Excited for Holiday Season! - TJHSST December Update

Message from the Principal

Dear TJHSST Families:

As we bring 2023 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!

During this past month I had the opportunity to visit top STEM schools in the Houston, TX area and in Phoenix, AZ. I learned how fortunate we are to be a large magnet school that can offer a wide variety of student experiences. Smaller programs do not have the capacity to offer multiple electives, nor do they have athletic teams at their own school. Yet, they share many of the same qualities that TJ has such as a trusted student body, expert teachers, state-of-the-art technology, supportive parents, and clubs galore. Some of the teachers in the other schools already have connected with TJ teachers to share ideas.

As we started the second quarter of the year, I prompted students with several questions. Have I put forth my best effort? Have I asked my teacher for assistance if I don’t understand concepts? Have I worked collaboratively and fairly with classmates? Have I demonstrated to my teachers that I am fully engaged in class? Do I focus on what I learn as opposed to the grade I get? How do I talk about learning? Have I accessed other resources such as talking to trusted adults or going online for free tutoring? Where have I had success and how do I celebrate it? And finally, how will I continue to grow at TJ? These are great questions for families to discuss and reflect.

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 2023 with positive vibes! On behalf of the entire TJ staff, I wish all of our families a safe and relaxing winter break. We look forward to welcoming back our students on January 2, 2024. I also invite parents of students in grades 9-11 to join our virtual curriculum night on January 17 as we plan for the 2024-2025 school year.


Dr. Ann N. Bonitatibus

Proud Principal, TJHSST 

TJ's 2023-24 SIIP Now Available to View

The 2023-2024 School Improvement and Innovation Plan (SIIP) for TJ is now available on our website.

This plan was developed in alignment with the FCPS Strategic Plan goals, and remains focused on supporting our students’ academic and social achievement. Measurable outcomes are focused on the following: Growth and Performance in Coursework, Successful Completion of Advanced Coursework, and Safe, Supported, Included, and Empowered Students.

Save the Date! Curriculum Night to Take Place Virtually Jan. 17

We are excited to enter the scheduling season for the 2024-2025 school year.  Please save the date for our virtual Curriculum Night on Wednesday, January 17 from 6:00-8:00 p.m

Parents and guardians of Class of 2025, 2026, and 2027 students are invited to login and participate in four sessions of their choice. There will be multiple sessions running concurrently. They will feature teachers from all four departments, counselors, and administrators. We will share information that will help support the important decisions that parents and students will make when selecting courses for the upcoming school year. More information about the event will follow in early January.

Fall SEL Screener Results Available Soon

One of the ways FCPS supports the mental wellness of all students is the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Screener.

TJ students took the SEL Screener during the month of October, providing information on their skills like achieving goals, understanding and managing emotions, establishing and maintaining relationships with adults and peers, and making responsible decisions. 

The SEL Screener also helps students evaluate their school community’s efforts to make them feel valued, included, and supported. Screener data is used to create the learning, experiences, and environments students need to be successful.

Beginning in early December, individual student SEL Screener results will be available to families in SIS ParentVUE. For families who do not have an active ParentVUE account, results will be sent via postal mail.

For more information about the screener please visit the Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Screener webpage. For support in understanding your individual student’s results or for ideas on how to support them at home, please review the Family Guide or contact your student’s counselor.

MTSS In Focus: Attendance is Key!

Note: This is part of a monthly series to help families understand TJ's MTSS system. To see other articles in the series, please visit previous News You Choose newsletters. 

TJ's Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) Committee considers several core indicators of student wellness. One key indicator is student attendance. Years of scientific research has demonstrated that students learn best and grow most when they are connected to their school community. That's why attendance is an important area of focus for our MTSS team.  

Our MTSS attendance committee meets regularly to discuss strategies to improve the overall attendance of all students, evaluate and adjust attendance procedures, and determine the individual needs of students who have ten (10) or more absences.

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) defines chronic absenteeism as missing more than 18 days in a school year. That's just 2 or 3 a month. Even if these absences don't immediately impact grades, they can make it harder for students to access all of the opportunities for involvement and learning.

Also VDOE uses attendance as one of the factors to determine continued school accreditation. With all of the great things that happen daily at TJ, we know that no one would want to jeopardize TJ’s accreditation.

