Meet the Teacher: Pei Ge Rejoins TNCS!

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Pei Ge first joined The New Century School as an assistant in 2016 after earning a bachelor’s degree at Towson University. She then decided to pursue a master’s in early childhood education also at Towson. On graduating this past January, she returned to TNCS in an enhanced role.

“Peggy,” better known as “Pei-Pei Laoshi” to her students, is originally from Shanghai, in China. There, she taught children ages 3 to 6 years. In 2012, she came to the United States and taught in the English program at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Now, living in Towson and back at TNCS, she assists as a floater among the primary classrooms during the mornings, and then teaches the Mandarin Chinese language each afternoon to the lower elementary classes. In fact, the kindergarten/1st-grade level is her favorite grade, but she is certified to teach toddlers up through 3rd-graders. “I’m kind of flexible for the grade,” she said. “My hope is that, maybe next semester if they have a position available for me, I can take the whole class. The Chinese immersion program would be perfect for me.”

Pei-Pei Laoshi is really a perfect fit for the TNCS approach to education. “I really like it here because they have a lot of choice for the language,” she explained. “Teaching Spanish and Chinese provides children with a really great opportunity to learn new languages at a young age. I really think that’s a good idea for young kids, especially with Chinese, because they are able to correctly reproduce the tones when they’re that young. When they’re older, there will be no problem for them.”

She also appreciates the TNCS emphasis on meeting each child at the child’s level: “Because in my class I know there is a Chinese level difference, I try to make sure that I meet everyone’s needs. I use differentiation for each one to make sure that they can learn based on their level.” She works with Li Laoshi to get an idea of each student’s learning profile, as many of her current students were formerly taught by Li Laoshi. They communicate regularly.

Her own style also aligns with TNCS’s overall approach:

For me, my goal is that students can play while learning—not just sitting there while I say, ‘you have to remember this and remember that’—we play and have fun, but we learn something, too. They enjoy it more and learn more when they have hands-on activities. For example, instead of rote memorization of vocabulary words, they might create their own books and vocabulary charts, which will be fun for them as well as being something they created.

For the Chinese Lunar New Year, she and her students made dumplings together. Pei-Pei Laoshi is a lucky rat in the Chinese zodiac.

In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music, reading, and painting. She also likes to relax at home and favors Towson for being a small, quiet town. When she feels like being social, she watch movies with friends and scouts out new restaurants to try (for good, authentic Chinese food, she recommends Orient Express, near the Hopkins campus).

Traveling is also important to Pei-Pei Laoshi. So far, she has visited San Diego; Los Angeles; Seattle; Las Vegas;IMG_0910 and, of course, Orlando.

In closing, she affirmed, “I want the students to want to come to my class everyday, and happily. Then, parents will feel the same, and that’s my goal, too.”

Well said, indeed, Pei-Pei Laoshi!

TNCS Welcomes Chinese Visitors for the Lunar New Year Holiday, Part 2!

As recounted in last week’s Immersed, The New Century School takes advantage of the 2-week holiday many Chinese have in the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year by hosting special programs and inviting various groups to TNCS. For the Year of the Dog, first came a group of 15 university students, eager to take home innovative education ideas, followed by three 3rd-grade students and their parents.

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The purpose behind this second visit was some cultural exchange—immersion in an English-speaking classroom for the Chinese students for 2 weeks, and a chance for TNCS students to practice conversation skills in Mandarin with their visiting friends Myra, Tony, and Michael.

The outgoing and adaptable trio meshed immediately with their new schoolmates and were welcomed into Mrs. Sharma’s 3rd-/4th-grade homeroom with open arms. It must be said that having the visitors in class for 2 weeks meant that TNCS students got a bit of a holiday as well, getting to go on four field trips during that time!

First up was the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in honor of February being Black History Month.

Next the students visited ANG Pottery in Fell’s Point and saw a master at work, then crafted their own masterworks.

This was followed a few days later by bowling at Patterson Bowling Center.

The Port Discovery Children’s Museum was last, as appropriate, featuring Year of the Dog exhibits (among others).

Meanwhile, lots of fun things happened during school time as well, like making tacos with Chef Danielle!

Even after the school day ended, the visitors were made to feel a special part of the TNCS community, as TNCS families welcomed them into their homes for dinner. . .

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. . . or for a musical interlude during an unexpected snow day!

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Their stay culminated with a farewell and awards ceremony held at TNCS, as their proud parents watched.

TNCS students were sad to see them go, but plans are in the works for keeping in touch with Myra, Tony, and Michael, who will always remember TNCS!

