News & Media
Upper School Bible, Modern Thought and AP Environmental Science Teacher
Many people may dream of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail (AT), but few actually accomplish this daunting feat. After 35 years and 2,175 miles, Upper School teacher Mike Merwin can now add his name to the list of those who have traversed the entire trail from Georgia to Maine.
We interviewed Mr. Merwin about this amazing accomplishment – check out his answers below!
1) What inspired you to complete the entire Appalachian Trail?
The initial impetus to hike the AT was a desire to share an outdoor activity with my children that we could plan together year by year – a “look forward to” event for our family. This is exactly how it turned out. All three of my kids would say that hiking the AT was a highlight of their growing-up years, right up until the present when we all hiked the last few miles together.
2) What was the hardest part of accomplishing this goal?
There are definitely very challenging physical demands to be met in order to hike some sections of the AT – steep, isolated sections as well as natural obstacles that make walking very difficult and treacherous. The physical challenges mandated that I train in advance of every hike. However, perhaps surprisingly, the logistics involved to organize the multiple hikes on the AT year after year, particularly concerning the far northern end of the trail, were complicated and time-consuming. We couldn’t just hop in the car and drive to the trailhead. A lot of preparation was necessary.
3) Did you ever feel like giving up? What kept you going?
Yes, there was a season when I wasn’t sure I’d keep hiking the AT. I took 25 years to hike north from Georgia to reach West Virginia, and that is not even the halfway point. It was then that I began to think that hiking the entire Appalachian Trail wasn’t realistic, if only because I wasn’t getting any younger. It was at this particular turning point that my wife’s support and encouragement was especially important. It made the difference between hiking the entire AT versus accepting the lesser goal of having hiked “half” of the AT. Her support was invaluable throughout, but the decision to continue hiking after 25 years wouldn’t have happened without her.
4) What was your favorite part of the trail?
That’s easy. The sections through upper New England, New Hampshire and Maine are my favorite. The peaks are high, the trail is rugged and the beauty is grandiose.
5) What was the greatest thing you learned from this experience?
Hmm…this question invites me to pause and ponder. The word “companionship” comes to mind. As circumstances would have it, I hiked more than 30 percent of the AT alone. I was fine with that, but during those long solo miles, my appreciation for the companionship of family and friends who hiked with me throughout the years strengthened substantially. The hike wouldn’t have happened without all those who strode a mile or two or 50 or 100 with me. Those miles of companionship on the trail are the most memorable. I suspect we all under-appreciate how important the companionship of those closest to us is in our daily lives. Be sure to take time with those whom you love.
6) What advice would you give others looking to complete the AT?
It may seem a bit odd or simplistic, but how one pieces the sections together is important. I started each hike where I finished the previous one, and I hiked in the same direction, northward from Georgia to West Virginia and then southward from northern Maine back to West Virginia. In this manner, the decision about where to hike next was never an issue. I just had to plan out whatever came next on the AT. Secondly, this approach allowed me to always know how many miles I had completed. That knowledge was very motivating, especially after I reached the halfway point, and I started tracking how many miles remained rather than how many I had finished.
7) Now that you can check this accomplishment off your list, what’s next on your list of life goals?
Hmm…no definite answer for this one.
8) Is there anything else you’d like to add or any interesting stories from the trail that you’d like to share?
Looking back over the 35 years of hiking is such a blessing as I contemplate the Lord’s hand and care for me and all my family during the many miles on the trail. Sometimes His care was pretty clear, such as last summer when I nearly stepped directly on a timber rattlesnake ready to strike and didn’t get bitten! And often His quiet, still presence was evident, both in the serenity of the forest and grandeur of mountain tops.
Two special days are at the top of my list of most memorable events of the AT hike. Both of them included the presence of extended family. The first “family reunion” was on top of Mt. Washington several years ago. Mt. Washington is a spectacular, high summit in New Hampshire that my great-grandmother, grandparents and parents all hiked up at one time or another. The second is the final three miles of the 2,175 miles – hiking that with my extended family and crossing the Potomac River together. My dad, who carried me up my first mountain in a pack basket when I was a toddler, was there on both occasions. He is 90 years old now. The youngest present was my four-year-old granddaughter. Four generations of family shared in the celebration.
Mr. Merwin’s Appalachian Trail adventure by the numbers:
Number of years from start to finish = 35
Number of actual hiking days = 173
Average mileage hiked per day = 12.6
Longest mileage hiked in one day = 24
Highest average miles per day over one section = 18.2
Number of trips taken to hike the trail = 27
Longest trip (days) = 27
Longest trip (miles) = 392
Number of months hiked = 7
Month with the most hikes = July
Number of different hiking partners = 23
Estimated miles driven to hike the AT = 25,500
Estimated cost per hiking mile = $10
Since 2005, one Lower and one Middle/Upper School teacher have been recognized for excellence in their field with the Green-Orr Award. The award has helped celebrate the achievements of our faculty and aided in honoring the memory of Juanita and Charlie Green and Roberta and Harry Orr, parents of Peggy and Charlie Green.
