The New Century School at 13: A Retrospective in Immersed Posts

It’s time. The New Century School is just completing its 13th fall semester, and we need a reckoning of all this amazing school has accomplished in that relatively short amount of time. Why 13? We chose to memorialize the 2022–2023 school year because it offers a truly remarkable first: a TNCS student who started TNCS at age 2 when the school opened in the fall of 2010 will graduate as an 8th-grader this June—she will have completed the full TNCS experience and is the only student to have this distinction!

TNCS is also rounding out a full Chinese zodiac of years. Established in the Year of the Tiger, TNCS closes 2022 also as a Tiger year and will begin 2023 as a Rabbit.

In this post, you’ll take a walk back through time. You’ll see your babies back when they were (or if they are still) babies. You’ll revisit cherished memories. You’ll smile to see beloved friends, teachers, and faculty who are still a part of TNCS in spirit if not in person. In short, you’ll be amazed . . . and probably moved to tears.

(Another thing you’ll notice is how actually bad phone cameras were a decade ago! Also, a sad note on videos: some no longer display as TNCS’s YouTube channel is now defunct.)

Finally, you’ll get to judge for yourself. As TNCS Co-Director/Co-Executive Founder Roberta Faux said over a decade ago, “school should be where kids discover their passion.” Has TNCS provided opportunities for passion-finding?

Milestones and Firsts

TNCS has accomplished sheer marvels. In its first 5 years alone, the once tiny one-room schoolhouse established by Co-Executive Directors/Co-Founders Ms. Faux and Jennifer Lawner with five students grew into a full-fledged preschool and elementary school. Milestone after milestone was sighted, then met, including launching a greenhouse and school-lunch program, acquiring a gymnasium and auditorium; implementing a robust STEM curriculum; introducing Immersed; earning two coveted STARTALK grants; and creating a wonderfully rich education that integrates the arts, modern world languages, inquiry-based learning, and self-motivated discovery.

Since those incredible feats happened, still more miraculous developments took place: the student body has grown to hundreds, the middle school opened in 2016, the Ozone café debuted, and the international service-learning program began to name just a few (and plenty more are listed below).

Through all of this truly remarkable evolution, TNCS’s original raison d’être has remained true: language immersion in Spanish and Mandarin paired with self-directed exploration. The program has blossomed in beautiful ways around this core idea, but it informs and underpins everything at TNCS.

Although providing an exhaustive accounting of the last 13 years is impossible because of the sheer volume of accomplishments, enjoy these highlights in the form of past Immersed posts about this one-of-a-kind magical place.

To start us off, here is a rough timeline of some pivotal TNCS events:

2006: Patterson Park Montessori (PPM) opens

2010: PPM moves to 724 S. Ann St. in Fell’s Point and becomes TNCS

2012: Immersed, School Lunch, the Elementary Program, and the School Gym make their debuts

2013: Science Fair, Imagination Playground, and Summer Camp debut

Spring 2014: TNCS applies for a Startalk grant, and the Spring Concert debuts

Fall 2014: TNCS expands into Building North, the Playground Gets a Major Upgrade, Parent Volunteers Paint Crosswalks on Campus, and the Winter Concerts, and the TNCS Website debut

2015: Read-a-Thon comes to TNCS and TNCS Goes to China

Spring 2016: TNCS debuts its first Art Exhibition, the first Class President is elected, the first Elementary Graduation happens, and TNCS gets a school van

Fall 2016: Middle School opens, TNCS Core Values are established, the Ozone Snack Bar opens for business, TNCS establishes a Parent Council, and TNCS holds its first Hispanic Heritage Night

2017: Math Kangaroo comes to TNCS

tncs-math-kangaroo-competition

2018: TNCS holds its first Spelling Bee, establishes a scholarship program, and gets a pedestrian crosswalk placed on the corner of Ann and Lancaster Streets

2019: Capstone trip program debuts for middle schoolers, and TNCS Graduates its First 8th-Graders

Spring 2020: TNCS holds its First Black History CelebrationVirtual TNCS debuts, and TNCS becomes an Essential Personnel Childcare Site

Fall 2020: TNCS Students Return to Safe In-Person Learning and establishes a COVID-19 Wellness Team

2021: TNCS Holds Its First-Ever Silent Auction, and the Advisory Board, Student Council, and School Store debut

2022: TNCS embraces the philosophy of One School, One Program, One Community and creates the Portrait of a Graduate, and the parent council becomes the Family Partnership

. . . and whatever wonderful things happen next!

