May/June Ted Talk: Ted Talks: Celebrating the 2022-2023 School Year

Ted Graf, Head of School
Being able to participate in the end-of-year ceremonies across various campuses is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my job. From our Springs Campus YCC students to our High School seniors, we celebrate each milestone with joy.
In the early years of Primavera Montessori, the faculty created a tradition called Gates of Life. The Gates of Life exist so that we pause and take in this moment; so that we recognize who we are now on this side of the gates, and who we may wish to become. The Gates are not some club from the early days of the school; they are an invitation for all of us to remember that education, at its best, can and should be transformative. This year, Headwaters hosted many celebrations to mark the end of the year. All with the words so many of you know and hold dear, "An ending is but another beginning. Rejoice all ye who pass through these gates."

As Jen Phillips, K-1 Cardinals Guide and school co-founder, shared so eloquently, “The Gates of Life was originally created for the very young person to help them contemplate and process big life changes. And in genuine Montessori fashion, it is a concrete representation of an abstract thought–the celebration of the completion of one cycle and the beginning of a new one.”

Springs Gates of Life

On the Springs Campus, we started the morning with our Young Children’s Casita (YCC) celebrations. Many students are moving from YCC to Primary. 

Then we moved into Primary Classroom celebrations where parents and students acknowledged those who were moving up and moving on. This concluded with everyone joining together on the playground to watch Primary students walk through the Gates of Life. And there was confetti! 

Creek Gates of Life

At the Creek Campus, the morning started with classroom celebrations to honor and celebrate those moving up and moving on. Then, we all joined together in the Grove to sing and celebrate all together! There were musical performances from our K-1, Early Elementary, and Upper Elementary students; departing guides walked through the Gates of Life; and we finished with a wonderful 5th grade ceremony with graduates going through the Gates of Life. 

“The Gates of Life allows us to get present in this very moment, to soak up and relish in the metamorphosis that is occuring.

Here you are finishing something very familiar to you, something that you have loved, that you’ve been comfortable within and now you are embarking on a new path that is not familiar at all! This takes courage. This takes hope. What better way to just ‘lean into it’ than to be surrounded by those who love you most as they fill their hearts with love and send you on your way.

You see, standing on one side of the gate is your now and everything that you have learned and have brought with you to this very place.  On the other side of the gate is your future, what you are stepping into, known or unknown, and very soon–with just one step–it will be your new NOW.” 
- Jen Phillips, K-1 Guide and Co-Founder

8th Grade Gates of Life

On Friday, May 25, 2023, we joined together at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium at The University of Texas to honor and celebrate another important milestone–8th Grade Graduation. Here are some wonderful take-aways from the ceremony:

“It has been a year of shared experiences and connection, including:
  • Flex Days, the Halloween Costume Contest, and the Forward
  • Pitsos, student-led conferences, Project Week
  • PACTivity, trips to Whole Foods, to the Central library, and to the Alamo, 
  • Performances, presentations, and now graduation.
Whether you joined Headwaters as a two-year old or a fourteen-year old, or somewhere in between, your shared experiences are what makes Headwaters a community.”
- Terra Lynch, Middle School Director

“From sharing a cabin with fifteen of my peers to enjoying the cinematic masterpiece that is Rookie of the Year on the way to the Alamo, I do not regret a moment spent with my class. And while I do not plan on telling you all how this year has been perfect, and how everyone has gotten along so well all year, I do believe my peers will agree that our grade as a whole has come so far, and that we all have way better music taste than we did at the beginning of the year. In all seriousness, we all, and I really do mean every one of us, have gained not only maturity, but grown as people.”
- Harper Eye, Student Speaker

“It has been my absolute pleasure to guide you through 8th Grade science this year. As colleagues and students will no doubt attest–I have a fondness for t-shirts bearing a message–and I fully stand by one of my best-loved offerings: 'Some people only dream of meeting their favorite scientists …. I teach mine.' Your interest, enthusiasm, and willingness to undertake any challenge I throw at you, have been my continuing inspiration. I also appreciate your humor when faced with some of my more wacky learning ideas, like throwing paper airplanes, dropping toys on parachutes, designing a dog, and constructing DNA from candy. I am so sorry that the candy was not to your liking; I have learned from that one.”
- Lesley Regan, Science Guide
Middle School Guide of the Year & Keynote Speaker

