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.
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.
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!
March blew in like a “tiger” with a new take on Lunar New Year celebrations. On March 2nd, Mandarin Chinese teacher Li Laoshi gave students and families a visit to “Chinatown,” with actual vendor stalls set up in the TNCS auditorium and hosts to help us navigate the lanes!
Li Laoshi was very proud of her students, who worked very hard on their Lunar New Year projects. “We did an amazing job in presenting Chinese culture of 12 animal zodiacs, Kung fu, traditional clothes, crafts, pandas, and Chinese food in 2 days of celebrations,” she said. The shops and stalls were not only fun to visit and sample the wares, they had a very important purpose: fundraising for the middle schoolers’ fast-approaching capstone trip to Puerto Rico! “Our students also feel very proud that they can support the 7th and 8th-graders’ service trips,” continued Li Laoshi. “It was really exciting and enjoyable!”
Science Fair 2022
Next up was the annual Science Fair, hosted by TNCS science teacher Mr. Brosius. Presentations were broken out by division, with 4th- through 8th-graders presenting on March 14th and 15th, 2nd- and 3rd-graders presenting March 16th and 17th, and kindergartners and 1st-graders the following week.
For much of Quarter 3, prepped for their projects, assembling materials, creating lists of methods, and collecting data. Projects could either follow the scientific method or veer into engineering and design territory. Mr. B. was on hand to oversee and advise: “A few projects required some amendments in order to increase their testability, but the students enjoyed their work in science class,” he said.
Although the Science Fair ended, the STEM fun did not! Mr. B first sent a thank you out to families: “Thank you to all who viewed science fair presentations last week. It means a lot to the students. They have worked diligently this past quarter and should be proud of their efforts.”
Then he sent an update that students continued working on improving the quality of their data collection and analysis. “This past week, 4th through 8th graders have engaged in measurement activities that help them to better develop these skills, while younger students have primarily continued working on their individual projects. The 2nd- and 3rd-grade students also briefly used a petri dish computer simulation to further discuss data collection and analysis,” he explained. In the coming week, he said, “we will review all steps of the scientific method and engineering design process when we resume the peer review process.” The peer review process is new this year and replicates how scientists perform their studies in real life.
TNCS preschoolers got in on the March Madness fun, too, with an extra special visit by Baltimore City firefighters on March 25th.
And with that, March at TNCS ended in a blaze of glory!
The New Century School breaks the mold in so many ways that achieving new “firsts” has almost become the norm. Yet here we are with 2022 just having begun, and TNCS is already doing it again—this time with fur!
Out of the Hat and into the Classroom!
On Tuesday, January 18th, the TNCS Student Government headed to the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Center, better known as BARCS, on a very special mission: to pick up a rabbit to be fostered in TNCS ELA teacher Gab Sussman‘s homeroom.
Seven Reasons To Foster
1. Fostering increases an animal’s chance of getting adopted.
2. Your own pets will learn more social skills.
3. You get to see if you’re ready to own another pet.
4. Fostering is temporary.
5. You can choose how to foster.
6. Fostering keeps animals out of shelters.
7. You are saving a life.
The idea for fostering a pet at TNCS originated with Ms. Sussman, herself a small animal lover. After making the arrangements with BARCS and finding Freckles’ biography on the BARCS website, the rest is TNCS history.
“Whether they have scales, feathers or hopping feet, BARCS is a safe haven for all animals in Baltimore City.”
Among the Student Government members to bring Freckles to her temporary home were Natalie Lawner, TNCS Historian, and Hanako Dillon, TNCS Public Relations. We have these two dedicated 6th-graders to thank for the following photos and interview.
