Music Is in the Air: TNCS Welcomes Back Martellies Warren!

As mentioned in a previous post, the 2022–2023 school year at The New Century School promises to be its best so far (and, if the trend continues, next year will top even this year!). Amidst all of the excitement of celebrating its 10th anniversary and welcoming a new Head of School, TNCS got some more good news: Martellies Warren rejoined the fold!

He’s Baaack!

As for how Mr. Warren returned to TNCS, we have TNCS Head of School Erika Johnson to thank. . . and maybe some cosmic good luck. “This is a period in my life where things are aligning,” said Mr. Warren. “I’m learning that what looks at first to be an obstacle can sometimes be necessary to have you in place for your next step.”

The sequence of events goes like this: Mr. Warren was about to start working at a Montgomery County Montessori school and had come to TNCS during the first week of the school year to gather some required paperwork for his new job. He encounters Ms. Johnson, whom he had coincidentally met briefly years earlier, and they strike up a conversation on realizing the acquaintanceship. “We had an existing connection that opened the door for us to sit and talk,” he explains. After they caught up a bit, Ms. Johnson realized she was talking to “the” Mr. Warren, the former TNCS Music Director who everyone still speaks so lovingly about, and she didn’t hesitate. They discussed Mr. Warren’s professional goals, and, it just so happens that one of his big goals—a leadership position—was put on hold temporarily due to an unexpected life event. This pause was going to mean that Mr. Warren was going back into the classroom full time, instead of joining the high school’s administration team. He was completely fine with this, but when Ms. Johnson offered him a spot back at TNCS as Director of Music and Extended Activities, he saw that maybe this is how it was supposed to be: one door closed in order to open a better one.

Mr. Warren describes his decision-making process as typically very deliberate and unhurried, and he asked Ms. Johnson for some time to consider her offer. He ended up not needing much and got back to her the same day. “I let her know I’m very interested, but my main concern is doing this right and not letting down the other school,” he explained. With his return to TNCS destined to be, however, the Head of the other school was nothing but supportive, telling Mr. Warren he couldn’t pass up this wonderful opportunity.

Where He’s Been

Mr. Warren used his 3-year hiatus from TNCS to develop professionally and to tie together all of the various threads he had been exploring. He is a certified Montessori teacher and taught as Montessori Lead Teacher for several years at TNCS—some of his former primary students are current TNCS middle schoolers, in fact! Teaching in a traditional classroom was a new skill he honed while at Woodlawn Middle School from 2019–2022. “I learned a lot there,” he said, “especially how important understanding the culture is and building relationships with students in order to be effective in that environment. You have to earn students’ trust.”

He says his experience at Woodlawn rounded out his knowledge of the school setting so that, in addition to being an expert in the Montessori method, he also knows state standards and the public school perspective. This well-rounded view has meant that in returning to TNCS, he is able to help out in all sorts of ways, where and as needed.

This versatility is actually nothing new. It may surprise no one to learn that Mr. Warren positively thrived in the all-virtual and then hybrid live/virtual instructional environments the pandemic demanded. “I absolutely loved it,” he said. “It took a lot of preparation, but I would have my fun slides ready, and then it’s just all about personality!” If anyone knows how to engage an audience, it’s Martellies Warren!

Speaking of engaging an audience, Mr. Warren is still vocalizing with Anthony Brown and group therAPy*, and they have earned an additional Grammy nomination since we last checked! Just as exciting, Mr. Warren is the proud recipient of a gold record for 2015’s “Worth”!

A new album is due out next year along the theme of affirmations. Performing in a musical group wasn’t easy during the pandemic, of course, but they held it together. “It made me realize how fragile the music industry is,” he said. “The pandemic took us off the stage, and fortunately that’s not what I was solely depending on for my livelihood. It helped me realize how lucky I am to have my other work. It also forced us to figure out how to make this work and do a lot of virtual things. It made us all technology experts,” he joked. So, affirmations is about finding the positive among the seeming negative.