Have we whetted your appetite for more delicious memories? Read on!

What Sets TNCS Apart

We could go on and on (and do, actually). But so many features of this beautiful school have elevated it to truly one of a kind, including multi-language learning, emphasis on the Arts, and all the special moments that take place daily in the classrooms.

Aftercare: Spaceship Camp, Aftercare 1, 2, and 3

Core Values: Kindness Counts!, Giving Back: Heifer International, Peace Day, Student Awards Ceremony, Kindness Buckets, Kindness Rocks, Anti-Bullying, Gratitude

Emphasis on the Whole Child: Physical Activity throughout the Day, Cultural Diversity, Mental Health Awareness, Mindfulness, Restorative Practices, Internet Safety 1 and 2, Unplugging and Connecting, DEI, Spirit Days, Cuddles and Crafts, Positivity, Student Support

Environmental Sustainability: Blown Away with Wind Energy, Viridian, Weeping Willow, Hungry Harvest

Field Trips: Confucius Institute; Math-E-Magic; Columbus Park 1 and 2; Walking Tour with Frederick Douglass; Robinson Nature Center; Milburn Orchards; White House; Cathay Cultural Center; Digital Harbor; Echo Hill 1 and 2; Museum of Industry; AVAM; Irvine Nature Center 1 and 2; Port Discovery; MD Science Center; Frederick Douglass Museum; Washington, D.C.; Chesapeake Shakespeare Company; BARCS; BOP Pizza; Cultivated Creations; Science; Golden Wok

Holidays: Mother’s Day, Holidays

Language Learning: Multilingualism, 5 Cs, International Skype, Mid-Autumn Festival 2018, Preprimary Spanish Immersion, D.C. Chinatown, Youth Chinese Test, Talking the Talk

Miscellaneous: Cursive, International Day of Coding, ChickensPeace Game, Robots, Anti-Racism, Rain-Making

STEM/Science Fairs: 2014, 2015, 20162017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022

Summer Camps: Lego 2014 and 2016; Move It; Startalk 2014 and 2015; Painting Workshop 2014 and 2016; Drama 2013, 2014, and 2016; Camp Invention 2013, 2014, and 2016; Cooking and Gardening; Chinese Immersion 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019; Spanish Immersion 2016, 2017, and 2018 1 and 2; American Music System 20172018, and 2019; Musical Theatre 2018 and 2019, Shakespeare, Virtual Art 2020

The Arts: Art Program 1, 2, and 3; Music Program 1 and 2; Pipa; Square 1; Strings; 2021

Volunteering: Parent VolunteeringHost Families 1 and 2

Concerts/Shows/Performances

One of the most-appreciated aspects of TNCS is its penchant for celebration! TNCS celebrates all of its wonderful diversity as well as takes every opportunity to put on a good show!

Art Exhibitions: 2017, 2020

Black History Month: 2020 1 and 2, 2021

Hispanic Heritage Night: 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018

Lunar New Year: Year of the Snake, Year of the Horse, Year of the Sheep, Year of the Rooster, Year of the Pig, Year of the Rat, Year of the Ox, Year of the Tiger

Miscellaneous: Baltimore’s Chinatown Performance, Confucius Day InstituteContinental Bridge, Greek Plays, Primary Drama, Stand-Up Comedy

Music Concerts: Spring 2014Winter 2014, Winter 2019

Special Visitors

TNCS has always welcomed special guests to campus to broaden students’ horizons, to participate in meaningful exchange with the community, and to further the TNCS aim of discovery and enrichment. Parents present their jobs or heritage in classrooms, musicians perform, guest speakers share their wisdom, and experts in their fields teach their crafts in special classes. TNCS even got a visit from the Secretary of State, who was wowed by Ge Laoshi’s kindergartners proficiency in Mandarin!

