The Art of Teaching K/1st: Meet Lindsey Sandkuhler!

Lindsey Sandkuhler took over The New Century School‘s mixed age Kindergarten and 1st-grade homeroom for the 2019–2020 school year. Teaching, she says, is “kind of a family profession,” and both of her parents are teachers. She always knew she would follow in their footsteps and attended Towson University to earn a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She is from Towson and lives there still.

Road to TNCS

From college, Ms. Sandkuhler never looked back. After graduating, she was hired by Howard County public schools, where she had completed her student teaching. There, she taught 4th grade for 2 years, then 2nd grade for 3 years. Next, she says, “I left the county and decided to go for pre-K—big difference!” At a nature-based preschool, she taught 4- and 5-year-olds, then spent an additional 2 years at a different private preschool for 5-year-olds. “Now, I’m here, year 9!”, she said. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind!”

So what did bring her to TNCS? A bit of good timing! Her last school announced in February that it would be closing permanently in June. Ms. Sandkuhler saw that TNCS was hiring, liked what she saw, and applied. She was offered a position the day after she interviewed in May, at least partly because her teaching style meshes so well with TNCS’s educational approach. “It was both a relief not to have to scramble for employment as well as very exciting for me to embark on this new adventure,” she explained.

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At TNCS

Back to liking what she saw, the aspects that most appealed to her about TNCS were precisely what makes TNCS the school that it is, particularly, small class sizes, the emphasis on The Arts, and differentiated learning. “I have done a lot of different kinds of teaching for a lot of different ages,” she said, which has given her insight into what works in early childhood and lower elementary education.

I really love how small the classes are. In the county public school, at one time, I had 28 2nd-graders in my class with no aide; it was just me. I felt like I couldn’t reach all my students. There was no way, and I burned out because of that. I was trying to get to everybody, and I just couldn’t do it. One of the great things here is the small class sizes. By week 3 I already had a good grasp on where most of my students are.

It’s a story we hear time and again about teachers being underresourced and, by consequence, students often winding up underserved. At TNCS, Ms. Sandkuhler has a very manageable 14 in one class and 13 another. “That’s amazing,” she says, “and I love that it’s so centered around where the students are. Yes, we’re going to encourage them and challenge them, but not to the point of frustration.”

She is here again making a comparison to her stint in the county public school system. “You had to stay on pace. If your students didn’t understand addition, too bad, you had to move on to subtraction because the test is happening on this day coming soon, regardless. That’s another reason I needed to move on. I felt bad for the kids. They weren’t ready, which was totally fine by me—we all learn differently—but that’s not how the county saw it. It was not okay.”

Ms. Sandkuhler teaches Math and English Language Arts (ELA), the two core subjects. She shares the K/1st cohort with Pei Ge, who teaches Global Studies, Science, and Mandarin. When asked about TNCS’s multilingual bent, she says, “I was very forthcoming at my interview about not being bilingual, and it wasn’t a blocker. But I think it’s wonderful to start teaching language so young. My students are now teaching me things in Spanish and Chinese, which is really cool.”

Love of Art and Nature

So what makes Ms. Sandkuhler tick besides a love of teaching? “I love art. My sister is an artist, a sculptor, so I live vicariously through her sometimes,” she said. “When I taught pre-K, during the kids’ naptime, I’d sit and watch YouTube videos on how to do calligraphy, and I would practice during my downtime. That’s something I had always wanted to learn. It’s very therapeutic. I like to draw and paint, too.”

In addition to making art, Ms. Sandkuhler enjoys being outside in nature (hence the nature-based preschool), especially hiking. Her parents live in an idyllic setting on the Choptank River in Dorchester County, and she goes there to kayak, crab, and fish. She describes her mother’s love of hummingbirds and the handheld feeders that the birds will come feed out of if you remain still enough. “Sometimes it’s so nice to get out and away,” she said.

