‘Tis the Season for Cuddles & Crafts!

On Monday, December 20th, K–8 students at The New Century School had some very special visitors: Pets on Wheels.

TNCS School Counselor Daphnee Hope felt that TNCS students needed to end the year on a very positive note so she found the nonprofit group who brings therapy dogs to people in need of a cuddle. For her Cuddles and Crafts event, students engaged in a mindfulness craft for 45 minutes and then got to pet and hug the dogs.

“Cuddles & Crafts was a huge hit this morning! We had 3 beautiful therapy dogs visit our K-8 classrooms while students completed mindfulness crafts that included coloring mandalas, creating coffee filter butterflies, and designing a chain of calm. Students were so excited to see these furry friends and give them hugs,” said Mrs. Hope.

And that’s really all that needs to be said: in this post, the photos tell the story (you can even see the smiles behind the masks!). Fur real.

Happy Holidays, TNCS Community!

Daphnee Hope: TNCS’s School Counselor Shares Her Philosophy of Positivity!

At The New Century School, the whole child is important, and this is not just lip service. Not just students’ academic selves, but their psychological, social, emotional, and artistic sides are cared for and cultivated. So, although the 2021–2021 school year has been particularly challenging for students who are still coping with the fallout from the pandemic, TNCS students are fortunate to have a very important addition to faculty this year to help: Daphnee Hope, TNCS School Counselor. Mrs. Hope began counseling during the last school year in a limited capacity but has now made it official, and TNCS students are flourishing under her guidance. Together, her and TNCS Dean of Students Adriana DuPrau have joined forces to ensure their health and happiness.

Counseling

Mrs. Hope has been meeting with TNCS students through whole group lessons, targeted small groups, and one-on-one counseling. Counseling has been really fun this year,” said Mrs. Hope. She feels she can really blossom in this role, and with no existing curriculum to draw on, she has been developing her own. This has given her the freedom to move in the directions she feels most necessary and that will yield the most fruit. At the same time, she says, “there’s a big learning curve, and I am still finding my voice as a counselor. There’s a lot of wonderful things, but it’s also challenging, so I’ve been making connections with other school counselors in the area and asking questions about general policy and what resources they use.”

She is on campus Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and sees each classroom (elementary and up) twice a month. Character-building lessons differ and are based on developmental age.

Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade

For this age group, Mrs. Hope does a 45-minute character-building lesson based on the Positive Action curriculum, whose premise is that positive actions make us feel better about ourselves and brighten our lives, which leads to making more positive choices. “It’s all about how positive actions make you feel better as a person. When you feel better, you radiate goodness, and then you’re making other things better—a ripple effect,” she said. She uses puppet animals with the kindergarten students, and a system of adding the names of students spotted making positive actions on a special elephant hanging on the wall for all to see for the second- and third-grade students. She says this is helping all students notice more and more good things happening around them.

“For K through 3, the whole month of November was about communication,” she explained. “We started with nonverbal communication and body language. We practiced how it’s important to look in the eyes of the person you’re talking to, and we also talked about active listening versus passive listening. When somebody asks you something, you don’t immediately change the subject to talk about yourself; you listen and then you make a follow-up comment.”

4th Through 6th Grades

Although Mrs. Hope started this group out with Positive Actions, she found the need to adapt and adjust for this spectrum of ages. So she polled them on what kinds of things they might enjoy exploring. Relationships and other social aspects are historically challenging areas for this age group, so Mrs. Hope has been talking with them about peer influences and otherwise tailoring her monthly themes to what their needs are.

“They need a lot of support with self-control, so I’m trying to work in partnership with the teachers to make plans for individual students,” she said.

7th and 8th Grades

For middle schoolers, Mrs. Hope is using the Habitudes® curriculum that the counselor at Friends School recommended. “It involves lessons centered around the core values of self-discipline, motivation, and responsibility,” she explained, to cultivate leaders and “[equip] them to navigate through life’s challenges and opportunities”. Mrs. Hope says TNCS 7th- and 8th-graders are loving it!

“Habitudes has challenged our middle schoolers to slow down and think about the qualities that make great leaders. Last month we focused on perspective taking,” she said. This month, we are jumping into responding with empathy, both with ourselves and others.”

Advisory has a place here, too.

Small-Group Sessions

In between classroom-session weeks during the first two school quarters, Mrs. Hope also holds small-group sessions during lunch for 4th- through 8th-graders. Students join these groups based on their individual needs, such as managing anxiety, building self-esteem, or managing grief and loss.

