Wrapping Up the Year, Looking Forward to 2023! TJHSST December Update

Principal's Message

Dear TJHSST Families:

As we bring 2022 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. TJ is special!

This past fall we rediscovered many of our in-person traditions that brought students, families, and staff together. Spirits soared as we have enjoyed attending athletic contests and arts performances, celebrating our diverse cultures and heritage, creating new ways of collaborating in IBEST and senior labs, and keeping students as our unrelenting focus. 

Our School Improvement and Innovation Plan (SIIP) for the 22-23 school year captures all the ways we support our students academically and emotionally. Summarized below, the complete plan, which is partially funded by ESSER grant funds, can be found here.

Academic goals aim to support how students learn.

  • English teachers use the FCPS Reading Inventory data to support instructional practices that have led to student growth.
  • In mathematics, all ninth grade students started the year with ALEKS,  digital resource that provides personalized learning with immediate feedback. Students in Math 2 will soon take the FCPS online Math Inventory to assess mastery of algebra and geometry concepts.

Teachers will continue to monitor student progress and differentiate instruction to meet each and every individual students’ needs. Please contact your child’s individual teachers with any questions or suggestions. You can find out more information about the Reading and Math Inventory Assessments here.

Wellness initiatives are underway with advisory and 8th period serving as time for all students to develop deeper relationships with peers and staff.  

  • The TJ Mental Health Coalition with students, staff, and parent reps develop school-wide actions that promote student wellness. 
  • Student surveys assess students’ sense of belonging and well-being. The SEL Screener is administered in October and April, and a school-based survey gathering student perspectives on wellness is administered in December and May. Data will be shared as it becomes available. 
  • Our Multi-Tiered Systems of Support and Student Services teams collaborate to develop, implement, and monitor mental health and wellness supports for TJ students.

Finally, our ninth grade students in IBEST will participate in a self-assessment of the FCPS Portrait of a Graduate (POG) - Communicator attribute. Representative IBEST teachers are learning how to align their project plans and rubrics with the communicator skills noted in the Portrait of a Graduate. Families, too, can help support our POG Communicator goals with this family resource.

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 2022 with strength and pride, not to mention being out of this world with a TJ satellite linking to the International Space Station! Read all about it below.

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, 2023. I also invite parents of students in grades 9-11 to join our virtual curriculum night on January 10 as we plan for the 2023-2024 school year.


Dr. Ann N. Bonitatibus

Proud Principal, TJHSST 

Save the Date: Curriculum Night Virtual Sessions Tues. January 10

We are excited to announce that we will be holding our annual Curriculum Night on Tuesday, January 10 at 6 p.m. The event will be held virtually and more information on how to participate will be provided at a later date.

This is a chance for TJ families of students who are returning for the 2023-24 school year to hear from counselors and teachers, learn about the different course options and get their questions answered. 

Students will have the same opportunity to learn more about courses they are interested in taking when we hold our annual Curriculum Fair on Wednesday, January 11 during eighth period.

While Curriculum Night and Curriculum Fair are for current TJ families to obtain information, students will make their actual course selections when the meet with their counselor for academic advising starting in late January. The full schedule can be found in the College and Career Center article further down in this newsletter.

Why is the event virtual? Due to physical restrictions on our campus with parking and large meeting areas, combined with a growing TJ population, we are unable to comfortably host more than two grade levels at a time. January poses weather challenges and delays. And with TJ serving a wide geographic area, parents have expressed that a virtual event is more convenient to attend and to have individual questions answered. All materials and FAQs from the evening will be posted online for parents to review at your convenience.

TJ in Space! TJ REVERB Successfully Reaches International Space Station

As you probably know already, TJ Space's student-made CubeSat, TJ REVERB, was successfully launched into space aboard the SpaceX CRS-26 supply ship on Nov. 26! It reached the International Space Station about 12 hours later on Nov. 27. Now safely on board the ISS, it will be deployed in early January where our students will have the opportunity to see if it works and successfully transmits data.

As this was the culmination of seven years of hard work by TJ Space, it received quite a bit of media attention. Here are a few of the articles and videos published over the past couple of weeks:

TJHSST Feature - Launch of TJREVERB is the Culmination of Seven-Year Project by TJ Space

Fox 5 Video Feature

WJLA ABC 7 Feature

WTOP Article

tjTODAY Video Feature


On Nov. 22 (the original launch date, which ended up being postponed due to weather), TJ Space held a launch party, inviting all the alumni who had worked hard over past seven years to see TJ REVERB through. TJ Principal Dr. Ann Bonitatibus presented the club with The National Consortium of Secondary STEM Schools' (NCSSS) 2022 Innovative STEM Student Program of the Year award it won last month at their annual conference.

Please enjoy this photo gallery featuring photos of the CubeSat, it's build, media appearances, and the launch party.

Collage of Photos of TJREVERB satellite before launchCollage of Photos from TJREVERB launch partyGroup photo of everyone who worked on TJREVERB

College and Career Center News

Each month we will feature important reminders and advice from our Student Services department. 

