As mentioned in TNCS Teachers and Admin Share School Memories a couple of weeks ago, with the 2015–2016 school year almost over, it’s a great time to reflect on all that The New Century School does for its students as well as all that education has given us. Prompted by TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali’s questions, “What is your fondest memory of school? and What teacher/school event influenced you the most in your educational experience?” here is another round of teacher and staff responses that provide a window into who they are as people, as educators, and as friends.
Emma Novashinski, Executive Chef & Master Gardener
Chef Emma draws on her love of growing things and the importance—and rewards—of practicing environmental sustainability.
My fondest memory at the school was actually this year’s Earth day. I have always wanted to watch a weeping willow tree grow, and I bought one to donate to the school as they are too large for a conventional garden. It was a little bittersweet.
I heard they were going to plant it on Earth day and got a call during lunch to join them. When I got out there the whole school was there! They all clapped and thanked me for the tree! To put roots into the Earth on Earth day was so fulfilling. My heart burst with love for everyone at the school. So thoughtful and meaningful and kind!!
Dan McGonigal, Elementary STEM Teacher
Mr. McGonigal shows us where his drive for protecting the environment began to develop and also that sometimes you just can’t take yourself too seriously.
My most influential teacher was one of my high school teachers, Mr. Shearer. He taught Environmental Issues. I remember him because he was so passionate about what he did, and it really hit home with me. I always had an appreciation for the outdoors, but he made me look at our environment in a different way. He discussed things in his class that came true later in my life, such as climate change, population problems, and even the flooding of New Orleans. It was a very memorable class for me and has impacted my own teaching.
My most memorable school moment was also my most embarrassing. I was called to the foul line during our assembly in the gym to show how I used routine to help me shoot a foul shot for our basketball team. I started my routine and heard some people laughing, and I continued and made the shot. I was asked to do it again, and more people laughed, but I made the shot again. The third time everyone was laughing and I didn’t realize why. But as it turned out part of my routine was sticking my tongue out! It was something that still makes me smile when I think about it.
Johanna Ramos, Pre-Primary Lead Spanish Immersion Teacher
Sra. Ramos gives some well-deserved props to a colleague and probably speaks for many in so doing.
I could say that the teacher that influenced me the most in my educational experience is Mr. Warren because of his hard work and dedication toward the school and the students.
Kiley Stasch, Elementary Language Arts & Global Studies Teacher
In her recollection, Ms. Stasch demonstrates the undeniable value of service learning and of mixed-age activities—two core TNCS elementary values!
One of my fondest memories of school was when my school had what they called “Stewardship Day.” On this day, we were split up into groups from K–12th grade and assigned different tasks to help improve our community. Not only was this a fun time to have the chance to climb on top of school buses to wash them, go on long hikes to pick up trash, and clean up community gardens, but it was also one of the few times
out of the year that we were able to interact with students of all ages that attended our school!
Elizabeth Salas-Viaux, Pre-Primary Lead Spanish Immersion Teacher
Sra. Salas’s takes a different approach and gives a shout out to the awe-inspiringly involved families of the TNCS community.
One of the things that have inspired me as a teacher is to see how families and communities work along with teachers in order to provide the best positive learning experience for our students.
It’s true that the educational environment works best when all stakeholders are invested both internally and externally. The TNCS community is a beautiful synergy in the truest sense of that word, as the students who go on to enter the world as kind, compassionate, caretakers of it will reveal.
Last month, The New Century School upper elementary students tried their hands at stagecraft. After completing a unit on Greek mythology in TNCS Language Arts and Global Studies teacher Kiley Stasch’s classroom, they wrote their own Greek myths. Working in groups, they were responsible for putting on a play and for everything associated with the production—from “behind the scenes” considerations like script, costuming, and props all the way through to performance skills such as voice projection and stage presence.
Ms. Stasch was thrilled with their work, saying, “They all did a great job. They started with a myth of their choice and were then asked to put a creative twist on it to act as a play lasting about 8 to 10 minutes.” Such twists, as you’ll read below, included mixing bits of modern times into the ancient tales. A Justin Bieber song might be playing in the background, for example, or dialogue might sound more like a Nickelodeon TV series than a traditional myth, or a chariot might be the preferred conveyance in one scene, a car in the next. The results are hilarious!
Ms. Stasch tends to use project-based learning in her classroom, an approach she says is very effective: “They aced their quizzes after so much hands-on work. It’s amazing how much information they retain!” This particular project was something she had done as a 6th grader and loved it.
Without further ado, here are three plays by the TNCS Troupe, with transcripts following each mythical masterpiece!
Idris: Today we will perform our twist on a Greek myth. Chloe: Our myth is when Persephone, Demeter’s daughter goes to the underworld to join Hades. Kathryn: We will put our emotion and drama into the characters we play. Aidan: My character is Hades, and he is the god of the underworld and somewhat temperamental. Hades has a three-headed dog protecting the entrance to the underworld, named Cerebus. I will also play a farmer. Idris: I am Zeus, I am the father of the Gods and I am Hades’ and Demeter’s brother. I am the god of the universe and am the most powerful God. I will also play Helios, God of the sun and Hermes, the God of travelers. He is quite mischievous. Chloe: I am Demeter, Persephone’s mother. I am the Goddess of all harvest and all crops. I am also an immortal. Kathryn: I am Persephone, Demeter’s daughter. I will also play Selene, Goddess of the moon and Helios’ sister. Idris: I hope you enjoy our play
(One fine day) Narrator: Persephone was out picking flowers for her mother when the ground suddenly opened and she fell into Hades grasp, whose two dark horses led him in his chariot up to the opening to capture her as his prisoner, or in his mind, his helpful queen. (Persephone picking flowers and ground opening; Hades taking Persephone) Persephone: AHHHHHHhhhhhh……let me go!! Who are you and where are you taking me? What are you doing fool!? Hades: Settle down, I’m Hades the God of the underworld. From this day on, I will call you Queen Persephone, of the underworld. You will be my wife. Persephone: NO! And how do you know my name? Hades: Your mother is my sister, duhhhh! I know exactly who you are! Persephone: WHAT! Hades: You did not know that? Why didn’t your mother tell you about me? Persephone: No she did not tell me about you, now take me back to earth! Hades: Do you think I’m stupid? Persephone: Yes. Hades: Well I am not. I will not let you go.