Not surprisingly, her pursuits out of the classroom influence her approach inside it: “Parents should know that I’m creative. I’m patient with the students. If they’re not getting something a certain way, then we’ll try a different approach. Basically, I’ll be their kid’s advocate for the school year.” Among a parent community that values art, creativity, and compassion, this will all come as very welcome news. There are additional benefits as well, including the cognitive gains that come with the synergy between art and academic disciplines:

The county schools are so into math and reading—which is fine, I get that, but they’ll take away band and art. Those are the first things to go. But, for kids who might be struggling with math and reading, the arts might be the only thing they look forward to at school. If they can’t have a reason to go to school, the other subjects are just going to suffer more. So, I really feel strongly that creativity needs to be incorporated not just in art class, but throughout the curriculum, including my subjects, math and ELA. I just find it very important. More understanding starts to open up for the child.

Artfully said, Ms. Sandkuhler! Welcome to TNCS!

Meet Multifaceted Loretta Lee: One of TNCS’s New Lower Elementary Teachers!

Given its progressive, inquiry-based bent, it’s no surprise that The New Century School attracts some very special educators, as we have seen over the years. The 2019–2020 school year boasts several new faces, all of whom will be profiled by Immersed. Today’s post, though, is all about Loretta Lee, who has a 2nd- and 3rd-grade homeroom and teaches English Language Arts (ELA) and Global Studies to the 2nd- through 4th-grade cohort.

Background

IMG_0773Right off the bat, Ms. Lee identifies herself as an educator. This avocation seems to be central to who she is (although it’s not the only way she sees herself). “I have been teaching since the late 1970s,” she said. “One of the reasons I’ve stayed in the profession as long as I have is that I consider myself a lifelong learner. I enjoy learning new ways to teach and new techniques, and I’ve been give the opportunity in most schools that I’ve worked in to be able to grow in all sorts of different ways, like sitting on hiring committees, running book clubs, and so on.”

She also explains that she has seen education trends come and go and has clear notions of what works and what doesn’t:

I’ve seen a full gamut of what’s going on in education. One of the things I’ve chosen to be here at TNCS is the progressive nature of the school and the ability to meet kids where they are. That’s not true in all schools, and that’s one of the things that definitely drew me here. I’ve been in places that really embrace that, and I’ve been at schools that really don’t.

She earned an undergraduate degree in early childhood education in Boston and went on to obtain a graduate degree at University of Wisconsin in Madison, where her major was Educational Law and Policy Studies. In support of these studies, she testified at senate assembly meetings as well as served as an intern on a committee for how monies were spent in public schools. She also created curricula for incarcerated youth. “Oftentimes what happens to those poor kids is that their education stops as soon as they get incarcerated,” she explained. “We put together a curriculum so that when they came back out, at least one thing was in place for them.”

At TNCS

Ms. Lee brings a rich background of experience to her classroom, and this becomes a valuable asset not just to her lucky students but to her as a teacher as well, as she explains. “One of the benefits that comes with age is knowing yourself well enough to know what fits. I don’t think you know that when you’re very young and just starting out. So this is where my career journey has led me.”

Although she now lives in northern Baltimore County on a 3 1/2-acre piece of property, she and her family have lived all over the country. Her husband is also a career educator, and they have taught in Connecticut, where they met; on the West Coast; and for 15 years in Texas before relocating here in 2014. They decided to come back to be near their parents, one set in Florida, the other in New Jersey. The Lees  are now right in the middle! They also really like where they live: “There’s a donkey next door,” said Ms. Lee, “and roosters everywhere. We have horses and two large dogs we wanted to give the ability to be outside and stretch their legs. It’s very beautiful and quiet. I only wish it was about 15 miles south because the commute isn’t great,” she joked. Besides her four-legged babies, she has two sons. The oldest is 27 and still lives in Dallas. The younger one (age 19) is here with them and doing a “gap year” between graduating high school and starting college, explained Ms. Lee.

Before coming to TNCS, she taught at Krieger Schechter Day School in Pikesville. But now that she’s at TNCS, she finds it refreshing, she says. “It’s really a fit, even with trying to get used to the nuances of a new school and its culture. The kids have been great, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them. My colleagues have been very sweet, and I know I’m probably the oldest, but I always say I’m young at heart.”

As for how she wound up teaching ELA, she explains that this is the first time in a long time that she is not teaching math but has always been interested in ELA.