Key Dates:

December 2022

Dec. 1-2

  • Cookiepalooza week! Freshman students visited student services for a cookie treat and warm greetings from our Student Services staff!

Dec. 4

  • Senior research lab applications are due for juniors. Instructions are posted in Schoology.

Dec. 6

  • PSAT/NMSQT scores will be released to students through their College Board accounts. Students should contact Lisa Broadhead at lkbroadhead@fcps.edu if they have questions or any issues with accessing their score.

January 2023

Jan. 9

Jan. 10

  • Curriculum Night for Parents (Virtual)

Jan. 11

  • Curriculum Fair for Students (8th period)

Jan. 25

  • End of 2nd quarter

Academic Advising:

Students will meet with their counselor individually to choose classes for the 2023-2024 school year.

Academic Advising for the Class of 2024 – January 30 - February 10

Academic Advising for the Class of 2025 – February 13 - February 24

Academic Advising for the Class of 2026 – February 27 - March 10


Reminder to All Seniors 

Student Services will be closed during the winter break (Dec. 18 – Jan. 2).  Please make sure all transcript requests with deadlines for January and beyond are submitted no later than Dec. 12 so that we have sufficient time to process them. 

All students applying to outside programs/enrichment opportunities with a deadline during the holiday should contact their counselor next week regarding recommendations and/or unofficial transcript submissions.


Resources available for academic help and support:

  • Tutor.com - 24/7 free tutoring! The application is in Schoology.
  • 8th period help sessions.
  • Peer tutoring

Tips on how to be better prepared for that upcoming test:  

  • Don’t plan on only studying the night before. Begin studying at least a week before your test. The night before should be to review; then plan to go to bed earlier in the night, so you are well rested.
  • Be active with your studying. Quiz a friend or teach a family member. If you use flash cards, make sure you can explain the whole idea, not just the definition.
  • Not sure about something on an upcoming test? E-mail your teacher and make an appointment to talk, or set up time to see them during their 8th period days before the test.  

Emotional Support Line:

Emotional Support Line Flyer

Science Fair Judges Needed

Are you a science, engineering, or computer science professional that would like to provide guidance to some of the top science students in the US? Our local Science and Engineering Fairs could use your expertise to judge student projects.

The TJHSST Science and Engineering Fair will be held in-person at 8:30 am on Saturday, February 4, 2023, and the Fairfax Regional Science and Engineering Fair will be in-person on Saturday, March 18, 2023.

To volunteer for the TJ fair, fill out this form or contact Science Fair Director Dr. Kathy Phillips, kaphillips@fcps.edu. To volunteer for the Fairfax Regional Fair or any of the other local High School Fairs, fill out the form at the QR code below.

Flyer for Science Fair judges

Parent Advocacy Handbook

The Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee (MSAOC) has created a Parent Advocacy Handbook to provide information and support to families as they navigate the FCPS system for their children.

TJ will receive hard copies of this handbook to provide to parents. MSAOC Parent Advocacy Handbooks are also available on the web in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Korean at  https://www.fcps.edu/parentadvocacyhandbook.

Please contact Lee-Lin Finkbeiner, our Family Liaison, if you need more information about the Parent Advocacy Handbook.

TJ Educational Experiences - Japanese Culture Club Hosts Cherry Blossom Tree Ceremony

TJ's Japanese Culture Club held a ceremony on Nov. 21 to celebrate the planting of several new Cherry Blossom trees on the front lawn of the campus. These trees will grow and blossom every spring for many generations of future TJ students to enjoy. The club partnered with Air Nippon Airways and the National Cherry Blossom Festival to acquire a grant and plant the trees. Representatives of the Embassy of Japan were also present at the ceremony.

Here is a photo gallery of the events of the day.

Cherry Blossom Tree ceremony collage


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

  • Big congrats to TJ grad Atharv Gupta ('19) for being named a Rhodes Scholar! He currently attends Georgetown University and is pursuing studies that blend the tech industry with social sciences. Read all about it here.
  • TJ Alum Spandan Das ('20) was interviewed recently by NASA about his internship with the organization and talked about how TJ and Mr. Malcolm Eckel helped him along with his journey.

  • Another TJ alum, Dami Awofisayo ('22) was recently featured in The Root for being a black pioneer in tech. Read all about it here. We are so proud of all of our alumni and everything they are accomplishing in the world!
  • Congratulations to the TJ Model UN club for their performance at the William & Mary High School Model UN Conference on Nov. 5! The club brought home 29 individual and partner awards, including five gavels or first place accolades! The delegation they brought was mostly composed of freshmen (28/69 students) and sophomores (21/69 students), and their success was especially exciting!
  • Dr. Heather Murphy and Ms. Caroline Taylor recently were awarded the FCPS Cares award for the month of November. They helped gather clothing for the Kilmer Middle School Clothing Pantry. Thank you for your help this holiday season! 
  • Eighth period Club TJ Sends Love made over one hundred Veterans Day cards for Goodwin Living's hospice patients in November. Here is the response from the center:
    • Many thanks to your students for creating these beautiful cards!  They were delivered today to our veteran patients. I was also able to share extras with staff who could get them to veterans who are not on hospice, but live in our two Goodwin House buildings.

