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2021-2022 Annual Report

A new school year is always full of excitement—and this year had the added excitement of being back in person for our staff and students. We still welcomed many new families this year, and we were so happy to welcome new Branch School Bears. As our theme this year was, “Come Grow with Us,” it was particularly gratifying to welcome many new families to the school.   

The theme was also highly appropriate due to our new building, scheduled to open in the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year. August brought the ground breaking on this new facility, and the year involved a Capital Campaign to help bring the project to completion. Our next year’s Hightower Middle School students will be the first to take advantage of this new building, and they were happily anticipating moving in.  We are very grateful to all of our donors who were so generous in helping us fulfill this vision.

This school year brought both blessings and challenges, and both have helped to make us better school. While we thought the pandemic would have ended by the 2021-2022 school year, it still brought challenges to this new year. With the help of our parents, staff, teachers, and students, we did what was necessary. Safety is always our top priority, and we are always working to establish and maintain the highest standards of Principle. While our curriculum prefers students to be able to learn by doing and experience, online classes sometimes made this challenging. However, our teachers and students rose to the occasion, and those who still had to quarantine or learn from home were able to stay caught-up in the classroom with our “Stay Home Learning Plan” for those students who needed it. Our teachers taught, encouraged, and supported our students beautifully for all students both in class and at home as they always do.

We are so grateful for our students, families, staff, and our wonderful donors as we continue to progress forward. This look back at the 2021-2022 school year is an excellent and refreshing reminder of another wonderful year at TBS, and we hope you enjoy this recap of last year’s activities and accomplishments.

Emily Smith, Head of School and Ann Hightower, Chairman of The Board of Trustees



At The Branch School, critical thinking and problem solving are at the core of how our students are taught every day. The program implements a curriculum that is comprehensive and research-based where students make connections to 21st century skills. Our STEAM program is a cross-curricular program that puts together science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. Our ELA program (English Language Arts) promotes observation and original thought. Our students enjoy a project-based learning model (PBL) where students learn by doing for a meaningful connection to the material.

A favorite class that every grade participates in from our smallest 3-year-olds all the way up to the 8th graders is Outdoor Classroom, which is taught by a team of certified Master gardeners each year. Parents were asked in the beginning of the year if they could donate 5-gallon pots for a project the students were going to have of growing native plants throughout the year. These plants, and others, were cultivated during the year as landscaping for the new building.  Students get an opportunity to learn how to grow vegetables, herbs and other plants in OC, and when the time comes for picking, they can take home the fruits of their labor.   We’ve all seen Branch students proudly bringing home cabbage, kale, tomatoes, etc. and eagerly preparing them for their families for dinner! 

There are many hands-on projects throughout the year, and it’s amazing to see not only how intelligent each student is, but also to see how creative they are.

For example, middle school students participated in Colonial Day taught by our Social Studies teacher. During this day, students get to experience what life would have been like during colonial times. This also involves costumes, and students and the teacher all speak in the vernacular of what it would have sounded like in a colonial classroom. They did chores that a young person would have done then, like churning butter. It was a great experience for students to really understand how different their classes and life are now.

Our4th graders also created their very own wax museum. Each student chose a historical character from Texas history to dress up as and portray. On the actual day of presentation, each student was posted in an area of Melcher Hall, and stayed perfectly still while in costume. When a visitor came up to the student, pressing their “button”, they would spring to life and tell all about their life and their contribution to Texas history.

Students participated in Hour of Code in December. This is an international event, designed to demystify coding and computer science, and our youngest learners up to eighth grade all participated.  Led by our technology teachers, Hour of Code teaches both basic and advanced lessons in this important twenty first century skill.

