TJ: Our Time to Give Thanks- November Updates

Thanksgiving = Time for Family

Dear TJHSST Families:

The entire TJ faculty and staff extend a heartfelt thank you for supporting our amazing school!  We would not be who we are today if not for your tireless dedication, volunteerism, sacrifice, and pride you bring to us each day.  

For that reason, we wish to give families the gift of time during the holiday break.  No short-term homework is assigned over the holiday.  This means no new work is due on Monday, November 30, assessments will not be given on that day, and we are discouraging major assessments for the Tuesday and Wednesday of return.  We want our students to enjoy a mental wellness break and have time to safely connect with family and friends.

To that end, you may find this Playtime, Downtime and Family Time for teenagers a valuable resource as shared by our Challenge Success network of schools. And because this is a season of gratitude, the University of California at Berkeley shares this publication on fostering gratitude in children.

We also must recognize the lack of human contact and the disappointment of not traveling and seeing loved ones during the holiday season can cause stress and depression. Please reach out to a school counselor if you see your child struggling. Also, families may contact CrisisLink (703-527-4077) or Crisis Text (text NEEDHELP to 85511).

Finally, we are moving forward with plans for in-person learning slated to begin second semester. See all the FCPS Return to School updates and metrics here.  In the weeks that lie ahead, we will confirm for families the breakdown of which students attend on which days, along with processes to update transportation needs. Each day we are committed to practices that keep us safe and well.

Enjoy a healthy and fulfilling holiday!


Dr. Ann N. Bonitatibus


Thankful for Our Students and Teachers

Our amazing and hard-working faculty and students continue to adjust to anything 2020 may throw our way and we are always there for each other!

A quick look at our first quarter data shows increased levels of student achievement this fall. Compared to last year at the same time, many more students earned higher marks and the average unweighted GPA for the term increased from 3.65 to 3.78.

Online instruction is working well, doing the best we can given the circumstances we face. As we focus on depth as opposed to breadth, we have maintained our academic standards. We continue to remain flexible, refine our approaches, and meet the needs of individual students. Teachers are working above and beyond, as are our students and families. We are a strong community learning together.   

Dr. Locklear's Neuro Lab


Students attending in-person senior labs are intent on their research and can simultaneously collaborate with their online partners. Pictured are Dr. Locklear's Neuro Lab scientists harnessing fruit flies. 


Image of band playing TJ Fight song from their homes

The music plays on as TJ Band finds creative ways to continue to perform. Using Open Shot video editor and some new software, Band Director Stephen Ballard was able to unite ensembles. The TJ Fight Song as performed by members of TJMC is linked here. Separately, the TJ Brass Ensemble also put together some other videos, including this one of  John Philip Sousa's march, Semper Fidelis.

Thankful to All Who are Preparing for a Safe and Healthy Return

The TJ faculty and staff are hard at work preparing the school for healthy and safe in-person learning at the start of second semester. Approximately 500 students will attend two days per week on either Tuesday/Wednesday or Thursday/Friday. Most in-person classes will average between 3-5 students. The FCPS mitigation plans are in full swing at TJ. 


Classroom that is set up for social distancing

Our classrooms are set up in 3x3 patterns with nine desks arranged at least six feet apart to allow for social distancing.

Ruth Flores Coreas and our entire custodial services team are constantly cleaning all high-touch surfaces. They have set time frames and schedules, along with special disinfectants and tools, to keep us healthy throughout the day.

Custodian cleaning door handle.
Our staff practicing wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

As demonstrated by Brandon Kostka, Kim Cox and Kerry Hamblin, our staff members are all wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Students will be required to follow the same protocols per the updated FCPS regulation on face coverings.

Signage is in place throughout the school reminding everyone to practice social distancing and wear masks. Directional arrows and other floor stickers will show where to walk, stand, and sit.

Signage reminding students to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Thankful for Spirited Contests

Our spirited students continue to impress us with their resilience, creativity, and willingness to rise up to any challenge! TJ SGA held a virtual Spirit Week from November 9-13. See the winners below. Stay tuned for game nights, with December 4 as the next date. Thanks to PTSA for sponsoring these events.

