upper School faculty and I have been diligently meeting with students to offer support toward both their academic and social-emotional needs. A focus on the latter is critical for helping students succeed academically. 

Here, I’d like to share with you several of the techniques and guidance we impart unto those students having difficulties with managing academic and social-emotional stressors

  • It is important that students acknowledge the stressor they are facing and the challenges it presents. Depending on the stressor, positive self-talk – reassuring one’s self that the outcome of a test or interaction does not permanently define them as an individual – can be helpful in taking that next step needed to overcome a particular stressor. 
  • Asking for help is beneficial for managing stress. We are readily available to guide our students and welcome partnerships with parents as we look to support our Upper Schoolers in managing stress. 
  • Mindfulness and meditation, especially when practiced regularly, can assist with keeping stressors at bay and strengthen students’ focus on harnessing the skills mentioned above. The same goes for regular exercise. Overall, connecting our minds with our bodies is essential for navigating burnout. When managing stress, our bodies go into a flight, fight, or freeze mode. Movement in general can help to reduce the effects of three major stress hormones: Adrenaline, Cortisol, Norepinephrine. 

For me personally, I find yoga, cycling, lifting weights, and walking effective in alleviating stress. While we as adults may join a gym, take yoga classes, or participate in a walking club, our Upper School students have opportunities to channel their mind-body connection not only outside of school, but through our athletics program as well. Engaging in group physical activities can also forge connections with individuals of all ages. If you don’t already, I suggest trying something active, such as hiking, with your student. This will give them a chance to informally fill you on their day and lend opportunities for you to provide them with [subconsciously solicited] parental advice or support. 

As we send our students off on Experience-Centered Seminars (ECS) next week, I hope this immersive program will give them pause from the everyday stressors they’ve been feeling, promote individual and group well-being, and offer a chance for all to practice the life skills they’ll need to move forward through the “great awkward” with both grace and confidence


Dr. Hidalgo

Upper School Spotlight

Ursa Major Chapter of the National Honor Society

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I’d like congratulate the newest members of CSS’s Ursa Major Chapter of the National Honor Society (NHS), Kaylee B. '23, Carolin K. '23, and Luiza W. '22, who will be formally inducted at a ceremony on May 2.

Kudos also to the entire NHS community on spearheading a recent toiletry drive for the Wildwood Food Pantry. Together, they collected more than 30 products for individuals in need. The group, including Chloe L. '22 and Kaylee B. pictured above, sends its thanks to all who donated one or more toiletry items – ranging from Kleenex, dish soap, and toilet paper to sponges, household cleaning products, and more – toward the drive.

Ms. Cooper

School Counselor

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For those of you who may not be aware, I’d like to introduce you to our School Counselor Heidi Cooper, who is available for students in need of extra support here at school. Ms. Cooper joined the Kodiak community in August 2021 and, already this school year, has been instrumental in helping many students manage their emotions, reflect, and grow. Her extensive training and professional background, including experience both as a family coach and social worker, makes her the perfect ally for parents looking to partner with the school to create multi-layered support systems that will help their children thrive. You can reach Ms. Cooper by email at hcooper@css.org or by phone at (719) 434-3526.

The Colorado Springs School

21 Broadmoor Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Work: (719) 434-3570

thidalgo@css.org | www.css.org