I went to a parochial school for many years and I knew that’s not the way I wanted to teach, and it’s not the way I learn best either. So, I wanted to open up my mind to other ways of getting the same information. There’s not one way—there are many, many ways, and I just wanted to allow for that. Visually, aurally, it doesn’t take you long to realize strengths and weaknesses when you’re presenting in multiple ways. Where are they picking it up the best? That’s half the battle. Where do I put this information in so that it actually goes in and stays somewhere? Once you learn those aspects of teaching, it makes it very easy to move on and keep making progress.

And I like ELA! It comprises not only the reading element but also the writing and the spelling, and it really has all the individual nuances for the English. I want the students to make connections; I want them to see that it works together. I think so often we segment things out and then you expect the children to make the connections. I think if you connect everything together to begin with, then it really makes sense for them.

Ms. Lee has familiarized herself with the Singapore math curriculum as and appreciates seeing that same approach used in math as well—making real-world connections to numbers. Math for this cohort of 33 total students, by the way, is taught by Ms. Klusewitz as is science.


As mentioned, although Ms. Lee is a veteran educator and teaching is very important to her, she has other sides and has many interests. “I guess the one thing that parents should know about me is that I am a parent, and I have been there, done that. But I have many facets. I really enjoy design work and color and art pieces, so that’s a love of mine as well. I also enjoy being on the water, especially the ocean. It’s my place to regroup and recharge.”

IMG_0714She spends much of each summer in Maine, where she bakes cheddar biscuits, blueberry crisp, and the like for her best friend’s retail shop. “I’m the comedy relief,” says Ms. Lee. “When I arrive, everyone goes, ‘she’s baaaack’!”When it’s time for her “to come back to reality,” she enjoys cooking in her spare time and has a to-die-for tequila lime shrimp. Let’s hope she makes an appearance at a TNCS pot luck!

With or without your blueberry crisp  in tow, Ms. Lee, welcome to the TNCS community!

 

Meet Hannah Brown: Speaking the Language of Welcome at TNCS!

This post is long overdue—about a year, in fact. Hannah Brown joined The New Century School in September 2018, and thanks to her smiling efficiency, reception runs like a clock. So, it’s time get to know Ms. Brown and find out what keeps that smile on her face!

Background

Ms. Brown graduated from the University of Iowa, located in Iowa City, in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in both French and Spanish (she double majored). Since entering college, she also worked in some capacity in early childhood education. She began as a part-time assistant in a childcare center/preschool for children ages 2 to 5, soon becoming a lead teacher there, and ultimately advancing to coordinator (second to the director). “Although it was a small school—there were about 25 students—we were very multicultural” says Ms. Brown.” We were located by the university hospital, so we had families doing medical fellowships from all over the world. It was a great precursor to what I’m doing here.”

She worked there for several years before taking a job with the standardized testing company ACT, where she was a supervisor in their student services department. She describes this stint as basically taking escalated phone calls from moms and dads to help them navigate the standardized testing experience, or, as she put it, “talking them off the ledge”—these tests can be daunting, after all!

At TNCS

As for what prompted her to move east to Baltimore, she says: “I always knew I wanted to move out of Iowa—I love Iowa; it was great place to grow up—but I’ve always loved both the east coast and the west coast.” As luck would have it, during a few visits to friends here, she fell in love with the city. “Cost of living wise, it’s pretty comparable to the midwest here, unlike a lot of other cities. I thought, ‘this is something I can do,’ so I made the leap.”

She has called Baltimore home for just over a year, having moved on August 14th (a date she remembers because it’s her brother’s birthday). She started working at TNCS just a few weeks later. “I saw a job posting, came and met with Señora Duncan, and loved the school right away.” The sentiment was evidently reciprocated—TNCS called her with an offer just a few hours later!

When asked how she would characterize her position at TNCS, Ms, Brown laughed and said, “I wear a lot of different hats.” On some days, she seems to be everywhere, facilitating various school processes and keeping things straight in general. “I’m the receptionist, but also a lot more than that. I like the term, ‘multipurpose caregiver’, which a first-aid trainer once called me.” She says that some of her duties include being the school nurse, helping with student onboarding, doing administrative assistant work, and so on. “She has even conducted school tours for prospective families.