In February, students participated in a Read-a-thon. This was the second year for this fun and successful event. It took place in the classroom and at home. Parents registered and helped their children log their reading hours.  They received prizes when they reached different levels, and they could raise funds for the school and earn additional prizes.  Classes competed to see who could read the most. It was  not uncommon to see students with an open book in their hands walking into school in the morning, so the competition was tough!  Our school newsletter notified parents when the event was coming up, and during that week in February, students logged how many pages they read, raising money for the school. This year, students read a total of 19,749 minutes and raised $5,920 for the school. 

Outside of the classroom, students had opportunities to challenge themselves and compete as a school in many events during the year. Students were nominated by their teacher to be a part of our PSIA team.  These students then prep for different categories, that ranged from math and science-based competitions, to arts and language-based events.  Parents helped with the preparation sessions, and were vital to the entire program.  Branch students competed in the district meet at the end of March, and seven of these students advanced to compete at State in the beginning of May. Most of the Branch team placed in the top of their competitions.  Two of these students placed first in their competitions, Onsite Drawing and Listening Skills respectively.  We were exceptionally proud of all our PSIA participants, and doing so well in district and in the state competitions was a real achievement!

Branch students also participated in World Maths Day. Over 9,000 schools from all over the world competed. Branch students placed in the top 100 in the United States, and in the top 1,000 in the world.

Three Branch students became published authors this year. The iWRITE Organization and The Bryan Museum partnered with New York Times bestselling author and illustrator team, Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos to break the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDSTM title for the largest published book in the World.  Students submitted stories and poems for the “I Am Texas” book, and three of our lower school students’ submissions were chosen for the printed version. 

The school year also wrapped up with a trip for our 7th and 8th graders with an educational trip to Florida to have some hands-on learning in marine biology, conservation, and ecosystems. They visited the Everglades and had an evening walk tour as well as a daytime visit, a sea turtle hospital, kayaked and snorkeled. 7th and 8th grade students take this extended field trip each year, alternating between Washington, D.C. and Florida.  It is a highlight of the year, and they come home with lots of new knowledge and many wonderful memories.

The end of the academic year for our eighth grade class is their Capstone project.  All year, they have done a deep dive into a subject of their choosing.  Using their research, they prepare presentations on their topic. It culminates with a public presentation that includes speeches explaining what they have learned as well as impact projects they may have done. Each student also creates a creative and technology component which they share with the guests.

The year ends with Graduation where each graduate gives a graduation speech which reflects on what they have learned throughout their time at TBS, shares special memories and thanks those who have helped them succeed.


Student Life

For a variety of reasons, Branch feels like a second home to our students. Our nurturing teachers and staff help promote an environment that provides a safe and comfortable place to learn and grow. Since kindness is at the heart of every Branch School activity, students feel like they are part of a family, and older students mentor younger students. In fact, our older students are paired with younger students as “Reading Buddies.”  Our older students get a chance to practice reading out loud, and our younger students both learn and listen. Since the beginning of this program, it has fostered friendships and camaraderie across grade levels.

Branch students can participated in Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. These clubs meet several times during the year. Our Girl Scouts sold Girl Scout cookies during carpool in the spring, which is always very successful and a tasty way to support our troop. Our Cub Scouts got to go to the Pinewood Derby held each year and is a fun activity.  In this competition, scouts learn how to design and build a derby car.  Branch parents organize and run these programs, and we are grateful for our wonderful parents who use their valuable time to provide this enriching activity to our students.

Once a month, all classes come together for Monday Morning Assembly (or MMA). Each grade takes turns doing announcements and presenting to the school. Due to concerns about large gatherings, our middle school broadcasting class made videos of MMA that were viewed  by the whole school. Everyone really enjoyed these fun and informative presentations, and especially enjoyed the “blooper reels” at the end.  Parents then were able to enjoy the video with the link that was published in our school newsletter, The Bear Facts.