Artists: Baltimore Love Project and Returning Visit, Dia de Los Muertos, Crankies, RecyQueen 1 and 2, 123 Andrés

Chinese Students: 20132017, 2018 1 and 2, 2019 1 and 2

Chinese Teachers and Interns: 20142016, 2017, 2018, 2019

Guest Speakers: Bonnie Zucker, Deborah Roffman

Family Members: Captain Marc (and Many Others!), BGE, Jazz Saxophonist, Askable Parents, Mindful Parenting

Other Schools: DBFA and the “Big Kids”, Gilman School

Politicians: Councilman Krafts, MD Secretary of State

Workshops/Town Halls/Information and Back-to-School Nights

Informational forums are a great starting point to get to know TNCS and how and why it came to be in addition to what new trails it will blaze. Through the years, these events help tell the story of TNCS.

Back-to-School Nights: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

Information Nights: 2014, 2014, 2016, 2017

Preprimary Parent Workshops: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 1 and 2, 2018

Primary Parent Workshops: 2016, 2017 1 and 2

Open Houses: 2013, 2014, 2019

Town Halls: 2014, 2015

Service-Learning

TNCS students start giving back the moment they enter TNCS’s illustrious halls. The cumulative impact they have had over the years is staggering. But TNCS itself also gives back. In one of many such ways, in 2018 TNCS launched a partnership with “sister school” Wolfe St. Academy. Exemplary Wolfe St. students are granted scholarships to TNCS, the TNCS community participates in clothing and food donations for Wolfe St. families in need, and TNCS students visit their sister school friends for the “Reading Buddies” program.

In 2019, TNCS middle schoolers took their first international service-learning trip.

Environmental Sustainability: Hack the Trash August 2013; TNCS Wins Recycling Competition December 2013; Pop the Trash 2014; Healthy Harbor 2014 and 2015; Colorcycling; Earth Day 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2020; Puerto Rico 1 and 2, NexTrex Recycling 1 and 2; Costa Rica

Miscellaneous: Breast Cancer Walk, Grant Writing

Outreach: Giving Back November 2013, Holiday Outreach December 2013, Annual Outreach Initiatives, Thanksgiving 2014, 2015, 2018; Project Linus, Reading Buddies 1 and 2, Soup Making, Season for Service, Valentine’s Day Initiatives 1 and 2, Dean’s Initiatives 2021


And there you have it: 13 years of teaching, learning, singing, creating, discovering, growing, laughing, and becoming . . . The New Century School.

TNCS is making 724 South Ann St. a place to thrive and grow once more

Guest Blogger Ann Marie Simonetti Offers Musings on Gratitude!

Gratitude is woven into the fabric of The New Century School, a daily observance. On Thanksgiving Eve, Ann Marie Simonetti, TNCS’s Director of Admissions and Marketing and Montessori Programming Advisor, was inspired to share her deeper thoughts on gratitude and how it connects so beautifully with the Montessori ethos. 

In addition to Admissions and Marketing, “Montessori Programming” has been added to my purview this year. This is a natural addition aligned with my Montessori teacher and administrator certifications.

As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, the Montessori lessons of Grace and Courtesy often come to my mind. One element that speaks to my heart is that of gratitude, and not just in the “thank you” we say throughout the day. We show gratitude when we give and receive a compliment and in the way we actively listen to one another. One benefit of the broad “Montessori-inspired” scope of curriculum here at TNCS is the way we draw awareness and foster appreciation for all that has come before us, and all that is to come. Revisiting these concepts as part of our spiral curriculum—revisiting topics/content previously experienced and building on prior knowledge to deepen/broaden understanding—helps children place themselves in context of time and cultivate a sense of belonging.

Part of awareness comes from mindfulness, which is holistically ingrained in our social emotional curriculum. There is an art to being present in the moment; and it is truly moments— not days or weeks—that make up our lives. In order for us to appreciate each moment, we must truly experience it. Being fully present is one of the unique qualities of children. They innately appreciate the joy of each moment and savor the most minute details.

If you’ve ever taken a walk with a young child, you know that a short distance can take a long time as they stop to notice every little thing along the path. Stopping every few steps to examine and exclaim their excitement over something you may not have even noticed. This savoring and sharing is intrinsically linked to the curious nature of children.

I’m reminded of a quote describing gratitude as bestowing reverence…

Allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life in the world.

This is just one of the countless examples of the knowledge children innately possess and opportunities to learn from them, if we are willing. Dr. Maria Montessori offered this advice: “In order to become great, the grownup must become humble and learn from the child.” 

