Back-to-School Traditions from around the World!

The first day of school is this Monday, August 31st for students of The New Century School and other Baltimore City schools. School accounts for a very large share of a child’s daily life—it’s a really big deal. And that is just as it should be. To celebrate this very special time in your child’s life and to give that first day back its due, Immersed is sharing some very lovely and unique back-to-school traditions from around the world (proceeding in alphabetical order, of course).

Germany: Schultütes

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This 1st-grader was presented with her “sugar cone” after a very successful first day of school.

Austrians and Germans make quite a fanfare over students entering Grade 1. Parents and grandparents fill decorated paper cones called schultütes with school supplies, trinkets, and candy and present these “sugar cones” to their first-graders on their very first day of school.

India: Praveshanotsavam

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The first day back to school in India has a festive atmosphere, where learning is considered a gift.

Indian students celebrate “Admission Day,” by exchanging gifts, such as balloons, candy, and books. But because this day falls within the Indian monsoon season, umbrellas are by far the most popular gift to give and receive!

Israel: Aleph-bet

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Israeli older students form an archway that 1st-graders symbolically pass through to an important new era in their lives.

Israeli kindergarteners are reminded that learning the Torah is as sweet as honey when they begin to learn the letters of the aleph-bet. These letters are drawn on a chalkboard with honey, and student gets to lick away each one they correctly identify. Older students create their own style of fun by releasing balloons out of schoolhouse windows on the first day of school. They also congregate to greet 1st-graders in a special ceremony outside the school.

Japan: Nyugakushiki

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Students pose outside the school on the first day, about to embark on an important “new beginning.”

Coinciding with the blossoming of the cherry trees, school in Japan starts in April. For the Japanese, Spring symbolizes new beginnings, and what more appropriate new beginning to get off on the right foot than the academic year? During nyugakushiki, a ceremonial greeting to new students and their parents, the children wear new uniforms and their parents dress in their best, often including mothers in traditional kimonos. For students entering their first year of schooling, the big memento is a backpack, or randoseru, traditionally in black for boys and red for girls. These backpacks might be passed down through generations or purchased new, but either way, the Japanese believe this tradition will get their children off to a successful start.

New Zealand: Powhiri 

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In the Maori tradition, first encounters must be done properly to ensure a smooth future.

New Zealanders start school in February with a welcoming ceremony called a powhiri or “encounter,” which reflects the indigenous Maori culture. Including speeches, songs, and stomping and hand-clapping (called haka), this ceremony welcomes students, staff, and families alike to the new school year!

Russia: День Знаний

In Russia, the school year typically begins September 1st. On this “Day of Knowledge,” students wearing white ribbons either on their school uniforms or in their hair present fresh flowers to their teachers to honor these vital personages. The school year officially starts with the ringing of a bell—but no ordinary bell-ringing! A 1st-grade girl carried on the shoulders of a 12th-grade boy through a crowd of spectators rings a special bell as loudly as she can in this charming and symbolic ceremony.

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The departing generation passes on the baton to a new generation of learners, symbolizing progress.

Other countries have their special traditions, too, from adorning student smocks in Italy with ribbons that correspond to their grade level to bouquets of flowers in Kazakhstan classrooms to represent the growth and progress students will make during the school year. Whatever your back-to-school tradition may be, whether commemorated with colorful balloons, sweet treats, flowers, or new school supplies, make this year count. Welcome to the 2015–2016 school year, TNCS community!

Back-to-School Night: Meet New TNCS Teachers and More!

Thursday, September 11th was The New Century School‘s Back-to-School Night for the 2014–2015 academic year. Back-to-School Night is TNCS parents’ chance to learn how their child’s classroom operates. Whereas Orientation is a more general introduction to school, at Back-to-School Night, families get details on everything from what the daily schedule looks like to when it’s their turn to provide class snack. Teachers introduce themselves and their teaching styles or philosophies and explain the curriculum (K:1st syllabus), demonstrate how their educational materials are used, and answer parent questions.

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TNCS’s new Kindergarten/1st-Grade teacher Teresa Jacoby.