Branch loves a good celebration!  We have a tradition of celebrating many holidays.  Our student council set up some fun spirit weeks during Halloween and just before Christmas break. For Halloween, student council came up with a theme for each day leading up to the holiday. This included Crazy Hair Day, Crazy Sock Day, Crazy Accessories Day, Crazy PJ Day, and Halloween Costume Day on Halloween itself. It was a fun week for staff and students alike. Just before Christmas break, they set up a “Get Cozy” theme, and the themes for each day were Holiday Hats, Holiday Socks and Masks, Festive Accessories, Comfy PJ Day, and Cozy Sweater Day.

We have two book fairs every year held in November and April. Parents were able to come in and browse the excellent selection of books, and our students carefully made wish lists of the books they desired.  Our teachers also created wish lists during each fair, and our generous families donated many books to each classroom’s own library.

Branch students participated in the West Houston Christian Sports Association league.  Teams are formed based on student and parent interest, and parents coach.  Branch had a soccer team, a basketball team and a baseball team, all co-ed.  Parent volunteers coached, and students really loved playing while learning valuable life lessons in sportsmanship and teamwork.  Our older students were also able to participate in track with our school team.  Coach Cooks leads this team and training, and Mr. Scott Hill, our Tech/Facilities Director, assisted.  Any student that is interested can join the team, and our coaches and students are serious about this effort!  Many students who never participated in track before join the team, and they end up doing well and loving it.  Again, track teaches so many life lessons like perseverance, grit and sportsmanship.  During track season, you could see a sea of purple track hoodies worn by students and staff alike on campus.

Another super fun activity is Middle School Lock-in.  The students had a fun outdoor party, catered by a food truck.  Staff served popcorn and snow cones, and students performed, sung karaoke, danced, watched movies and socialized all under strings of lights on the parking lot.  They decorated the HWW (Hightower West Wing) and showed up in their best.  Recent alumni joined in the fun, and it was a real joy to see our recently graduated students come back to visit.  An alumni parent also organized a pre-party meeting of these recent grads with our 8th grade class.  They shared their experiences in high school with our students, and the 8th graders were able to ask them questions about high school.  We were touched that our Alumni would give their Friday night to join us, and we are so glad they did.


Students and staff outdid themselves again last year with the Christmas program The program was held outside in the back yard, and guests brought chairs or blankets to set out and enjoy the performance.  Our youngest students up to the oldest sang or played holiday songs, including songs from religions that don’t celebrate Christmas as a faith tradition.  The program ended with a dancing hippo, which delighted everyone there.

It’s evident that school doesn’t end at 3:20. After school, students had a side variety of after school enrichment classes they could choose to participate in. There are different classes held in the fall and spring. This year, students could choose from art class, drama class, piano, Junior Athletes, Robotics, STEM club, and a technical theatre class among others. Many students took advantage of these classes.  Our piano students had a recital at the end of the year, and we were all impressed with the skills learned.


Unique to the 2022 year, we had a day with all “2s” in the date: February 22, 2022 (2/22/22). In addition, it also fell on a Tuesday, and so our school celebrated with “Two’s Day.” Our Lower School had special activities, and all Branch community members were invited to join in commemorating the special day by wearing tutus, ties, and tennis shoes. Our Kindergarten class also celebrated the 100th day of school, usually taking place in early February, where students have many fun activities that involve projects, fun dress up, and more. Students created posters and displays with one hundred objects to visually represent the number 100.  They were, of course, proudly displayed in the hallways, and everyone enjoyed looking at the fun and informative exhibit.

Branch has a terrific Theatre program.  This year, our wonderful director Mr. Stephen Hurst added a Theatre Tech program for interested students.  This year’s production was “Beauty and the Beast” and our student actors presented a wonderful show.  Students also worked on sets, costumes, and did the lighting and sound, as well as ushered and sold tickets.   The entire student body was the audience for the first performance of this beautiful tale.   The two other performances were open to the public.  We were exceptionally proud of not only our student actors, but also our student artists and Theater Tech students who built sets, ran sounds and lights, and worked as ushers. 

