TNCS Primary Workshop 2017

Last month, The New Century School hosted a Primary Workshop to provide parents with a firsthand experience of the Montessori approach to pre-K education. Unlike Open Houses and Information Nights that are general question-and-answer forums, a workshop’s purpose is to show you specifically what your children are learning and doing during their daily class time. For those parents who did not attend Montessori school as kids, the primary workshop is a marvel—both eye-opening and fun. Maria Montessori developed the Montessori materials based on her extensive observation of children ages 2 1/2 through 6 years. Her goal was to put academic success within their reach by setting realizable achievement milestones, so to do that, she tailored materials to be used the way she saw children interacting with their world. Primary students use these materials nearly exclusively, and seeing how the materials are actually used and learning what each does for the child’s development was the focus of the workshop.

There are four lead Montessori teachers this year: Lisa Reynolds, Elizabeth Bowling, Maria Mosby, and Yangyang Li, and each presented an aspect of the primary curriculum.

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Work Cycle

Mrs. Bowling went first, introducing the foundational concept of the work cycle. “This is so incredibly important and something we are always looking for in the children,” she began. “The classroom environment focuses on independence, sense of order, concentration, and coordination. This takes time not only to develop within a child but it takes time in the day as well, so we do our best to provide an uninterrupted work time, usually 3 hours, in the morning.” She explained that, as Montessori educators, they are closely observing what materials that the students opt to work with because it demonstrates where their interests lie and also shows the student’s mindset. “You want them to practice lessons you’ve given them, but you also want them to be able to go back to works that they’ve mastered as well.”

The work cycle has three parts: preparation, working, completing (putting away). To prepare, the student spreads out a throw rug and lays out the components of the “work*” in an orderly fashion. Next the student does the work, following the steps as the teacher has previously shown them. Finally, they clean up the work, put it away on the shelf, and choose a new work. “That’s a lot when you’re 3, or 4, or even 5 and 6,” said Mrs. Bowling. “So, again, that takes some time to develop but it’s what we’re working on every day with your child, that complete follow through. This consistency aids the development of care and respect for their belongings and the environment. It also shows their ability to follow directions. It even introduces the basics for plot structure, which will aid them in reading comprehension. A lot goes into everything your child is doing in a day,” she said.

Montessori Skillset

Ms. Mosby spoke next, to talk about the theme of independence, confidence, and risk-taking within safe parameters. “From the time the child is born, he is working on little things that develop his independence,” she explained. “Before he learns to walk he has to learn to crawl. The child continuously seeks opportunities to increase his independence through a series of natural developments and milestones. The adult’s role, the parents role, the teacher’s role—-especially in this environment—is to foster it.” It’s a well-known Montessori tenet that we should never let a child risk failure until he has a reasonable chance of success. One way this bears out in the classroom is that everything is child-sized, from all furniture to the tools and materials, and the environment is prepared by the teacher.

“Everything we set up for the child to do helps them successfully do each work. The child is allowed to manipulate all of the things we have set up.” And here is where the risk-taking can come into play. The child may not be ready for a particular work or may need another lesson on how to complete it. But the important thing is, mistakes are okay. “We don’t correct the child,” said Ms. Mosby. “We let him discover his mistake and then we’ll go back and assess it later, we don’t interrupt his concentration. What we’re working on in this stage is developing that concentration and really helping him to focus on one thing at a time, isolating one concept and then adding more and more.”

This will help get them ready for elementary, where they’ll be doing new things, encountering additional challenges, and collaborating with other children. “At this stage, she said, “they’re working with just one thing at one time by themselves. That’s why you’ll see mostly one or two seats at a table. We don’t want too many children working together because they tend to distract one another. So, allowing a child to develop skills unhindered by an adult helps to develop independence, confidence, and appropriate risk assessment. We’re watching to make sure they’re safe while at the same time giving them that ability to assess risk for themselves, make mistakes, and learn from them.”

