Finishing 2021 Strong - TJHSST December Update

Message from the Principal

Dear TJHSST Families:

As we bring 2021 to a close, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for the many joys we share each day. Our TJ community is remarkable as we embrace a deep love of learning and inquiry. And particularly at this time of the season we see many acts of giving and gratitude. TJ is special!

This past calendar year has posed many challenges, yet we have shown perseverance and resilience. We were torn asunder in the spring of 2020 and only partially united in the spring of 2021. In August, we reconnected and were made whole again. Spirits soared as we got to see and enjoy each other in person while maintaining a healthy school community. We have celebrated countless student and staff accomplishments. Our students proudly represented their character and talent on athletic fields, in academic competitions, and in performing arts venues, often earning local and state accolades. 

We have also had a special focus on connecting with students, engaging them in learning, and creating a sense of belonging. In a schoolwide Student Engagement Survey given a few weeks ago this past October, students reported the following:

  • High emotional engagement
  • Being treated with respect by teachers and classmates, having their ideas heard and valued, finding their teachers helpful, and that their teachers believe that they can be successful.
  • Favorite things about TJ are the people, peers, and sense of community.
  • Least favorite things about TJ are workload, time shortage, pressure to achieve, and grades.
  • Being more concerned about their grade than the intellectual challenge associated with learning.
  • TJ can be described in three words as stressful, challenging, and fun. 
  • More than 70% of students spend 8.5 hours or more on school related tasks outside of school hours, with math and science classes requiring the majority of that time. This includes homework and self-initiated preparation not assigned by teachers. 

We have taken this feedback and incorporated it in school goals for the year. You can read more about our School Improvement and Innovation Plan below.

While we count our strengths and blessings at this time of year, the holiday season can be a stressful time for individuals and families. If an emergency circumstance arises, remember you can call 911, reach Crisis Link at 703-527-4077 or text CONNECT to 85511. When school is in session, administrators, counselors, teachers and staff continue to keep open doors if students need to talk.

Remember that both children and adults need breaks from the many demands of school life.  Let's support our students and staff in finding a healthy balance between school, work, and family.  To that end, no homework shall be assigned over the winter break and no assessments are to be administered immediately upon return.  This also means staff will take a well-deserved break from email and can wait until we return to respond.  We all share in helping each other!

We are finishing 2021 with strength- we're TJ, we got this!

On behalf of the entire TJ staff, I wish all of our families a safe and relaxing winter break. I look forward to welcoming back our students on January 3, 2022. 


Dr. Ann N. Bonitatibus 

TJHSST Proud Principal

Twitter @TJAnnB 

School Improvement and Innovation Plan

Each year we set school-wide goals and create plans for achieving those goals. Over the past few years, our goals have centered around student wellness and student engagement as part of Challenge Success.

We will continue with those goals this year and have added two additional goals: supporting students academically as we have returned to in-person learning and increasing student participation in our mentorship program. All FCPS schools have dedicated funds from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant to support initiatives that contribute to students' academic achievement and wellness.

The student engagement goal in particular was set based on student engagement survey results from the early October administration. The next administration window for the student engagement survey is on February 7th during advisory. 

Complete goals for this school year can be found in our School Improvement and Innovation Plan.

Challenge Success December Updates

Thanks to all the parents who attended the Nov. 16 Challenge Success event ‘Helping students find balance: Managing workload and prioritizing sleep.' Many topics were covered by the panel representing parents, teachers, and students. Subjects included research about the pandemic’s effect on adolescent sleep schedules, how teachers structure a challenging course without extensive homework, and the effects of virtual instruction and the return to school on students’ workload and sleep schedules.  The panel was followed by an open discussion of issues of interest to attendees. 

Check out the Challenge Success Resource Sheet from the event with information about the program and links to helpful resources on a variety of topics such as a time management worksheet, a white paper about homework, and articles about the college admissions process.

Coming soon! - Register for the upcoming Dec 14 virtual event hosted by Challenge Success -- A Healthier Approach to College Admissions-- here. This event will be held at 7:00pm on December 14, 2021, and costs $10.

We are excited for more TJ Challenge Success programming coming in the new year! 

New Faces in New Places at TJ: Spotlight on Family Liaison

Support Staff

TJ has welcomed several new support staff members this fall. From L to R: Denise Margraf (Finance Admin Assistant), Kaitlin Elliott (Transcript and Mentorship Assistant), Lee-Lin Finkbeiner (Family Liaison), Becky Fornaris (Front Office Admin Assistant), Paris Rashada (COVID Case Manager). Newly added this week (not pictured) is Becky Schwers (Classroom Monitor). 

The Family Liaison position is new to TJ. We would like to highlight the role of Ms. Finkbeiner who comes to us with extensive experience supporting families as a Mandarin Chinese interpreter.

As our family liaison, she will help facilitate communication with families and provide resources, both FCPS and broader human services in the community. FCPS family liaisons promote understanding of families' cultural diversity and ensure families feel welcome, trusted, and valued.