Every other week we do a ‘lunch bunch’ depending on their needs, so I surveyed students about what areas they feel they need support in and how they rank their mental health. That’s a big focus right now, just giving them the space to work on their mental health because I think a lot of them are struggling with it. So, for example, in the managing anxiety group, we talk about irrational thoughts and how they snowball. We think our thoughts are reality, but I’m trying to work with them on just because you think something, doesn’t mean that’s what is true.

In quarters three and four, she’ll hold small-group sessions for the younger TNCS students in building north. Their needs are much different, given their developmental stage.

One-on-One Counseling

As her time spent with students is fairly intensive, Mrs. Hope has picked up on some issues. “I have become aware that many of our middle schoolers are struggling with their mental health,” she said. Mental health issues are all-too common in this age group, but the last 2 years have only increased the incidence:

Poor mental health impacts all areas of a child’s life, ranging from academic success to feelings of self-worth to healthy peer interactions. The last two years have been particularly hard on our children as they journey through adolescence. Scary statistics show that between February and March 2021 alone, the number of emergency room visits increased by 50.6% for presumed suicide attempts among youth in comparison to 2019. At the moment, I am working on improving the mental health of our students.

In addition to having one-on-one conversations with students, Mrs. Hope might also make health referrals to outside therapists for those who could benefit.

Social and Emotional Learning

The structure Mrs. Hope has created for reaching all TNCS students in various ways is very well thought out and executed, but how is she putting all of this into practice?

Suffice to say, she has been busy. She created a social-emotional learning (SEL) calendar for every grade level with monthly themed topics, for example. This month, because it’s a short one, we are doing gratitude across the board,” she explained. “It’s going to look different in each classroom. For 7th and 8th grade, it’s looking at the physical, mental, social, and spiritual effects of gratitude on the body (see the slide show they’ve been studying from here). With younger kids, it’s exploring the power of saying, ‘thank you’. Teachers are implementing these conversations in their morning circle time, core classes, hallway transitions, lunch, and so on, all across the board.” Mrs. Hope is trying to make it easy for teachers to implement and reinforce these mini-lessons anywhere. “The message that I’m conveying twice a month has to be reiterated by teachers, who are with their students 85% of the time, or else it’s not going to stick.” Younger students work on things like respecting physical space.

Social Media

In the 7th- and 8th-grade classroom, discussions about social media have been foremost. “As you may know,” wrote Mrs. Hope in an email to parents, “there is a worrying correlation between screen time and depressive symptoms, particularly amongst teens. Ms. Sussman and I are spending the month of November discussing all things social media with your children—the pros, the cons, and the in betweens. We would love your partnership in this conversation and in your attention to your child’s weekly screen time.”

After watching a TEDx talk by a social media expert, Bailey Parnell, students shared that they appreciated how honest and realistic she was, particularly about how important social media is many peoples’ lives and how it all comes down to how it’s used. “Learning about and talking about these topics allows us to make informed and intentional decisions. Parnell called this, ‘practicing safe social,’ which, yes, a few students chuckled at,” said Mrs. Hope.

After they took the ISEE exam in mid November, middle schoolers watched The Social Dilemma, a “documentary that explores the relationship between technology and human behavior and will prompt more discussion and reflection about student usage,” said Mrs. Hope. (You can read more here about the film.)

So, they have been talking about the effects of addictive behaviors and how unplugging from time to time is so important. Homeroom teacher Gab Sussman has been all for it, saying, “Mrs. Hope has assigned our class to learn more about and discuss the roles of social media in our lives. This week, we watched some videos that touched upon a few important topics, such as how social media affects our friendships, both positively and negatively, and how social media can portray and influence falsehoods about our lives. I appreciate the opportunity to be having these important conversations within our Homeroom!”

To demonstrate the rewards of de-screening, Mrs. Hope came up with the idea of monthly nature days; read about the very first below.

Gender Inclusivity

As TNCS has aged up and developed a true middle school, the needs of these older students have also grown. Even so, TNCS has always fostered an environment of inclusivity. “TNCS students embrace this inclusivity, especially around the evolving topic of gender identity,” said Head of School Tad Jacks in a letter* to parents.

In a separate email to parents, Mrs. Hope wrote:

In my role as the school counselor, I will be delivering developmentally appropriate health lessons that are inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Research notes that there is a direct correlation between a student’s sense of belonging and their academic achievement. In fact, ‘many students may be more likely to prosper academically in settings with more collaborative modes of learning that acknowledge students’ personal experiences’ (Kaplan and Miller 2007). As a result, it is vital for educators to carve out spaces where students feel seen and supported as their most authentic selves.