Practical Life

Newly certified Yangyang Li spoke about the Practical Life component of the Montessori curriculum, which, she explained, comprises four areas: care of self, care of the environment, grace and courtesy, and movement of objects. She said that, “practical life connects the child to the world, to the environment. It’s also indirect preparation for math and other academics.” If a child is interested in something, she explained, “the child will concentrate on it.” She also said that children at this age want real experiences, which also cultivates concentration as well as self-motivation. “Please help me to do the work by myself,” said Li Laoshi, is the attitude they convey. All of this also develops emotional independence.

Importantly, the child uses all of the senses when engaged in a practical life work, which could be cleaning tables, sweeping, arranging flowers, or anything else that is a part of daily chores. When the instructor demonstrates a practical life lesson, as you can see in the video below, she moves slowly and deliberately, taking care to experience all of the tactile sensations, sounds, smells, and so on, and follows an orderly sequence of steps. Thanks to the parent volunteer who now understands the correct way to do some washing up!

Interconnections

Mrs. Reynolds explored how the Montessori curriculum is interconnected, from practical life to science and geography, math, and language. “The materials build upon one another, making the progression important,” she explained. “Some works isolate one skill and focus on it while others may be educating the child in multiple ways. Many of the materials are self-correcting, which also promotes independence and problem solving.”

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Questions and Answers

A Q&Q followed, and parents were given the chance to inquire about specific aspects. Two that brought home a lot of the concepts are reproduced here.

Parent: What are some examples of work that the child is doing on a daily basis?

Instructors: The children are all working on different things. An example might be a group of 3-year-olds having a lesson on sounding where we would go around the room have them try to pick out something that starts with a certain sound. There is a lot of preliminary work so they might be doing pouring work, cleaning work and then you might take those things away and they might start pouring their own snack or working with some food preparation. They have started making coffee for us (laughter). It’s such a caring, loving thing for them. So they’re all working on different things in all different levels. You might see a teacher on the rug giving a lesson and the other teacher will be observing other children working independently on their lessons.

Parent: One question related to independence, where do you strike a balance between letting them explore on their own and then finding out it’s not working to putting them on the right track? At what point do you reorient them?

Instructors: First of all, we’re looking at, did they choose a work they’ve actually had a lesson on because you want to make sure they have. If they haven’t had a lesson on something then we intervene and redirect. If you have given this child a lesson and they’re picking up this work and it’s becoming too playful and not purposeful work then that might be a time we might come along side them and redirect them. We are watching that. There’s a purpose for the work. Of course, if they are trying and having difficulty, that is just part of the process. If they’re throwing things or being disruptive, that’s a different story. So we have to use our judgment to determine which direction to take.

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*Searching with the keywords “work cycle” in the search bar of this blog will bring up past years’ posts about primary workshops. They all have slightly different perspectives and are worth checking out if you are interested in learning more about Montessori education at TNCS.

Chicken Check-in at TNCS!

IMG_1628Wednesday, May 31st was a colossal day in The New Century School‘s chicken run. (No, the sky was not falling.) On this monumental occasion, two of TNCS’s small brood moved into their permanent residence after having been lovingly incubated in primary teacher Maria Mosby’s classroom and even hosted on weekends by both Ms. Mosby and Chef Emma Novashinski in their homes over the last several weeks. Having attained a size large enough to be able to weather nights and weekends without continual supervision, they were permitted to take up housekeeping in their lovely new coop and run. (“Cluck” Great Things Are Hatching at TNCS for additional details . . . and super cute pictures of TNCS students coddling their new feathered friends.)

As you’ll see, the pair took to the coop beautifully, and who can blame them? Carefully crafted by TNCS dad Blair Nahm, this structure is palatial by chicken standards. (Shouts out to the two other TNCS dads who constructed the run!)

But that’s not all. TNCS chickens have officially been named after a whole-school vote overseen by Head of School Alicia Danyali. Say hello to Sapphire and Nugget!

Chicks 3 and 4 have also been named. Mrs. Cluckington and Henrietta (aptly named by Chef Emma, a special dispensation for all of her hard work in getting this initiative up and running) hope to join the chicken run soon and look forward to meeting the TNCS community.

Without further cockle-doodle-ado, here are Sapphire and Nugget enjoying their new habitat and friends!

