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"Don’t speak for me" - Words from a Parent and Close Friend in a Crisis

May 26, 2020
By Nicolle Morgan

In these times of COVID-19, I find it hard to be a Director of Admissions. My job is to sell Pinewood...yet selling anything seems quite inappropriate at this time. Although I can't say enough about my amazing school; the fact still remains...I represent something that is not free. Yet...incredibly invaluable. 

Which is where my story begins. 

Years ago, one of my closest friends came down with breast cancer. Prior to that time, she was one of the most supportive parents of the school where I was working as the Director of Development. She served on the Board of Directors and also helped me establish many successful fundraising events. My husband, Andy Morgan (Pinewood’s Director of Athletics) also coached all three of her kids. We were close - personally and professionally. 

She and her husband ran a very successful local business; and they pretty much supported anything that needed to be done. They were the leading force for many initiatives and never questioned a thing. Truth be known, most of that was because of her...she was a fierce visionary. She was, in short, a bada**.

Weeks after she was diagnosed, I simply let her be. I mean, who was I to keep asking her for help or ideas...or for her connections; much less her donations. She was struggling with breast cancer for goodness’ sake. I wanted to, actually better yet, believed I owed it to her to leave her alone. Then she called me. And it was at that moment she stopped me in my tracts. When I picked up the phone, and before I could get "hello" off my tongue she asked... "Who are you to answer for me? Why haven't you called me to help you? I'm not gone, Nicolle! I have not disappeared! You have a job to do. So do it!" 

I couldn't breathe. 

We talked for about two hours that night. Of course, I apologized to her profusely; but at the same time I wasn't sure what I was apologizing for. I kept saying "I was just trying to give you space. I would never think, with what you are going through, that it would be appropriate for me to still ask you for anything."  Again she stated, "Don't answer for me. The moment you answer for me, it's like I'm already dead. Why would you assume that for me? Why would you assume my failure?” 

Again, I couldn't breathe. 

It was at that moment on the phone with her that I transformed not only professionally and personally, but most of all learned how to respect the human experience. I realized many things... 1) Who in the world do I think I am to think for anyone else; 2) Who in the world am I to put someone in a dark light when they have not done so themselves, and 3) My job is not to think for anyone, my job is to actually do my job. 

My job!

I love my job. We moved here seven years ago for Pinewood, literally. We wanted something special for our children, and we found it. And I have the distinct pleasure of now representing this incredible school. It’s everything - academic rigor + citizenship + joy + social accountability. 

So, what is this story about? It's about that I will keep representing this amazing school and won't apologize for it. It's about that if anyone is struggling I won't assume or answer for you. And better yet, I will let you know that we have ways to support you; but never answer for you. I will hold you in the highest and brightest light. Because who is anyone to say I can't?

Pinewood's strength is incredible. And it's incredible because we don't assume the worst in's because we KNOW the best in you. 

We are in the midst of a situation I have never known before. At the same time, I am witnessing the power of my Pinewood community like never before. The last thing I will do is underestimate the power of our resilience - in you...or in us.

Nicolle Morgan, Pinewood's Director of Admissions, can be reached at

Kindergarten Wisdom for our Graduating Seniors

May 12, 2020
By Pinewood's Class of 2032

As the Class of 2020 looks ahead to college, Pinewood's K5 students shared words of wisdom for our graduating seniors.  From the heartfelt to the hilarious, here's what our Panther cubs had to say to their friends in the senior class:

“You should take a trip somewhere, have lots of love, go to see New York City! Go with your family… And have fun. Learn new things, buy something cool, go to the beach but wear sunscreen. Oh, and love your parents.” - Love, Libba 

“Clean your room every day, brush your teeth every day & take a walk outside every day.” - Claire

“My advice is to bald your hair.” - Tribble 

“Do a good job!” - Quin

“Make lots of notes to people to put a smile on their face.”  - Cole

“Be good parents (when you become parents).” - Ansley

“Work hard in math.” - Lowndes

“Keep away from boys!” - Parker

“Stay close to your friends.” -Callie

“Do good in school.” -  Kherington

“Get a job, but always make time to go fishing.” - Asher

“Don't cry.”  - Cade 

“Be careful with knives.” - Norah

“Be safe.” - Charlie

“Have fun and play a lot.” - Noah

“Always do your best and do your best in school.” - Barrett

“Always be prepared with Nerf Darts!” - Max 

“Work hard and play hard.” - Arthur 

“Stay the same.” - Stella

“Graduate and I know you will do good.” - Wyatt

“Have fun at college and remember to call your parents.” - Brooks

Thank you to our Panthers in the Class of 2032 for sharing their wisdom with the Class of 2020! Many thanks to K5 teachers Allison Bailey, Jennifer Fishburne and JeNae Katsanis for collecting their students' thoughts.