Where He’s Going

At TNCS, Mr. Warren is teaching music classes twice weekly to all students except those in the preprimary division. These classes will start with some music theory, sight reading, solfège skills, and so on and then get right to singing. “I want to make sure that they’re getting the music skills they need. Especially my middle school students—I want to make sure they’re not walking into someone’s choral program ill-equipped. I want to give them everything to make them feel more confident if they want to pursue music,” he said.

Mr. Warren has also instilled in his students the importance of maintaining professionalism on stage, and many of his former students still remember this. When an artist is performing, we owe them respect, which means staying quiet and letting them do their thing without distraction. He says that, since back at TNCS, he has heard an older student tell a younger student, “You’ve already had recess; it’s time to pay attention. Music is serious.”

As if that isn’t adorable enough, it’s a sign of wonderful things to come: the return of the exalted winter and spring concerts. These are still very much in development, but “stay tuned.”

Also on the horizon are Fine Arts–related field trips, which fall under his Extended Activities hat. Those, too, are still TBD, as Mr. Warren navigates how to safely resume such excursions with vestiges of the pandemic lingering. On campus, extended activities means more than extracurriculars. He is seeking alignment between what students do in class and out (One school, One program, One community). This means talking with teachers, understanding their daily curricula, and incorporating those themes and reinforcing those lessons in all of the fun supplemental activities available at TNCS. “We’re trying to structure this in a way that it runs as smoothly as possible by taking the information that they’re getting from the school day and now applying that in a different way,” said Mr. Warren.

Finally, Mr. Warren is back not just for his former and new students, but also for the TNCS community, including faculty and staff. “Even if it’s not in my job description, what can I do  to help? The leadership team is amazing, and I’m so lucky to now be part of it.”


*Why is the AP in group therAPy capitalized? It stands for “Answered Prayers,” and how very fitting is that?

Meet Erika Johnson: TNCS’s New Head of School!

At The New Century School, the 2022–2023 school year is going to be an especially consequential one. It not only marks a decade since opening as TNCS, but it has also brought the TNCS community a new Head of School. As Head, Erika Johnson has an important message for us: One school, One program, One community.

Indeed, as we’ll see, Ms. Johnson sees her role, at least initially, as one of unifying all of the many wonderful threads that have made TNCS what it is into one cohesive, beautiful tapestry.

Meet Erika Johnson!

Let’s start with how Ms. Johnson came to be TNCS’s new Head of School—this story may surprise you! With the former Interim Head’s time fulfilled, TNCS was actively recruiting candidates. But when TNCS Co-Founders/Co-Executive Directors Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner met Ms. Johnson in the context of seeking Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) instruction for TNCS students, they knew they were speaking to a natural leader and asked her to be Head of School instead! (And, looking ahead a bit, the theme of DEI will come up again.)

Background

To back up, Ms. Johnson and her husband are originally from Baltimore. They traced quite a route around the country before returning here in 2014, however. Ms. Johnson attended McDonogh School from elementary through high school, then earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland. From there, she went on to pursue a Master’s degree in Liberal Studies from Loyola University. (And she’s not done yet—next year, she’ll enter a doctoral program at American University for an Ed.D. in Educational Policy and Leadership.)

Amidst all that education, she still found time to get married in 2000 and start a family in 2002. Her twin boys were born in Atlanta, GA, where she was teaching kindergarten and after-school programs with the Boys and Girls Club of America. In 2005, the Johnsons relocated to Oklahoma City, OK, where they welcomed a daughter. There, Ms. Johnson taught middle school, and Mr. Johnson was a youth pastor. Soon after, he was called to lead a church in Dallas, TX, where they remained from 2008 to 2014. While in Dallas, Ms. Johnson homeschooled her three children and helped her husband build relationships with the community, such as by offering a food pantry. An avid advocate of literacy, she handed out books to the young people coming through the food pantry line.