So, when she’s not with students, she has been working on writing TNCS’s gender-inclusive policies for the last 3 months. “We’ve been talking to other schools and looking at research and trying to develop policies that are very supportive of all of our students and also respecting their privacy. The 7th and 8th grade are definitely keeping me on my toes!”

The first gender-identity lesson for middle schoolers took place in November. “We explored how gender exists on a spectrum, clarified terms such as ‘gender expression’ and ‘gender identity’ and unpacked how to support each other by using correct pronouns. Many students were already educated and comfortable with this topic,” she said. Students were very engaged, respectful and asked supportive questions. I am very proud of the dialogue that emerged from this discussion.”

At the end of the lesson, they could complete a form for their teachers that shared more about their gender identity and pronouns if they chose.

The resources they used to launch their gender identity and gender inclusive discussions were amaze.org, GLSEN, and the Genderbread Person v4.0, “a teaching tool for breaking the big concept of gender down into bite-sized, digestible pieces.”

*Read Mr. Jack’s full letter here.

Pen Pals

The 3rd- through 5th-grade groups are partnering with the United states Postal Service to do a pen pal project. “They place you with classrooms in different regions of America, and you get a pen pal for the rest of the year. Then they actually coordinate a zoom visit with the homeroom classes so everyone can see what their pen pals look like,” said Mrs. Hope.

Students will write four total letters beginning in January. The idea is to learn about a child who has grown up in a different area of the country and build rapport, which is why it falls under SEL, but this neat project also weaves in academics by honing letter-writing skills and how to have a conversation and ask interesting questions.

Schoolwide SEL Initiatives

As mentioned in the introduction, Mrs. Hope and Mrs. DuPrau have partnered on several initiatives to increase students’ day-to-day happiness. They held the Blue Out anti-bullying awareness day, for example, for which the entire school dressed head to toe in blue. A spirit award was handed out to the “bluest” class, which was Ms. Weiskopf’s 2nd- and 3rd-graders, and they were treated to ice cream. A subsequent spirit week took place during American Education Week during which classes again competed for who could show the most school spirit.

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The dynamic duo will also be working with the TNCS Parent Council on recognizing our teachers and all-around making it fun to be at school.

Cuddles and Crafts

And now, you get a sneak peek into an upcoming SEL initiative that TNCS students will be absolutely bananas over. Mrs. Hope found Pets on Wheels, a nonprofit that brings therapy dogs to folks in need of a little cuddle, and came up with the idea of Cuddles and Crafts for TNCS students. “We’ll do a mindfulness craft for 45 minutes or so and then we’ll have the dogs come through the classrooms for a little bit of self-care, mental health positivity . . . just taking a breather and having some fun,” she said.

TNCS students always beg for projects that involve animals, so this should be quite the hit. Pictures to come!

Unplugging and Getting Out and About

You might be noticing the emphasis on fun, and there’s good reason for that. As Mrs. Hope puts it, “This is our first smooth full year back, and I’m seeing a lot of SEL issues popping up like at recess—simple communication and relationship issues. So to wind out quarter 2, she is developing ways “to focus on reconnecting with ourselves.” This means getting off campus and getting off screens!

Reflection Day

As a way of reconnecting with themselves and improving their mental health, middle schoolers participated in the first-ever Reflection Day as a homeroom. This involved spending the day on a local hiking trail, relaxing in nature, and carving out time for self care.

Mrs. Hope had been talking to students about putting phones away and the healing power of nature—how good it is for our bodies and our minds. She hopes for this to be a quarterly event, and the first one was a huge hit. Students throughly enjoyed their hike to Annapolis Rock. “It was a bit chilly,” said Mrs. Hope, “but students said multiple times how nice it was to unplug and talk to each other. They appreciated having the face masks off, too. It’s so nice to see someone’s whole face and expression.”

They hiked 5.87 miles, and students were utterly in awe of the views. “We got to make some wonderful memories together as a class,” said Mrs. Hope. “They are already keeping me on my toes and asking what hike we are doing next!”

What was Ms. Sussman’s take? “Our unplugged hike along the Appalachian Trail on Monday was absolutely amazing! A major shoutout to Mrs. Hope for dreaming up and organizing this trip for us. It felt so special to be out in nature for the day together as a homeroom. We certainly missed the students who couldn’t make it, and look forward to future opportunities to spend quality time outside of the classroom with each other.”

She plans a smaller hike in Patapsco State Park with the 4th- through 6th-graders and is hoping to partner with Living Classrooms to implement an off-campus day for the K through 3rd-graders.