Growing Graduates: Thoughts on College Counseling from Early Childhood to High School

May 05, 2020
By Brendan Diffley

As a parent of three teenage boys, I believe one of the most important jobs of a parent is to expose your child to lots of different things, let them learn about a wide range of activities, and see what piques their interest and what makes them shine. During this pandemic, I have worked in my garden and I have seen some similarities in this process. I have planted several types of seeds in the ground, in pots, in different locations with different kinds of soil, and each day I check to see how well my plants are doing. I water, fertilize and protect my plants so that they will be successful and later bear fruit. Such is life as a parent, we watch as our kids spend each day learning about different things, and we see what makes them smile. We watch what they do well, what they do without pushing or prodding, and we applaud, encourage and foster that love, so they will have success in each stage of their lives. It takes time, patience and love but in the end, this will lead to great happiness for them and a proud feeling like no other for parents.

Fast forward to my role as the college counselor. Over the years the most common question from parents and students is, “What should my child be doing so that he/she will have the best chance to get into college?” This topic is especially on the minds of parents of juniors currently hindered by the pandemic. And the answer from college admissions counselors is always the same: there is no activity, quality or way of doing things that is the magic bullet to get in. It is the students' uniqueness, creativity, excitement for what they love that colleges want to see. It is how they react when put in certain activities and situations that describe who they are, not the activity itself. They simply want to get to know your child, find out what they love to do and what they do well.

At Pinewood, you bring us your children and plant them here in hopes that they will grow and flourish like a well-tended garden. From Early Childhood to High School, we spend our time learning about each child, teaching them skills in many areas, and allowing them to find their passions. We provide an environment for them to lead, to follow, to succeed, and to fail. We are there to support them in difficult times and celebrate with them when they have success. In the College Office, we help them communicate about themselves to the college admissions representatives so they will know what great kids we have in our school community. Together our children grow confident and ready to take on the challenges ahead, so they will fly away from the nest and come back with great stories from their new lives beyond High School. 

Brendan Diffley is Pinewood's Director of Guidance and College Counseling.

Taking the Stress Out of Virtual Learning

April 22, 2020
By Anna Bright

So, we have completed several weeks of virtual learning…  are you doing okay? Really? This has been a big shift for everyone. The teachers very quickly shifted all of their skills, time, and effort to teach in a different way and the students had to quickly adjust to a new way of life and learning. When you think about how much has changed over the past few weeks, it’s actually quite a lot. I have two children who attend Pinewood (grades 4 and 7) and while they don’t miss getting up as early in the morning, they do miss greeting their teachers at their classroom door, they miss their friends, and even if they don’t want to believe it - they miss learning in the structured environment that school provides. Change can be hard.

Everyone’s personality handles change differently. Emotions can run high. Frustration and anxiety can come out. I always tell the children when we have guidance lessons that feelings are alright. All of them. The good/happy feelings, the sad/angry feelings - they are all okay. But when we find ourselves feeling angry/frustrated/mad it can change our behavior and that’s when trouble can happen. That’s when we need to talk to someone and take a step back and figure out what is going on so we can feel better. At first, this transition seemed fun for us. We slept late, made snacks disappear at an astonishing rate, spent a lot of time outside, but then Spring Break ended. They had to do school work - from our home. The horror. This was not a vacation. It was still a school, moved to a different location.

I handled my disgruntled students by thinking about how I could move Pinewood, home.  Teachers are scheduled people.  Every part of their day is a thought-out, planned event.  Nothing happens by accident. We needed to have a schedule. Schedules are powerful tools.  Work gets done with a lot less arguing when they see a list of what they need to do and can check it off when they are done. I also realized that they were distracting themselves from learning tasks for too long by having access to other electronics. This is something that doesn’t happen at school. They can’t get up and play video games at school just because they finished their math. Video games, YouTube time, etc is now earned by completing all the daily work first.  Breaks now consist of a short amount of time outside (just like school). I am also a fan of mixing paper/pencil activities with screen time learning. The kids need to be behind the screen quite a bit of time to complete their assignments. I have found that I can print some of the work sent home and I have them do it the old-fashioned way. It provides a break from the keyboard and it feels familiar to them. Finally, I love how Pinewood teachers are having check-in times with their students. My kids look forward to these. They love seeing their friends, teachers, and they have met numerous pets. Maintaining social connections is an important part of mental health support during a time of stress. Parents, keep in touch with other parents in your child(ren)’s grade level.  They might be able to help troubleshoot issues, or provide a sympathetic ear to having to re-learn school subjects you haven’t thought about in years!

I have always worked in schools and I have always been a big fan of teachers.  This situation has solidified my feelings about how wonderful teachers are, every day.  They are a constant in our child’s life, and they can be easily taken for granted.  Sometimes you don’t realize the impact they have had or are having on your child until something forces a change.  Ask your child’s teacher for help if needed. Email me ( if you have questions, or just want to chat. The supportive Pinewood community we have all come to know and love is still here. This will end soon enough and I will be excited to be out there on car rider duty welcoming our students back to school. I have missed their smiling, excited faces.  

Stay safe and strong Pinewood Panthers, I’ll see you soon!

Anna Bright, MA/CAS, is one of Pinewood's school counselors. She can be reached at