Demeter: Persephone it’s time for dinner (looking around, then goes up to the farmer) There’s a wondering farmer, I wonder if he saw where Persephone went. Have you seen seen where my daughter went? Farmer: No I haven’t, but some of my pigs have disappeared this afternoon as well. It was very weird, the earth crumpled and a chariot pulled up to the surface and someone was in it. Than the chariot disappeared underground and the earth returned to its usual form. Demeter: A chariot? It must be Hades! He must have taken my daughter! Helios, were you around when this happened? Did you see if Hades took Persephone down to the underworld? I cannot find her. Helios: I did see that happen. While she was picking flowers, he suddenly appeared and snatched her down into the chariot. Demeter: I knew it! I must go tell Zeus so that he will rescue Persephone from that kidnapper! Helios: Yes, you must tell Zeus. Hopefully he can do something about it before it’s too late! Demeter: What do you mean too late? Helios: I’ve said too much, just go speak with Zeus. (He flys off) Demeter: Wait! I need to know more!
Narrator: Back in the underworld, Persephone was demanding Hades to let her free. Hades would not budge. Persephone: LET ME GO NOW!! Hades: I cannot, you will be the queen of the underworld forever! Persephone: No never. I will not be the queen, let me go. I must return to Earth my mom will be looking for me. It’s dinner time, my mom is making lasagna and I don’t want to keep her waiting. Hades: I don’t really care, if you’re hungry, eat something here. Persephone: No, I want to eat what my mother made me. Hades: That’s not going to happen.
Narrator: On Mount Olympus, Demeter has just arrived to plead with Zeus for her daughter’s freedom. Demeter: Hey Zeus can I talk to you a second. Zeus: I am a little…… Demeter: GOOD! Hades took my daughter to the underworld. I need you to help me out. Hades will not budge unless you do something about it! Zeus: I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do about it. Demeter: Then I refuse to grow all crops and to harvest them until Persephone is returned to me. If this is how you want Earth to continue on as, than by all means sit back on your throne and be lazy by doing nothing. Zeus: Fine……. I’ll see what I can do……. Demeter: WELL GOOD YOU BETTER!! (Zeus disappears, Hermes appears) Narrator: Hermes, the messenger God was summoned by Zeus to fly to the underworld and free Persephone to Demeter’s will. (Hermes flying to the underworld takes 30 seconds) Hermes: Come on Persephone. I have come to save you. Come into my chariot and I will take you to your mother. Persephone: Ok Hermes. Thank all Gods you came. I don’t know what I would do without you. Now let’s do this! Hades: What? Why are you taking away my queen?! Hermes: She was never yours to name as queen. Zeus has demanded her return to Earth. Hades: Wait! First take this pomegranate. I know you said you were hungry, this will hold you over until you return home for dinner. Persephone: Thank you, you finally did something nice.
Narrator: Back on Earth, Demeter was sobbing away. She was withering into an old lady as her crops suffered deeply. Roots had no water, the leaves were brown and drooping, and the poor old Demeter was no longer herself without her daughter around. (Demeter knocking down the crops) Demeter: UUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHH When is this rescue party bringing my daughter back. It better work! I cannot take it any longer, my depression is so deep. Persephone: MOMMMMMM!!!!!! Thank all the Gods I made it back safely to you! Demeter: Persephone is that you?! PERSEPHONE!! Oh how worried I was about you, come inside and change you must be freezing. (backstage changing this is Persephone)
Narrator: That night, Persephone began to enjoy a few seeds from the pomegranate Hades had given her. (Persephone eating the pomegranate) Persephone: I feel strange. As though this pomegranate is urging me to be somewhere else. I don’t know what this means. (She lies down on her bed).
Narrator: Back in the underworld, Hades had kidnapped Persephone yet again. This time, with the mystical features of the fruit of the underworld. Hades: Hello again queen. Persephone: not again you, why are you picking on me?! Why have I returned when Zeus has demanded me back on Earth?? Persephone: HERMES, HELP! HERMES!! Hades: You know he can’t hear you. Plus, you can’t go back. Persephone: What do you mean?! (Plays Justin Bieber)
Demeter: Persephone, Persephone it’s time to go to bed. (Walks to her room) Oh no what’s up with this girl getting lost?? Oh no (picking up the pomegranate) Hades! Poor Persephone!! (picking up her dress and wiping her eyes.) That’s what Helios meant! Once she has eaten the fruit of the underworld, she will be stuck in the underworld forever! (She cries)
Narrator: Hades has now accepted Persephone as his forever queen now that she has eaten his precious pomegranate. Hades: Persephone, you are now my forever queen because you ate six seeds of my pomegranate. By eating my fruit, you are bound to the underworld. Persephone: But! But! You tricked me! That’s not fair! Please have a heart Hades. I cannot live without seeing my mother! (She sees Hermes enter the underworld again) Hermes! Have you come to rescue me again? Hermes: I have spoken with Zeus, he has determined that since she only ate 6 seeds of the pomegranate, she gets to spend 6 months down in the underworld with you. However, she gets to spend the remaining 6 months of the year up on Earth with her mother. Hades: WHAT!? Whatever…
Demeter:(crying) I hate everybody I just need Persephone back. Narrator: Just as Demeter was crying out for Persephone, the Earth opens and Persephone emerges from the depths of the underworld. Demeter: Persephone is that you???????????? Persephone: MOM!! Demeter: PERSEPHONEEE!!! I am so glad to see you. What did Hades do to you this time? Persephone: I thought Hades was being nice by giving me a pomegranate, but next thing you know I started feeling funny and reawoke in the underworld. Demeter: Oh the underworld again. Persephone: yep, but I only ate 6 seeds, so I must spend 6 months down in the underworld but the other 6 months I can still return to stay here with you. Demeter: Why, that’s really a shame. I wish Hades never gave you the pomegranate. For those 6 months of each year, I will be in mourning, withering away and the crops will grow no more. I call this new time of year winter. Persephone: The months I stay with you can be green and lush. We can call this time of year SUMMER! Demeter: Yes, well that’s great. Persephone: So what should we do now? Demeter: How about we go bowling. Persephone: That’s cool.