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Like she says, she does a lot, and her varied background seems to have groomed her perfectly for her kaleidoscope of roles. “I feel like I get to see a little bit of everything, and I’m very versatile” she said. She clearly appreciates this aspect of her work, but the character of the school is also a draw for her:

I love it here. Part of what appealed to me was the Spanish immersion program—the Chinese immersion program is great too; I wish I spoke Mandarin—it’s really, really inspiring. I started studying languages when I was 14, a freshman in high school, and I’m lucky that I’m somewhat language-oriented. I think that what we’re doing here, the service that we’re providing in teaching kids languages while they’re young and their brains are primed to acquire language, is just so cool. Right off the bat, that was a big part of it for me. I have a pretty extensive background in early childhood education, and I think many families don’t necessarily know that about me. People are always surprised by my language background, too.

Ms. Brown is great at her current job but says she would love to grow at TNCS as well. She has considered going to graduate school to become a teacher like her mom, who was a public school elementary art teacher for 35 years in Iowa, and some other family members. “I feel like I come by it honestly,” she laughed. She is also interested in the administrative side of schools, though, so her future path could take more than one fork.

One thing about Ms. Brown is her naturally welcoming demeanor—she’s perfect for her job as long as it fulfills her. She makes TNCS veterans, newcomers, and guests feel comfortable and puts us all at ease, so just what makes her tick? “I love music and going to concerts. I love being outside in nature, especially walking. I call myself an ‘urban hiker’ because I walk all over town, including my 2 1/2 mile walk into work every day. I’m definitely also a social butterfly. Oh, and I love to cook. For me, a perfect day would be getting together with 8 to 10 friends, making dinner, and eating it outside.” As for her cooking style, she likes to experiment and try new things and especially enjoys world cuisines.

I want to share my perspective as a midwestern gal, dropped right into the big city here: It has been really fun. I really like the culture of Baltimore, so I feel like a Baltimorean already. I love the arts scene; I love the music. I like the ‘Smaltimore scene’ with everybody knowing each other. That’s more akin to where I grew up, and so I appreciate that sense of community here. It’s a cultural value that people share here, to be neighborly with each other. Obviously, I was aware of its challenges when I was moving here, but I think there’s a tendency to focus on the negatives about Baltimore, and I believe we need a new story. I see people being kind to each other and helping each other all the time, and I think that’s really what makes Baltimore special.

Baltimore—not to mention TNCS—is lucky to have you, Hannah Brown!

Service Learning Gets Souped Up at TNCS!

Service is a core value at The New Century School, along with Respect, Compassion, and Courage. Dean of Service Learning Alicia Danyali makes sure that TNCS students have regular projects to engage in that benefit the community and environment, from the Fell’s Point neighborhood, to Baltimore City, to national and international initiatives. Past projects include—but certainly are not limited to—Kindness Rocks, tree restoration in Puerto Rico, blanket-making for sick children, and raising storm water run-off awareness.

Soup’s On!

On Friday, September 27th, Ms. Danyali introduced her vision for Q1’s service learning project for TNCS 5th- through 8th-graders: making soup kits for food insecure citizens of Baltimore. She found this opportunity through an organization called Live with Purpose, whose mission is to [engage] volunteers to meet vital community needs and live with purpose through meaningful service.” The soup kits will be distributed to Living Classrooms and other local organizations like Paul’s Place who will distribute them to identified families in need to provide them “a hot and hearty meal.”

Before the kit assembly began, though, Ms. Danyali provided some context:

I know you’ve been partnering with other classrooms on some school-related service initiatives, but, today, you get to do a service activity with a focus on human dignity. No matter what anybody’s background, everybody deserves to be respected. We have to have meaning in our lives, which means that we have to take care of ourselves but also other people here in our school community and even beyond. I think it’s a really important value to serve. So, today we’re going to work on soup kits for people in Baltimore who are facing food insecurity. Food insecurity means that a person may not have the means to get enough food. When I reached out to Live with Purpose, they said they needed help making soup kits, and I said, ‘I have the perfect helpers!’