This year, the Green-Orr Award was presented to Sandy Buchanan and Tracy Lutz.
Both Mrs. Buchanan and Mrs. Lutz meet and exceed the criteria for the award, which includes: showing clear evidence of consistent support and advancement of Westminster’s mission; demonstrating significant impact on students through regular contact via teaching, coaching and/or mentoring; providing a positive Christian role model and having completed at least five years on the faculty at Westminster.
Each teacher’s nomination describes why they are worthy of recognition, and excerpts of those nominations are included below:
Sandy Buchanan (First Grade Teacher)
- Christian role model for her students and shares Christ with them.
- Always a team player.
- Involved in her students’ lives and checks on them even after they leave her first-grade classroom.
- Brings the curriculum to the students in fun and creative ways.
- Individualizes her instruction to meet the needs of each student.
- Willing to try new things in the classroom, but also uses “tried and true” methods.
- Receives the best from her students because she believes in her students and does whatever it takes to help each one succeed. Her students believe, “I can do this!”
Tracy Lutz (Middle School Academic Support Coordinator and Geography Teacher)
- Makes middle school students feel that they are loved and that their voices are heard and valued
- Student-focused and always has students best interests in mind
- Innovative teacher
- Exemplifies Christ’s character by the joy with which she completes every part of her job
- Servant-leader to students and colleagues
- She believes in students and is their cheerleader
Congratulations to you both! Thank you for caring deeply for our students’ hearts and working tirelessly to ensure their education is exemplary.
Tucker Blackmon, Upper School English Teacher
Coming to us from Hiawassee, Georgia, Mr. Blackmon will be equipping our Upper School students for excellence in the realm of English. He received a Bachelor of Arts in telecommunications and a Master of Arts in education from Lee University, where he was a full scholarship varsity letterman for the men’s soccer team. He has taught English and coached boys and girls high school soccer for the past 10 years at schools in Georgia and Tennessee. In addition to joining the Upper School English department, Mr. Blackmon will also serve as our head girls varsity soccer coach and advise the Upper School yearbook staff.
Kendra Sue Finch (’94), Educational Technology Innovation Coordinator and Upper School Spanish Teacher
Mrs. Finch is certainly no stranger to Westminster, having graduated from our fine institution as well as previously taught and coached at both the Middle and Upper School levels. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Augusta State University and a master’s in educational leadership from Kennesaw State University. She returns to her alma mater from The Lovett School in Atlanta and is excited to take on the newly created role of educational technology innovation coordinator. In this position, she will join our current technology support team and help provide the vision, leadership, planning, technical support and instructional support for Westminster’s future technological development. Additionally, Mrs. Finch will be teaching several Spanish classes and will serve as our new head varsity cheerleading coach.
Adam Kraft, Upper School Science Teacher
Originally from Greenville, South Carolina, Mr. Kraft will be joining the Upper School science department in the fall to teach chemistry and advanced physical science. He attended Clemson University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and a minor in history. He went on to attend Purdue University, where he earned his Master of Science in chemistry education. With extensive experience at the collegiate level as a researcher and teaching assistant, Mr. Kraft is passionate about helping students learn and appreciate the role that science plays in their lives. He now joins us from Sandia Preparatory School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he has taught physical science and chemistry for the past two years.
Carlee Van Duzer, Lower School Music Teacher
Originally from Duluth, Georgia, but coming to us from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Miss Van Duzer will be joining the Lower School faculty in the fall and is happy to be returning to her warm southern roots. She attended the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, and graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education. Miss Van Duzer has been teaching prekindergarten through 12th grade at Maranatha Christian Academy in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, since 2012. She has been a worship guitarist, pianist, vocalist and ensemble member in churches around the Twin Cities and is also a private voice instructor.
Faculty and Staff Changes
Mrs. Jenica Crotts will be moving from the Upper School to the Middle School to teach eighth-grade English.
Mr. Craig Johnson will continue his current duties as academic dean for prekindergarten through 12th grade and will also serve as interim Upper School principal.
Mrs. Ashley Shaw is moving from the Lower School to the Middle School to teach math.
New Office Locations
With the demolition of Building 300, the school administrative offices as well as the Upper School office have moved. Please make note of these new locations or follow the updated campus signage.
The administrative offices are now located on the ground floor of Pamplin Hall. Please use the double doors located on the far right side of Pamplin Hall to visit the headmaster, the executive assistant to the headmaster and the finance, marketing, development and human resource departments.