Hephaestus and Aphrodite
M: Hello I am Aphrodite, the goddess of love. I admire Ares, though I am married to his brother Hephaestus. Zeus did not allow me to marry who I pleased as he did not want all the Gods to fight over me. It would most likely destroy Mount Olympus. P: My name is Hephaestus. I am the god of blacksmiths and fire, and my wife is Aphrodite. I work in a volcano to make jewels for my beautiful wife.I also made the thrones of the gods. She deserves everything and more and I as the brother of Ares, I do not like that Aphrodite admires him so I must provide her with these handmade jewels. I am the son of Zeus and Hera and am the only one who is able to step between my quarreling parents and calm my short tempered mother, Hera. G:(walks on definitely) Did someone say my name?I am Hera, Zeus’s first wife. I can be jealous and cranky, but I have every reason to be. When you have a husband as powerful and magnificent as Zeus, you have a tendency to have to worry about other women trying to steal him away. (storms off) F: I’m the narrator as well as Zeus, the God of thunder, the King of Mount Olympus and the lord of the universe. I am extremely powerful and keep a bucket of thunderbolts beside my throne. I have chosen to share my power with not only my brother and sisters, but also my six children. I have many wives, though my first and most important wife is Hera. G: I am Ares, the god of war. I can be extremely vain and it doesn’t sit well with me when I am defeated. I am known to sometimes have temper tantrums. Though my brother Hephaestus is known to be very kind, I am known to be just the opposite, as cruel as war itself. (everyone walks off)
Narrator: On Mount Olympus, Zeus and Hera are rejoicing the birth of their new baby boy, named Heph. Zeus: What a strong, beautiful baby boy! Hera: I am so proud of the boy we have brought into this world. We can expect greatness from him. Narrator: 15 years later (Zeus and Hera are arguing, then the characters freeze) Heph: As the only one brave enough to step in between my two quarreling parents, I must put a stop to this before anything gets out of hand. (characters unfreeze) Zeus: I can have more than one wife, I’m the mighty Zeus! She is not important to me, you have nothing to worry about. Hera: I should be the only woman for you! You are so selfish! (Heph approaches his mother and speaks to her quietly on the side apart from his father Zeus) Heph: Mother, mother no need to quarrel, you are right, you should be the only one for father. However, father is trying to carry on the legacy so he can make more heroes to protect Earth. My sweet mother, father loves you more than he loves any other in the universe.
Narrator: Meanwhile, a beautiful Goddess was created from the foam of the sea. Aphrodite had many admirers, which made Zeus worry of the conflict it might cause on Mount Olympus. When she came up to Mount Olympus, Zeus was afraid that all of the gods would fight over her because of her wonderful looks. Zeus: You must marry Aphrodite, son! I do not want her to cause trouble amongst the other Gods. Hera: You can’t force marriage, and besides she thinks too highly of herself. Heph: Oh it’s fine mother, I will gladly marry Aphrodite. Have you seen her?! Zeus: Wonderful, it will be a perfectly paired marriage. Hera: Are you sure this is a good idea, I want my son to be happy. Zeus: I will call up Aphrodite right now! They will be sure to have a perfectly good marriage. Narrator: Aphrodite has received the news from Hermes, the messenger God. She is not pleased with the idea. Aphro: I have to marry him? He’s soo ugly (whispering) Zeus: Yes, isn’t it wonderful? You will make the perfect couple.
Narrator: 7 days later, the two prepare for their wedding day. Heph: Today is my wedding day! I am very excited to be married to Aphrodite, the most beautiful woman in the universe! Aphro: This is a horrible idea I don’t want to marry him! You can’t make me! I would rather marry Shrek then this heinous man! Zeus: NO, YOU WILL MARRY HIM! Heph: Don’t worry father I will make jewels for her and she will be happy once again. Zeus: I hope that works son. Aphro: How can he make me marry someone I do not love? I love Ares, the god of war. He is so handsome and brave. I do not want my life to be with this fool!