She next shared some sobering facts:

  • The USDA defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.”
  • A quarter of Baltimore residents live in a food desert (an area where fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods are difficult to find due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers).
  • Nearly half of Maryland’s hungry are working—people who don’t make enough to provide both healthy food and a safe home for their families.
  • 1 in 4 children in Baltimore City’s schools are hungry when arriving to school, having not eaten a full meal since they left school the day before.

These are terrible truths that are difficult to fathom—25% of school-aged children go to school hungry? And 25% of all Baltimoreans don’t have access to healthy food?

These soup kits could make a real difference in our neighbors’ lives. So, during Teacher’s Choice time, first middle schoolers then elementary students spent 30 minutes putting together bean and barley soup kits to serve 4 to 6 people each. Stations were set up for pairs of students, and they got right to it!

“I think this is a great way to give back to the community,” said one TNCS 6th-grader. “This is fun, and it makes me feel good because I know I’m helping,” echoed a 7th-grader. They worked very carefully and neatly to produce attractive, quality kits.

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Thanks to TNCS students and TNCS Dean of Service Learning Alicia Danyali, some Baltimore residents might feel a little less insecure this fall. “I’m confident that knowing you’re helping other people, you’ll be very happy,” said Ms. Danyali.

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Meet TNCS’s After Care and Summer Camp Director, Lydia Provencio!

20190713_001613 (1) Lydia Provencio joined The New Century School on August 5th to begin training for her new dual role. Less than 2 months in, she reports that, although there’s a lot to absorb, things are going well so far. “I’m learning,” she says, “and I like to do things in order of priority, which can be challenging for this kind of job because there are so many different aspects to be aware of.”

It’s worth reiterating that, for the first time, the After Care and Summer Camp Directors will be one and the same person, which brings all kinds of advantages, such as year-round access for parents, continuity for children, and fewer learning curves for Ms. Provencio!

Getting to Know Ms. Provencio

Ms. Provencio comes from Los Angeles, California, where she lived her whole life until moving to Baltimore 12 years ago with her family. She loves the East Coast, most notably for offering four seasons instead of just summer and spring.

Since the age of 17, she has worked with young, at-risk children. “I love kids,” she said. “I love kids. Period.” Her whole career until TNCS, in fact, has been with at-risk children, such as those in foster care and others. When she arrived on the East Coast, she started working for the daycare The Primeron in Odenton, MD. The owner asked her to establish a certified kindergarten/1st-grade program, which project she heartily embraced. “I love challenges,” said Ms. Provencio. “I had it done within the year.”

From there she became an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher for unaccompanied minors traveling from South America. “My job was to acclimate them to the educational system because many of them never had a formal education, or maybe had teaching through only about second grade. So I would try to help get them up to par grade level for their age. I taught in both English and Spanish.”

That’s right, Ms. Provencio is bilingual, which makes her ideal for TNCS. Back to her ESOL teaching, though, that program’s funding was cut off, and that’s how she arrived at TNCS. “I take care of my grandson and needed income, so I decided to venture out and see what new endeavors I could find.” She has six grandchildren, in total, with five of them living in California, as does most of her family. She is one of nine siblings and goes back west regularly to visit her parents, brothers and sisters, and other relatives.

Goals at TNCS

As mentioned, she is settling in well. Her approach is all about safety—adhering to protocols, maintaining a clean environment, and vigilantly supervising the children at TNCS. “We’re here to keep them safe,” she said. “We want to make a safe, enjoyable environment for them.”

As far as programs go, extracurricular activities (ECAs) for quarters 1 through 3 were already nailed down, which gives Ms. Provencio a bit of space to really get in step at TNCS. She can, however, bring some new life to winter and spring camps. “I want to bring in more art and maybe invite someone from the historical society to come talk—there’s so much history here. I want to find engaging ways to break up the day for campers and introduce them to new things.” She has begun bringing new programs into after care, such as Pets on Wheels, a pet therapy non-profit that brings happiness to people (and kids!) “one lick at a time.” Kody, a 4-year-old African mastiff mix, was a very welcome visitor indeed!