The Upper School office is now located in Building 500 (formerly the ARC). Faculty/staff located in this building include the Upper School principal and the assistant to the Upper School principal, the assistant registrar, the director of student life, the director of college counseling, the international student program coordinator and the Upper School academic support coordinator.
By now, Westminster parents should have received our 2015 Summer Mailing. Registration for our new dining program and information regarding our new Middle/Upper School carpool procedures will be posted on this page and emailed to parents prior to the beginning of school. For more information about the beginning of the school year, check out some of the online resources below:
- 2015-16 Key Event Dates
- 2015 Summer Mailing
- On-Campus Dining Information – Lunch Service begins on Thursday, Aug. 13
- Online Calendar
- Online Calendar Sync Instructions
- Parent Portal – if you do not yet have a password, one will be emailed to you shortly
- Who’s New for the 2015-16 School Year and Office Location Changes
- Student Handbooks
- Many forms you will need for the school year can be found on our Forms & Lists page
- Summer Reading Information and Logs
- Classroom Supply Lists
- 2015-16 Lower School Dress Code
- Explorations Programs – After School Care (ASC), Sports Academy, KinderCubs
- Classroom Supply List
- Summer Reading Requirements
- Middle & Upper School Dress Code
- Sports Overview & Athletic Facts
- New Carline Traffic Procedures
We are proud to introduce Flik Independent School Dining as our new dining service provider for the 2015-16 school year. Flik focuses solely on developing dining programs for independent schools, including many in Georgia. Their management team is a dedicated group of school food and nutrition professionals devoted entirely to developing customized solutions for independent schools.
There are cost savings choosing the annual plan, but semester plans and daily options are also available.
Annual Plan $750 per year
Semester Plan $355 (1st semester)/$470 (2nd semester)
A Daily Meal $5.50
Annual Plan $850 per year
Semester Plan $400 (1st semester)/$520 (2nd semester)
A Daily Meal $6.00
A meal will include a choice of entrée, sides and a beverage. Desserts will be served on Fridays and occasionally throughout the week. (We regret that there was an error in the Flik brochure you received in the summer mailing. The meal plan includes a complete hot or cold protein option, starch, vegetable and a choice of juice, milk or water. There are no complimentary seconds. We sincerely apologize for this error in the brochure.) Please see below for more information regarding what is included with the meal plan.
A la carte items will be available for purchase to complement a purchased meal or a lunch from home.
We are also excited to offer a morning breakfast/snack option. The morning service will offer students grab-and-go beverages, breakfast sandwiches, fruit, yogurt and other items. These would be paid for a la carte via declining balance accounts similar to the lunch payment process.
To sign up for lunch service, please make checks payable to Flik. Checks can be dropped off in the business office or can be mailed to the school at 3067 Wheeler Road, Augusta, GA 30909.
We are excited about Flik and the anticipated improvements in our dining program. Thank you for your patience and flexibility during the process. You will be hearing more about the program this summer.
If you have questions regarding the dining program, feel free to email me.
Director of Finance and Operations
Meal Plan Basics
What is a meal?
- A combination of an Entrée, plus 3 regular sides and a regular beverage; OR
- A combination of an Entrée, plus 1 large side and a regular beverage
Entrée = The Chef’s table entrée, A Deli Sandwich, A large Salad, The Nibbles Entrée
Regular Side = The Chef’s table sides, A Piece of Fruit
Large Side = A cup of Soup, A small Salad, A bag of Chips
Regular Beverage = Milk, Juice, Small Water, Flavored Water, Tea or Lemonade
Anything beyond the above is considered retail and must be paid for with the Declining Balance Account.
The meal plan is designed for students whose parents have prepaid for the year or semester, Faculty and Staff, and International students.
Are you still looking for the perfect summer activity for your child? Look no further! Westminster Schools of Augusta is now offering Westminster Day Camp.
How is this camp different from Camp Wildcat or our other offerings? Westminster Day Camp is a fun and safe environment where students will play, grow and learn together. This camp runs in a similar manner to our current After School Care (ASC) program. There are no themes for the week and no take-home projects.
Due to the low supply cost, we are able to offer this camp to any child, Westminster family or not, for a low price. We must have 10 campers per week in order to run this camp.
To register for our new day camp, email Sarah Merten, Summer Programs Coordinator. You may also call her at 706-731-5260, ext. 2219 or 706-834-2726 (mobile).
Below are the dress code guidelines for the 2015-16 school year. Please note that the Lower School dress code has been updated.
The divisional school supply lists 2015-16 academic year are now available.
Below are the documents that parents will need to ensure that students participate in the 2015 summer reading assignments for the 2015-16 academic year. Assignments are available for first- through twelfth-grade students.
- Lower School (First- through Fifth-Grades)
- Middle School (Grades 6 – 8)
- Upper School (Grades 9 – 12)*
*For 2015 Upper School summer work assignments, click here.