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Montessori Language Arts, Math, Science, and Global Studies at TNCS

On January 26th, The New Century School hosted a Primary Workshop to provide parents with a firsthand experience of the Montessori approach to pre-K education for students ages 3, 4, and 5 years. This information-filled evening was the second such Primary Workshop of the 2016–2017 school year and covered the second half of the Montessori curriculum—Language Arts, Math, Science, and Global Studies. The Practical Life and Sensorial aspects were covered in the fall workshop.

The workshop’s purpose is to show parents specifically what their children are learning and doing during their daily class time. For those parents who did not attend Montessori school as kids, the Primary Workshop is a marvel—both eye-opening and fun. For those who did grow up in a Montessori environment, the chance to reacquaint themselves with the materials must evoke the most delicious nostalgia. Maria Montessori developed the Montessori materials based on her extensive observation of children ages 2 1/2 through 6 years. Her goal was to put academic success within their reach by setting realizable achievement milestones, so, to do that, she tailored materials to be used the way she saw children interacting with their world. Primary students use these materials nearly exclusively, and seeing how the materials are actually used and learning what each does for the child’s development was the focus of the workshop.

Each primary lead teacher provided an overview of the discipline she was representing, but all four teachers cover all disciplines in their respective classrooms. They began by demonstrating how they present a “lesson” on a given material (a “work”): Movements are controlled and orderly; the pace is decidedly unhurried. Thus, the student is given ample time to absorb all aspects of what is happening. The overriding theme of the evening was that all lessons begin with the simplest concepts and move to increasingly complex ones. The student builds on and deepens understanding this way, rather than merely mimicking or memorizing.

Language Arts

Catherine Lawson presented the Language portion of the Workshop. The Montessori philosophy describes kids’ language acquisition as occurring over three major “explosions.” The first happens at age 12–18 months when babies start naming the elements of their surroundings. At around age 2 years, they begin to use sentences and describe how they feel. The final burst is at age 4–5 years when they begin to acquire reading and writing skills. Thus, they start with very concrete terms and make a series of abstractions to achieve literacy. How this translates to the Montessori classroom involves first making the student aware of the different sounds in a word, progressing to phonetics, and finally to spelling and beyond. (You may have even noticed that your primary-age student identifies the letter “a,” not by its name but by its sound. This is intentional, and Mrs. Lawson encouraged parents to do so as well. It’s less important for the child to know the name of the letter than to grasp its function.)

These “stepping stones into reading” demonstrate why this approach is so effective. Over the course of the 3-year primary cycle, a child starts with sandpaper letters—tracing a form and saying the sound with eyes first open, then closed. From there, the child learns to associate objects that start with a particular letter with the sound. The moveable alphabet, a later step, allows them to assemble letters to make words that correspond to certain objects laid next to the tray of letters.

Consonant sounds         Matching letters and objects       Moveable alphabet

Letter Mrs. Lawson says that language acquisition is perhaps the most important facet of child development, enhancing every other aspect. Communication also inherently conveys order—there’s a beginning, middle, and end, which underpins the Montessori approach as well.

She also recommended some handy tips for how to continue language development at home. The best we can do for our kids is to read and/or tell stories to them. (This advice is not exclusive to Montessori kids, of course, but it’s still nice to be reminded that our bedtime efforts are going to yield future dividends!) Another important at-home activity is to enrich kids’ vocabulary by identifying things that may be unfamiliar to them, such as kitchen tools. As you explain new words, adds Mrs. Lawson, make sure you emphasize the sounds within each words so the child learns correct articulation and enunciation.

Language and communication are integral to thought; giving the child the tools to express him or herself will build his or her confidence to communicate—and therefore to think—more effectively.

The primary classroom is also multilingual: Students benefit from having an assistant teacher who is a native speaker of either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese, and these teachers rotate through the four primary classrooms so that all students are regularly exposed to both languages. For more on TNCS’s philosophy on multilingualism, please search the Immersed archives for many posts on the topic, such as TNCS’s Foreign Language Program Embraces the 5 Cs and Multilingual Media for Kids: Explore Beyond Dora; Bid Kai-Lan Farewell!. This article on multilingualism and enhanced learning is also informative.

Math

Number Rods

Students start to understand that numbers are symbolic of quantity with these number rods.