TNCS Welcomes Visitors from China for the Lunar New Year Holiday!

In China, the weeks leading up to the Lunar New Year, culminating on February 16th this year, are generally a time off for many Chinese. For the past few years, The New Century School has hosted many visitors from China coinciding with this break, with 2018 seeing the largest overall numbers of visitors yet.

The first group comprised 15 university students, who clearly wanted to have a good time in addition to learning about TNCS’s unique educational approach. They had fun and made sure everyone around them did as well. They all came from various cities in Hunan Province—Chongqing (Holly), Wugang (Phoebe), Zhuzou (Dragon), Changde (Bella), Zhangjiaie (Jamie), Beijing (Elaine), Hengyang (Tiffany), Wenzhou (Bunny), Urumqi (Michelle), and the capital Changsha (Fire, Miki, Ishine, Shirley, Jane, and Smart).

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Their stay at TNCS was brief, as they had lots of sightseeing around the country on their trip itinerary. So, to make sure they got the most of their time here, their 2 days at TNCS were very full. They visited classrooms and interacted with students among other activities, divided into two alternating groups. They were eager to learn firsthand how education is handled in an independent school, and they were very receptive to the innovative ideas presented to them.

They even got the chance to participate in some group exercises designed to get them thinking and problem-solving creatively. While one group played “Lost at Sea” in the Ozone Snack Bar with half of the upper elementary students, the second group joined the remaining upper elementary students in a bucket band with Mr. Yoshi. The late January day was surprisingly warm, so the bucket band played outside.

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Not only was it a special treat to be outside in the middle of winter, but there were some subtle messages here as well. The Chinese university students saw that TNCS is an urban school, asphalt and all, and they also saw that with so much going on around the school campus, adaptability and flexibility are necessary (not to mention often make for fun surprises). Mr. Yoshi first gave a short talk, describing his background and explaining that he is a proponent of El Sistema—using music to promote social change. From there, he demonstrated some simple techniques until the group was able to play “Rufus My Dog.”

Then, it was time for the group to go off script and add their own flourishes, working in pairs of one university student and one TNCS student.

They all enjoyed that a lot. As one put it, “This kind of activity makes kids very creative and is very interesting. In China we just repeat, repeat, repeat.”

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Back in the Ozone, TNCS Co-Founder and Executive Director Roberta Faux led the group in playing “Lost at Sea,” working in teams of four or five. “Imagine you chartered a yacht and are sailing from Baltimore to New York,” she instructed. “In 100 miles, your boat blows up. You’re on a little raft, wearing a life vest waiting to be rescued. There are 15 items listed. Number your paper from 1 to 15 and rank the items you would want from most to least. There are no right or wrong answers, and you have 5 minutes.”

The results varied widely, but no teams would have survived and only one individual scored high enough to just barely make it! Despite the high number of casualties, this exercise got everyone thinking as well as collaborating. Oh, and laughing.

Download the rules and how to play here. It’s loads of fun and would be perfect for Family Game Night!

The day ended with a cooking lesson and dinner from Chef Danielle.

The group left Baltimore a day later but were unanimous in saying that they would not forget TNCS and the fun they had while there!

Part 2 continues next week when Immersed checks in with the second group who came to visit TNCS during the Lunar New Year holiday. Stay tuned!

 

Meet the Teacher: Megan Dematteo Joins TNCS Lower Elementary!

Now in its 10th year, The New Century School continues to grow up, with a new grade added each year and an expanding student body. With greater numbers of students comes the need for additional teachers, especially in the elementary division. This year, TNCS welcomed Megan Dematteo to teach one of the four lower elementary classes.

Ms. Dematteo is one of those perfect fits that the school seems to attract, with her varied background, progressive approach to education, and her love of language and culture.

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Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and growing up in nearby Harford County, Ms. Dematteo majored in Spanish at the University of Tennessee, with an additional focus on Journalism. On graduating with her undergraduate degree, she sought some real-world experience and joined AmeriCorps. “I volunteered for a year in Southeast Utah, primarily working for a non-profit that mostly served the Mexican community there,” she recounts. “We called ourselves the multicultural center and were open to serving any population, but we did have the only Spanish translation services in town. That’s where I began using Spanish on a daily basis.”

That experience made an impression on her that still informs her approach to education and life today. “I loved that community, and I felt like that was my first opportunity to see how language can open you up to meeting a whole new group of people and learning about them. A different perspective and a broadening world view comes with that,” she said.