Although not a regular, ongoing program like Pets on Wheels will be, some other four-legged friends also visited after care students, making for a very exciting afternoon!

Then, in early winter, she’ll start working on always popular summer camp at TNCS, cementing summer 2020 offerings.

Final thoughts from Ms. Provencio about her work?

I want to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, and that is enriching and educating these children while keeping them safe. I really want them to take away something from camp. I want them to remember their experiences. I also want parents to know that I’m open to suggestions. I’m not infallible, so if anyone has any resources, please bring them to my attention, and I will reach out and see what I can do to bring that inside our little world.


When not taking care of students in after care at TNCS, she enjoys reading up on history and about other cultures. She also loves being outdoors and camping. Trying new foods as well as cooking—she’s half Italian, half Mexican—round out her pastimes. Ask her about her pumpkin ravioli with lemon garlic sauce . . . yum!

Suzannah Hopkins Joins TNCS as Admissions Director!

With the start of any new academic year comes changes. The New Century School is ever-evolving, striving to grow not just in size but also in substance. What is sometimes a difficult change to accept is the departure of friends—staff, students, teachers, and so on. Although saying goodbye can be hard, there’s always a bright side: new friends to be made. So, say hello to TNCS’s new Admissions Director Suzannah Hopkins!

Meet Suzannah Hopkins!

015Suzannah Hopkins is a native Marylander, having grown up in Montgomery County. She graduated from Ithaca College in New York State with concentrations in English, Art History, and Italian and then spent some time in Florence and other parts of Italy. In Florence, she got a post-baccalaureate degree in Art History (and enjoyed trying to fool the locals into thinking she was from there with her language and dialect skills). Later, at Johns Hopkins University, she attained a Master’s Degree in Museum Studies.

On returning to the United States, she worked in Washington, D.C., where she met her husband, another native Marylander. They currently reside in Anne Arundel County with their two sons, one 24 years old and the other going on 16.

When she isn’t helping steward children along their ideal educational paths, Ms. Hopkins enjoys attending her younger son’s lacrosse games, spending time with her family, and cooking. Her favorite local museums are The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, where Mary Young Pickersgill sewed that flag in 1813; The Walters Museum of Art; and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Why TNCS?

Although Ms. Hopkins jokes that her education doesn’t seem to relate to what she does now, admissions has long been her career—for 14 years, in fact. Before joining TNCS, she was in admissions at St. Annes’ School of Annapolis and before that, at Sandy Spring  Friends School in Olney and Indian Creek School in Crownsville. “I really like admissions,” she says, “I enjoy meeting families and learning about their children and finding the right fit for them.”

She also circled back to her arts background and how it actually does relate to her current role. “Museums and schools are both educational institutions,” she explained. “There’s a lot of crossover in how promotion and fundraising happens as well as in how core advancement and development take place. People are choosing to come to your institution to learn something. How do you welcome them? There’s a level of customer service. How can the family experience the place?”

She also explains that every school has its own culture and methods, but coming in at the start of the school year will allow her to shape her admissions procedures to what she knows works for her. “But, there are so many good things here,” she continued, “that I don’t think it will  be hard to get in the groove. All of the schools I’ve worked in have been progressive, whole child–centric, and cross-disciplinary, and so my joining TNCS is in line with my background. Plus I love the language aspect! I’m hoping to learn a thing or two.”

Another advantage that Ms. Hopkins had on her side was the help of former TNCS Admissions Director Dominique Sanchies to show her the ropes specific to TNCS. (As an aside, Ms. Sanchies is still affiliated with TNCS in an administrative capacity while she em”barks” on a new adventure. More to come.) “She’s been terrific,” said Ms. Hopkins. “In fact, I have her on speed dial.” Finally, this time of year is not a crucial admissions window, so she has had the breadth and space to enjoy what’s happening with the first few weeks of school as well as to get her Blackbaud admissions pages put together in a way that works for her and for the school. She was already familiar with Blackbaud from the parent perspective, which is another bonus. “I’m also reading through school materials and learning routines, but so is everybody else, so we’re all in this together.”

So Far, So Good!