There are many other fun and meaningful events that Branch participated in during the year.  One is “Read Across America Day” that is held around Dr. Seuss’s birthday.  Our wonderful librarian dressed up as a favorite children’s book character, and our students also joined in the dress up fun.  Mr. Rogers Sweater Day honors Fred Rogers on his birthday at the end of March.  Branch staff and students celebrated by wearing a cardigan sweater in his honor.


Field day is a beloved Branch tradition and takes place towards the end of the school year.  Students of all ages enjoy different events planned by our PE teachers and Coach Cooks.  One of the event is pig racing, where a collection of mechanical toy pigs are dressed up and raced on a course, being cheered on by their “handlers.”  Parents help run these events, and the variety of fun activities is enjoyed by all.

Lower school ends the school year on a cool and fun way, by having Splash Day followed by a pizza party for the last day of school.  Everyone ends up a bit soggy but full of smiles as they head off for their summer break. 


School Community

Our community is full of givers. Between the outreach done by our students and families, to our incredible volunteers, Branch folks always ready to lend a helping hand. We have an active Parents Association (PA), and each class also has a room parent who helps class parties during the school year.


Our Parents Association (PA) does a wonderful job of supporting Branch. Their first event of the year was the annual PA Boohoo/Wahoo breakfast for parents on the first day of school.  If you are sad that your child is now back at school, you are in the “Boo Hoo” group, and if the start of school is the best time of the year, you are the “Wahoo” group.  Whatever team you represent, parents are invited to drop off their students and come and get breakfast before heading on to the rest of their day.  They enjoyed mingling with one another, and getting to meet our new Head of School designate Michael Wilson.  When you get Branch parents together, there is no lack of conversation!  New parents are welcomed with enthusiasm.  This is a great start to the school year. The PA does many events and fundraisers during the school year. Fall N2 Fitness is PA planned and led a 5K/1K walk/fun run and fundraiser for anyone who wants to participate.  It’s open to anyone to register, and we always have alumni families sign up and join the day.  This year, the PA also offered a virtual run along with a group event.  Anyone wanting to participate got do so in-person or virtually by logging their miles. Of course, after the run participants got an ice cream treat from a local food truck.  Prizes were awarded in age groups.  Students and parents alike felt great after the run, and basked in the glow of a job well done.

The Branch PA also hosted several “fundraisers” for fellowship.  At the start of the year, they hosted a “Picnic in the Park” event, designed to have some mask-free fun with fellow Branch families.  New families were especially welcomed.  They also held Spirit Nights at local restaurants. Families got to have a break from cooking one night, they had fellowship with Branch friends, then a portion of the sales from that evening was donated to the school.  Three events were held at local restaurants, and everyone enjoyed the events. Chick-Fil-A, one in April at Dish Society, and one in May at PK’s Kitchen. Every little bit helps!

The PA also hosted Gingerbread House Night in December. This was a magical evening!  The event was held outdoors under strings of lights.  Families signed up to purchase pre-baked gingerbread houses with candy.  Then the fun began!  Each house was completely individual, and photographs were shared of all the sweet creations.

One of the many strengths of Branch is our diversity.  Our families come from diverse backgrounds, places, religions, cultures, countries—you name it.  When hostilities in Ukraine began, one of our Ukrainian parents shared ways to support that country.  Our student council also sponsored a toy drive for the Toys for Tots program.  Families donated new, unwrapped toy for children in need. We also have a sister school in Kenya, The Sunrise School of Africa.  Each year we have a coin drive called “Coins for Kenya.” It’s actually a friendly competition among grades where each class sees how much money they can raise. It also is a math game, as coins get “points” and bills take away points. Large see-through jars are used, and if another class is gaining on you, the best way to get ahead is to put some bills in their jar.  The students were able to sponsor two students for a year’s scholarship to Sunrise School with their donations!