Bead units

They next begin to think in terms of units.

Montessori math is likewise a progression of lessons from concrete/discrete to abstract. Michelle Hackshaw presented the math materials and described teaching math as “starting with concrete knowledge of numbers and quantity and leading to ever more complex operations like multiplication and division.” She repeatedly emphasized the importance of understanding what the numeric symbols represent.

Thousand blocks

To count units, students start with successively larger quantities of beads. Once they have truly made the leap from concrete to abstract, they move to the 1,000 blocks and eventually the alluring “bead frame.”

Kids first learn to count from 1-10 and are taught the concept that those numbers represent a specific amount. They make this connection with the number rods and with numeral cards. They sequentially progress through counting with beads to learn units of 10, 100, and 1,000, which teaches them the decimal system in the bargain. By combining the physical materials with these higher-order abstractions, the child will learn addition, subtraction, and on up, yet will have truly absorbed the deeper sense of such operations rather than simply memorizing a set of, say, multiplication tables.

Science

reptilesamphibiansMaria Mosby handled the Science portion of the workshop. Just as with the other Montessori categories, the scientific disciplines are taught from simple to complex, but here the progression can be less linear, as students are strongly encouraged to discover the natural world, rather than simply be told about it, explained Ms. Mosby. Science tends toward botany and biology, with kids exploring, for example, life cycles and habitats or getting a tactile boost from perusing the sundry contents of the “nature basket.” Ms. Mosby says she uses every opportunity to get kids out of their “comfort zones” by asking questions like, “What is this made of?” to launch various lines of inquiry and expand student’s views of their worlds.

sink-and-floatProbably the favorite activity among the younger primary crowd is the Sink and Float work, in which kids get to pour water (what?) into a vessel and then systematically dunk items (what?) into the vessel to see which will float and which will sink. Montessori is nothing if not kid-friendly!

Global Studies

tncs-primary-workshopLisa Reynolds introduced the group to Global Studies. “These lessons, she says, “give students the opportunity to learn about other cultures.” Primary teachers also display objects from around the world in their classrooms to have a physical representation of a particular locale always on hand.

landwater-formsA typical activity here might be doing puzzle maps to promote visual recognition of the names and topography of the seven continents and their relationship to each other. Students also develop manual control with manipulation of the puzzle pieces. From here, kids advance to push-pinning the outlines of the various land masses and creating their own “maps.” Another popular Global Studies activity is learning about the relationships between various types of land masses and water.

The main reason to begin teaching these topics so young, according to Dr. Montessori, is to help kids develop spatial orientation including the vocabulary to express it (i.e., “up,” “over,” “through,” etc.) because they have such an overwhelming  need for order in their environment. Putting the need together with the tool to fulfill it empowers young kids and gives them the confidence to be students, learners.

Putting It All Together

One takeaway from the four-part workshop was how beautifully all of the materials work together to provide a very complete and absorbing experience. Each one, though developed for a particular discipline, nevertheless encourages the child to use skills and senses from other areas. For example, the water and land mass trays also hone practical life skills (pouring the water from big pitcher to small and to the tray itself) and tune the stereognostic sense (kids touch the land masses and trace the waterway, feeling each form and storing that information away) while teaching fundamental geography. In later school years, a Montessori-educated child confronting the word, “isthmus,” for example, calls forth an immediate and multilayered concept of what that word represents that includes the physical relationship of the land to the water rather than just a memorized definition.

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Emerging research has demonstrated the numerous and far-reaching benefits of preschool Montessori education (see “Preschool Conundrum Solved: Research Demonstrates Benefits of Montessori Education”). Seeing the true genius of the Montessori materials so intimately, it’s really no surprise that children derive a very full, well-rounded education by using them. They are, after all, really made for kids.

For more on the Montessori Method in TNCS primary classrooms, view primary-workshop_january-26-2017.

Finally, Head of School Alicia Danyali, who also introduced and opened the workshop, closed by illuminating another unifying thread of the Montessori curriculum and, indeed, TNCS as a whole: tolerance, kindness, respect. These qualities inform what Mrs. Danyali calls TNCS’s “invisible curriculum,” which, despite the lack of rubrics to measure individual progress by, is felt in every part of TNCS operations. If it’s hard to visualize young children exemplifying these traits deliberately, come watch a TNCS primary classroom in real time, where you’ll see students seamlessly migrating from work station to work station, helping one another, and above all respecting the space they are in as well as the other members of their harmonious community.