Seeing each experience as an opportunity fosters reflection in the same way gratitude does. Even when things don’t go the way we wanted, or the way we had planned:

During staff week, I talked about how giving ourselves grace during these times, and modeling it for children, demonstrates the value of failing forward. I shared one of my favorite anecdotes from my residential Montessori training, It is in this way that we model for children the full range of human imperfection and the assurance that they too will be greatly, if imperfectly, loved.

These types of authentic experiences not only serve as models for children, but also meet our needs, as adults, for love and acceptance. Much like the tiny leaf we walk right past, that enthralls the young child, these moments help us to slow down, be fully in the moment, and to acknowledge and appreciate. Ram Dass tells us that we are all just walking each other home. But when we are gifted the opportunity to walk hand-in-hand with a child, each step becomes more meaningful, purposeful, and joyful….and for that we must be grateful.

Dr. Montessori eloquently shared, “We shall walk together on this path called life. For all things are part of this universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.


Immersed and the TNCS Community are grateful to you, Ms. Simonetti, for sharing these truly beautiful thoughts at this very special time of year. Your inspiration is inspiring!

Introducing Stephen Billhardt, TNCS’s New Interim Director of Preschool!

Since its inception 10 years ago, The New Century School has certainly grown into more than a preschool, having expanded to comprise both Lower and Upper School divisions. But in many ways, TNCS’s youngest students are still at its heart, and the lower school requires specialized guidance.

Meet Stephen Billhardt!

That’s why Stephen Billhardt has become TNCS’s new Interim Director of Preschool. He came to TNCS in sort of a roundabout fashion . . . but you’ll soon see how clear the path actually was! He and his wife were living and working outside of Boston when, in early 2021, she took a job with Baltimore City public schools. They did what Mr. Billhardt calls a “commuter marriage” for a year while he stayed in Massachusetts temporarily to complete his commitment working at an integrated preschool and kindergarten (and, over the summer, help his elderly father recover from a recent health incident). With both their son and daughter in their respective colleges, and the now 28-year married couple missing each other, he says it was the right move to also relocate to Baltimore. He joined his wife in mid-September and remembered TNCS from previous visits to Baltimore on walkabouts with his wife through Fell’s Point. “Any small school is of interest to me, so I had researched it to find out more about it. After 2 weeks of settling in, I reached out.” After speaking with both Co-Founder/Co-Executive Director Roberta Faux and Head of School Erika Johnson, he was hooked. Part of the appeal, he says, was the Montessori primary program, which he was familiar with because his own children went to Montessori school through 3rd and 4th grades.

Although—spoiler alert—Mr. Billhardt has been in education for more than 30 years, that’s not how his professional life began. “I didn’t know I was going to be an educator,” he recounts, “I thought I was going into business. My dad was in business, my brother was in business, so I just thought that’s what I would do. I actually sold car phones, fax machines, and antitheft devices for a summer.”

Background

Originally from southern Connecticut, he attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, earning an undergraduate degree in Economics and Political Science. “My first experience working with children was as a Big Brother in college. I had the same little brother for 3 years, and that got me interested in early childhood education.” He then ended up in Boston, where a couple of his friends were living who thought he’d make a great teacher and suggested he give it a try. While student teaching, he got a Master’s in Education, then a second Master’s in Educational Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It was there that he met his wife, joking that that was the “best part of the program.”

After Boston, he moved to Vermont for his first full-time teaching job. “I just love Vermont. I taught at a small elementary school called Moretown Elementary—it’s just a great little school, and it’s right on the river.” What drew him to early childhood education? “It’s a great age. Early childhood is a wonderful learning opportunity for the children, for the teachers, for the parents. (As parents, we’re all still learning.) The developmental stage is so great—I appreciate all the smiles and the ready-to-learn attitudes,” he said.

And that sealed the deal! Since then, he has always worked in elementary school or preschool divisions. Next, he and his wife relocated to Michigan. She taught in Detroit public schools, and he went to Grosse Pointe to lead a grade 1 through 5 lower school. After a couple of years in Michigan, they relocated to Cambridge, MA, across the river from Boston. For the next 14 years, he assumed the principalship of schools in the Southborough and Watertown Public Schools.