  • The TJ Quiz Bowl team had three successful competitions to begin its 2022-23 season. At the Centennial Invitational on Oct. 15, they qualified 4 teams each to the HSNCT and PACE NSC national championships. At the Johns Hopkins Winter Tournament they sent three teams and swept the podium! Finally, on November 19th, TJ Quiz Bowl hosted its first in-person tournament since COVID began. The hard work of their club officers, sponsor, and 20+ student and parent volunteers were integral to the event’s success. They had a great turnout with 16 teams from other schools in addition to three TJ house teams. 
  • Dr. Yilmaz is thrilled to announce that her Senior Computing Team won the third place prize at The 15th Annual High School Programming Contest on November 17 at Widener University. She would like to thank the club members who signed up and attended the competition as well as Ms. Kim who helped arranging the field trip. Way to go everyone!

Student Services Hosts Annual Cookiepalooza

On December 1-2, the Department of Student Services held its annual Cookiepalooza event. This allowed our freshmen class to visit the Student Services wing, learn about all the services they provide, and enjoy a tasty treat. Each member of the Class of 2026 visited during their English 9 class, and left a message on the bulletin board about "What Brings You Joy."

Here is a photo gallery of the event.

Collage of photos from Cookiepalooza

TJ Athletics Update

TJ’s Director of Student Activities, Dylan Forshay, hosted the Winter Sports Parent Meet the Coach night on November 15. We had a great turnout, thank you to all the parents for attending.

The presentation from this event can be found on www.tjsports.org under QuickLinks. It highlights Colonial Athletic Booster fundraisers and important information from the TJ Athletic Training Program.

Make sure you are signed up for our News You Choose bulletin to stay in the know with TJ Athletics! Here are some photos from the meeting as well as our December schedule.

Winter Athletics Parent Meeting CollageDecember Sports Schedule Calendar

Drug Additives to Be Aware of: Xylazine“Tranq”

The following is courtesy of FCPS' Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Charlisa Becklund, MSW:

In our continuing efforts to educate the community, we have been tracking a new trend in the region known as Xylazine or Tranq. Tranq, a non-opioid tranquilizer, is often mixed with other drugs giving the user a fentanyl-like high for an extended period of time. Considering the rise in opioid-related overdoses, it is important to know about various additives such as fentanyl and tranq that can be mixed in, unbeknownst to the user.

Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer which is not approved by the FDA for human consumption. It affects the central nervous system by suppressing breathing and slowing down vital functions in the body. Tranq has recently been detected in several fatal overdoses related to cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl in unsuspecting users. Narcan/Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, will not reverse the overdose in a person who has taken Tranq, thus resulting in potential death. Continued use has resulted in lesions, ulcers, and other health related issues resulting in loss of limbs from untreated abscesses.

While alarming, education is key to keep our communities safe. Here is some recent data showing the trend in our region. Xylazine was present in 19% of drug overdoses in Maryland in 2020 alone; with trends increasing in Pennsylvania by 26% and in Connecticut by 10%. In areas of higher populations Xylazine has been present in 1 of every 5 deaths that have been reported. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Xylazine was present in 64.3 % of deaths when it was detected. 38 states and the District of Columbia have seen a rise in Tranq in and around their communities. 

For more information please, contact myself or the Student Safety & Wellness Office at (571) 423-4270. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at @FCPSSAPS. 

Sources & Resources:

NIH: Xylazine

DEA: Xylazine

CDC: Xylazine

Overdoses in Philadelphia

FCPS Webinar: Everything You Need To Know About Opioids

For further Information & support Charlisa Becklund ,MSW

Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist


TJ is On Twitter!

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is 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!

Important Calendar Reminders

Dec. 1-3: TJ Theatre presents its fall play - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Dec. 5: Modified Anchor Day - One hour advisory and no JLC

Dec. 8:  Religious or Cultural Observance Day (Bodhi Day) - school remains in session with normal hours.

Dec. 13: Winter Band Concert in auditorium.

Dec. 17-Jan. 2: Winter Break - no school for students and staff

Jan. 6: January edition of News You Choose will be released.

Jan. 6: Religious or Cultural Observance Day (Three Kings Day Epiphany) - school remains in session with normal hours.

Jan. 10: Curriculum Night (virtual) for parents/guardians

Jan. 11: Curriculum Fair in eighth period for grades 9-11.

Jan. 11: Winter Orchestra Concert in auditorium. 

Jan. 16: MLK Holiday - no school for students or staff

Jan. 17: Midterm Exams - Periods 1 and 3

Jan. 18: Midterm Exams - Periods 5 and 7

Jan. 19: Religious or Cultural Observance Day (Orthodox Epiphany) - school remains in session with normal hours.

Jan. 20: Midterm Exams - Periods 6 and makeup

Jan. 24: Midterm Exams - Periods 2 and 4

Jan. 25: Modified Red Day - 2 hour early release

Jan. 26: Staff Development Day - no school for students

Jan. 27: Teacher Workday - no school for students. End of 2nd Quarter/1st Semester.