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!

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!

Pei Ge Transitions to a “Supporting” Role at TNCS!

Now in its 10th year, The New Century School has grown . . . and grown up! But even though the TNCS student body now comprises children through 8th grade, let’s not forget how this wonderful school began—as a preschool! To celebrate TNCS’s beginning, Immersed dedicates the next few posts to the preprimary through 1st grade divisions.

Pei Ge: TNCS’s Preschool Coordinator

Enter Pei Ge, TNCS’s official Elementary and Preschool Immersion Coordinator. Ge Laoshi, who was a long-time TNCS teacher of K/1 as well as primary and preprimary (also see MD Secretary of State Visits TNCS!), saw a need that opened up during the pandemic and made up her mind to do something about it. “I didn’t get a lot of support during the pandemic. So I thought to myself, ‘next year, I can support K/1st teachers more based on my teaching experience’.’ We all know how difficult teachers of young children had it during the shutdown. Unlike older students, little ones can’t really get much out of an onscreen zoom. So, she brought her inspired idea to TNCS Co-Executive Director, Co-Founder Roberta Faux, who embraced it and suggested adding the preschool component as well, since the preprimary and primary teachers were also feeling the need for a little extra support. Ge Laoshi agreed, and here we are!

Her coordinator position is, just as she said, primarily revolves around helping the preprimary (both Chinese and Spanish immersion), primary, and K/1st teachers during weekly meetings as well as whenever they might need, but it encompasses a whole lot more. Other large components are developing the Chinese curriculum for students ages 2 through 1st grade, creating action plans for students who need behavior coaching, mentoring new teachers (including Joan Cui “Cui Laoshi” who took over Ge Laoshi’s Chinese immersion K/1st classroom), and liaising with parents. Then there are sundry responsibilities that come up here and there. For example, when new students enroll, she reminds teachers to send out welcome letters and present the TNCS signature yellow bag. She makes sure each class has daily tasks to complete. She also helps coordinate all the funs school events—Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Spring concert, Winter Concert, the Spring picnic, and so on. The 2021–2022 school year enrollment totals 87 preschool students and 30 K/1st students.

“It’s very busy, and I’m still learning since this is my first year,” said Ge Laoshi, about how she is finding the new role so far. “It’s totally different from what I did before with teaching students. Now I manage our preschool team, and it’s a transition for me. But I am enjoying the challenge!” She explains that some days are busier than others, with lots happening, and that she is learning to balance all of the priorities that come with such an important position and making sure teachers, students, and parents are fulfilled.

The curriculum development component is an especially large task that Ge Laoshi takes step by step. “I need to make sure each grade is on the same page and learning about the same topic, even though they are on different levels. So, all grades will learn about describing weather, for example. As the students grow older, they will still review the topics they have learned and build on that knowledge. They can step up a little each year.” She also interfaces with Li Laoshi, TNCS’s elementary and middle school teacher, so that when it’s time for students to transition to an upper division, Li Laoshi is familiar with where they are and what their Mandarin Chinese language needs might be. This continuity is certainly contributing to enhanced proficiency and is quite a boon for the Chinese program at TNCS.

Training the new Chinese assistants who come to TNCS is another task that Ge Laoshi assists with. She prepares teaching material like vocabulary cards for them. Currently, TNCS has Cui Laoshi (not to be confused with “Big Cui” or Joan) assisting in the primary classrooms. Cui Laoshi joined TNCS in March of 2021 after emigrating from Nei Mongol in China to the United States with her family.

One special perk is that when a classroom needs coverage such as if a teacher is out a particular day, Ge Laoshi can step back into her former role as teacher, an opportunity she thoroughly appreciates. “It’s really fun. I get the chance to play with the little ones, but I also get to step away and do other things,” she said.

Her biggest success so far as coordinator? “Supporting teachers,” she answers without hesitation. “They have me if they need me. I also want to create more events for the preschoolers, like the firetruck that came to visit last month. I want to do more next year such as walking field trips, seeing puppet shows, and visiting libraries for story time.”

In her spare time, Ge Laoshi like to do yoga, swim, and tend her yard.

Ge Laoshi will continue as Elementary and Preschool Immersion Coordinator for the foreseeable future, and the TNCS community is so lucky to have her! See what wonderful things she was able to pull together along with lead teachers and Miss Devon for the preschool Spring Concert on May 26th! In the meantime, she says, feel free to contact her about your student: “If you need my help or support, I will be there!”

Devin Martin: Giving TNCS the Whole Picture!

Part of The New Century School‘s mission is to nurture the whole child. This means faculty and staff focus not just on academics but also on, among other things, social and emotional learning, physical education, and The Arts.

Background

For the 2021–2021 school year, art class has a brand-new teacher: Meet Devin Martin. She even has “art”in her name!

But that’s not the whole picture. Ms. Devin is a natural fit at TNCS in several ways, as you’ll quickly see. She originally came to Baltimore from Ithaca, New York, where she grew up, to attend Maryland Institute College of Art—which we all know as MICA, of course! She graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art and also did some course work in Art Education.