The MTSS attendance committee works closely with students, parents, teachers and school counselors to ensure that all students are present daily so that they can be a part of TJ’s uniquely enriching environment. If you are experiencing challenges with regular school attendance, know that MTSS is here to help!


TJ Student Outreach - Challenge Success Team Visits Kilmer Middle School

TJ Students presenting Challenge Success ideals to Kilmer Middle School students.


In an outreach effort to share advice regarding Challenge Success ideals, students representing TJ visited with 8th graders at Kilmer Middle School just before Thanksgiving.

The presentation by TJ students was entitled, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Fitness, and Time Management Skills To Succeed in High School.”

There was an opportunity for a question and answer session after the presentation, and the middle school students were focused, inquisitive, and interested in the feedback from the presenters. It was great to see such enthusiasm.

For five years we have focused on decoupling workload from rigor (more does not equate to better), managing expectations, and the importance of sleep. These tenets are part of the TJ fabric woven into our daily practices.

For more information on the Challenge Success program, visit TJ's website.

Class of 2025 Getting Ready for Senior Year with Junior Lab Visits!

Collage of photos from Class of 2025 doing their junior lab visits


The Class of 2025 will soon be submitting their preferences for a senior research lab experience. To help them along, the TJ lab directors hosted the Junior Lab Visit Day during an eighth period last month. 

Juniors visited three different labs of their choice to gain more information on the types of research projects they could do. Each junior also attended a session on the TJ Mentorship program, another terrific option that meets the senior research requirement. The senior year is really a transitional time to bridge high school with college and career interests. There are many eager organizations willing to give our students intern and mentor experiences. 

Parents and guardians of members of the Class of 2025 are encouraged to talk with their child about their interests, as they will be picking their top three choices during academic advising in late January. 

Click here for more information on TJ's Senior Research Program.

PTSA Hosts Diwali Celebration for TJ Students and Staff

Collage of photos from TJ PTSA Diwali Celebration


On November 10 after school, the TJ PTSA hosted a Diwali celebration for students and staff. Featuring many amazing student performances and some delicious food, a good time was had by all!

Thank you TJ PTSA for continuing to celebrate the many diverse cultures of TJ!

NCSSS Conference: Thank you TJ Partnership Fund!


Pictured above is Dr. Bonitatibus, immediate past president of NCSSS, with other past presidents celebrating NCSSS 35th Anniversary.


TJ is a founding member of the National Consortium of Secondary STEM Schools (NCSSS). Each year, we send a team of our professional to a national conference.

This year's event was in Phoenix, November 12-15. Staff who attended included Ms. Armstrong, Mr. Bass, Dr. Bonitatibus, Ms. Crane, Dr. Delgado-Payne, Dr. Gabor (presenter), Ms. Geiger, Mr. Lord, Ms. Schmitt, and Dr. Stickler. Sessions attended included the following: Models Reveal Mathematical Gems with Netlogo, Math Intervention for STEM Schools, Journey through 9th Grade Transition, Harvard's Case Method Institute, Student Engineering Design Products, Computational Thinking and the Arts, Making Senior Year Relevant with Stem, and many more.

This opportunity was made possible through a grant awarded by the TJ Partnership Fund. We would like to extend our thanks to the TJPF and the donors who support our professional development that keeps TJ in the forefront of STEM education!

We Feel Appreciated! TJ PTSA Hosts Thanksgiving Staff Appreciation Lunch

Collage of photos from the TJ PTSA staff appreciation Thanksgiving luncheon


On November 17, the TJ PTSA hosted a full Thanksgiving appreciation luncheon for the entire TJ staff. Featuring not only the Thanksgiving classics, but also food from several cultures. 

The food was delicious, and the teachers and staff were very thankful for such an amazing meal!

Science Fair Judges Needed

Flyer requesting people to volunteer for FCPS Science Fairs


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, January 20, 2024, and the Fairfax Regional Science and Engineering Fair will be in-person on Saturday, March 16, 2024.

To volunteer for the TJ fair, 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 on the flyer above or visit here.