Interview with TNCS Student Council Public Relations
Immersed:What does fostering a pet involve? PR: Fostering a pet involves wanting animals to live in a loving home while they are still up for adoption. It is also very important to take good care of the animal as expected from the shelter. We are responsible for feeding, keeping her cage clean, and socializing her. Immersed:How did Freckles get chosen? PR: Freckles was chosen because she was the only small furry animal at the shelter at the time. Immersed:Who named Freckles? PR: We are not sure who named freckles but she came to us with the name. Immersed:What is Freckle’s backstory—how did she come to BARCS? PR: There is not a lot of information about how or why she came to BARCS but the came to BARCS on December 15, 2021 Immersed:How will students take care of Freckles? PR: Students in Ms. Sussman’s class will help feed Freckles and clean her cage every day. Immersed:What will happen to Freckle when school is not in session, such as over weekends? PR: As of now Ms. Sussman will be taking Freckles home on the weekends, and will eventually begin to socialize Freckles with her own bunny Bunnicula. We are exploring what it would look like for students/families to take her home too. Immersed:What would you like readers to know about this TNCS initiative? What is the takeaway message? PR: We would love to share the importance of rescuing animals from shelters rather than buying animals from a breeder because there are so many animals without a home, and that you don’t have to spend lots of money to get a sweet and loving pet. We would also like to show people that fostering an animal is a great way to bring a pet into your family if you are unsure or unable to take care of an animal long term. By taking care of Freckles as a class we want to encourage kids to be more involved with taking care of pets and caring for them.
Freckles at TNCS
We know! We know! Everybunny wants to see how Freckles is doing! Just see for yourself . . .
Ms. Sussman says: “Freckles has already opened up in just the few days we’ve had her! When I had visited her a few times at BARCS, she always hid in the back of her cage and was not open to being picked up. Now, she is freely moving around her little cage, happily accepting pets from students, and is more tolerant of being held!”
She has delegated the care of Freckles to students, explaining, “there is a special job in my classroom dedicated to managing the foster pet! Two students feed Freckles twice a day, refresh her water, and clean her cage. Cleaning is not so difficult because Freckles has taken well to litter box training (yes, that’s right, rabbits can be trained to use a litter box!).”
But the real magic Freckles has brought to TNCS is this: “It has been such a joy seeing how loving and excited students have been since we took her in on Tuesday,” said Ms. Sussman. “I feel like Freckles is bringing us one more special reason to look forward to coming to school, which I know in these times can feel more stressful and exhausting for some.”
Looking for ways to help care for Freckles? We’ve got you! Check out Freckles’ wish list for items to contribute to her health and well-being.
Ms. Sussman says, “An extra special thank you to all those who have already contributed! We are excited to get her set up with supplies that will help us adequately care for her in the classroom. Even after she moves on to her new, permanent home, these gifts will stay so that we can continue fostering small, furry animals in our classroom from BARCS.”
Want more? Consider adopting Freckles and making yours her forever home! Ms. Sussman says, “Any TNCS family that is interested in adopting Freckles can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a little Meet & Greet after school one day (following all of the Wellness Committee’s guidelines, of course!).”
Adriana DuPrau has been an integral member of The New Century School since its inception. She was one of the original teachers, a role she held for several years, then became the Curriculum Director for a few years, and is now embracing her brand-new position as Dean of Students. When we say “embracing,” we really mean it. Mrs. DuPrau is shaking up the 2021–2022 school year in ways never before seen at TNCS!
In just the first couple of months of school, Mrs. DuPrau has initiated several service-learning, fundraising, and community-building projects, and she has also been an important member of the all-new Advisory Board (along with TNCS Head of School Tad Jacks, Student Counselor Daphnee Hope, and other faculty members). Here is an overview of what’s been happening!
Service-learning is annually a big deal at TNCS, but Mrs. DuPrau approached it a bit differently this time around. “I met with all the K–8 classes and found out what their interested in,” she explained. “Animals are definitely at the top of the list!
I wanted to do something related to what their wishes are because I feel like when they get to make the choices, they are that much more involved.” They decided to go with BARCS (The Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter), who compiled a wishlist of items so that our TNCS community can help support these wonderful animals in need.
