Convocation Ceremony Celebrates 51st Year

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s 51st academic year officially started on Tuesday, August 30, with our annual Convocation Ceremony. Per tradition, the ceremony opened with a procession of our kindergarten students and their senior “buddies” to honor the beginning and end of their educational journey. This year is a special year for NSA as we continue to celebrate our 50th anniversary and reflect on where we started, the progress that we have made to date and our vision for the next 50 years.  
Head of School Debbie Russell remarked that “Over the last 50 years, NSA has continued to focus on setting a standard of excellence for all of our programs to enable students to discover their passions academically, artistically and athletically. Over the next 50 years, NSA is committed to not only helping our students achieve their highest potential but also to our school as a whole. We will continue to focus on our core values, which we believe exemplify the values we foster in the NSA community such as character, honor above all, a standard of excellence, community and personal discovery. We will continue to attract the best and brightest faculty and staff to further engage, inspire and empower our students.

Not only has the school grown from what it was in 1966 to what it is now in 2016, but so have our students — and in very incredible ways. Because of the curiosity and innovation of senior Allie Wilburn, in partnership with our STEM Learning and Innovation Specialist Mrs. Joyner, our students have been able to create prosthetic hands for children in need. They have also been identified as leaders in STEM, like senior Steven Utley, who attended a summer program at Georgia Tech where he was able to lead his peers based on his experiences in the STEM Innovation Lab and his participation in our Summer of Innovation. We also have students, such as sophomore Archana Venkatesan, who is helping those less fortunate by starting a program called Bags for Benefit to provide backpacks for homeless children.”

Mrs. Russell then recognized the faculty for being committed to providing our students with the best educational experience possible. “The faculty and staff at NSA - both past and present – are truly the heart of our school! They are also lifelong learners, who have embraced new technologies, new instructional strategies and are creative with their lessons. We’ve come a long way in our first 50 years and I am confident NSA will continue to make even more significant progress over the next 50 years. I want to personally thank each and every one of you who have so generously helped to shape NSA into the school it is today! You all are Saints!”  

Special ceremonies followed, the first being the installation of Serena Bush as the new Head of Lower School of our Harbour View Campus. For the past two years, Mrs. Bush served as the Coordinator for the Sandra F. Birdsong Center for Academic Excellence where she helped our students to be more successful in the classroom through interventions, identification and discussions of each student’s differentiated learning needs and the application of research-based strategies as appropriate. She also served as a leader and role model for the entire faculty by establishing and leading the professional learning communities, which have included discussions around best practices, classroom management and numerous other topics. In addition, her prior experience as a master teacher mentoring, evaluating and supporting teachers as well as facilitating effective professional development has enabled her to assist NSA in implementing professional growth plans for our faculty.

“After seeing her serve in this role and realizing the wealth of her knowledge and experience in education, we knew she would be a great asset to NSA and to our students. I am confident she will serve in this new role with the same passion and commitment,” said Mrs. Russell.

Mrs. Bush said that she is deeply humbled and enthusiastic about the extraordinary opportunity to serve as Head of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s Harbour View Campus. “At Nansemond Suffolk Academy, I found so much more than a symbol, a mascot and an educational opportunity. I found a home away from home. The NSA community is second to none. Like a family, we celebrate the daily successes of one another in the classroom, on the soccer fields, in the marching band and beyond the boundaries of the school. We also lift each other up in times of need.”

“There is no greater joy than making a profound difference in the lives of children. I approach each day with two commitments. First and foremost, I strive to foster an environment of warmth, inclusion, integrity and honor. Secondly, I’m dedicated to creating a collaborative, student-centered environment that inspires students to flourish and strive for excellence in all that they do. With humility, I gratefully accept this opportunity to share the NSA spirit and lead a student body of future leaders, philanthropists and honorable citizens.”  

We then honored a very special Saint, Wanda Oberdorfer, who retired last year after being a member of the NSA faculty since 1985. During her time at NSA, Mrs. Oberdorfer taught all levels of English as well as public speaking, debate, stage crafts and drama. Mrs. O, as she was known, was best recognized for “her role,” as drama teacher. Under her leadership, the Theatre Arts program grew and thrived. She once said, “Theatre is one of the most powerful classes you can take as it encompasses everything taught in schools, like physics through light and sound, math through the scenery design, English through dialogue analysis, world language through cultural references, history through time period research, music through the songs performed, psychology through character study and physical education through movement on the stage. Simply put, it encompasses it all.”
For dedicating more than 30 years of service to NSA, Mrs. O received a blue banner that was retired by one of her former students, Frances Staples ’17. First grade students sang “You’re a Grand Old School” as the banners were officially retired. Bernie, the Varsity Cheerleaders and our Marching Saints closed the ceremony, wishing our NSA family another wonderful year at NSA.

Photos of the ceremony are available on our photo sharing website.
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy is a coeducational, college preparatory private school located in Suffolk, VA. Pre-kindergarten - Grade 12.