This year, several new instructors have joined TNCS, and Back-to-School Night was a great way to get to know them. One of the new lead teachers is Mrs. Teresa Jacoby. She brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm to TNCS’s new mixed-age Kindergarten/1st-Grade classroom, which parents recognized immediately. (See biographical details below.)

A former 3rd- and 4th-grade science teacher and Reading Specialist in the Baltimore City school system, Mrs. Jacoby integrates reading and writing into all other disciplines and declared her expectation that all of her students will be strong readers by year’s end. Her personal philosophy meshes beautifully with TNCS’s educational values:

I believe that each student is an exceptional individual who requires a safe, caring, and encouraging learning environment in which to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. There are three elements that I believe are beneficial to establishing such an environment: 1) the teacher acting as a guide, 2)  the child’s natural curiosity directing his/her learning, and 3) encouraging respect for one’s self, others, and things found in our world.

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New for the 2014–2015 academic year, Kindergarten/1st-grade teacher Teresa Jacoby introduces her students to the classroom and its special routines.

She also believes strongly that education is optimized when a mixture of self-guided exploration, small-group learning, and one-on-one instruction is utilized, very much a TNCS-held value. Just as TNCS focuses school-wide on inquiry-based learning, in her class, such inquiry “gives students ownership of their learning and more lasting knowledge of the skills needed to achieve real understanding,” she says. Additionally, Mrs. Jacoby believes that critical thinking/solving problems is key to developing leadership skills, the ability to collaborate in teamwork, and self-sufficiency as individual learners.

As appropriate for a General Studies teacher, Mrs. Jacoby can pretty much do it all (art, math, special ed, etc., in addition to what has already been mentioned), but she says she has more and more discovered her special fondness for science. She incorporates scientific thinking into every nook and cranny of her curriculum in fun ways that ignite her students’ curiosity. “The kids are so naturally curious; it’s nice to discuss [science] with them, and they like to talk about it,” she said. She also has students keep journals, which gives her another way to guide them in further exploration of topics that they have broached.

“Just like a well-oiled machine works efficiently,” she says, “so does a well-thought-out and planned classroom environment.” Thus, the classroom she shares with her (also new) Assistant Teacher Mrs. Kimberly Tyson, with her own impressive résumé, encompasses several discrete learning environments—there’s a technology corner equipped with computers, an area with worktables for  groupwork such as with manipulative materials, a large carpet for whole-class circle time, and even a settee for students to sit back and enjoy a book on individually. She also generously brought along her own personal class library, which students are encouraged to use as much as possible.

One aspect of teaching that Mrs. Jacoby holds very dear is knowing and understanding her students. She has quickly learned a lot about her kindergarten/1st-graders and has an amazing ability to adapt to their needs on her feet so as to keep learning happening. So, when she found that after Spanish lessons, for instance, students struggled to be able to focus, she decided to let them “get the wiggles out” for a few minutes before resettling. Even the movement she incorporates in class has an express cognitive function. She uses a version of Simon Says that gets them using their whole brains—that is, integrating both left and right hemispheres—by performing a series of continuous movements and asking them to repeat the last movement she made. She demonstrated the activity for parents attending Back-to-School Night, many of whom were surprised by just how challenging it was! As if she had intuited it, TNCS will begin implementing movement regularly within classrooms to promote blood flow to the brain. (More on this topic is to come in the near future!)

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This artwork was created by TNCS elementary students to exemplify the school-wide theme of Community Building.

Finally, mutual respect is the capstone of Mrs. Jacoby’s pedagogical approach and is yet another way she shows just how right for TNCS she is. “A healthy learning environment must also include respect for all, a sense of safety as well as trust,” she says. “I work extremely hard to build a learning community based on mutual respect for one’s self, others, and our surroundings. Creating a strong sense of community in my classroom instills security, which builds trust and in turn builds comfort levels conducive to learning. I nurture that sense through personal modeling, class meetings, role play, and reflective journals.” It just so happens that TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali’s first theme of this school year is Community Building, and school-wide, students have engaged in activities that help them grow stronger both as individuals and as a team.