“I’ve had the opportunity to be in independent and public schools for 33 or 34 years, 27 of those in educational leadership, and I like having that experience.” His most recent independent school experience was as Lower School Head at a pre-K through 4th-grade all-boy’s school called The Fessenden School in Newton, MA. “Once every 10 days he gathered all the students together and marveled at the range of learners and the developmental span. “Although that was challenging, it allowed me to really develop my skill set to engage children. They need some sort of activity; they’re attention spans are only so long, so you have to have little snippets of things and visuals. I would always have music at these assemblies.” Like TNCS, Fessenden “wears a lot of hats” being both a pre-K through grade 4 school but also having an upper school for 5th- through 9th-graders with a boarding option for domestic and international students. Mr. Billhardt was there from 2012 through 2020.

“Finally, over the last 2 years, I had a wonderful experience at the Willett Early Childhood Center, a public integrated preschool for children with and without disabilities. From age 3 there, students have the opportunity to get an individual education plan (IEP), and the public school is required to support them with the hope that they would learn strategies to overcome some of the disabilities or help support them with their disability. We had about 75 children on IEPs with another group of typically developing children as peer role models. All public schools have that opportunity, but I find it very effective. That was one building. Then there was also a stand-alone kindergarten building with 275 kindergarteners.”

Stephen Billhardt at TNCS!

His initial impressions of TNCS will surprise no one. “It’s a very nice community,” he said. “And there’s a lot going—a lot of exciting things. For me, it’s fun learning about such a language-rich immersion experience with the children. I’ve had Spanish in my schools in the past, but nothing to the level of what you see in the classrooms here.” He’s also excited to be back in the Montessori atmosphere. “Montessori is the greatest approach education has to offer for that age group.” He appreciates the multiage component of Montessori and the work ethic it inspires. “I love the open-ended work, the communication, and the collaboration,” he said. “I appreciate the methodical approach to the materials: how they’re laid out, how children access them, when they access them, and how long they access them. So, walking into classrooms and seeing that really gels with me.”

After this long in education, Mr. Billhardt says, he wants to be at a school that excites him. He also wants his role to work for everyone involved. “Let’s see if what I bring works for everybody and for the institution first,” he said of his new position.

With 33 years in the public and private sectors, Mr. Billhardt is excited to help contribute to TNCS. “I’ve had a unique opportunity to see and work with children and families in those sectors. I think all schools offer different opportunities for educators and school leaders to learn. Independent school leaders have a lot to learn from public school leaders and vice versa. I think finding what works best for children, how we communicate with families, how we support and develop educators—each school does it differently. But there are some very good practices out there, and being able to pick the best from the different schools I’ve been at and the experiences that I’ve had, I hope to bring those to this school.”

As for how he’s settling into his new city, he picked the perfect fall to do it, as he greatly enjoys being outside. With these warmer-than-normal fall temperatures, he’s getting plenty of opportunities to walk around and get to know Baltimore: “I like the water; I walk along the harbor in the morning and watch the sunrise, or I take the water taxi. I’ve climbed the Washington monument, but I haven’t yet made it to the art museums.” He particularly wants to get to the American Visionary Art Museum, and we all know what a treat he’s in for. He’s also excited to start sampling some of Charm City’s food. Then there’s the Enoch Pratt Free Library—he has been to four branches so far. Reading and listening to audio books are a favorite pastime. “I like spending time on my own to recharge,” he said. “I love being around people, but at the end of the day I like to get some alone time to rejuvenate.”

When he’s not in Baltimore, he likes road biking and boogie boarding. With our nation’s capital so close by, he and his wife are also looking forward to visits there. They also travel to their daughter’s music performances; she plays the upright bass. “I love spending time with my kids who are 21 and 20. I love seeing how they’ve developed as students and now young people/young adults. As parents, even if you’re an educator, you look back and at some point, you have to say, ‘I did a pretty good job’. I think it’s important as parents and guardians to celebrate our children’s successes and be there to support and nurture them as they grow up. They still need us. That’s our role; our role doesn’t go away.”

Meet the Teacher: Joan Cui Takes Over TNCS’s Chinese Immersion K/1st Classroom!

Rounding out the second floor of The New Century School‘s building south, this post features Kindergarten/1st grade teacher Jingqiong “Joan” Cui!

As promised, Immersed has been highlighting the younger student divisions this spring (see posts on preschool, K/1st, and the preschool/lower elementary coordinator), and with this post, we introduce Cui Laoshi, who joined TNCS for the 2021–2022 school year.

