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State of the School May 14, 2021: A preview of the end of the school year

May 13, 2021 | Thomas Postema

Head of School Tom Postema previews end-of-year events and highlights new offerings in the “Stories” section of



Dear Mustard Seed Community, 

We’ve entered the last six weeks of school. I continue to be so proud of our students and teachers. This is a time to begin the process of ending strong and well. We do this by creating 

  • Academic challenges
  • Moments of reflection
  • Times of celebration

As we prepare to end the year, we’re making a change in one of our practices. We will no longer give out academic awards at the end of the year.  

This will mostly affect students in grades 6, 7, and 8. Through our engagement with Universal Design for Learning and in our active study of who we are and what we do, we have decided that granting awards does not line up with our values.

We want to give our time and attention to celebrating all of the learning and hard work that all of the students have negotiated and engaged with over the course of their year.  

We continue to pursue excellence in education and challenge students with rigorous academic work. We continue to celebrate great achievements as a class. 

Here are some of the ways we plan to continue celebrate and honor each child this year:

Buttons and Certificates

During the final days together each class will take time to celebrate and recognize each child in their community. Pre K – Grade 3 students will receive a word of recognition from their teachers. They will be given a button or medallion with their special word on it. Students in grades 4-8 will receive a word and a recognition statement in the form of a certificate. Together we celebrate each of our contributions and strengths.  

In-Person Baccalaureate for Eighth Grade Students

I’m thrilled that we’ll be able to celebrate the eighth grade with a small in-person gathering: Baccalaureate. During this time, eighth graders will also receive their diplomas.  Throughout the evening we will honor and celebrate each student and share memories from their time at Mustard Seed. 

Timeline Worship

Another culminating experience is Timeline Worship. This is a time to reflect on our learning and experiences from the entire year.  At Timeline Worship, classes will share memories of field trips, projects, units of study,  and celebrations. Many of you probably remember Timeline Worship as a full K-8 celebration in the gym. This year, students will celebrate their class timelines within their classroom communities during the last three half-days of school.  

Field Day

Field Day is another much-loved end of year event.  Instead of our usual large K-8 event in Columbus Park, Field Day this year will take place in individual classes. Each class will play field day games or other fun activities led by their teacher. Students will play outside with their cohorts. And, it might be that different cohorts have their field day on different days so that we can share the outdoor play areas. 


Commencement will be virtual again this year. As we did last year, we will send out a video celebration for you and your family to share on Tuesday, June 22. Last year’s video was absolutely delightful, and Michele and I enjoyed dessert as we watched and  we marveled at how our community came together during a difficult time. We hope that next year it will be safe to gather once again for Commencement. 

Last Day of School

Our last day of school is Wednesday, June 23. Instead of having a distance learning day, we ask that all students, PreK through eighth grade, will come to campus to end our school year in the same space together. Dismissal will be at noon.

We’ll be in touch with more details as the events approach. I hope that previewing some of these traditions and changes will help you as you make plans.

New in the “Stories” Section

Before I sign off, I wanted to point your attention to our recent blog posts.  Incoming Head of School Abby Hall Choi and I have just co-authored a post entitled, Who you Learn with Matters: Student Identity and Belonging.

This post further articulates our thinking around how we live out our mission statement regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion and student identity. Our great hope is that all students experience a deep sense of belonging at school. It is our firm belief that God’s grace will hold us together as a community of diverse beliefs and personal commitments, bound by love and care for one another. 

I also want to point you to the stories section of our website and our “Get to Know…” series. Middle school parents, you told us that you want to get to know the middle school faculty better.  Abby Liu, our Director of Marketing and Communications, has been interviewing faculty and posting videos and transcripts of the interviews. I’m learning all sorts of new things about the teachers!

As we unbuild this year in the last six weeks of school, the leadership team is looking ahead and planning for the fall. We’re taking what we have learned in the last 15 months to make plans for next year. As I’ve said earlier, we’re planning for an in-person experience for all students in the fall. Stay tuned for more details.

Enjoy a lovely weekend. Bye for now.

Thomas Postema

Head of School

Mr. Postema was the Head of School from Fall 2011 to Spring 2021, when he retired.

An educator for over 35 years, Mr. Postema taught math and was a school administrator at international schools in Japan and South Korea, as well as schools in the USA (New Jersey and Alaska). He taught at Mustard Seed from 1989-1991 when Mr. Cuervo and Mr. Johnson were MSS students!

As Head of School, Mr. Postema successfully led the school through the NJAIS accreditation process and the Together for Tomorrow endowment campaign, which raised over $3M to benefit MSS students. Mr. Postema loves to tell the Mustard Seed story and continues to be passionate about the mission even in his retirement.

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