This should come as no surprise, but Ms. Hopkins reports that things have been going really well for her at TNCS so far. “Everybody on the faculty and staff is lovely. It’s been really nice to get to know everybody bit by bit. The students here are great. The littlest babies are just adorable, and the older students seem so kind to each other—it’s really nice to see.”

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She is gaining ground quickly on putting names with faces, and morning drop-off has helped a lot there.

Drawing once more on her arts background, Ms. Hopkins commented on what a rich environment TNCS sits in, artistically and architecturally. “This community as a whole is so rich in history, and I think the school is very lucky to be located here. Look at the stained glass windows in building north! They are so gorgeous and can be studied and enjoyed right here in our space,” she remarked.

Goals for Admissions

“The first year is a learning curve with new systems and structures, getting to know families, and building relationships with faculty and staff. One way to do this is to jump right in and give tours.” Formerly, tours happened in groups (and still will in certain contexts, such as Admissions Fridays tours and Open Houses—the next one takes place November 2nd, at 10:00 am), but Ms. Hopkins is eager to give one-on-family tours and has already begun doing those. Her first tour happened on September 4th. “I really like giving tours,” she said. “I enjoy meeting the family and having the chance to talk to them individually and getting a moment to connect. You’ll see me frequently walking through the hallways with families. I’ll continue doing group tours as well to strike a nice balance of both and to make this as convenient as possible for families.”

She really means it when she talks about enjoying getting to know the community: “I’m pretty approachable,” she said. If there’s anything you need from me, come find me. That helps me to get to know you, too, so come say hello!”


With that, welcome to The New Century School community, Suzannah Hopkins!

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TNCS Admissions Director Suzannah Hopkins and Primary Teacher Maria Mosby attend Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance’s annual School Far!

TNCS’s Annual Elementary and Middle School Back-to-School Night: Your Source for Need-to-Know Info for the 2019–2020 Academic Year!

Now that summer has unofficially ended, and school is back in full swing, The New Century School kicked off the 2019–2020 school year with its annual Back-to-School Night on Thursday, September 5th. The focus of the evening was to meet your student’s teachers and to present the student’s daily schedule, a curriculum overview, and school policies. In other words, students have had 2 weeks to acclimate—now it’s our turn! However, many parents were not able to attend, so this post will outline some of the more important bits of information you’ll need to get ensure a great year ahead.

As TNCS enters its 10th year, it’s worth noting how the school and its programs have expanded and grown to what they are today. Changes each year are inevitable, but TNCS has stayed true to its identity and has successfully weathered those changes, transforming would-be obstacles into opportunities and continuing to grow the student body.

An overview of tips and policies is given here, and specific documents can also be downloaded accessed via the TNCS Parent Hub (as well as Blackbaud—see more info below).

Welcome to the 2019–2020 School Year!

The evening began in the gymnasium of building north with Head of School Shara Khon Duncan warmly welcoming parents, new and returning: “It’s nice to see all of your faces again—welcome,” she began. She next introduced the new staff and elementary and middle school teachtncs-back-to-school-night-2017ers, who then returned to their classrooms to prepare for the group breakouts by division. (Immersed will profile Suzannah Hopkins, Admissions; Lindsey Sandkuhler, K–1; Loretta Lee, 2–3; and Daphnee Hope, 7–8 in the annual “Meet the Teacher” series so you can get to know them better.) Chef Danielle provided tasty refreshments for attendees.IMG_2827 copy

Sra. Duncan then addressed the parent audience and presented four primary points about this school year at TNCS.

Blackbaud Comes to TNCS

Never fear, it’s not a swashbuckling pirate! Blackbaud is a brand-new student information platform rolling out for the new school year. Led by Sra. Duncan, TNCS had been on a quest for an effective, efficient system for more than a year, and Blackbaud rose to the top after a thorough vetting process. Said Sra. Duncan,”with a student information system, we should be able to get information about a student; make queries within the database; and, most importantly, we should be able to communicate with families.” Sra. Duncan gave well-deserved props to Karin Cintron for setting up Blackbaud and getting it out to parents.