Meet Jingqiong “Joan” Cui!

Cui Laoshi arrived in Baltimore in 2015 from Chongqing in Shanxi Province, China, about a 3–4-hour car ride from Beijing. She explains that she had just graduated college, but there was a job shortage, so she decided to come to the United States to improve her proficiency with the English language. “I had no real plans,” she said. “I thought I would stay maybe 2 or 3 months, finish my language learning, and then go back to China to find a job, but it didn’t happen.” She was accompanied by a close friend and her son, and all three were education-minded. The son attended high school here, and Cui Laoshi and her “cousin” enrolled in language classes at Notre Dame of Maryland University here in Baltimore.

Cui Laoshi says that she always knew she would work in the field of education but wasn’t sure in exactly what role. “I just knew I wanted to work in education,” she said. “I got a Master’s degree from Towson University in instructional technology in 2019. No matter what I was studying, it was all around education.”

Cui Laoshi at TNCS!

And here we are! Cui Laoshi says that she began as an assistant at TNCS in January, 2020, just a month after earning her graduate degree. She joined then-primary teacher Maria Mosby’s classroom and got her first taste of the Montessori method. “It was a new teaching style for me,” she said, “as I had only known traditional education before. I learned it step by step.” She is grateful to TNCS for giving her the opportunity to learn something new and to grow as an educator.

Of course, soon after she adopted her new role as assistant teacher, TNCS shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cui Laoshi was ready, though, and used her instructional technology expertise to create videos to teach students during the lockdown. These were language themed as well as crafty—young children love to make things with their hands! She also helped edit videos that other teachers made. “Using technology is helpful for teaching. Every teacher uses technology tools and equipment to improve teaching quality,” she said.

With the start of the 2021–2022 school year and the teaching vacancy left by Ge Laoshi when she assumed her new Curriculum Coordinator role, Cui Laoshi got her own Chinese immersion homeroom class and a promotion to lead teacher. “It’s challenging because I’m a totally new teacher, but I’m really excited,” she said. She also has some totally new subject matter to teach: in addition to teaching Mandarin Chinese, she also teaches Global Studies and Science . . . in Chinese. For this, she had to translate a lot of materials into Chinese. She says her students gave adapted very well, and that in the beginning she taught these core subjects in 60% English and 40% Chinese but has since progressed to 80% Chinese. Her methods are ingenious: she works the necessary GS and Science vocabulary into her language class, so her students have a foundation to build knowledge on, all 15 of whom are learning Mandarin for the first time.

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She now has ample opportunities to incorporate technology in her classroom. She uses apps   like WordWorld, for example, to “make words come alive” for her K/1st students who are just beginning their reading journeys. She also finds tools that help them practice writing. Other “tools,” like stickers, reinforce positive learning experiences.

As for what she likes best about TNCS, one special aspect is that she gets more than 1 year to get to know her “loving and warm” students, some of whom she knew from the primary classroom and will have them for 2 years in her homeroom. This makes for a lot of beautiful memories, she says. She also has made lots of new friends among her colleagues.

Cui Laoshi’s desire to educate is clear, and because she knows her students are hungry to learn, she pushes herself to do her best for them, such as preparing more materials to engage them. “There’s two things I know,” she said “they still need to work hard and to improve, and I’m so proud of them.”

When she does allow herself time to relax, she likes to play card games with friends and to travel around the country, which has been curtailed lately. She enjoys the Mid-Atlantic area best but has also visited Boston, New York City, Las Vegas, and so on. One day soon, she hopes to resume her exploration of the United States.

In the meantime, she continues striving to be the best teacher she can be and to encourage her students. “I may not have a lot of teaching experience yet,” she said, “but I have a lot of love. I always remind myself that I’ll get more teaching experience because the kids are giving it to me.” That’s really a very wonderful insight—that, in teaching, she is also learning.

Welcome to TNCS, Cui Laoshi!

Meet the Teacher: Charlotte Longchamps Joins TNCS as K/1st Teacher!

Charlotte Longchamps joined The New Century School for the 2021–2022 school year to lead a mixed-age kindergarten/1st grade classroom. She may be a relatively recent addition to the faculty, but her philosophy of teaching this age group is deep rooted and has facilitated a very rapid acclimatization to TNCS.

Meet Charlotte Longchamps!