She found that Baltimore felt like home to her and has been here ever since. “I’ve made great friends here, and I’m never bored in this city. The art community here is so collaborative, and every time I spend time with my friends we come up with something artistic to do together. People are always performing at each other shows and collaborating, and it’s just a really great place to make interesting art,” she explained.

As for what her medium as an artist is, she says that the general Fine Arts degree allowed her to pursue multiple ways to create. “Fine Arts is a little bit of everything, which works well for me because I used to get bored with just one medium. I bounced around from photography to miniature painting to book arts . . . but what all of that ended up coalescing into was shadow puppetry, which became my main thing. It’s cut paper, it’s more theatrical, and I really got into theater arts after graduating.”

Ms. Devin uses transparencies, water, and ink to illustrate scenes in a stage adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Art Meets Montessori

Alongside this passion for art, Ms. Devin also has known that she wanted to teach since she was 16 years old and has worked with children in various capacities since then. After college, she began leading after-school community art programs. Shortly thereafter, she got a job at the Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School, and as you’ve probably guessed, became intrigued with Montessori education. “I was doing after-school things with them and realized that I wanted to be around there all the time! That was also one of the first times I worked with early childhood in the primary classroom. It was a good fit for my personality. Young kids and I have a lot in common in terms of enjoying tactile experiences in nature and art and animals . . . so I feel like I can engage them really easily.” She went on to tie that fascination with small objects to the Montessori tenet of the characteristics of the primary-age child.

So, she started working as a primary assistant (eventually going on to lead a classroom) and decided to pursue Montessori training. She did her assistant Montessori training at Loyola University Maryland’s Center for Montessori Education and her Lead training at the Barrie Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies, where she also worked for a while.

Here at TNCS

And then the pandemic hit, so Ms. Devin had to shift gears. She answered a job listing put up by a group of TNCS families who were interested in finding a Montessori-trained teacher to teach their young children in a home/pod setting. Says Ms. Devin:

It was a wonderful group of seven kids age 2 1/2 through 6 years, and met every day in the guest room one of the families had turned into a primary classroom. We also spent most of the afternoon in Patterson Park learning about nature. We learned all about what kinds of trees grow there, and we extensively studied the cicadas. We learned all about their life cycle, their body parts, and what they do and why they sing. It was a fun way to be able to bring my passion for early childhood science into this wonderful, wonderful park. It was a really great experience, and I think I learned a lot about myself as a teacher during that time.

As will now seem predestined, this is how she ultimately found out about TNCS. She first began long-term substituting in the primary classroom while Señora Salas is out on maternity leave but then saw the art education opening. “A lot of my background is in art education, and it’s definitely a major passion of mine, so I asked if I can do both. In the morning I’m teaching in the primary classroom, and then in the afternoon I’m teaching K through 8 art,” she said.

Although this schedule might sound daunting, it’s easy to see how she blends her various talents and makes it all work. (Puppets in the primary classroom? Match made in heaven! She also makes great use of her skill with miniatures.)

So how is she faring so far this year? Short answer: beautifully in both spheres. In the primary world, she says, “All the primary teachers are kind of new this year, so we were able to figure out how we wanted to run things ourselves. Although I have a lot of experience in primary classrooms, this year is totally different because of COVID. There are all sorts of different considerations for how to stay COVID-safe, from the way we do lunch to the way we do play time. So, there’s a lot of trying new things, but the kids are really adaptable, and I think we’ve fallen into a nice little rhythm and routine.”

As for art . . .

In the afternoon, I’m running around doing art in all the classrooms, and I’ve just been loving it. I think art teaching is really what I’m best at in the world. I’m always smiling so big when I’m walking around the classroom, looking at everyone’s art. They’re all elementary and middle school age and at that point where they haven’t quite decided whether they’re an artist or not. They might say they can’t draw, but they they can and with a bit of encouragement, they’re able to do things that really impress them. For example, we did a geometric tile project looking at Islamic, Moroccan, and Mexican tile-work, and we made simple designs using a straight edge and a circle. At the end of one of the classes, one of the students said, ‘how did you do that?’ and, I replied, ‘you did that.’ They responded, ‘how did you get me to do that?!’ It was funny, and she was so surprised at her own skills.

During the first quarter, students have been focused on building drawing skills through observational drawing as well as imaginative drawing. Recent projects have included drawings based on the colors, compositions, and motifs of Panamanian textiles and a street art–inspired project using bent wire to bring line drawings to life. “I like to take a skill and apply it in a bunch of different ways, but soon we’ll be moving on from drawing into 3D stuff like sewing and clay work. It’s been very fun to figure out what I want to teach and what areas of art I want to delve into.”


Ms. Martin will display student works of art around the two TNCS buildings—get a peek when you can!

Tad Jacks Joins TNCS as Interim Head of School!

On July 1, 2021, Tad Jacks joined The New Century School as Interim Head of School. Before he had even started, though, he expressed how much he was looking forward to being part of such a multicultural environment. TNCS Executive Directors and Co-Founders Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner told parents that, “[Mr. Jacks] comes to us with a wealth of experience, pedagogical expertise, and leadership skills.”