If you’re starting to see some themes emerge, you’re on the right track. “I’ve always been in the classroom in some capacity,” said Ms. Johnson. Whether that’s in an actual classroom or in an ad hoc classroom taking place around the dining room table, along the food pantry line, or in her childhood bedroom as she taught her dolls to read, Ms. Johnson is a born educator. She describes being “plucked” from her congregation by the leader of the youth ministry to start teaching Sunday school lessons at the age of 11. “For me, those lessons always led back to teaching reading. Literacy has always been very important to me, so I was introducing stories and phonics and all these things through Sunday school lessons, and I’ve been teaching ever since,” she explained.

“Diversity Is Not Visual”

As for how the Johnsons wound up back in Baltimore, they returned to take over the elder Mr. Johnson’s tree removal service so he could retire. One of Ms. Johnson’s positions back on her home turf involved serving as Director of DEI at Notre Dame Preparatory School. “My heart is in the private school world,” she said.

As a student of color at McDonogh for 12 years, I am acutely aware that all students need an advocate. Now more than ever, when diversity is not visual, students need advocates not just in the classroom but within the administration so that the entire organization is able to shift to meet the needs of all students. There was a time when diversity could be relegated to Black and white. Today, diversity means so much more, and often one’s identity cannot be seen with the eyes. Our education systems must teach inclusion as we grow awareness about the complexity of identity.

And that brings us to TNCS.

Erika Johnson at TNCS

Ms. Johnson started at TNCS at the end of the last school year, taking those last couple of months to observe. She did, however, jump in and assist with some immediate needs around campus, so she got some on-the-job training. Since then, she has accomplished quite a bit.

“One School, One Program, One Community”

Right away, Ms. Johnson noticed that a lot was happening around her. Staff and faculty members were working diligently at their tasks, but not necessarily doing it “together.” “Part of the plan that I’ve set forth for the Leadership Team is to create One school, One program, One community. This unifies us so that the preschool is not isolated from the K through 8 program and vice versa. We’re really hoping to help families understand that what we begin at 2 years will walk with those students up through 8th grade,” she explained.

As part of this unification mantra, Ms. Johnson in collaboration with her Leadership Team (Ann Marie Simonetti, Director of Admissions; Abby Hou, Director of Preschool; and Alexis Boyd, Director of Student Support), has created the “Portrait of a Graduate.” This launches from TNCS’s four Core Values of compassion, service, respect, and courage and defines graduates by five traits, including:

  • Authentic global citizen
  • Inquisitive lifelong learner
  • Reflective communicator and collaborator
  • Creative problem-solver
  • Inclusive leader

“These are the things that we want to see from our 8th-graders as they move on to high school, but this also gives our faculty and staff a vision for who they have in their classroom—that everything they’re doing should be linked to the development of these traits,” said Ms. Johnson.

Another unification measure TNCS has implemented under Ms. Johnson’s leadership concerns the former TNCS Parent Council, which has now been renamed Family Partnership and will merge with the volunteering arm. Instead of the former Classroom Parent, that role has transitioned to Family Representative. “We’re trying to use more inclusive language and to demonstrate our understanding that families come in many different forms,” she explained. Also new this year, the Leadership Team will participate in the monthly Family Partnership meetings. They hope to build a strong link between the Family Community and the Administration.

“Sit and Steep in the Community”

With all that Ms. Johnson has already accompIished, she is careful to not overdo it so early. She explains it this way: “People ask what my vision for TNCS is, and I think the reality is that nobody can come in and cast vision for an organization they don’t know. I need a year to sit and steep in the community. I need to get to know the available resources and the curriculum, so that I can cast a vision. My hope is that the Portrait of a Graduate will resonate with the community. It really is who TNCS had already declared themselves to be. Now, how do we activate a plan to ensure success for each student?”