Mini Trips off Campus

To keep spirits up, Mrs. Hope and TNCS teachers are finding all kinds of ways to insert rewarding mini excursions throughout the school day. As a reward for taking the grueling ISEE exam, for example, middle schoolers walked to BOP Pizza for a class field trip and some lunch. Mrs, Hope said they displayed hard work and determination throughout this tough test.

Mrs. Hope’s advisory group asked about grabbing a bagel and cup of cocoa for breakfast. They decided to make it a regular thing and will visit a neighboring shop like Pitango or the Daily Grind each first Thursday of the month.

The K through 3rd group will take a walking trip to Kilwins for a treat next week. “We’re working really closely to create opportunities for the kids to just get out of classroom and build community,” said Mrs. Hope.

Edit 12/7/21: Photos from the Kilwins trip!

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And the older kids!

 

Girls on the Run

From the beginning of the school year, female TNCS students had the option of participating in Girls on the Run (3rd through 5th grades) or Hearts and Soles (6th through 8th grades), a twice weekly running program that culminated on Sunday, December 5th with a 5K race. According to their website, GOTR’s mission is “to inspire all girls to build confidence and make intentional decisions, while fostering care and compassion for self and others. Trained coaches use physical activity and dynamic discussions to build social, emotional and physical skills in every girl while encouraging healthy habits for life.”

TNCS students fell in love with the program, which Mrs. Hope credits their amazing coaches for—huge thanks to TNCS mom Debbie Casanova for coaching the younger girls and Gab Sussman and Nameeta Sharma for coaching the older ones! Although it’s sad to see the end of this truly inspirational program, you can bet it’ll be back next year!

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It’s clear that Mrs. Hope is energized and committed to optimizing the mental health of TNCS students. “My philosophy with our counseling program is to focus on the mental health of our children and to put a big emphasis on positivity and gratitude and things that lift them up, because there’s so much that’s happening right now in the world,” she said.

Adriana DuPrau: TNCS’s Dean of Students on Service-Learning, Fundraising, Community-Building, and the All-New Advisory Board!

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 Projects

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!

BARCS

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!)

Puerto Rico

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.

Fundraising Initiatives

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.

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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!

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Community-Building Initiatives

The internal community building Mrs. DuPrau has engendered so far this year is off the charts.

Student Council

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.

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Spirit Days

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!

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“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.

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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!”

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Anti-Bullying Campaign

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.

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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.

Advisory Program

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.

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!

Ann Marie Simonetti Joins TNCS as Admissions Director!

The 2021–2022 school year at The New Century School has been characterized by hope, joy, and glad new faces in the student body and the faculty and staff. One such new member of the TNCS community is Ann Marie Simonetti, Director of Enrollment Management (Admissions) and Marketing. Ms. Simonetti joined TNCS in September, when former TNCS Admissions Director Suzannah Hopkins accepted a position at St. Mary’s School in Annapolis, where her son is completing his senior year. Although the TNCS community was sorry to see Ms. Hopkins go, wishing her well in a position she will obviously enjoy deeply and being thrilled to welcome Ms. Simonetti are more than adequate consolation.

With school leadership experience in professional development, admissions, digital marketing and design, and advancement, Ms. Simonetti brings a wealth of knowledge to her position, which is so integral to the school. “I’m super excited to be here,” she said. “Everyone is so helpful and welcoming. It’s been a great couple of weeks, and [Ms. Hopkins] certainly did a great job of giving me all the institutional knowledge in the couple of days we got to be together.” Let’s get to know our new Admissions Director!

Educational and Professional Background

Ms. Simonetti attended the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the alma mater of her parents and a few other family members, right out of high school. “I was undetermined for a while but eventually got into the major of hospitality and quickly found that to be the right place for me. I felt passionate about it, enough to pursue that as a career after college,” she explained. After graduation in 2003, she did a 400-hour internship at the Radisson in Valley Forge (since renamed). A Conference Center was attached to this very large business-oriented hotel, and her internship involved working in all the departments—front desk, sales, reservations, housekeeping—and getting a comprehensive picture of what operations required on a day-to-day basis.

“Through that, I found that sales and marketing was the area I really wanted to focus on and was very lucky to be asked to stay on in that role. I had the opportunity to do that for a while and then connected with the Radnor Hotel on the main line of Philadelphia, where I got into a management position and really started getting my footing in terms of how sales and marketing works together.” During her time at the Radnor Hotel, an unexpected opportunity arose for her to transition from corporate meeting planning to wedding planning. “Doing that, I got more experience working with all members of the family and how they each had individual wants and needs, hopes, and dreams to express. I also quickly acclimated to managing a rigorous project schedule and began exploring workflow management tools.”