Let’s explore that wealth!

An Abundant Career

Mr. Jacks’ road to TNCS stretches far—overseas, in fact. He was born and grew up in the King of Prussia area of Pennsylvania, but he began his career in education at the American School in London as a student teacher and baseball coach. Although his love lay with working with kids, his first job out of college was as a college admissions officer before re-entering the independent school realm. Re-entering? Mr. Jacks attended Friends’ Central School, a Quaker co-ed day school, in Pennsylvania as a student, so it was a good fit for him to join Friends School of Baltimore. At Friends, he wore a variety of hats, from admissions to development (for example, he started up a a center for Russian language and culture) to teaching (for example, a high school class called “US society 1900 to 1960”) and even coaching golf.

After 23 years at Friends and all of those many hats, he was approached by The Odyssey School to become their Head of School. Although Odyssey’s mission is to provide an education environment conducive to learning difference like dyslexia, they wanted Mr. Jacks for his extensive experience with governance, strategic plans, accreditation, admissions, and development. Within a few years, though, his athletic daughter was about to go to college. He needed the flexibility to attend her matches and provide all the support college students need. As she was attending school in New England, he decided to take a position as Assistant Head of School at the Wooster School, in Danbury, Connecticut, alongside the Headmaster who just happened to be a dear friend of Mr. Jacks’ as well as his former teacher. He actually commuted to Connecticut from Baltimore for 5 years! And called it fun!

Back in Baltimore, he embarked temporarily on a project to lead and support the Middle Grades Partnership with the Baltimore Community Foundation. Before the next school year began, Mr. Jacks was contacted about heading The Craig School in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. That 7-year stint came to a close just last year when the commuting finally did get to him (he was only home in Baltimore on weekends and holidays). “I decided that I’ve done this commuting enough, and I’m going to come home,” he explained. “So for the last year, I’ve been doing really interesting projects for people, mostly in education.”

TNCS and Tad Jacks: A Natural Fit

All in all, his career in education spans 42 years, a career he is grateful for. The depth and breadth of such an illustrious career might have tired out a less high-energy person than Mr. Jacks, but it’s clear he’s got plenty of ideas still to develop. And that brings us to TNCS. He says he had heard about TNCS both from friends of his daughter and from his natural habit of staying abreast of the independent schools in the area.

He has also worked side by side on diversity programs with our former Head of School Shara Khon Duncan. “I’ve known Tad since the 90s,” she said, “and TNCS is in good hands. He has a heart for diversity, and he digs right in and does the work.”

(Mr. Jacks says he is also eager to gain a little Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, not that multilingualism is his forte per se.)

Not surprisingly, given his background in development, he has begun to shape a vision of what his time at TNCS could mean.

I want a concept—a spirit—that as a school in Baltimore City we must continue making a difference for this city. And maybe it’ll come out in different forms along the way. There are so many problems that come to school even before a teacher can get to work with education. So I’ve always asked how I can make a difference in the city. I have way too much energy to not be in school right now. I just feel like it’s not just where I want to be, it’s also where I need to be.

Of course this kind of empathic orientation aligns beautifully with TNCS’s commitment to service learning, and Mr. Jacks says that’s another aspect of TNCS that attracted him. “It would be nice to put a solid foundation in place so that every year students in the different divisions know what big projects they’ll be working on,” he said.

That’s not to say that Mr. Jacks plans to make drastic changes—instead, he’s here to help. In an email to staff, he wrote:

My hope is that I will learn more during each meeting and want to hear from you about your roles, your interests, and how best I can help you. My pledge to all of you is that I will do my best to help each of you in your work and to support you on your objectives and goals. During the coming year, I plan to immerse myself in the life of the school, capitalizing on opportunities to build school spirit and support progress in key areas. I will be listening for ideas that foster relevant, engaging, and inspired learning.

And he’s eager to advance TNCS’s Core Values of Compassion, Courage, Respect, and Service. “In my first few days here, I have found that many individuals are compassionate about working with young children, have the courage to help a parent understand that their child may need more attention, have a respect for each other, and are in service to our community,” said Mr. Jacks.

Said Ms. Faux and Ms. Lawner: “It was clear from our interactions and from his amazing references that Tad’s philosophy of education, commitment to children, and auxiliary skill set would make him a fantastic fit for TNCS. We are confident and enthusiastic that this next step will move TNCS to an even stronger future as a leader in progressive, diverse, and joyful education.”

Although it may seem like he’d have time for nothing else, given his involvement in so many facets fo education, Mr. Jacks also has a personal life complete with hobbies and predilections, like contemporary music and visual arts. And yet, somehow, the conversation always swivels back to education in the best way. Mr. Jacks still remembers being in high school—elementary school, even. “I’m in education because of things that happened in the 4th grade; 4th grade and 11th grade were two watershed years, and I don’t think that’s any different for students now.”

How fortunate that TNCS’s current student body will have at least one of their watershed years under such capable and compassionate leadership. Welcome to TNCS, Tad Jacks!