While she is developing this vision, she has a request of the community: Please be patient with us. “The leadership team is brand new. We are trying to honor the program as it has been designed while also remaining true to our Montessori inspiration and multilingual focus. We’re also trying to implement the necessary infrastructure to make those things possible. That’s going to take a bit of patience from everyone in the community,” she said.

In a true testament to all that Ms. Johnson has done so far for TNCS, this perspective is shared among the faculty and staff. Director of Admissions and Marketing and Montessori Programming Advisor Ann Marie Simonetti says, “Ms. Johnson joined us as a visionary leader with a deep respect for, and commitment to, the TNCS community. Her dedication to building relationships and deepening partnerships is evident in her daily interactions with students, families, faculty, and staff. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside her on the Leadership Team as we endeavor to inspire lifelong learning and empower each member of our community to be their best.”


Although she gives her best to the TNCS community, Ms. Johnson balances work life with family life, and showers her loved ones, including King, her rescue Pit Bull, with love, laughter, joy, and respect.

TNCS Middle School Capstone Trip: Return to Puerto Rico!

At The New Century School, when the student body aged out of elementary school in the spring of 2016, TNCS added a middle school division the following fall. Just as with all other TNCS divisions, however, middle school at TNCS needed to be something extraordinary.

Adding to all of the characteristics that make TNCS essentially TNCS (like small class sizes, mixed-age classrooms, multilingual curricula, differentiated instruction, learning by discovery, and so on), the administration decided to cap off this critical development period with an international service-learning trip. The first students to complete TNCS middle school would graduate in the spring of 2019, and to commemorate that momentous occasion, they were also the first to head out abroad on what has become known as the aptly named Capstone Trip. That destination was Puerto Rico, followed by Costa Rica in 2020 just before the pandemic halted international travel, no trip in 2021 because of the pandemic-related travel restrictions (but graduates had gone to Costa Rica the prior year as 7th-graders), and now back to Puerto Rico in 2022.

Puerto Rico, Here We Come!

After school and a quick meal of pizza on Monday, April 25th, TNCS 7th- and 8th-graders were BWI bound, accompanied by chaperones Adriana DuPrau (TNCS Dean of Students), Daphnee Hope (TNCS School Counselor), and Lori Gorbey (TNCS Front Desk).

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They landed in San Juan around midnight and went straight to their dormitory-style lodgings at The Inter American University of Puerto Rico/Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico – Recinto Metro in Cupey. Their kind handler Pedro would be with the them for the duration of the trip.

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Tuesday, April 26th: No Rest for the Weary!

Their first day in PR was packed, so they were up an at ’em early that morning. They had breakfast and headed out to  the Centro Ambiental Santa Ana (CASA), located in the Julio Enrique Monagas National Park in Bayamón. The CASA (Santa Ana Environmental Center in Englsh) provides educational programs for the appreciation, study, and conservation of the environment. Perfect for the first day of service learning!

TNCS students toured the park, had lunch, then spent the afternoon cleaning and painting at CASA. This urban forest has great ecological, cultural, recreational, and educational value, as the slideshow below will demonstrate. CASA promotes the reconnection of people with nature through educational programs; research; thematic, organized fun; and relevant interpretative experiences.

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The exhausted but happy kids returned home then met up for dinner and a movie with CeDIn students (more on CeDIn below). From there, things got pretty goofy!

Wednesday, April 27th: CeDIn Day!

This day’s itinerary was all about CeDIn (a laboratory school from preschool to 4th-grade). Its mission is:

to provide a humanistic education, of excellence, sensitive to changes in the world, that prepares for university life, tends to the integral development of the individual, and provides a space for practice and research for students of education and professions related to behavior.

The educational process is framed by universal Christian-ecumenical values; the development of knowledge skills; the integration of fine arts, technology and sports, and the promotion of a Culture of Peace.

