Message to our SJA Community – February 8, 2023

February 8, 2023



An enjoyable four years at St. Johnsbury Academy led me to seek to extend my stay for 30 years and counting. It is my pleasure to have the opportunity to work with students, share my insights and memories, and observe the new generations of St. Johnsbury Academy experiencing our traditions and making their own memories. The opportunity for me to connect with alums and remember the good old days has demonstrated the joy that comes from nostalgia. However, the last few years have led me to realize that so many of the shared memories of students past and present lead to shared life lessons long after graduating from SJA.


Winter Carnival serves as a great example of shared memory of a moment in time in the Academy experience. The memories of Winter Carnival are not simply about which class won, although with the Class of 1989, winning was a significant part of it. Conversations with old friends lead to the joy of thinking of younger days. Over time, I have started to recognize the ways in which these memories lead to valuable life lessons.


  • Eating nearly 30 pancakes before participating in Indoor Soccer led me to recognize Newton’s 24th Law of Motion that gaining weight in a short amount of time causes an object or person to be immobile.

  • During Floor Hockey, my good-natured ribbing of the Class of 1987 went a bit too far and resulted in my learning that a human can still breathe while buried head first in a snowbank by the Senior Class.

  • I learned that all the sugar and twice the caffeine of six cans of Jolt Cola can enhance athletic performance in Ultimate Frisbee for about 15 minutes until an uncontrollable desire to take a nap sets in.

  • I remember how Tausha Veilleux Clouatre ’89 turned dancers, people with little coordination, and people with zero coordination into a winning team in the Dance-Off Contest. Her patience and kindness taught me a great deal about how to teach and inspire all varieties of ability.

  • I remember actually singing in a band my senior year during a musical competition with Mike Jackson ’89, Dave Nelson ’89, and Andy Knight ’89. From that experience, I learned that talented people can lift the effectiveness of a less talented person, and that inspires me to surround myself with talented people.

  • I remember Robert Blanchette ’89 being a dominant goalie who helped us achieve Floor Hockey glory. I learned from him that youth hockey players have a significant commitment to the sport to achieve excellence, and I try and make a habit of recognizing, appreciating, and emulating the commitment of such people.

  • Torry Smith ’89 wrote a wonderful skit about the history of music in which the 10th Muse of Zeus was Muse-Ek, who was played by our classmate Ek Tejavej ’89. From this, I learned that combining intellect and creativity pays great dividends in life and allows past knowledge of things like the mythology unit in freshman English class to an alternative application.

  • During the Tug of war between my Senior class and the Class of 1990, the rope snapped directly where I was holding it which resulted in some of my skin burning off instantly. A young lady that for some reason always scared me, quickly grabbed me and stuck my hands in the snow before wrapping them in her scarf until the nurse came. I am not sure why she had ever been a scary person to me, but I learned that more often than not in life, we should assume that other people will provide help when needed.


Winter Carnival 2023 will take place on February 9th and 10th. As always, fun, friendly competition, and social connection are at the heart of the event. And of course, the making of memories will allow our students to have an experience that they can hold for many years after they leave St. Johnsbury Academy. Many of the events have lasted through time as they are interspersed with new events. Next time you take a moment to remember events from the past, please remember that the sum of all the memories is not just nostalgia, rather it is an opportunity to connect the life lessons you learned earlier in life to the person you are today. Experiences like Winter Carnival and other traditions today are the building blocks of lesson learned that will shape the people they will become in the future.


Jamie Ryan ’89

Director of Resident Life


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