At 7:52 p.m. on the last day of classes before winter break, every sophomore’s phone buzzed with the same notification. The email sent by grade representative Luca L. ’23 sported an intriguing subject line: “Don’t tell anybody.” 

As Megan B. ’23 read the first line, her mouth began to curve upwards in a smile. 

“The more I read,” Megan said, “the more excited I was to go to the meeting.”

The email proposed an idea: Anya P. ’23 would cue the sophomores with a signal––a party popper emoji in the chat––and prompt the execution of a popular TikTok trend in which students surprise their teachers over Zoom by turning all cameras on simultaneously, displaying written appreciations on signs for the faculty members’ efforts during remote learning. 

The next day, faculty entered the grade-level Zoom meeting to a sea of dark backgrounds––it was clear that something was off, since not a single student camera was on. At her laptop, Anya watched nervously as the participant count approached 100, waiting to send the signal when it seemed like everyone had joined. 

As soon as Anya pasted the emoji into the chat, a wave of brightly-colored posters plastered with thank you’s and hearts flooded the screen. Students peered out from behind their posters to watch the faculty’s reactions: confusion giving way to joy, and teachers––visibly surprised––responded with gratitude and the heart emoji reaction, the Zoom display filled with smiles of both faculty and students.

“As a teacher in this digital year, it’s not that unusual for students to have their cameras off,” said math teacher Emily Sliman, “but to suddenly have a bunch of cameras turn on simultaneously with notes of thanks––that was surprising and was such a great way to start off the meeting and bring in the holiday spirit.”

Organized by Anya and Luca, the event embodies Nueva’s culture of giving, a culture embedded in both the school’s traditions as well as its every-day activities.

“I had just finished a really fun English class, and at the end we shared appreciations in the chat,” Anya said. “I wanted to do something to appreciate all the teachers, and the idea hit me.” 

The rest of the meeting was a good riddance to the hectic week, the tumultuous spring semester, and the year 2020––and an enthusiastic hello to 2021. Sophomores answered some rapid-fire questions in the chat, which by the end of the meeting featured a 42 to 30 dogs-versus-cats poll and a fierce battle between passionate Spotify users and a single Apple Music advocate.

Though the year was compared by Abi W. ’23 to “an oatmeal raisin cookie disguised as a chocolate chip one,” attendees also reflected on the good parts of their experience, appreciating their matcha lattes, books and kindles, and fuzzy and non-fuzzy slippers alike. Nicole K. ’23 shared her experience “pushing through all the difficulties of the semester to learn more about [herself],” while others were grateful for having more time to bake or cook and voiced their excitement for new vaccines, in-person school, and upcoming seasons of T.V. show favorites. 

After a round of Kahoot questions the attendees took turns once again sharing their gratitude for their friends and family and––at the end of the hour––all waved goodbye, to next see each-other in the new year.

“It was a great way to end the crazy semester as well as the year,” Megan said, “and I feel like the appreciation has carried with me into these two weeks of break.”