TNCS students spent the day with CeDIn middle schoolers, visiting their classrooms, which Mrs. DuPrau described as themed and that teachers had clearly put a lot of work into. They also went into a forest together to get their eco on, then returned to school to make bracelets and play water games. Friendships blossomed! Ms. Gorbey said she particularly enjoyed meeting the students here and spending the day doing what they normally do. “It was really cool to sort of see how the kids were so different and also exactly the same,” she said. Mrs. DuPrau said, “All of the teachers there were so kind and excited to meet our students and had so many fun things for them to do. We were all excited to see what we could offer to their students and what their students could offer us. We became close with some of those kids, and it was really fun to see all of our students jump right into their recess and lunch and feel comfortable just hanging out with them.” Phone numbers and SnapChap info was exchanged!

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Later that afternoon, TNCS students got a much-anticipated trip to the beach!

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Thursday, April 28th: Tutoring!

On Thursday, TNCS students headed out to Academia Interamericana Metro (AIM), a school that emphasizes differentiated learning for preschoolers through 12th-graders. TNCS students tutored kindergartners through 5th-graders, helping them with their daily schoolwork, reading aloud to them, and playing math games. Mrs Hope explained that AIM was passionate about not separating students with disabilities (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, for example) from the traditional student population but instead to find ways to give them any additional support they might need. “The students and the faculty were so warm and loving—you could just feel it when you walked in; you could tell everyone had the same goal,” she said. Ms. Gorbey said she was extremely proud of how TNCS students comported themselves with their AIM friends.

These photos will make their parents so proud as well!

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As a special treat for their generous volunteering at AIM, the gang had a little fun exploring Old San Juan later that day and into the evening.

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Friday, April 29th: Hola El Yunque!

El Yunque National Forest, the groups Friday destination, is the only tropical rainforest in the national forest system! The favorite activity for Mrs. Hope was this trip to El Yunque. “We went on this really beautiful, tranquil hike. Some of the kids decided to swim and others wanted to explore the rocks and climb them upstream. You feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere and can just breathe” she described.

After exploring that beautiful locale, they headed to Playa Luquillo for a swim.

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Saturday, April 30th: High Altitude!

On their last day, a beach-cleaning activity had been planned, but the weather had other ideas, so after a hearty breakfast . . . they went to a trampoline park instead!

Altitude Bayamón is one of the largest in the world, and there, TNCS students reached new heights!

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After a quick stop at a restaurant to refuel, they returned to Inter American and expended more energy in the gym.

Back Home and Final Thoughts

Once back in Baltimore, the three chaperones had a chance to reflect on the trip and share some takeaways. In the end, beaches and waterfalls aside, the capstone trip is about personal growth—a chance for the students to demonstrate how they’ve matured.

Ms. Gorbey, who described the trip as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said she was impressed by the empathy she saw TNCS students display each and every day. This trip was remarkable for being the most service-learning focused so far. “Their all-around willingness to help was a highlight for me,” she said. “They really threw themselves into the service learning.” At the end of the trip, they circled up and discussed their favorite moments: several students ranked the service learning above the “fun stuff,” another thing that made Ms. Gorbey happy. (As a quick aside, they also held nominations, and one student was named Most Likely To Have an International Romance. So cute! We love that for them!)

A third thing that struck Ms. Gorbey was how game the students were to use their Spanish-speaking skills and how well they did—ordering their food, conversing with their new Puerto Rican friends, and so on.

Mrs. DuPrau witnessed some personal growth in a few students and a dawning realization in one in particular that things were about to change in high school in the fall. Like Ms. Gorbey, she also appreciated all of the students’ willingness to really be there and do what was asked. At the same time, she feels strongly that these trips should be fun and memorable. “In some ways it was a typical middle school trip—everybody was losing their voice and maybe not sleeping as much, because they all couldn’t stop talking and having fun,” she recounted fondly.

For Mrs. Hope, the highlight was the school visits. “It was so amazing to be able to partner with the schools and have our kids meet their kids, to see the differences, and also how they interact. That was really rewarding for our students, too.” Like Mrs. DuPrau, she also saw an individual student find themselves in a new way. This student became a terrific helper and a real asset on the trip.