Also, many classes surprised their teachers at the end of this week, just in time for our season of giving thanks, with Cameratude Gratitude. They found fun ways to surprise their teachers by turning on their cameras and mics during class, bringing tears of joy to our teachers who saw some of their students for the first time this year.

Go to space and be a friendly crewmate or sneaky impostor. Do we ever really know who is friend or foe? Just ask Sahithi Atluri who was named the Among Us Monday Winner.

Among Us Spirt Winner
TV Tuesday

Who hasn't binge-watched a little television during the past eight months? Many of us have learned to take on the personas of our favorite characters. On TV Tuesday, Savar Shrivastava showed his style. Can you guess the character?

The air has turned nippy and it's sweater time! Not all sweaters, though, are created equal. Wacky is in the eye of the beholder, so says Wacky Sweater Wednesday Winner Elliott Lee.

Wacky Sweater Wednesday Winner
Team Thursday - Grace Guan

We all love supporting our favorite teams and finding creative ways to show our spirit. See super fan Team Thursday Winner Grace Guan.

Let's be honest. High fashion is no more. Flannel has been trending for months and all of us are so much more comfy and cozy like Flannel Friday Winner Evelyn Li.

Flannel Friday Winner - Evelyn Li

Thankful for Your Service

As we celebrated Veterans Day this month, we want to give special recognition to our staff members for their individual military service or for being a part of a military family. We thank them all for the service and sacrifices they have made for our country. Thanks, also, to TJ military service members and families.

Individual service: Rob Culbertson (Air Force), Kathy Juster (Navy), Brandon Kosatka (Army), Barry Potoker (Navy and Reserves), Steve Rose (Air Force), Kelsey Stuart (Air Force)

Military Family: Teresa Hamrick, Suzette Henry, Tanya Holloway, Kathy Janac, Rae Kobren, Kristen Kucko, Rachel Mills, Laureen Nelson, Virginia Pendleton, Vicky Plescow, Jennifer Seavey, Ashley Slifka

Thankful for Outstanding Employees: Nominate Faculty and Staff

Staff, Parents, Students:

The FCPS Employee Award is an annual awards program designed to celebrate employee success and increase recognition of outstanding employees across the school system.  We are now taking nominations for the FCPS Outstanding Employee Awards and would love to have TJ staff included among the honorees!

To submit a nomination for a TJHSST Outstanding Employee in one of the six categories, please complete the nomination through this Google form. Students, parents, and staff may nominate an employee in one or more categories. All that is required for a preliminary nomination is a paragraph about how this employee demonstrates exceptional work in the criteria for that category. 

If you have any questions please contact Assistant Principal Laura Fitzgerald at Note: the deadline for nominations in November 27. Thank you for recognizing our fine staff members.

Thankful for Old Friends and New TJ Family Members

The start of the year ushered in a new freshman class and new TJ staff members. We bid a fond farewell to several faculty and support staff who relocated or retired. Below is a summary with who has joined or transitioned within the TJ family this past fall.

Steve Ballard, Band Director, filling vacancy from Adam Foreman who relocated.

Dave Bell, Electronics Lab director, retired with Chuck dela Cuesta taking those classes.

Lisa Broadhead, Assessment Coach, filling vacancy from Leslie Barnhart who retired.

Emani Cannady, Health/PE substitute, filling in for Barry Potoker on military leave.

Laura Fitzgerald, Assistant Principal, filling the vacancy from Mike Yohe who retired.

Steve Frazier, Social Studies teacher, filling vacancy from Lizzie Sheptyck who relocated.

Emilia Gillevet, Social Studies teacher, filling vacancy while Sofhia Qamar is on leave.

Tracy Harris, Art teacher, filling vacancy from Keith Beale who relocated.

Mark Hannum, Physics teacher, returned from leave and filling vacancy from Steve Scholla who retired.

Jane Iyengar, Technology Education teacher, filling vacancy from Darcie Jones who pursued a new STEM opportunity.