Ms. Finkbeiner looks forward to planning, scheduling, and organizing a variety of school/community outreach programs, including one-on-one consultations, small meetings and parent conferences, Mandarin interpretation service between TJ families and TJ school staff, and workshops for families.

Please feel free to reach out to Ms. Finkbeiner with questions or ideas on how she can serve families' needs.  

Former Minister of Health of Germany Speaks to TJ Class

On Nov. 30, students in Ms. Szilvia Oszko's German 2 class were visited by the former Federal Minister of Health in Germany Ulla Schmidt. Schmidt, who also spent several years in the German Parliament, spoke about her experience, and answered several thoughtful questions from students about various world events.

Former Germany Federal Minister of Health Ulla Schmidt and Ms. Oszko's German 2 class pose for group photo.

Unique Educational Experience - Memoir Pitches

Mrs. Henry’s AP Language and Composition students pitched memoir ideas to prospective "agents" (played by other students in the class) for review.

Students spent a month reading a memoir of their choosing, researching a topic related to said memoir, and then created a memoir pitch (to include book cover and memoir write-up) for potential agent review.

Take a look at some highlights from the pitches.


Various photos of students pitching their memoirs to "agents"

TJ Holds Veterans Day Flag Raising Ceremony

We held a Flag Raising Ceremony in honor of Veterans Day on Nov. 11. In attendance were several Veterans from TJHSST students' families, along with staff members who either served or had family members who served. 

Among those joining us at the ceremony were the following:

  • Kevin Barnard – Active duty Naval Officer
  • Rick and Jennifer Angle - Rick is active duty Army
  • Catherine and Jeff Witkop – both retired Air Force
  • Carl and Mary Stout – Carl is retired Army and both are Vietnam veterans
  • Dr. Penny Dunlop – served in the Air Force

To watch the ceremony please visit this link.

Veteran family next to the USA flag.

TJ to Name Main Gymnasium After Ilryong Moon During Dec. 8 Dedication Event

Ilryong Moon Headshot

On Wednesday, Dec. 8, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology will be naming its main gymnasium after former Fairfax County School Board member Ilryong Moon. The dedication will begin at 6:00 p.m. and will be followed by the varsity boys basketball team taking on Trinity School at Meadow View at 6:30 p.m. Game tickets are $5 and you may arrive early as we read a proclamation and present Mr. Moon with a replica of the plaque that will hang outside our gym.

Mr. Moon was appointed as an at-large representative to the FCPS School Board in 1995 and in November of that year became the first Asian-American to be elected to a public office in Virginia. He served with integrity and distinction for over 20 years.

Mr. Moon is the proud parent of two Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology graduates, Joonyoung (Class of 2006) and Wooyoung (Class of 2009). 

Read the FCPS release honoring Mr. Moon here.

Important Updates: Bus Routes, Commuter Parking, Pickup, and Drop-Off

Here are a few important updates about transportation from our security office.

  • Plan to arrive early for morning drop-off. Students who commute via private vehicle are arriving increasingly late to their first class. As weather conditions worsen in the winter, plan for the unexpected so your child can be on time, maximize their learning and not disrupt instruction underway.
  • If you reside in Fairfax County, please make sure that you carefully read any email sent to you from  FCPS Transportation Services. Several routes are being considered for consolidation which may affect pick up or drop off times.
  • The TJHSST school security department has received complaints from property owners adjacent to our school.  Parents and students are not permitted to park on private property. Our neighbors have indicated they may have to seek Fairfax County police assistance with those illegally parking on their property in the mornings and afternoons. Students parking on private business or residential property that is adjacent to or near TJ are subject to the signage posted on those properties.  Businesses have informed us they will begin towing vehicles not permitted to park on their property. Thank you in advance for helping TJ's reputation as being a good neighbor to others.
  • For increased safety, there will be some changes coming soon to the “Kiss and Ride” area for student drop-off in the mornings.  We will be creating a second lane for parents to use for “Kiss and Ride”, and all parents dropping off students will be directed to use one of the two lanes.  We will restrict the parking areas to only cars displaying a valid parking pass. By creating a second lane, we will also be creating a walking zone for students to use the crosswalks at Doors 7 and 9. This will enable more cars to pull completely forward in the lanes to drop students,  and also enable students to safely cross to get to the available doors for entry into the school. These changes will be made as soon as possible for student safety and traffic improvement.