For Mrs. Hope, this trip was bittersweet in more than one way. Her husband was about to be deployed, and she would be sacrificing that week that she could have spent with him to go. The scales tipped in favor of going when she remembered how well she and Mrs. DuPrau travel together (and imagining what Ms. Gorbey would bring to the mix), plus this: “It was also a nice way to close off my chapter at TNCS, this last thing with them. They have been my students for 3 years . . . it was really good to be able to spend that time with them and see so much growth in individual students.”

Ultimately, this trip caps off an academic career at TNCS for the 8th-grade students and so much more. It’s the end of an era, in a way, but also opens the door for a new era at TNCS to dawn.

Hasta el año que viene!


As always, the TNCS community—families, faculty, and everyone in between—plays a tremendous role in making the capstone trip possible, from hosting fundraisers (shout out to Damien Mosely and Blacksauce Kitchen!) to planning (Mrs. DuPrau worked tirelessly!) to teaching the language (Señora Noletto made sure her students were good and ready!), to seeing to all of the details that go into such an enormous undertaking (literally, everyone!).

And for this particular trip, we have another very special person to thank: Inter American Chancellor Wayland, who generously helped coordinate the trip from inside Puerto Rico and gave TNCS students access to the wonderful Inter American sister schools (CeDIn and AIM) they visited. If that name rings a bell, it’s no accident: Chancellor Wayland (aka, “Tata”) is the grandmother of two TNCS students. Gracias por todo!

Meet Lori Gorbey: TNCS’s Front Desk Phenom!

First impressions, as they say, are everything. At The New Century School, many people’s first impressions are formed when calling or arriving at The Front Desk—fortunately, that all-important post is helmed by the irrepressibly good-natured Lori Gorbey.

Ms. Gorbey joined TNCS in October 2020, and, although she wasn’t looking for a receptionist position specifically, the timing was right. She lives in Baltimore now but says she grew up “all around and up and down the East Coast.” She was born in North Carolina; then lived in Syracuse, NY; Peachtree City, GA; and finally here in Maryland during her high school years. The East Coast exploration then continued when she enrolled at Wilmington University in Delaware, where she majored in behavioral science, having a predilection for psychology.

She graduated in 2018 and is now ready to pursue a Master’s Degree in teaching. “I think I’ll end up in the classroom,” she says. She plans to go into Special Education or English (maybe both)—she likes to read and write.

In the meantime, she is enjoying her current position at TNCS and is sort of a nexus for school operations. “The really cool thing about the Front Desk is that I get to have my hands in a lot of different areas and figure out where I might fit best in the future.” These different areas encompass both administrative and educational environments. In addition to answering the phone and welcoming visitors and students to school, she handles billing, helps with lunches, monitors the car line, assists in the 4th- through 6th-grade ELA classroom (reading the assigned books right along with students . . . the list goes on. “I do whatever the task at hands demands,” she says. “I’m sort of the first responder to a lot of the little crises that we have throughout the day. I’m also on the ‘front lines’ for parent interactions such as during drop-off. It can be a high-pressure job, but I like being busy, and I work best under pressure.”

Because of her ability to stay calm yet get things done, another important role Ms. Gorbey played this year was Advisor as part of the new Advisory Board at TNCS. This entails meeting with her small group of students; talking; socializing; and providing a de-pressurized environment for them to relax and let go in. She also accompanied TNCS Middle Schoolers to Puerto Rico last month, much to the relief of co-chaperones Adriana DuPrau (TNCS Dean of Students) and Daphnee Hope (TNCS school counselor). Parents, many of you have also probably benefited from the comfortable atmosphere she creates.

In her spare time, Ms. Gorbey enjoys making resin jewelry, true creative spirit that she is.

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

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

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

Meet Jingqiong “Joan” Cui!

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

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

Cui Laoshi at TNCS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to TNCS, Cui Laoshi!