Narrator: The family proceeds to the wedding and Aphrodite is handed off to Hephaestus. Zeus: You may now high five the bride. (Heph and Aphro walk out together) Heph: I am making jewels for Aphrodite, I will win her love. Aphro: He thinks he can win my love but I will always love Ares. And I know that somewhere in that handsome heart, he adores me too. (Heph comes to Aphrodite’s sides and gives her jewels he has made) Aphro: Thank you Hephestus for all the jewels! It makes me look even more beautiful than I already am. You really do work hard to please me. Heph: Oh no problem my love! Anything for you! Aphro: I might actually be getting something out of this marriage. He keeps giving me gold and other jewels. (Heph. walks out puts necklace on M’s neck)
Narrator: Several weeks later, Aphrodite is overwhelmed with all the gifts that Hephestus has given her. However, she is still infatuated with Ares and cannot hold her feelings in any longer. She has decided she needs to discuss her thoughts with her husband. Aphro: Hephestus, I need to talk to you. Heph: Yes dear, let me just put down my tools. I’m listening. Aphro: I will just get to the point, well you know how I love all of the gold and beautiful things you provide for me, [pause] but I don’t know if I can ever truly love you. I just want you to have the best and be fair to you. I think we need to get a divorce. Heph: What?! We cannot get a divorce, my father will be furious! He may even throw us off Mount Olympus because all the men may fight over you and cause ruckus amongst the Gods. Aphro: I know your father thinks we’re perfect for eachother but not all thoughts are always true. (begins to walk off; Heph stops her) Heph: Wait! Are you sure you want to do this? Aphro: Well, yes I do not love you, I love someone else. (Murmurs under her breath….I love Ares) Heph: Well, whatever makes you happy. But Zeus will not feel the same way…
Narrator: In town, Aphrodite is spying on Ares. She wishes to meet him and for him to fall in love with her. Ares:(has a mirror in hand) Who can be more handsome then me? That is right, no one! Beggar: Is that you Ares?! Ares: No you can not talk to me you are a dirty slob and your breath stinks like rotting fish,leave me alone! Aphro: Ares, we are gods, we have to help the poor and unfortunate! (She turns to the beggar) Come here I will give you some bread. Ares: oh goddesses think that we have to help everyone all the time!
Narrator: On Mount Olympus, Hephastus and Aphrodite are speaking with Zeus about their desired divorce. Heph: Dad we have to talk to you. Zeus: Yes son, I am a very busy man get on with it. Aphro: We want a divorce. Unfortunately, I just don’t… Zeus: What?! Make up right now! Aphro: But Zeus, we cannot I don’t love him and he can not win my love this is the only option! Heph: I think she is right I cannot be married to someone that does not love me. I will find my love someday.
Narrator: Ares and Aphrodite are on their first date. They have decided to enjoy a picnic together beside a pond on Mount Olympus. Aphrodite: What a beautiful day. Look at how the clouds… Ares: It is a beautiful day. I am lookin mighty fine (checks out his muscles in his reflection of the pond). Aphrodite: umm. OK. Are you enjoying the food I packed? Ares: It could use some more meat. (He suddenly stabs a rabbit hopping by) Aphrodite: Why would you do that to such a sweet, innocent creature! We have some more meat in the basket. There was no need to be so cruel. Ares: It’s just a little rabbit. I’ve killed far worse. (Ares freezes with the rabbit in hand. Aphrodite speaks to the audience) Aphrodite: Maybe I was too busy fantasizing about what a handsome God he is that I didn’t realize that he is such a cruel one. All he cares about is himself and his good looks. (Ares unfreezes) Aphrodite: Look, maybe this was not such a good idea. Why don’t we just end it right now. I should get back to check my offerings.
Narrator: Two months later Aphro: Hephaestus I have not seen you in 2 months I need to talk to you. Heph: Yes how can I help you. Aphro: I was wrong. I was too focused on the looks of your brother, I did not notice that you are truly the best for me. Do you forgive me? Are you still ok with being married? Heph: Yes of course! This is a miracle, a dream I should say. I hoped this day would come. Aphro: I am so glad that you have chosen to accept me back as your wife. I’ve got to say I was nervous that you weren’t going to say yes. Let’s go back to Zeus to give him the great news! (The two walk out holding hands)
M: Thank you G: That was the story of Aphrodite and Hephaestus! P: Thank you for watching!
Narrator: The story starts on Mt. Olympus, home of the gods and goddess. Something mysterious has been going on. People have been turning into stone and the Gods are in panic. Athena: This is peculiar, people are turning into stone. Athena: Artemis come here! Artemis: What happened!? Athena: People are turning into stone! I don’t know what’s causing the transformation! Artemis: Persephone get over here! Persephone: What do you want!? Artemis: I think Medusa is turning people into stone. I have seen her turn innocent people into stone before. Persephone: Poseidon,get over here! Poseidon: What’s going on? Persephone: Medusa is up to her bad tricks. We must help the mortals and prevent the stone age! Poseidon: At least it’s something reasonable to take me away from my trident throwing practice, but anyway, Ares get over here! Ares: What’s going on!? Poseidon: It’s Medusa, she has been turning people into stone and she thinks she’s gonna stop us from defeating her and preventing the stone age from occurring. Athena: No way! Medusa: Ha! You will have no victory over me. You have neither skill or knowledge to know how to defeat me!
(Medusa slips off stage) Artemis: Uh, so what are we gonna do about Medusa?! She seems pretty eager to destroy our civilization. We cannot let this happen! Athena: I know what we’re doing, we’re gonna kick her butt! Ares: Okay, what’s the plan to go about doing that? And before we go, we will need weapons! Athena: I don’t know, Persephone, any ideas? Persephone: Maybe you can go to Medusa’s lair and slay her by surprise. It would need to be fast and unsuspected. We cannot look her straight in her eyes, as that is what causes people to turn to stone, but her reflection will do no harm. Artemis: Ah! That’s the perfect plan! Yes Ares, we do need weapons, and I have just the thing. Ares: We don’t need to worry too much about the dangers of the task due to the fact that we are immortal! Persephone: I don’t like weapons and snakes, though I am willing to stand up for the mortals and Olympians since what she is doing is cruel and needs to be stopped by any means necessary. Artemis: HEY! THOSE ARE MY SNAKES YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!!!! AS THE GODDESS OF ALL LIVING THINGS, YOU SHOULD WATCH WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT! Poseidon/Athena/Ares: Oh fine Artemis! Artemis: NO NOT FINE, SHE SAID SOMETHING ABOUT MY SNAKES!!!! Persephone: Sorry? Artemis: SORRY IS NOT GONNA CUT IT!!!! Poseidon: Artemis drop it already, we have more important things to deal with right now. Ok so when are we going to leave?