It’s hard to believe that Branch started in Helen Hankin’s garage back in 1977.  As the school grew, our facilities expanded.  When middle school was added, they first used temporary buildings in front of the lower school building.  This served us well, but we kept growing.  When new property was purchased contiguous to the current building, we were able to use the building. This served our needs for several years. However, a new building was in the works.  Planning went well, and our architects, Kirksey, did a great job of listening to our staff, students and alumni in the design process.  By the start of this school year, we were ready to break ground on the project.  During the school year, students were able to tour the construction site with Harvey Builders, who taught them about the process of creating a structure.   For months, the site looked unchanged.  But much was going on underground.  Eighty geothermal wells were dug under what would become the soccer field. This, and the foundational structures were being constructed.  Then, we were able to see walls going up.  It was exciting for everyone from our youngest students on up to watch the building grow before us. 

The school held a Capital Campaign to raise the funds needed to complete the project. Many generous donors and one major donor made it possible to fund the project.  We are exceptionally grateful for the support of so many to make this cherished dream come true.  The new building was designed to reflect and foster many of our core values—sustainability, kindness to the environment, creativity and collaboration, and we expect it to have at least LEED Silver certification when built. The project was fully funded, and we are so very grateful to not have any debt associated with the project.


Alumni and Recent Graduates

Branch students are exceptionally well prepared for High School.  This year’s graduating class was no exception.  Students attended St. Johns School, Kinkaid, Awty, St. Francis, St. Thomas and Strake Jesuit as well as local public high schools.  When the annual alumni dinner was held this year, it was well attended by former students.  They love coming back to Branch and talking with their former teachers.  Recent graduates also came to the spring Lock in event, giving up a Friday night to have a roundtable discussion with the current 8th grade class on their experiences in high school.  This meeting was exceptionally valuable for our current students, as they could ask a peer questions they had about specific schools or the general high school experience. 

We always enjoy hearing from our graduates about their adventures.  One of our graduates spent the summer in Tanzania, Africa studying the effects of Lake Tanganyika on the local weather.  Another graduated from Duchesne high school as Valedictorian, going on to study medicine in Canada.  ADD MORE HERE


Donor Impact

The Branch School is continually grateful for the generosity of our many donors.  We are particularly grateful for those who gave so generously to our Capital Campaign.  These donations enable us to continue and grow our mission to inspire students to “love, learn and lead.”   Our parents and alumni community continue to be stalwart supporters, and they gave both to our Annual Fund and to our spring Auction event.  We are also grateful for the leadership of our Board of Trustees, who is ever supportive in many ways—both financial and otherwise—of our school.  We have also received many donations from near and far from our Christian Science community friends.

Our Spring 2021 drive was very successful, bolstered by a generous matching grant from an anonymous donor.  We are both grateful for and humbled by this outpouring of support.


2021-22 Donors and funds

The Branch School is continually grateful for our many donors.  Your gifts make possible the nurturing and challenging environment we provide, allowing our students to “love, learn and lead.”  Instead of our Annual Fund drive this year, we did had a Capital Campaign drive to help finish and equip the new building. We also had our annual Auction event. This year, the Auction was held virtually.  The spring Auction raises money for school development as well as scholarships. Even virtually, our community showed up for this event, both in donations of auction items as well as bidding on them. This event is  the result of the hard work of our many parent donors, staff and volunteers.  We are grateful for our staff and Board of Trustees who are consistently generous, and we congratulate them for achieving 100% participation as Annual Fund donors this year. We have also gratefully received generous donations from our many Christian Science friends. 

Our Capital Campaign was very successful, bolstered by a generous matching grant opportunity from an anonymous donor.  Donors all over the nation responded, and supported us in a big way.  We are grateful and humbled by this outpouring of support, as we move forward to complete this amazing new facility for our students.

2021-2022 Donors and Funds











  Trustee  3

Alumni Families








  Family 1



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  Foundation 3

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The charts below reflect our 2020-2021 fiscal year (July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021) audited financials, finalized September 2021.