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In addition to everything Blackbaud will make easier to accomplish from an administrative perspective, like admissions, re-enrollment, and so on, the parent experience will be greatly enhanced as well. The system houses class pages, an interactive calendar, community groups for networking (e.g., class parents, Parent Council, volunteering), resource boards, a newsfeed, links to Family ID and other sites, and more. Throughout this school year and as parents get familiar with it, Blackbaud will become the go-to for just about everything school related. “No more digging back through emails to find out what concert attire is supposed to be,” said Sr. Duncan. “It’ll all be there for you in one convenient location.”

The rollout will continue in a piecemeal fashion, as TNCS administration recognizes that too much change all at once can be overwhelming. This initiative is to help make school processes easier, after all. “I really want everyone to buy in to Blackbaud as our primary communications tool,” said Sra. Duncan. “However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t email a teacher—please continue to do so. Blackbaud is more for our school-wide points of business.”

Communication: It’s Not Just Talk

Speaking of communication, this brings us to Sra. Duncan’s second topic. “Last year was my first year as Head of School, and I learned a lot. One thing was the importance of communication. I really want to beef up communication with parents, but that’s a two-way  endeavor.” She urges parents to speak up when they have a concern, not to wait around and let a situation get out of hand or cause bad feelings. “If something’s bothering you, please let us know,” she said. “It’s better for all of us if we can address a problem from the outset and possibly make a difference. You’re not bugging us—these are your children. We’re supposed to be working together.”

Sra. Duncan has a way of getting to the heart of a matter! Keep the lines of communication open through emails, phone-calls, conferences . . . but preferably not during drop-off.

Carline: Ins and Outs

And that brings us to the third topic of the evening: drop-off and pick-up. The most important take-away here is safety. There are children and adults walking about, and their safety is paramount. The carline is a wonderfully convenience for parents, but it only works the way it’s supposed to when everyone follows the rules.

Drivers: The speed limit is 5 mph. Not any higher for any reason. Please obey the traffic directors and their signals.

Walkers: Use crosswalks–don’t walk through the parking lot! Drivers are obeying traffic directors and might not see you. The directors themselves might not see you. Do yourself and your child a favor and use the crosswalks!

Double parking: Don’t do it! You might get ticketed, as police officers are really cracking down on that this year. It also causes numerous circulation problems and causes frustration for TNCS’s neighbors. What is double parking? It can mean temporarily parking next to a legally parked car and leaving your car with the hazard lights on, but it also applies to leaving your car at all anywhere on the street that isn’t a designated parking spot. “It gums up the system,” said Sra. Duncan.

Obey traffic laws: For example, avoid blocking the intersection of Ann and Aliceanna streets.

You may have noticed that Sra. Duncan is no longer directing exiting traffic. Unfortunately, not to mention unacceptably, she was nearly hit three times last year and is not willing to repeat that risk. “I love my life,” she said, “and I would love to continue being Head of The New Century School with my legs intact.”

“I don’t know of any school that has a carline that everyone likes,” said Sra. Duncan, “and it never goes perfectly. But, we all have to work together. We are doing the best that we can to get the students out of the school buildings and into your cars. So, your patience is really important and appreciated.”

Grades Get Real

“I saw way too many high grades last year,” began Sra. Duncan. “While you might think, ‘great—that’s awesome!’, it’s really not. High grades are great only if they are truly earned.” So, she met with teachers to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of what the grades mean. How are children earning their As, Es, and 1s? Indiscriminately serving out high grades now will not serve students well when they move on to high school, and reality sets in. “One, we’re not setting our students up for success with this approach,” continued Sra. Duncan, “and two, we certainly don’t want to get the reputation that we inflate grades.” She also pointed out that students will not try harder if they have already achieved the pinnacle of success. “They need room to grow, something to work toward. There’s room to grow in a B, and it means that teachers will be working with your child in those specific areas.”

“Please don’t panic if you see some honest grades come home. We really want to do what’s best for our students.” Inflate gate deflated! Homeroom teachers will provide more information on grading rubrics.


And that was the gist of Back-to-School Night. More homeroom-specific information will be communicated by teachers, via Blackbaud, and from Class Parents. Enjoy your school year!