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.

hannah-brown-at-TNCS

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!