Narrator: The Olympians go to find Medusa in her lair until they realize they have forgotten to consider one important thing, transportation!
(The Olympians all run wild on stage until they realize they have nowhere to run to) Persephone: Wait! How are we gonna get there, and where is her lair? I have heard that it is across the sea, but I don’t know the exact location. I do know of the messenger God, Hermes, who is said to know the passage to any place in the world. Everybody: Ohhhhhhhh! Poseidon: Ares, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Ares: Yeeeahh! An Automobile! Artemis: A DRAGON! Athena: A HOVERBOARD! Poseidon: Ares, how can we cross the sea in an automobile!!!? Ares: Why don’t we just walk?! Poseidon: How can you walk across the sea?!!!! We can’t all be like Zeus with nereids at his feet to polish the sea as a road to walk upon. Artemis: WE FLY!!!!!!!!! Artemis: Uh, I know I’m the master of animals, but I’m not sure if I’m the master of dragons and dinosaurs.
All of us: So why did you say dragon?! Artemis: Because there is a dragon right there… (Everybody but Ares starts running and screaming!) Ares: Guys it’s just a baby dragon!
All of us: OHHHHHH!!!
(Poseidon slaps his head) Athena: We still need a transportation! Ares: Mama dragon! Persephone: Let’s see if mama dragon can give us a ride! All of us: NO WAY!!!!!!! Persephone: As I mentioned before, I’ve heard of this guy named Hermes, and he is the messenger of the Olympians. Artemis: Where can we find him? Ares: As the messenger God, where else do we look other than the post office around the corner. Duh. Use your head guys! Ares: Brilliant! I’ll go to the post office to see if Hermes is there now. Hermes: I heard my name, does somebody need me? Persephone: Yes we do need you Hermes, we need you to explain the way to get to the Gorgon’s lair. Ares: Let’s just get on Poseidon’s ship and get the heck out of here! Artemis: Hermes, which way do we have to go? Hermes: First, you will need a ship. So if you have access to Poseidon’s then you will be good to go. Once you are in the ship, head East towards the rising sun until you reach the butcher stand in the middle of the sea. You will not see it approaching, it will catch you by surprise so keep your eyes peeled. Once you have reached the butcher, steer your ship North for another few miles. You will reach a giant statue in the middle of the sea that will look like a pig with an apple in its mouth and a sword twice the size of its body in its front, right hoof. The sword is pointing in the direction of Medusa’s lair. As you approach that direction in which the sword is pointing, Medusa’s lair will begin to appear out of the water. Ares: Thank you Hermes! Good thing I have been writing this down! That’s a lot of specific things to remember! Persephone: Thanks Hermes, I’m glad we know how to get there now, even though I still am fearful to see her head of snakes. Hermes: I’m not FINISHED! Persephone: Well, just as we see her lair start to appear, then what? Hermes: You need to approach slowly and be very careful to watch for the rocks. All of us: Thanks, Hermes! Hermes: You’re welcome. Artemis: So now we just have to find Medusa!
(Everyone hops on board the ship)
(Curtains open to show the Group on Poseidon’s ship arriving at Medusa’s lair) Poseidon: We’re finally here. This is creepy… Persephone: Talk about people that are turned into stone. I’m glad I’m not one of those Mortals. Artemis: mmm…. I can smell the snakes now! Persephone: That’s creepy. Artemis: It’s not if you’re the goddess of all living things! Anyways let’s go. Ares: Shush! Medusa is going to hear us if we keep this up.
(Ares says through gritted teeth) Poseidon: It smells like snakes. Let’s get going. Persephone: Oh, like we didn’t know that. (Persephone goes off stage) Athena: I hear someone coming.. Medusa: HA! GOT YOU! ALMOST EVERYONE IN GREECE IS TURNED INTO STONE!
Narrator: And they start battling Medusa.
(Athena/Artemis start shooting arrows) Medusa: Seriously Athena, a pink and blue bow and arrow? Athena: It’s all I could find in time! Poseidon: SURPRISE!
(Poseidon strikes Medusa in the back) Ares: SURPRISE!
(Ares slices Medusa’s head off) Poseidon: You poser, that was MY PART! Ares: Oh fine.
Narrator: And they come home after a long battle against Medusa. All of us: Victory for the Olympians and the mortals of Greece! THEEND!
It’s just plain hard to believe that the 2015–2016 school year is almost over, but with only a handful of weeks remaining, this is a great opportunity to reflect on all that The New Century School does for its students as well as all that education has given us. In perhaps a similarly nostalgic frame of mind, TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali posed the following questions to her staff recently: “What is your fondest memory of school? What teacher/school event influenced you the most in your educational experience?”
It’s interesting to note the various ways the questions were interpreted—some answering from their past school experiences as young students, and others bringing their more recent TNCS experiences to bear. Regardless, Dear Readers, what follows are their heartwarming, often funny, and always insightful responses. You will get to know these wonderful educators in a new way, seeing what particular experiences and moments shaped them into who they have become as well as whence the unique gifts each brings to the art of educating your children.
Tissues handy? Okay, in no particular order, here we go!
Teresa Jacoby, K/1st Math & Science Teacher
Mrs. Jacoby, fittingly, reveals being awed by the power of science.
I think my fondest memory is winning first place in my 8th-grade Science Fair. My father who was a plumber helped me build a water cycle table. My water cycle table actually rained and had thunder and lightning. It showed the path that water follows from the mountains to the ocean. My father being my first and best teacher taught me to weld pipes and install a small water pump, which pumped the water to a showerhead hidden in the clouds. The water then followed a small river from the top of the mountain to the seashore draining into a bucket where the pump pumped it back to the showerhead.