We welcome you to TNCS, Mrs. Jacoby, and anticipate an incredible first year together! Stay tuned for more posts in this series to meet TNCS’s other new lead teachers and learn the inner workings of their classrooms!

Mrs. Jacoby’s Bio

Teresa Jacoby holds a Master’s Degree as a Reading Specialist from Loyola University in Maryland and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education with an Art Education Minor from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. She also has an Advanced Professional Certificate Special Education 1–12 and an Advanced Professional Certificate Reading Specialist Certification, both from the state of Maryland. She has taught a wide variety of students ranging from Kindergarten through 8th grade Special Education in all content areas in both self-contained and inclusion environments. She also has run many extracurricular activities from chairing the Science Fair to Chess Club to Lego Robotics Club. She lives in Baltimore and enjoys using her artistic skills in and out of the classroom, gardening, riding bikes and spending time with her family.

TNCS Gets Ready for School!

Always follow the green for TNCS events!

Always follow the green for TNCS events!

On Friday, August 22nd, The New Century School hosted a very special Back-to-School Orientation/Open House—this event marked the beginning of TNCS’s 5th year in its 724 South Ann St. location! During each of those marvelous 5 years, the school has grow, adapted, and blossomed into what it is today, an educational environment where each child is nurtured, challenged, and celebrated. This is no small achievement, and the 2014–2015 academic year promises to be the best yet.

Exciting and important changes are afoot, each moving progressive, multilingual, independent TNCS forward. Families who attended the Open House learned of many of these changes during the event while they met teachers and explored school grounds, got to know each other or caught up from summer break, and enjoyed some of Chef Emma’s tasty refreshments. For those of you were unable to attend, read on to learn what this school year holds in store!

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 TNCS Staff: New Additions and New Roles

Although we bade farewell to a few instructors at the end of last semester, their contributions to the TNCS community will not be forgotten, and they will always remain part of the TNCS family. With great joy, we also welcome some new members to the caring, talented, all-around amazing TNCS staff.

Robert Bekas (Elementary Physical Education Teacher): Mr. Bekas was born and raised in Poland, where he graduated from The Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw with a Master of Arts degree in Physical Education/Sport Science. During college, Mr. Bekas specialized in strength training, fitness, and martial arts. In 2004, he moved to the United States and began teaching PE to local private schools. His other hobbies include teaching martial arts. He holds black belts in karate, taekwondo, and kickboxing.

Teresa Jacoby (Kindergarten/1st-Grade General Studies Teacher): Mrs. Jacoby holds a Master’s Degree as a Reading Specialist from Loyola University in Maryland and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education with an Art Education Minor from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. She also has an Advanced Professional Certificate Special Education 1–12 and an Advanced Professional Certificate Reading Specialist Certification, both from the state of Maryland. She has taught a wide variety of students ranging from Kindergarten through 8th grade Special Education in all content areas in both self-contained and inclusion environments. She also has run many extracurricular activities from chairing the Science Fair to Chess Club to Lego Robotics Club. She lives in Baltimore and enjoys using her artistic skills in and out of the classroom, gardening, riding bikes, and spending time with her family.

Jie Liang  (Mandarin Primary & Elementary Assistant): Ms. Liang holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education for Chinese Language from Towson University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in German Language and Literature from the University of China. Ms. Liang has facilitated Startalk programs in Vermont and was an immersion teacher for the Confucius Institute in Nuremberg, Germany. She has taught kindergarten at the Baltimore Chinese School and interned at Perry Hall High School teaching advanced-level Chinese classes. She was a Lead Teacher in TNCS’s inaugural and highly successful Summer Startalk program in Summer 2014.

Dan McDonigal (STEM Teacher Grades 2–4): Mr. McGonigal grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Bloomsburg University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications, specializing in Journalism. Mr. McGonigal worked professionally for 8 years with a market research company prior to changing his career to education. In 2006 he earned his Master’s Degree in Education from Notre Dame of Maryland University. He has 7 years’ teaching experience in Harford and Baltimore Counties. He is currently working toward a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) certification through a Cohort with Towson University. He is passionate about bringing STEM-related learning experiences to the students of TNCS. Mr. McGonigal is married and the father of two young boys. He enjoys sports, working on home improvement projects, and spending time outdoors. He also enjoys traveling, especially his trips to Italy and Ireland.