TJ Educational Experience - A Deep Dive Into Geologic History

Collage of photos from Geosystems field trip to Corridor H


On Saturday, November 11, 40 Geosystems seniors attended a unique field trip to Corridor H in West Virginia along with their Geosystems teachers, Dr. Jirón, Dr. Phillips, Ms. Sarmiento, and Dr. Woodwell.

Guided by Prof. Jay Kaufman of University of Maryland and Prof. Geoff Gilleaudeau of George Mason University, and funded by the National Science Foundation, students learned about various sedimentary rocks from 300-500 million years ago. By looking at the rocks, students unearthed the stories the rocks tell about the different environments and species that existed at that time on our Earth.

Students had an opportunity to crack open rocks and take home with them samples of rocks, including coal, limestone, and sandstone; minerals, including halite and gypsum; and fossils, including crinoids, brachiopods, coral, and bryozoans.


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

Entire TJ Latin Team poses in togas at Virginia Junior Classical League ConventionAwards won at Virginia Junior Classical League Convention by TJ


  • TJ Latin took 90 students to the Virginia Junior Classical League Convention in Richmond, Virginia, and had numerous exciting awards-- 21 students placed in the top 10 of all attendees for their grade, two students won cash awards in the academic Decathlon, and one was elected the president of the entire VJCL. Way to go TJ Latin! 
  • TJ’s Social Change club worked tirelessly since 2021 on creating, designing and promoting their idea to start a Ethnic Studies Course at TJ. It was proposed by former officers of the Social Change Club, including alumni Sophia Li, Jaya Gupta, Ananya Bandaru, Drishika Bose, and current seniors Harika Akundi and Anika Holder. Their goal was to design a curriculum focused on various ethnicities and the role they have played in American society. Their efforts garnered a Fairfax Peace Award last school year. Following a detailed approval process, FCPS has approved the course to be offered starting next year at TJ. Social Change would like to thank the following FCPS Leadership and TJ staff and school board members for their role and support through this process. Special thanks go to the TJ Humanities Social Studies Department led by Mrs. Hawkins, Ms. Lebryk- Chao and Ms. Hitchcock, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Dr. Noel Klimenko, and club sponsors Ms. Russell and Dr. Bonitatibus.

  • Congratulations to English teacher Dr. Denise Castaldo who was nominated as a FCPS Cares employee! A student nominee wrote, "Dr. Castaldo cares about her students. I've experienced this first hand. She conducts individual meetings during 8th period, and I remember talking to her extensively about literature and life. Not only is she intelligent in English, but also the analysis that comes with it. It is impressive the way she facilitates analysis and deep thinking in her class. For instance, in her class we have deep discussions about topics in literature and life, such as materialism, equality, and racism. I have not found a teacher who has done that to such a level that she has... I realize just how blessed I was to have her as a teacher because Dr. Castaldo's teaching style is unique."
  • After FCPS wrote about our Artificial Intelligence classes back in September, it received some local media press this past month. Fox5 and WTOP both did stories interviewing students and staff!
  • Congratulations to the TJ History Bowl teams for coming in first place in both the Varsity and JV competitions at the DC Fall History Bowl on Nov. 11! TJ has now qualified 2024 Varsity and JV National Championships in Arlington, Virginia scheduled for April 25-28. 
Percussion Ensemble poses for group photo at VMEA


  • Congratulations to the TJ Percussion Ensemble for their performance at the Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA) Conference, in Richmond, on November 17. The group was selected through a blind audition process, and was the only percussion ensemble invited in the entire state!

  • Now for some TJ alumni news - if you know of a TJ alum who has done something great, please contact Communications Specialist Mike Roth. We want to recognize them!
    • Class of 2022 graduate Christopher Arraya has been named to the Morehead-Cain Class of 2026 at the University of North Carolina. Read more about his award here
    • Class of 2001 graduate Mike Elias, the current General Manager of Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles, was named the 2023 MLB Executive of the Year after leading the team to 101 wins and an American League East Division title!

Class of 2026 Parents/Guardians - Join the 10th Grade Parent Book Club "The Emotional Lives of Teenagers" by Lisa Damour, Ph.D

Dear Class of 2026 Parents/Guardians,

We want to invite you to join us for the 10th grade Parent Book Club this year! We will be reading "The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents" by Lisa Damour, Ph.D. 