Catherine Lawson, Lead Primary Montessori Teacher
Mrs. Lawson shows us where her compassion for students and her fun-loving side may have begun to develop in earnest.
I have two vivid memories from attending Fernwood Elementary School in Bethesda, Maryland. The first was in the 3rd grade, when my class did a play called “February On Trial,” which was about February not having enough days to be counted as a month. All of the holidays in February were represented by a character who were called on to defend why February was important to have. I was the bailiff and got to walk the defenses (characters) across the stage and have them say that they would tell the truth and nothing but the truth. These included The Groundhog, Cupid, George Washington, and February 29. I was very proud of my part. As I think back now as an adult, I realize that my teacher, Mrs. Reader, made up this part just for me because I wanted to be in the play so badly. I could not remember lines, so she simply had me have to say the same line over and over: “Do you promise to tell the truth and nothing but the truth?” I love Mrs. Reader for that.
The second activity was 6th grade Outdoor Camp, lasting 3 days and 2 nights. We had to hike to the camp, which was probably only a short hike, but I remember it feeling like miles. Once there, we got to dissect an owl pellet. It was so exciting to open up the pellet and finding the bones of a mouse—even a mouse skull. We slept on bunk beds in sleeping bags. It was very exciting. We had a dance one of the nights and all the boys were expected to ask all the girls to dance. The boy (Ralph Miller) who I liked from afar asked me to dance, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I thought nothing could be better than dancing with him. It is so interesting how your prospective changes as you grow up and mature. I know that we must have done more activities on that trip; however, these are the things that I can remember all these years later.
I hope as a teacher that I can make memories that children will remember all their lives. I am thankful for all the teachers that shaped my life and made me who I am today.
Dominique Sanchies, Admissions Director and Assistant Head of School
Mrs. Sanchies proves that teachers truly make a difference in their students lives.
I’ve had three life-changing teachers:
Mr. Carlo Tucci, my childhood guitar teacher who made me sing during each lesson. This taught me that I had a voice.
Mrs. Patricia Brawn my high school French teacher (4 years), who taught me that my voice (point of view and expression) was beautiful.
My college Avant Garde Film instructor Ms. Kathryn Lasky, who taught me how to organize my voice to best be heard and to think outside the proverbial box.
Elisabeth Willis, Elementary Art Teacher
Ms. Willis demonstrates the undeniable value of differentiation in a child’s education and what it can do for self-esteem when teachers give the learner ways to use their strengths to grow!
It’s very hard to pick just one. Growing up, I had art teachers who recognized my abilities at a young age and always encouraged me to do more. Each art teacher, from 1st grade through high school, all played a major roll in how I learned and what I strived to become. In elementary school, my teacher created an AP art class based on me and a few other students in my class needing more than just one art class a week. It also meant skipping gym for a day, which, for a clumsy kid, was amazing.
In high school, my teachers all encouraged me to take classes outside of just what the school had to offer. I ended up taking classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and doing precollege at both Parsons and MICA. Without the teachers I had throughout my life, I’m not sure I would have become who I am now or have experienced all I have been able to experience.
Lisa Reynolds, Lead Primary Montessori Teacher
Mrs. Reynolds’ sense of humor shines through in these funny memories from her tenure at TNCS.
A student and teacher go into the greenhouse to pick grapes. The student walks in first with teacher behind him. They startle two doves sitting in the grapevines, and the only way out is the door that the teacher and student are standing in. The birds swoop toward them, as they both duck so not to get struck by the anxious birds. The student looks up with a serious grin and says, “[Teacher], you have bird___ on your forehead!” The teacher says, “Thank you . . . would you please hand me a leaf?” This always makes me laugh when I think back on it!
Another time, I asked a student if her unique name had a special meaning. She thought for a moment and replied, “I just might be related to poison ivy and [my parents] wanted to mix it up a bit.” LOL!
Yu Lin, Pre-Primary Lead Mandarin Immersion Teacher
Lin Laoshi’s fondest memory of her time at TNCS happened when she saw her hard work paying off in a surprising way and in a brand-new context.
We took a field trip to the Baltimore Zoo last year. I was so surprised that many of our children were able to name the animals using Chinese, and they sang Chinese songs about the animals that they had learned in class. I was so proud of them.
Wei Li, Elementary Mandarin Teacher
Li Laoshi used this opportunity to reflect on the new experience of teaching Mandarin as a second language in this country and how she will use it to inform ongoing improvements—a lifelong learner!
This is my first year at TNCS, and it is also my first job in the U.S. I am so excited to be a member of this big and warm family, and I really enjoyed my job in the past year. I gained tons of practical experience in teaching a second language (Chinese), and I am becoming better in communicating with students who are in various ages and learning styles. I believe with the support from all my friendly colleagues, I will run the Chinese program better and better in the following years.
Maria Mosby, Lead Primary Montessori Teacher
Ms. Mosby shares recollections that show her both coming to terms with the need to persist in the face of possible failure as well as her overcoming obstacles with her newfound resolve.
One memory of mine that had a big impact on me was a poetry reading I was supposed to participate in in high school. Only a few students were selected to read their poetry, and I had worked on it for weeks. At the assembly, my teacher could tell that I was very nervous. She asked me if I would rather opt out, and, without thinking, I said “yes.” Everyone else read their poetry, and I stayed in the audience, wincing. I was angry at myself for not having the courage to go up there. I have always regretted that moment and promised myself that I wouldn’t let fear get in the way of another opportunity.
One of my fondest memories would have to be an accomplishment from middle school French class. I created a model of The Louvre while dealing with pneumonia. Several students suggested that I give up and that I would fail, but I pushed through and did it. I was very proud of that model, and kept it for several years.
