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Many Happy Returns

Many Happy Returns
Jim Norman

The Canterbury family is together again! Classes kicked off on September 7 following a week filled with leadership training, orientation activities, and preseason athletics—and the campus is buzzing with energy. Our 109th school year is underway!

New and returning Saints are ready to learn, lead, serve, and make new memories together. They hail from around the world, representing 17 countries and 17 U.S. states. Plus, in the true spirit of family, 19 of our students are children (and two are grandchildren!) of Canterbury alumni.

Prior to student arrivals, teachers were plenty busy in meetings and professional development exercises, and Head of School Rachel Stone P ’23, ’24 presented her annual welcome remarks to faculty and staff in the Dining Hall. Rachel expressed her appreciation to all who helped keep the campus productive and beautiful throughout the summer and prepare for our students’ return. She then led an interactive discussion about how Canterbury defines “student-centered." Audience responses included prioritizing the student experience, meeting students where they are, recognizing potential, understanding stories, and growth-focused and well-rounded development. New faculty and staff were introduced to a hearty round of applause, and Rachel concluded by proclaiming, “May this be a year of new conversations, strong relationships, and a proud, healthy, student-centered village.”

Student leaders—including the Sixth Form Council, Sacristans, Proctors, and Ambassadors—were the first to arrive on August 28, commencing two days of intensive training and retreat activities. Varsity athletes were next; they moved in on August 31 and jumped right into practices and workouts for their soon-to-come first games and scrimmages. International students were welcomed to campus two days later, followed by all remaining students on September 4.

The next several days saw students gleefully reunited with old classmates—and introduced to new ones—in a series of orientation events. Form Fun featured a variety of games, trivia, and even s’mores over the firepits! Orientation Adventures & Activities also brought students together for interactive bonding experiences. “It was great to see my returning friends,” said Sixth Form Council Member Ziyi “Owen” Wang ’24. “And I was even more excited to meet new faces and show them around.”

Parents and guardians got into the spirit of things as well, meeting faculty, staff, and each other at welcome receptions in the Steers Center on each of the student arrival days.

The first day of classes included the year’s first School Meeting in Maguire Auditorium, which was filled with energy as Rachel welcomed everyone and we surprised Cross Country Coach Tracy Garcia LaVigne P ’14, ’16, ’17, ’20, ’23 with news that the girls' divisions of our annual Canterbury Cross Country Invitational will be renamed in her honor. The entire audience rose to their feet in thunderous applause, which brought tears of joy to Tracy’s eyes. Long-time Cross Country Coach Walter Burke is receiving the same honor on the boys’ side.

Director of Community Life Elyse “EJ” Soifersmith P ’27 was beyond excited to see everyone back. “The hilltop is bustling, and students have been extremely active since arriving on campus,” EJ said. “From our Leadership Retreat to preseason tryouts to the All-School Cookout and Form Fun evening, Saints have been bonding and getting ready for an amazing school year. We welcomed them with open arms and are so ready for their 2023-24 journey to begin!