This service-learning initiative will continue for the entire month of November, and items can be dropped off directly at TNCS. “We thought abut donating through Amazon, but then I thought, there’s something really special about like holding on to the item that you’re going to donate and walking into the school and putting it in a bin versus just ordering something and never really getting the actual item,” said Mrs. DuPrau. Students can drop off their items in bins placed by the front desk. The TNCS Student Council will help handle all the items, which will be delivered to BARCS on Tuesday, November 30th. (Wait, what TNCS Student Council? Keep reading!)
Although details are still being hashed out, the annual middle school capstone service-learning trip will be to Puerto Rico this February. COVID-19 continues to complicate and sometimes thwart big plans, but TNCS family the Waylands were instrumental in making this happen. Mrs. DuPrau and Mrs. Hope will chaperone, and everyone is excited about undertaking a service project in a tropical locale where they can also practice their Spanish-speaking skills and foster independence!
Other Service-Learning Projects
Smaller but no less important initiatives are happening all over TNCS. The Kindergarteners and 1st-graders are writing letters to veterans and walking them to the post office to mail them, which includes all kinds of incidental opportunities for learning, and Mrs. DuPrau also hopes to find a way to have TNCS students donate leftover Halloween candy to send to troops overseas. This aligns well with TNCS’s sugar-free mandate, and parents will appreciate the chance to get rid of some of it!
The TNCS Parent Council is also in the planning stages of some initiatives like the annual Adopt-A-Family for the holidays, the Coat and Warm Clothing Drive for Wolfe St. Academy that has taken place over the last few years, and hygiene boxes around MLK Day. We’ll dig deeper into all things Parent Council–related in a separate post.
Related to at least one service-learning project—Puerto Rico—the TNCS student body needs to raise some funds!
TNCS School Store!
For the first time ever, TNCS students opened a pop-up school store happening on Fridays (weather permitting). See our Facebook event for more!
The grand opening last month was a huge success,
and you’ve got plenty more chances to shop ’til you drop on successive Fridays throughout the fall and winter.
Breakfast with Blacksauce Kitchen!
TNCS dad and restauranteur Damian Mosely once again donated his valuable time and his delicious homemade Blacksauce Kitchen biscuits to help raise funds for the big trip. Mrs. DuPrau says this will really help bring down the cost of flying to Puerto Rico, and she also locked in a great group rate. So thank you, Blacksauce, and thank you Southwest!
The internal community building Mrs. DuPrau has engendered so far this year is off the charts.
in yet another first at TNCS, this year saw the creation of an official Student Council. Students voted today for President and Vice President, after candidates built their campaigns throughout the month of October, culminating with presenting their speeches on Monday, November 1st and debating their opponents on Wednesday the 3rd. We are pleased to salute Indigo Mosely as President and Schonbeck Glazer as her trusty VP.
Mrs. DuPrau has held several Spirit Days this year, with good reason. She has sensed some lingering social and emotional issues from the recent pandemic and felt that injecting some extra fun into the school day would lift everyone’s “spirits”! “After our COVID year last year of hybrid learning, it seems like some students are still struggling with their social connections.” she said
Good Neighbor Day was the first Spirit Day of the school year. “It was so much fun to see everybody in their TNCS shirts outside smiling and laughing and taking pictures together,” said Mrs. DuPrau. The race was on to see who demonstrated the most school spirit both on campus and as a good neighbor!
“I worked with all the homeroom teachers to get kids out of the classroom and off of campus with mini field trips, such as to go get a pretzel and lemonade for Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Longchamps birthday or buying plants at Fell’s Point Cultivated Creations for lessons in genetics for science class. I want students to get time together outside of the class so they can work on their relationships by doing fun things,” she said.
TNCS students are also going to ethnic restaurants and ordering food in the language spoken there. They went to an El Salvadoran restaurant during Hispanic Heritage Month, and on Thursday, November 4th, TNCS middle school students went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered their lunch in Chinese. “The Chinese owner of the restaurant was so impressed by our students’ good manners and amazing Chinese,” said Li Laoshi. “Also, our students really enjoyed their yummy Chinese lunch and learned a lot from this field trip. You should feel so proud of your child!”