After completing her volunteer service with AmeriCorps, she returned to the Southeast in 2015 and pursued a master’s degree in Creative Writing. During this process, she also took up teaching. “I got a job offer teaching part-time to K through 2nd-grade students at a Title 1 public school in Asheville, North Carolina doing literacy in small groups, which was was a skill set I had acquired. That was a lot of fun. I loved teaching and opening kids up to reading and writing,” she said.

The school where she taught had an incredibly diverse community, representing 32 countries ranging from Central and South America to Eastern Europe to the Pacific Islands. She enjoyed both the school and its students and the community surrounding it. She also found the experience to be “eye-opening” insofar as Asheville draws a lot of affluent tourists who do not necessarily reflect the social fabric of the people living there full time. “It was a very interesting place to be a public school teacher,” she explained, “because the public school kids don’t represent the facade that you see.” She realized that being a full-time classroom teacher was going to be her next step.

Although she was originally accepted into TNTP, an alternative credentialing program for public schools that seeks to “reimagine teaching,” in order to teach in Baltimore City public schools, she found herself instead at The Nueva School’s Innovative Teacher Program. Thus, her step turned out to be another big one, taking her all the way to the West Coast to teach at an independent school for gifted and talented students in the San Francisco Bay area. “I wanted to diversify my training,” she said. “That school has a progressive approach to education that I found really exciting, and I loved working with the gifted population. It was just fun. You could throw anything at them, and they would typically rise to the occasion.”

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Although that experience was fun, she always looked on it as temporary: “I knew ultimately that I wanted to be closer to my family and be in a place where I could see myself settling down for a while, so California was my last hurrah.” And that’s how she wound up in Baltimore, at TNCS. “I’m only in my 4th year as a teacher, but I’ve tasted every little sampling from the platter of environments to work in, and TNCS is kind of a hybrid of all the different experiences I’ve had,” she explained. “I feel like TNCS is all of those pieces of training put together in one program.”

Things are certainly coalescing—she brings bilingualism, a service orientation, and a focus on reading and writing to the classroom, which are key elements of the TNCS identity. As for ways she integrates her background of creative writing, journalism, and Spanish in the classroom, she says:

We do writing workshop a lot. I think the kids like the opportunity to be creative. We’re going to switch our focus to a little more reading this semester because we got really excited about a writing project toward the end of the year—the kids created their own book. They learned about character and plot, the beginning, middle, and end. The created their own original books, then dictated them to me, and then illustrated them. It really made them come alive. Kids that formerly weren’t super interested in the technical aspects of writing, all of a sudden found that they had a voice and became really excited and proud of the stories they were telling. It was wonderful to see that process.

To bring Spanish in, I read stories in the language, such as Mexican folk tales. I also have a couple of ‘Spanglish’ books that are written in English, but the characters might have Spanish names, for example. The students are sometimes surprised to hear me, an English native speaker, speak Spanish. I like being an example to them of somebody who is bilingual. So, I try to use Spanish in the classroom a little every day, but I am primarily an ELA teacher, and I can’t switch too much because I don’t want to confuse my students.

Ms. Dematteo is glad to see TNCS flourishing as a school and is especially appreciative of the Mandarin Chinese and Spanish language teaching. “They are doing something in Baltimore that’s never been done before, and I think it’s really commendable,” she said. “It’s also a big year as far as reaching a critical mass of students and being able to be fully operational as a pre-primary to middle school. That’s very exciting.”

She and Profesor Manuel share classes, each having 15 homeroom students. Ms. DeMatteo handles ELA and Math for the cohort of 30 total, and Prof. Manuel, Global Studies and Science. “I’m enjoying this,” she said. “It’s good to be back in Baltimore!”

TNCS Elementary and Middle School Information Night 2017

What we learn with pleasure we never forget. – Alfred Mercier, 19th century writer and physician

 

tncs-elementary-middle-school-information-night-2017On November 30th, The New Century School hosted it’s annual “info night”—an event that provides prospective families with an opportunity to get a glimpse of TNCS’s elementary and middle school curricula. TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali presented a brief overview of TNCS, from history to language learning, school philosophy, and a peek inside classroom operations.

In 2006, the school was established with five students in a one-room schoolhouse in Patterson Park. The owners of this school are two like-minded Moms that wanted language immersion as a priority for their own children, so they got some other parents together and thought it would be a great idea to start this school. Here we are, 11 years later with 215 students! We start at 2 years old and go through 7th grade. Our main objective is to attract people who are interested in language immersion in Spanish and Mandarin. We also practice Montessori principles, and I want to talk a little bit about how that overflows into our elementary/middle school program and what things we take from the Montessori preschool into to that program, especially for those families who are currently enrolled in our preschool.