According to Amazon: "Parents who read this book will learn:

  • what to expect in the normal course of adolescent emotional development and when it’s time to worry
  • why teens (and adults) need to understand that mental health isn’t about “feeling good” but about having feelings that fit the moment, even if those feelings are unwanted or painful
  • strategies for supporting teens who feel at the mercy of their emotions, so they can become psychologically aware and skilled at managing their feelings
  • how to approach common challenges that come with adolescence, such as friction at home, spiking anxiety, risky behavior, navigating friendships and romances, the pull of social media, and many more
  • the best ways to stay connected to their teens and how to provide the kind of relationship that adolescents need and want

We are planning to have 2 in-person sessions for this book club.  The tentative book club discussions will be in January/February to allow enough time to read the book. More details to come.  If you are interested in joining the book club, please register at this link.  

Interested in a Senior Yearbook Ad? Deadline Coming Up Dec. 8

Class of 2024 Families,

Senior Yearbook ads are on sale now through December 8. 

Click this link for a sample.

To order visit www.yearbookordercenter.com and use school code 13621. Once there, you can scroll down to "Share Your Love" and click the "Start Your Ad" button. Options and pricing will then appear. It’s a great way to honor your senior’s past, present, and future!

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to email Lisa Hampton (lmhampton@fcps.edu).

Quick Reminders

Here a few quick reminders that TJ Families should be aware of:.

  • From TJ Assessment Coach Ms. Broadhead - If your student is enrolled in their 7th (or more) AP course this year, families will receive an invoice in MySchool bucks. This is separate from any self-study exam fees families may have already paid for. FCPS will pay for the first six exams when a student is enrolled in the course. Fees for any exams that coincide with AP courses beyond the first six are the responsibility of the family. If you have any questions, please reach out to me at LKBroadhead@fcps.edu.
  • From Safety and Security Specialist Mr. McNulty - Students that would like to request a change in their bus stop either in the AM or PM do not need to complete a change form. They just simply need to send me a request, via email at femcnulty@fcps.edu. I need to know the student name/ID number, address and what change they are requesting. I will then send that on to FCPS Transportation. FCPS Transportation is the one that makes the actual change in the their system.

Winter Sports Season has Begun!

Calendar of December athletic events


Winter Sports are underway at TJ! Boys and Girls Basketball, Cheerleading, Gymnastics, Track & Field, Swim & Dive, and Wrestling have all started competitions. Visit our athletics website tjsports.org for more information.

Follow TJ on Social Media!

Be sure to visit Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology On its official social media channels!

Visit our X (Twitter) account @TJHSST_Official  for news, upcoming events, reminders of important deadlines, and updates of all the fun activities going on at the school.

Visit our Instagram account @OfficialTJHSST for pictures and highlights of those fun events!

We'd love it if you give us a follow!

Important Calendar Reminders

Dec. 7: Religious or Cultural Observance Day (Hanukkah)Begins in evening, school in session with normal hours, no afterschool activities

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

Dec. 11: First Quarter Catch-up Day

Dec. 13: Winter Band Concert - 7 p.m. in auditorium

Dec. 18-Jan. 1: Winter Break - no school for students or staff

Jan. 5: January News You Choose newsletter will be released. 

Jan. 8: This is a modified Anchor Day - there will be a 60 minute advisory and no JLC.

Jan. 10: Winter Orchestra Concert - 7 p.m. in auditorium

Jan. 15: Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday - No school for students or staff.

Jan. 17: 2024-25 Curriculum Night from 6:00-8:00 p.m. (virtual).

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

Jan. 20: TJ Science Fair - 8:30 a.m. at the school.

Jan. 22: This is a Red Day - Midterm Exams 5th and 7th Periods.

Jan. 23: This is a Blue Day - Midterm Exams 1st and 3rd Periods.

Jan. 24: This is a Red Day - Midterm Exams 6th Period and Makeups.

Jan. 25: This is a 2-hour early release Blue Day with modified schedule - Midterm Exams 2nd and 4th Periods.

Jan. 25: End of first semester/second quarter.

Jan. 26: Teacher workday - No school for students. 

Jan. 29: Second semester/third quarter begins.

Feb. 2: February News You Choose newsletter is released.