In each newsletter we want to give some quick shout outs to TJ staff, students, teams, and alumni:

  • TJ Media earned several honors at the annual awards ceremony for the National Scholastic Press Association recently!
    • For the second straight year the tjToday print edition earned a Pacemaker Award (LINK)!
    • Second Place, COVID-19 Coverage, Yearbook Spread: “In the Digital Classroom”
    • Fifth place, Design of the Year, Yearbook Theme Design
    • Honorable Mention in Story of the Year, Podcast Category: “Voices of the Pandemic”  (First time TJ Media's podcast network has ever won an award!) 
    • Honorable Mention in Design of the Year, Yearbook spread
    • Honorable Mention, Design of the Year, Illustration: “Civically minded/blinded”
  • TJ alumna Katherine Sizov ('15) was featured in the Washington Post as they covered her work protecting the nation's apple crop to help combat food waste. Fighting Food Waste, One Apple at a Time 
  • Congratulations to the TJ Marching Band for winning the Class 4A Virginia State Championship! They also finished third in the Open Class Commonwealth Cup finals! This is their highest finish in the event since they began attending in 2018.
  • TJHSST had nearly 40 faculty and staff participants in the FCPS Walktober virtual wellness event, the highest participation of any FCPS high school. Given our emphasis on wellness, we're proud to practice what we preach! FCPS has awarded TJ with a $500 Amazon gift card that can use towards purchases that will benefit staff wellness.
  • On November 14th, a group of over 100 TJ Latin students attended the annual convention of the Virginia Junior Classical League. TJ delegates, as usual, performed incredibly well, and many earned special recognition. In addition, seven TJ placed in the top 10 of the Decathlon test. This is an incredibly rigorous exam, covering 10 topics such as grammar, history, and mythology, and determines the top Latin scholars in the state. 

Nominations for FCPS Outstanding Employee Awards Due Dec. 6

As a reminder, the deadline to nominate a TJ staff member for the FCPS Outstanding Employee awards is coming this Monday, Dec. 6.

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

Criteria for each of the awards can be found here.

To submit a nomination for a Outstanding Employee in one of the categories, complete the nomination through this form.

Digital Citizenship

FCPS describes Digital Citizenship as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior (and its positive and negative impact on self and others) with regard to technology use. It's important for us to work as a community, together as educators and parents, to guide children and help them acquire skills and strategies to become safe, ethical, responsible and respectful digital citizens.

During virtual learning the past two years, some students developed unhealthy habits of keeping multiple internet tabs open during instruction. Without being in a classroom in person, it was easy to get distracted by posts on social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Discord and Facebook, not to mention gaming platforms and an over-reliance on having a personal cell phone in hand. We are seeing some of these habits persist now that we're back face-to-face.

Please have a conversation as a family about a student's responsibility to stay engaged during class and save social media and gaming platforms for non-school hours. You may find this family resource from FCPS  helpful.

Remind your children that certain types of digital interactions can have a negative impact. For instance, children compare talents, body types and appearances in a way that may lead to lower self esteem, eating disorders, or risky behaviors. Teens in particular may find themselves getting lured into online discourse that devolves into unflattering portrayals, and they forget that a digital image with their name can be preserved. Beyond peer pressure, teens may also become subject to attack or be objectified by adults. At times the school is made aware of certain activity; however, school officials generally do not have the authority or responsibility to monitor or respond to posts on platforms that do not operate under the ownership of TJ or FCPS. 

Please be aware of your child's online activity as we all want them to benefit from responsible digital citizenship. If you find your child being individually impacted by digital interactions that affect their academics, health or wellness, encourage them to disengage and seek help if needed from a trusted adult, school counselor or administrator, or other qualified professional.  

Midterm/Finals Schedule Announced

For classes with mid-year or semester final exams, exams will take place during the normal class time for each period. Here is the schedule.

Thursday, January 13 - Exams for periods 1 and 3.

Friday, January 14 - Exams for periods 5 and 7

Tuesday, January 18 - Exams for periods 2 and 4

Thursday, January 20 Exams for period 6, plus any makeup exams.

TJ is Now On Twitter!

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is now on Twitter! Visit @TJHSST_Official  for news, upcoming events, reminders of important deadlines, and updates of all the fun activities going on at the school.

Be sure to give us a follow!

Early Dismissal Procedures

If your child needs to leave school early, please notify the attendance office in advance by email or voice message:

  • TJ attendance email or to  Email is the quickest way to reach the attendance office.
  • Leave a message on the Attendance Message line (703) 750-8315 and select option 2 for early dismissal.
  • You can notify the attendance office of any early dismissals that you anticipate through the end of the school year.
  • Your child should come to Attendance, in the main office, to pick up their early dismissal pass to leave class early.  The school does not page students, call the classroom or get students from class.
  • Students will sign out as the leave at the designated time.  They will walk out to the visitors parking lot, in front of the main entrance, when you arrive.
  • Parents do not need to come into the building.

Important Calendar Reminders

Dec. 8: Religious or Cultural Observance Day (Bodhi Day)

Dec. 8: Band Solo & Small Ensemble Recital at TJ, 6:30 p.m. in auditorium

Dec. 14: Winter Band Concert at TJ, 7 p.m. in auditorium. 

Dec. 17: Last day of school before Winter Break.

Dec. 18-Jan. 2: Winter Break - No school for students or faculty

Jan. 5: Winter Orchestra Concert at TJ, 7 p.m. in auditorium

Jan. 6: Religious or Cultural Observance Day (Three Kings Day/Epiphany)

Jan. 6: Modified Blue Day with two-hour early release.

Jan. 7: Religious or Cultural Observance Day (Orthodox Christmas)