It will become clear that her rich, diverse background primed her for her new role. Answering inquiries, providing customer service, following up on the detail-oriented pieces, and communicating the necessary information to all the people who need to work together to make an event successful served her well and parallels some of her current tasks. “The conversations I have now are very similar to those I had in that role in that they are focused on common goals and rely heavily on building a relationship to achieve those goals,” she said.

While weighing various options for graduate school she spent time as a private nanny. This experience reminded her of the many hours she spent in her Mom’s classroom and Dad’s school office as a child. She started on a post-baccalaureate degree at Cabrini University, where, coincidentally, our Head of School, Mr. Jacks, used to ride his bike through campus. During this time, she visited her hometown in south-central Pennsylvania and reconnected with her now-husband who she knew growing up. The couple had their first daughter in 2010 followed by twin daughters soon after.

After moving back to Pennsylvania she transferred from Cabrini into a unique post-baccalaureate teacher intern program. The program allows those with bachelor’s degrees to get hands-on observation time and experience in the classroom. “In this way, we progressed through to an instructional teaching certificate more expeditiously than we may have in a more traditional degree program,” she explained.

From Pennsylvania to Maryland . . . and TNCS!

Before Ms. Simonetti moved to Maryland, she had some more knowledge and experience to glean. After finishing her teaching certificate, she earned a master’s in curriculum instruction while working as a graduate assistant in the Teacher Education Department at Shippensburg University. Adding another piece to the puzzle, she then started working at the Montessori school where her oldest daughter was attending. “This was exciting for us in terms of wanting her to be there—it’s a philosophy I’m very passionate about—so when the opportunity came around to jump on board, I did my Montessori certification with them,” she explained. Toward the end of 2019, her husband was approached with a contract in Glen Burnie. Although only an hour and 20 minutes from where they lived in Pennsylvania, they felt that was not a reasonable daily commute.

So, I started looking for school administration opportunities that might be available near Glen Burnie. The robust community of Montessorians in this area was brought to my attention in talking with colleagues and members of my Montessori training cohort. After accepting a position in Columbia, we started researching schools and different places that we could live. We settled on Marriottsville/Woodstock, which is right in between Glen Burnie and Columbia and moved here in March of 2020.

If March 2020 sounds familiar, you’re probably feeling sympathetic for the timing of the Simonettis’ move. She was in school for only 6 days before the shutdown. Fortunately, this allowed them to get to know their surroundings and neighbors, and, as she neared the end of her 1-year contract, she started looking for different opportunities where she could grow and be part of a larger community. She began looking for schools with a toddler through 8th-grade model similar to the Montessori Academy of Chambersburg, where she worked in Pennsylvania.

At TNCS, the culture and the community appealed to her as well as the core values, which align with her personal mission statement and her vision for her professional and personal life. So, when this opportunity became available, she quickly reached out to TNCS Co-Executive Directors/Co-Founders Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner to convey her interest in the position but also as a “new place to call home and dig in there and set some roots. I really feel like I could contribute to the success and the growth of the students, the school, and the community and also to have that symbiotic relationship that we try to cultivate in the environment with the children,” she said.

In just her few weeks here so far, she’s already enjoying TNCS tremendously:

I really feel that everyone has been welcoming and helpful. The sense of community that I was getting from the website, my first visit here, and from some of the testimonials I’ve read online, is what I’m experiencing here on a daily basis. As someone who spent a lot of time in the classroom, I’m seeing that the things that are happening in practice are what I’m discussing with potential students and families as our philosophy, as our pedagogy and our curriculum. That’s so inspiring and makes it easy for me to promote the school because we really are providing those great opportunities and robust activities and meeting the individual needs of everyone in our community in a way that sets the foundation for learning and growing. It’s a great place for them to be but it’s also what I’m experiencing as a new team member—being met where I am and in terms of what I know and what I don’t know and what I need to bridge the gap.

For now, she’s focused on finding students who are the right fit for TNCS as well as continuing to getting to know current students and their families, learning more about the new advisory program (stay tuned for an upcoming blog!), and bringing some of her background and experience with outreach enrichment. “I’m getting to know our internal community and bringing ideas for how to strengthen our relationship with our external community outside the walls of the school.”

“I look forward to being here every day,” she said. And, when she’s back home in Marriottsville, you can bet she’s staying active. She coaches field hockey for the Howard Stampede and teaches a group fitness class. She also spends a lot of time enjoying the outdoors with her family, kayaking, exploring, and soaking up the beautiful surroundings.


Ms. Simonetti will be offering both in-person/virtual admissions events throughout the year. Please reach out to her if you know of a family who would benefit from being part of the TNCS community. Psst—our Fall Open House Is Saturday, October 23, 2021!