First, some practical points: We have more than 50 staff members, and we offer before care all the way through to after care program. We open at 7:30 am and close at 6:00 pm, wth the school day running from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm.

Back to the benefits of multilinguism, what sticks out in my mind as most important and why I like to work in language-immersion environments is that it offers you many ways to problem solve. When you’ve had that language background, your brain will work in a more elastic way—it helps cultivate executive function skills as well as aspects of what I call the ‘invisible curriculum,’ like tolerance. We learn about the world around us through language learning.

If you’re currently in our preschool program, you’ll see that some things stay the same, including our overall approach to whole-child development through differentiated instruction as well as student-driven learning. A typical elementary/middle class size in this school is no larger than 16 or 17 students. We keep it small so that we can meet everybody’s needs in the classroom, regardless of level. Our classroom management system, the Daily 5 (or 3 or 4) Rotation, ensures that every student is getting one-on-one contact with the teacher, collaboration with others in small groups, and time to work independently. Students are given specific parameters to work within that allow them to understand what their responsibilities are. Technology and computer time is also a component of the daily classroom rotation cycle.

Teachers work in pairs or groups of four, depending on grade. Each child has a homeroom class where they are designated to start and end the day as well as to engage in various subjects. Then students have a block of time with, for example, the teacher who handles ELA and Math or Global Studies. Throughout the day, they transition to other core subjects as well as receive daily targeted language instruction for 30 to 45 minutes. In addition, they get a focused subject area in Mandarin and Spanish, such as Global Studies. In this format, language really starts to emerge.

We also have a very strong arts program. K through 8th-grade have two music classes with Music Director Martellies Warren each week. They also have two art classes and two physical education classes every week. Currently we partner with Coppermine.

Our greenhouse and chicken coops, when operational, give children the chance to cultivate plants and livestock, and we also offer a vegetarian, locally sourced lunch. Finally, we offer the Ozone Snack Bar, a student lounge where older kids can relax, socialize, and enjoy a healthy snack at select times.

IMG_2605After Mrs. Danyali spoke, each teacher briefly described his or her classroom approach and particular subject area. Following these teacher presentations, audience members asked specific questions of the presenters.

Info Night is a great way to get an initial introduction to TNCS. Additional highlights of this event can be found in Elementary and Middle School Info Night 2017, a helpful powerpoint presentation. However, to really get to know the school and discover the wonder that takes place in classrooms here every day, attend an Admissions Friday or Open House event and witness the magic first hand. Subsequently, your child will spend a shadow day with other TNCS students and experience what it’s like to actually enjoy learning.

Meet the Teacher: Barbara Sanchez Joins TNCS!

tncs-spanish-teacher-barbara-sanchezThe New Century School welcomed elementary teacher Barbara Sanchez for the 2017–2018 school year to lead a 1st- through 3rd-grade homeroom. She came to Baltimore in 2007 from Coamo, Puerto Rico when her husband accepted a position as a police officer here. She was at first sad to leave her beautiful home town and also because she thought she might have to give up teaching, but then other opportunities beckoned her. She embraced the idea of learning another language (English) as well as the benefits that the United States could offer her son with autism. She reports that he has grown a lot since being here.

In Puerto Rico, Sra. Sanchez earned dual bachelor degrees in special education and elementary education. She worked for 3 years there as a special education teacher in a group and also individually. When she arrived here, she began working in a school cafeteria, but being among students stoked her desire to teach once more. She decided to try getting a Spanish language teaching position in a city school and met TNCS’s own Professor Manuel during this time. After getting state certified to teach in Maryland in 2010, she started teaching at the Baltimore International Academy (BIA), where she was thrilled to be in the classroom again and taught there for several years. At Professor’s Manuel’s suggestion and with her husband’s support, she applied to TNCS.

IMG_2454Although she enjoyed BIA and still misses her former students and their parents, she says, “once I started here, I thought, ‘this is my place.’ I feel like this school is a part of me.” She feels she was destined to be a TNCS teacher and is constantly inserting Spanish instruction into daily school life, even on the playground. Her subjects, however, are Math and Global Studies. “I don’t teach Spanish class, but I use the Spanish to talk with the students,” she explained. “These kids are amazing. The kids here want to learn, they respect me, and they respect each other. This school is amazing and is perfect for me. I’m happy,” she said.

What she really wants parents to know is this: “Every child learns differently, but these children really want to learn, which is unlike what I experienced in a public school. If they students are learning, I’m happy,” she said most sincerely. “And that is our promise to this class, to every kid that we have in this class.”

Sra. Sanchez, TNCS is very glad to have you here!