High School Commencement

We were thrilled to welcome friends, family, guides, and staff to the Class of 2023 Commencement. With skilled student speakers (Arden Egerton, Zoya Dhedhi, Bee Jackson); musical performance with Haylee Scofield, Mike Stavitz, and David Heroy; a keynote speech by the incomparable Guide Alex Ross; and a beautiful film by Arden Egerton–this ceremony shared what makes Headwaters so special. We invite you to watch the entire livestream and see the Commencement Program, too! And below are some takeaways from the ceremony:

“To the senior class, I hope you’re proud of what you’ve done in these last four years of high school. Your choices here will follow you for the rest of your life. Now, the elephant in the room. Usually, this speech would be made by a member of the administration. As you may have noticed, I’m actually not our Head of High School, Avé Luke Simpson. And though we share a striking resemblance, I’m also not our Head of School, Ted Graf. No, I don’t work for the school. My name is Arden and I am one of the graduating seniors here today. You’ll be seeing a lot of students up here today, as, reflecting the nature of our school, this commencement will be very student run. I am an–awkwardly-named–diapers-to-diploma graduate, meaning I’ve been at this school a worryingly long amount of time, so I can say for a fact that, starting with a Montessori program on our Springs and Creek Campus, and ending high school with the IB (or International Baccalaureate) program, Headwaters makes sure to put the student forward, and give them the chance to take the lead. I’m sure you’ll be able to see that this afternoon.”
- Arden Egerton, Class of 2023

“Headwaters is a place that really allows you and encourages you to practice self-care (for example, centering)... The class sizes are so small that you can really talk to one another in a way that allows you to get to know people that you might not hang out with in a deeper way than just, "Oh, they're just someone who goes to my school." And because of this, it is easy to reach out and ask how people are doing, and to notice when people aren't doing great. High schoolers tend to be a bit self-centered, and I know because I am—well I guess was—one. We all tend to care about how we feel and what's going on with ourselves to the extent that we forget about other people. By making us all get to know each other so well, Headwaters forces us to notice what is going on with other people. Of course, if you wanted to, you could just not care. But I encourage you, current high schoolers, to remember what is going on with others and to put yourself in their shoes. That will make your high school experience and even your life so much easier and more enjoyable.”
- Zoya Dhedhi, Class of 2023

“At Headwaters, you have access to brilliant and passionate teachers who genuinely care about you, which is not something that many middle and high school students can say. You have teachers who want to help you love learning, if you only let them. And while it’s impossible for every teacher to perfectly cater to the learning style of every student in their teaching (sic)–some element of learning to love learning relies on you. Find ways of studying that work for you–methods to turn even the most boring subject into something imaginative and fun. Sometimes it's just stepping back and thinking of the topic in a different light. For example, viewing physics class not as some requirement but an opportunity to understand how the world works. Let curiosity get the best of you. It may sound saccharine but I do truly encourage you to try to enjoy a subject and I swear the class will become so much more exciting.”
- Bee Jackson, Class of 2023

“You’ll never be dismayed by a locked door. You’ll simply find one that’s open. You are able to hike Everest. You can eat anything. Nothing will leave you gasping in dismay. Your levels of concentration are peerless. A vile future roommate is nothing compared to the Forward. You know that most governments require a near constant stream of abuse before they do the right thing. COVID hasn’t defeated you. You can juggle a dog, a marching band and six porcelain plates because the IB trained you to do this….
- Alex Ross, History Guide & Keynote Speaker

For more context, we highly recommend watching his entire speech at the 31:57 mark of the livestream at this link.


Spring Campus

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Creek Campus

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As a 501(c)3 non-profit school, Headwaters School does not discriminate because of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, or any other classes protected by federal, state, or local law in its admissions, hiring, or board membership processes.