Quinn McFee, Math/Computer Science teacher, filling new position.

Tonya Mitchell, front Office Assistant filling the vacancy from Cindy Powell who relocated.

Meghan O’Dea, German teacher, filling vacancy from Laura Vinti Glaeser who relocated.

Mary Parrish, Spanish teacher, filling vacancy from Andre de Megret who relocated.

Virginia Pendleton, English teacher, filling vacancy from Nancy Glover who relocated.

Jason Platt, Technology Education teacher, filling vacancy from internal shift in staffing.

Mike Roth, Communications Specialist, new position.

Kelsey Stuart, Astronomy teacher, filling vacancy from internal shift in staffing.

Rosa Urena, Spanish teacher, filling the vacancy from Peggy Gendive who retired.

Nick Thompson, Health/PE teacher, filling the vacancy from Heidi Smith who retired.

Kudos go out to...

Even though we’re in a virtual environment, we continue to hear news of staff and student accomplishments. Below are some of the news clips brought to our attention, and we encourage other kudos to be submitted to TJ Communications Specialist Mike Roth at

• Social Studies teacher Monte Bourjaily published an article in the Virginia Journal of Education.

• Social Studies teacher Jenifer Hitchcock published an article in Education Week.

• English/journalism teacher Erinn Harris has been awarded the National Scholastic Press Association's highest adviser award.

* Computer Science lab director Shane Torbert was pleased TJ was mentioned at the National Quantum Initiative launch.

• November celebrated School Psychologists and we thanked our own Esther Barkat.

• Our Challenge Success team attended a virtual professional development conference and garnered new ideas for virtual instruction and wellness techniques that continue to address our goals for decreased workload, managing expectations, and the importance of sleep.

• We had nearly two dozen staff members attend a virtual professional development conference with the National Consortium of Secondary STEM Schools. Topics were organized by content strands as teachers learned about pedagogy, techniques, wellness initiatives, innovations, and challenges specific to top STEM schools in the nation.

• Model United Nations advisor Ilsa Tinkelman noted TJHSST Model UN Club competed in the virtual William & Mary Model United Nations High School Competition and won Best Large Delegation – the top accolade awarded to a school. In addition to the team’s success, there were 26 students who garnered individual recognition in four different categories.

• SGA and class leaders have been integral in developing opportunities for social connections among students, in addition to collaborating with administrators and teachers with ideas on how to adjust instruction and meet student needs.

• Over 200 of our seniors were named National Merit Commended Students with 130 of them named National Merit Semifinalists.

Important Dates*

November 24: TJ "Catch Up Day" with no new instruction or major assessments. Students attend class as scheduled and can work independently on tasks for that class or another class. Teachers will schedule their own individual Catch Up Day with their classes at least one other time prior to the end of second quarter.

November 25-27: Holiday. Schools closed for students and staff. No new homework can be assigned to be due immediately after break.

November 30: Asynchronous Day. Tuesday and Wednesday, December 1-2, are the first full days of instruction after a major holiday. Teachers should not give new major assessments (outside of make-ups or retakes).

December 21-January 1: Winter Break. Schools closed for students and teachers. No new or short-term homework assigned after break and no major assessments upon first days of return.

January 19, 21: Asynchronous days for students. FCPS has reserved these days as teacher work days to prepare for concurrent instruction second semester.

January 20: Inauguration Day. Schools closed for students and staff.

January 22: Second Quarter/First Semester ends. 2 hour early release for students.

January 26: Third Quarter/Second Semester starts. In-person students report. Note: to prepare for concurrent instruction, teachers report to the building the week of January 11 and Mondays for the two weeks leading up to January 26 are reserved for teacher work days.


* Dates/purposes subject to change based on health metrics, instructional needs, and systemic decisions by FCPS.


Helpful FCPS Resources

Instruction Update for Small Groups

Mental Health Resources and Emergency Services Information

Parent/Guardian Health Screening Commitment form


Return to School

Student Health and Safety Guidance Document

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Permission to Return to School/Child Care Form

Virginia Department of Health


Riding the Bus

Return to School Daily Procedures