Martellies Warren, Lead Primary Montessori Teacher and Elementary Music Teacher
Mr. Warren not only gives us another fascinating peek inside his illustrious career, but he also demonstrates that sometimes “the show must go on” even in the face of unimaginable tragedy to lift spirits and spread some love.
In 2001, Wynton Learson Marsalis “trumpeter, composer, teacher, music educator” asked the Morgan State University choir to record his work “All Rise” and perform it at the Famous Hollywood Bowl. We were scheduled to fly from the Dulles international airport headed to Hollywood California on none other than September 11, 2001. This was a huge deal for all of us, and we quickly told everyone we knew. Three weeks before we were scheduled to leave, Wynton called the late and former head of the Morgan State University music department Dr. Nathan Carter to ask if it would be a problem to move our departure date up to September 9th. Dr. Carter agreed, and this decision probably saved all of our lives.
On September 11, 2001, I awaken in Hollywood, California to several choir friends crying and frantically trying to call loved ones. I looked at the news and saw the first airplane fly into the World Trade Center. It was like something out of a horror movie, except it was really happening. Shortly after, the second airplane flew into the other tower, and we watched in horror as both buildings came crashing down. I had been trying to call my parents to let them know we were safe and that we had already flown out prior to the 11th but could not get through. My family and friends thought I was on the flight that left Dulles and had been calling my parents all day with their condolences.
Shortly after the 11th, Wynton and the producers felt that we should still do the show at the Hollywood bowl. We opened the show with an arrangement of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and sang to a packed stadium of patriotic concertgoers. A day later, we were cleared to fly back across the country to Dulles airport, where we learned we were the first flight allowed back into Washington, D.C. airspace! I’ll never forget being escorted into D.C. by fighter jets that surrounded our aircraft (yikes!). We landed safely and taxied to our gate on a runway lined with pilots waving American flags and cheering.
This experience shaped me as an educator. My life was spared for a reason. I have purpose and a duty to educated and provide the highest quality of education I can provide. It was that experience that helped shape me into the passionate educator and musician I am today!
Alicia Danyali, Head of School
And here’s what it all comes down to. Mrs. Danyali reveals both how important it is to be nurtured as a learner, in this case as a young teacher, as well as how essential to provide a nurturing space for the teachers now in her care as Head of School.
The teacher–mentor dynamic can be life-changing in every profession, especially in education. My most significant mentor, whom I find myself quoting throughout my career, is a 3rd-grade teacher, Mrs. Sharon Bleumendaal. Mrs. Bleumendaal was my first mentor and colleague in my first position after graduating from Florida International University with a BS in Elementary Education. I was given the opportunity to work overseas as a Grade 3 teacher, and my path into the international educational community allowed me to grow as a professional in ways I never expected.
Mrs. Bleumendaal was a veteran teacher who had many degrees. Of all these, the Montessori Philosophy was closest to her heart, even though the school where we taught was not Montessori. She opened my eyes to a community of learners who, under her guidance, were compassionate, intrinsically motivated, and excited about being in her classroom. This was the environment I aspired to create as an educator new to the profession. The key to her student success was her ability to differentiate instruction, meet the students right where they were academically, and challenge those students to tap into their full potential.
I was the luckiest new teacher in the world! I could throw out the traditional views and assessments through standardizing tests in the public domain, a bureaucracy that instilled fear into the generation of teachers from the early 90s and beyond, teachers who were, and are, desperately trying to make a difference, even with many odds against them.
At a recent staff development day in my current role, as Head of School, I quoted Sharon Bleumendaal while discussing the application of differentiating techniques to student needs, and not conforming students by honoring their learning style. Mrs. Bleumendaal was nurturing but held her students accountable. The classroom shined with high self-esteem and teamwork, years before these “buzzwords” were a concern for stakeholders worldwide.
Mrs. Bleumendaal was tapped into her students, and offered her full attention and dedication to them daily. She also trusted her students, which goes a long way in making choices that can guide decisions all the way through adulthood. It would be a big claim to state that if I never had Sharon Bleumendaal to mentor me right out of university, I can’t say if I would have stayed in education. My experiences and opportunities since those early days have undoubtedly shaped my career path and my own intrinsic motivation to stay in the field.
Want more? Never fear, Part 2 of this lovely exercise (thanks Mrs. Danyali!) will be published in future, as more responses come in from those who have not yet had a chance to share. The prospect might just make closing out another great year at TNCS bearable!
Last week, The New Century School hosted some very special guests: nine kindergarten and preschool educators from China (plus one of the teacher’s 5-year-old daughter, Kitty). They came to the United States for some training sessions as part of a conference titled “Innovation in Education,” the brainchild of TNCS Co-Founders Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner in partnership with representative Alex Xu from Each Future Cultural Network, a company dedicated to fostering cultural exchanges between China and the United States. Although this was not the first time TNCS and EFCN have jointly hosted Chinese guests (see International Camp at TNCS), this session was unique in being devoted to teacher training for adults.
Explaining how the conference came to be and its mission, Ms. Faux says:
We were approached by a group in China interested in learning more about U.S. education styles. TNCS partnered with Loyola and Johns Hopkins University to present talks and sessions on a variety of topics. Our mission was to expose Chinese teacher to progressive styles of learning, especially at the preschool and early elementary ages. Many progressive schools approach education based on a model of human development (Montessori). This encompasses two main principles: 1) Children engage in psychological self-construction by means of interaction with their environments, and 2) preschool children have an innate path of psychological development.Children who are at liberty to choose and act freely within a prepared environment act spontaneously for optimal development. This is a critical time for children, which has a long-term impact on future learning and development. This is a very new concept to Chinese education and culture.