Mrs. Longchamps grew up in Severna Park and has been in Maryland for most of her life. Her now-husband is from the Columbia area and lived here in Baltimore when they began dating. They moved to Boston, both pursuing advanced degrees: a PhD in Human Genetics for him and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with certificates in Social Justice and Policy Development from Boston College for her. She previously earned a bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education from Towson University.

If it’s starting to sound like Mrs. Longchamps is a natural fit for TNCS, there’s more: “I’m very influenced by Montessori practices and philosophy, so in my own personal philosophy of education and instruction I will implement Montessori practices,” she explained. Although the K/1st classroom is not considered a Montessori classroom, many of those practices are still incorporated into the curriculum by teachers at this level—they work!

Mrs. Longchamps did her student teaching in Arundel County schools (where she went to school as well). She then taught in Montgomery County and first grade at Bethesda Elementary School for 3 years before the temporary relocation to Boston in 2019. It was there that she experienced the Montessori Method, providing weekly STEM instruction at a Montessori school.

The Longchamps moved back to Baltimore in 2021 to be closer to their families.

Mrs. Longchamps at TNCS!

Now happily ensconced at TNCS, she appreciates the smaller class sizes and the tight-knit community of teachers and families. “I have great relationships with all the teachers in the school,” she explained, “and we’re all able to work together to kind of develop curricula and improve our classrooms and instruction.”

In addition to being a K/1st homeroom teacher, Mrs. Longchamps teaches two core subjects: math and ELA. “Since I have the joy of teaching both core subjects, we really get to do some intense work with math and reading,” she said. At first, navigating the mixed ages was challenging. She had experience teaching both ages, but, until now, not both ages together:

It’s been a learning experience teaching two age groups at once. It was interesting to learn how to parallel teach or even compartmentalize those areas with those grades. It was a lot of setting up initially with differentiated centers and differentiated lessons and getting the kids to be independent so I can work with them individually or in small groups. But it’s helped me become more flexible as an educator and really tweak my own planning and instruction to fit the individual students. It was a bit tricky to figure out in the beginning with not yet knowing the kids and the community and wondering if I was heading in the right direction, but you to be able to think on your feet and modify to fit their needs as you go.

Now that she has the hang of it, the emphasis on differentiated instruction and individualized approach to learning are what she likes most about TNCS, apart from the community of teachers she speaks so highly of.

Even though kindergartners and first graders may seem like they are developmentally very similar, “where they are” can actually be quite different. In addition, kindergarten at TNCS is considered a transition from preschool to elementary, so it’s approached differently. Kindergarten students are in an immersive language experience (and Joan Cui, the other K/1st teacher teaches them Mandarin Chinese and Global Studies and Science in Mandarin), whereas 1st graders learn 45 minutes daily of both Spanish and Chinese. (Not to confuse things, but kindergarten students also receive 45 minutes a day of Spanish instruction.)

Back to thinking on her feet, Mrs. Longchamps has also had to be flexible with even where the class eats lunch because of COVID-19. “We try to eat lunch outside whenever we can,” she said. “There are picnic tables on the playground, some students have picnic blankets, and some of them have little folding chairs. So we’ll do that outside as much as possible but when the weather isn’t great or in the winter, we would eat at our classroom desks. Not any longer, but for a while, that meant eating in shifts of four kids at a time to minimize the amount of time not wearing masks.”

Parents, Mrs. Longchamps has an important message for you:

I want them to know—and I hope that they could tell from my actions—that my number one priority is their child’s perception of belonging at school and feeling safe and included. Feeling loved and welcomed is first, and then the academic piece comes behind that. You can’t learn if you’re feeling unsafe or stressed out or not included, so cultivating this safe environment for their children is important. I really emphasize building relationships, getting to know their children individually and deeply during our time together. I feel like the more we know each other, the more motivated they’ll be to learn. The more I will know to help them succeed. So that’s my priority. It is so essential to build up that positive attitude toward learning. You need that foundation before you can build up and bring in academics.

Mrs. Longchamps may well be cultivating lifelong happy learners with this beautiful approach to educating young children. She also says, “my students are so sweet and funny, thoughtful and loving . . . it’s great to watch them grow through the year.” Although she is planning to return for the 2022–2023 school year, she will be out for part of it, welcoming and nurturing a future student of her own. Congratulations, Mrs. Longchamps!