Hand in hand with building community, Mrs. DuPrau and Mrs. Hope held a Blue Out day to address bullying. Everyone, and we mean everyone, wore blue to school that day in solidarity. “I got a chance to kind of get into each class and do a fun restorative circle as well as a follow-up activity. Each student created a puzzle piece, which were then hung up in their classrooms to show that they are all part of the puzzle. We all fit,” explained Mrs. DuPrau.
The class with the most blue—Ms. Weiskopf’s 2nd- and 3rd-graders—won bragging rights!
American Education Week
Finally, American Education Week happens the week of November 15th through 18th, and Mrs. DuPrau is working hard to get everyone excited about that. “We’re going to hold an assembly that gets us all together. I want the assembly to be super fun, and I want to jump into our core values, but I mainly want us to also work on building our school spirit—singing songs and fun things like that,” she said.
Creating a TNCS cookbook is planned for this week also. The cookbook will be full of international recipes to celebrate all of our diverse cultures and backgrounds and available for purchase online.
Let’s make school fun. We want to make school a place that children want to come to, that makes them feel special. Of course academics are important, but it’s also important that we feel like we’re a family, that we feel comfortable and not overly stressed, and we can let our hair down a little bit. So I’m hoping that spirit days and assemblies and off-campus field trips are helping build that community feel.
And, finally, the new Advisory Program has been doing wonders for TNCS students. Mr. Jacks and Mrs. Hope work mostly with the 8th-graders, Lori Gorbey works with mostly 7th-graders, Ms. Sussman works with a group of 6th- and 7th-graders, Mrs. DuPrau works with a group of 5th- and 6th-grades, and Mrs. Sharma and Mr. Brosius work grades 4 and 5.
In an email, Mrs. Hope described what this program is all about. Advisory is a program in which students meet regularly with a caring faculty member during a scheduled period in the school day. The underlying goal of advisory programs is to provide each student with consistent support and guidance from a member of the school staff. This adult, called the advisor, advocates for their group of students and runs the day-to-day activities of the advisory program. These activities range from the implementation of a curriculum to facilitation of a discussion to the distribution of important school information.
Perhaps the most talked-about benefits of an advisory program are the positive relationships that are created. Advisories help to build a sense of community in schools, which is important for preventing alienation. Furthermore, studies have shown that students’ educational success is based on academic as well as social support.
“We all do different things with our groups since our groups are all so different,” explained Mrs. DuPrau. Mrs. Sharma’s advisory meeting, for example, focuses on wellness and social relationships through dialogue and game-playing.
Mr. Brosius’s meeting encourages role-playing to think more critically about character traits. They built an imaginary village where each student adopted a different role. They discuss why they chose the roles while trying to relate this to goals in their own lives. When things get a little too rambunctious, he leads the group in light yoga to re-center them.
Mrs. DuPrau has an all-female advisory group. She introduced journaling as a way for her students to understand their emotions and how to gain control of them. They do restorative circles to get to know each another on a deeper level. They also decorated their lockers with inspirational pictures and quotes. They also spend time in the all-new Harmony Room in Building North to relieve stress.
Ms. Sussman’s group is building trust through conversation and art. They use a deck of affirmation cards throughout the week to share their more reflective sides. They will also work on creative activities that will allow them to better appreciate each other’s uniqueness.
Ms. Gorbey’s group spent the first couple of weeks of school participating in open-ended circle time and playing games like Uno or Get-To-Know-You Bingo. During “Mindful Mondays,” students discuss their goals for the week. On “Words of Affirmation Wednesday,” students learn to confront their weaknesses and share how they can turn them into strengths.
Mr. Jacks and Mrs. Hope guide the 8th-graders through their final year at TNCS and get them ready for the transition to high school. These students have attended school with each other for several years and, as a result, have created warm and trusting relationships. As teenagers, they often want to talk about their feelings regarding ongoing issues in the world.
Stay tuned for further updates on this truly wonderful and important program.
After an undeniably tumultuous period for the world, Mrs. DuPrau and everyone at TNCS are making sure TNCS students continue to thrive in all ways, including academically, socially, and emotionally. The TNCS community is beyond grateful for this very special care.