Maria Mosby (Montessori Lead Teacher): Montessori has felt like home for Ms. Mosby for quite some time. She began at age 2 ½ years at Columbia Montessori School, in Columbia, MD. After several moves with her family throughout New England and the Washington, D.C. area, she rediscovered Montessori while studying Early Childhood Education at Towson University. Ms. Mosby was a primary assistant for 3 years, and a toddler assistant for 5 years at Greenspring Montessori School (formerly, The Montessori School), where she decided to take her Early Childhood training through the Maryland Center for Montessori Studies. During her internship, she worked at The New Century School summer camp and loved the warm, peaceful community. In her free time, Maria enjoys running, making crafts, studying foreign languages, and yoga. She is also a certified children’s yoga instructor and will complete her 200-hour yoga training in 2015.

As we welcome these new members to TNCS, we also congratulate current staff members on continuing the wonderful work they do so well and with such big hearts. Some are adopting new roles, including Cassidy Bryson, who will work in the Primary group to support language immersion; Jennifer Hodapp, who will lead Elementary Spanish classes and assume directorship of Spanish school-wide; and Yurisan Gonzalez, who will be moving to the Pre-Primary Spanish immersion class.

Elementary Athletic Programs

For the first time, TNCS and Coppermine at Du Burns Arena at 3100 Boston St. are partnering to offer exciting afterschool athletic programs to TNCS students, including transportation to the facility! The Fall session runs September 9–November 13, 2014 and is available to students ages 5–10 years old. Choose from Flag Football on Tuesdays, Lacrosse on Wednesdays, or All-Star Sports on Thursdays. Younger students can participate in Coppermine Soccer on premises at TNCS on Tuesdays. Direct your questions about the programs and enrollment to Coach Mark (mark@copperminefieldhouse.com).

Kindergarten—It’s Official!

New for the 2014–2015 academic year, Kindergarten/1st-grade teacher Teresa Jacoby introduces her students to the classroom and its special routines.

New for the 2014–2015 academic year, Kindergarten/1st-grade teacher Teresa Jacoby introduces her students to the classroom and its special routines.

The kindergarten program may be the enjoying the biggest changes of all. Kindergarten students will henceforth join elementary students on the third floor as part of a mixed K–1st classroom. The weighty decision to take K out of the primary classroom will better equip students for their elementary years. In addition to a focus on reading and writing in English, K students will receive a thorough introduction to meaningful technology as well as daily Mandarin Chinese and Spanish reading and writing lessons. Read Mrs. Jacoby’s bio above to meet our new kindergarten/1st-grade teacher! She says: “Mrs. Tyson* (our class Assistant Teacher) and I are both thrilled to be new members of The New Century School TeamWe look forward to building a strong, respectful learning community where learners have the structure, opportunity, and support to develop intellectually and emotionally.”

(*Note that Mrs. Tyson was a last-minute [though no less welcome!] addition to the staff, and her bio details were not yet available at this writing.)

Class Commences!

It bears repeating—TNCS is 5 years old and going strong! Previously Patterson Park Montessori, a one-room preschool that opened in 2007, the growing school moved in the Summer of 2010 to Fell’s Point and was renamed The New Century School to gradually add a K–8th grade program to the preschool. Founders, Co-Executive Directors, and Baltimore City residents Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner have succeeded in creating a very special school with progressive academic programming that allows students to thrive at their own unique skill and ability levels.
 
The elementary program at TNCS started in Fall, 2010 with only a handful of kindergartners but has now expanded to include three elementary classes through 4th grade and will continue to add a grade each year to accommodate the maturing student body through the 8th grade. It’s a glorious prospect!
 
TNCS looks forward to seeing you bright and early for class on Monday, August 25th, 2014, and we greatly anticipate assisting each child to make huge personal and intellectual strides this school year!