The group arrived on Sunday, April 24th and began attending conference seminars first thing the next morning. As Ms. Faux said above, the concepts presented were mostly unfamiliar to the group, but this did not lessen the appeal of listening to presentations and engaging in question-and-answer sessions afterward. Of the nine, three spoke English and were able to help Mr. Xu with the task of translating the presentations by speakers into Mandarin as well as the responses by the group into English to facilitate smooth communication. The itinerary was as follows.
On Monday, the group stuck pretty close to home base, starting with a welcome tour of TNCS and an overview of the week’s workshops. After being treated to breakfast by Chef Emma Novashinski, they observed the primary and K/1st classrooms during the morning, then had lunch with the upper elementary students followed by gelato at Pitango in Fell’s Point. Back at headquarters, they enjoyed their first formal presentation by TNCS K/1st teacher Adriana Duprau on classroom management in a non-traditional classroom, where students enjoy considerably more freedom than in traditional classrooms.
This may well have been the most challenging concept of the week for them to embrace, given that there is little leeway in the typical Chinese classroom, and students are expected to conduct themselves according to a strict standard of behavior. In a classroom that averages 30 or more students, such behavioral expectations make sense—no one would be learning anything amidst the mayhem that would otherwise likely result. Instead, the model Chinese student pays attention to the instructor, sits still (in some cases even sitting on his or hands to avoid the temptation to fidget), and speaks only when called on (see TNCS Visits Schools in China).
A very thoughtful discussion followed the talk, with the group inquiring about TNCS’s approach to standardized test taking and arguing that every student needs high scores. In Chinese schools, excelling is a must.
On Tuesday, the group traveled to Columbia to visit the Washington Montessori Institute of Loyola. Speaker Jennifer Shields, Director of Primary Training, presented the basics of the Montessori approach and how it not only accommodates how children develop but also optimizes that development. As part of the presentation, the group sang a “Good Morning” song, toured classrooms, and watched video footage of a primary classroom in glorious, productive action.
After the morning session, the group returned to TNCS for lunch, followed by a talk from Head of School Alicia Danyali on bilingual education. Once again, the subsequent Q&A focused on the differences between the organic approach to language acquisition that TNCS adopts with the Chinese way, which is often includes using tutors for extra practice.
On Wednesday, escorted by JHU School of Education Assistant Dean for Community Schools Dr. Annette Anderson, the group first toured the relatively new Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School, also known as Henderson-Hopkins, an early childhood center as well as K–8 school. According to their mission, this public school:
. . . will pursue the most contemporary, effective approaches to meeting the needs of students, their families, and the community. The school will take a holistic approach to developing the potential of each student, one that focuses on the behavioral, cognitive and physical health of the child. It will emphasize individualized learning, and family and community involvement supported by wrap-around services.
The creation of an early childhood center is key to assuring early success for students and their families and will help each student reach his or her full potential. By placing an emphasis on physical and social development as well as academic achievement, Henderson-Hopkins is fully committed to making sure that all children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten and that they will be fully prepared to enter their high school of choice and eventually college.
After lunch at nearby Atwater’s, the group headed to the JHU campus School of Education building, where Assistant Professor Dr. Carolyn Parker gave a presentation on STEM Education. Her talk centered on JHU’s National Science Foundation STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools (SABES) grant. “The SABES grant is a 7.4 million dollar award that leverages the skills and resources of the schools, community, and businesses in three high-minority, low-resource Baltimore city neighborhoods. The goal is to integrate science into a child’s world as opposed to bringing a student into the world of scientists.”
After this full day, the group was ready for some rest but not before one of them made the very incisive point that China seems to invest its educational resources in the top achievers, whereas the United States seems to be focusing on raising up the underperformers.
Thursday started with a very special treat—handmade smoothies courtesy of Chef Emma followed by the first-ever TNCS talent show! Students from all levels performed songs in Mandarin, and the upper elementary also sang in Spanish for good measure. The Chinese group was enthralled, and TNCS faculty nearly burst with pride.
From there, the group attended a talk on Mindfulness in Education by Dr. Carisa Perry-Parrish at Johns Hopkins University Medical Campus. See TNCS Teachers Get Mindful! for a similar discussion. Much of this talk involved regulating emotions and how children respond to stressors, which is an also area of expertise of one of the group members, Hui Huang, who goes by “Rowena” in the States.
Lastly that day, the group toured the Baltimore School for the Arts under the guidance of TWIGS (afterschool program) Director and Musical Theatre Instructor Becky Mossing. Here the group saw choir, orchestra, dance, sculpture, and theatre students engaged in their respective arts and also got a peek inside the rigorous academic classrooms.
The final activity was a farewell party back at TNCS, where the group received certification for having completed the training and relaxed with some refreshments. They also provided verbal and written feedback about their experience to help shape future conferences. Said one of the attendees, Xiang Xueying, who goes by “Gloria” in the states, “I really enjoyed my stay here very much.” Gloria was especially impressed with the Western habit of reading to young children nightly before bed and wants to encourage Chinese parents to adopt this practice.
All in all, according to TNCS Lead Mandarin Instructor Wei Li, they were all quite satisfied with the training program. From their reports, she gleaned the following:
They found the arrangements of this training reasonable and colorful. They have visited different levels and different kinds of school here, from pre-primary to university, from private to public school. Also, they were exposed to different areas of education, like language, math, art, psychology, etc. Several things impressed them a lot. First, they appreciated the warm and thoughtful hospitality from TNCS. Second, they enjoyed the advanced Montessori teaching theory and the “practical life” Montessori classroom environment. Last but not least, they were impressed with TNCS students’ multilingual ability, especially their Chinese proficiency.
Mr. Xu also felt that the program was a success and that it was well organized. His one suggestion for future such programs is to tailor the round of talks more to the given audience’s specific background, such as preschool-oriented topics for this last group. It’s a good suggestion because, as Ms. Faux has confirmed, another conference is in the works and may be becoming an ongoing TNCS endeavor!