Taking Time Out for Peace at TNCS

“Let us all work together to help all human beings achieve dignity and equality; to build a greener planet; and to make sure no one is left behind.”

— UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

The quote above is the United Nation Secretary-General’s message for the 2016 International Day of Peace, which took place this past Wednesday, September 21st. The genesis of this special day 71 years ago was an effort to encourage warring parties to observe a global ceasefire, but, as Ki-moon elaborated, peace is about more than disarming: “It is about building a global society in which people live free from poverty and share the benefits of prosperity. It is about growing together and supporting each other as a universal family.”

Peace Day at TNCS

The New Century School began formally honoring this day when Montessori Lead Teacher Maria Mosby joined the Primary staff in 2014. Through her ongoing engagement with the American Montessori Society (AMS), she learned about the movement to “Sing Peace Around the World,” an historical event that first took place on Peace Day in 2009, in which Montessori students from around the world came together in song to celebrate peace and have done so annually ever since.

The song, Light a Candle for Peace, starts on September 21st in New Zealand at 11:00 am precisely and is continuously sung for 24 hours by children in countries around the world until it reaches the Hawaiian Islands. This year, 150,000 participants from 65 countries sang, and TNCS was a part of it—giving voice to Light a Candle for Peace at 10:30 am EST!

Ms. Mosby says that both her and fellow Montessori Lead Teacher Lisa Reynolds were fortunate to participate in that first event back in 2009, and the TNCS community is fortunate to welcome this tradition. A TNCS parent graciously caught and shared footage of TNCS’s school-wide participation this year.

Said Ms. Mosby of this year’s event:

Everyone came together so beautifully. It was especially a treat to have Mr. [Martellies] Warren help out on such short notice and lead everyone so wonderfully. He always inspires the children and staff. I was so happy to see the whole school working together for a common goal.
I was excited to have the opportunity to recreate that moment as well as teach the children about being global citizens. Primary students are studying communities this year. We are beginning with learning about ourselves and working outside to family, neighborhoods, cities, our state, and eventually the planet. They have been talking about what peace means to them, and it was wonderful to share that feeling with everyone.
At the moment we were singing, children around the globe were singing at the same time, and at special designated times so that the song would be sung continuously for 24 hours, making a chain of peace! It was important to let them know that we were all part of a larger community, not just the one that we see every day.

Peace in Education

Peace Day is a not just a lovely tradition at TNCS, however. The concept of peace informs the school’s very identity and is an essential part of every TNCS student’s education. As it turns out, teaching social and emotional learning (SEL) (also known as “emotional intelligence” and “character education”) to school-age children increases their chance of future success in life far more than socioeconomic and even academic factors, according to recent studies*. SEL aims to encourage effective (and peaceful) conflict resolution, kindness, and empathy. It helps children to understand that they share responsibility for the welfare of the communities they are participating in, from the classroom on outward.

In the New York Times article “Teaching Peace in Elementary Schools,” the five goals of SEL are listed as:

  • Self-awareness: The ability to reflect on one’s own feelings and thoughts
  • Self-management (or self-control): The ability to control one’s own thoughts and behavior
  • Social awareness: The ability to empathize with others, recognize social cues, and adapt to various situations
  • Relationship skills: The ability to communicate, make friends, manage disagreements, recognize peer pressure, and cooperate
  • Responsible decision making: The ability to make healthy choices about one’s own behavior while weighing consequences for others

It’s no coincidence that echoes of these goals reverberate through the recently formalized TNCS Core Values of Courage, Compassion, Respect, and Service. The school has always emphasized such “invisible curricula,” to borrow a pet phrase from Head of School Alicia Danyali. Now, even the science shows that there are plenty of reasons to take time out for peace.

 

*To read the studies, see “Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness” and “The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysi of School-Based Universal Interventions.”

Goodbye 2015–2016 School Year! It’s Been Great!

Well folks, another school year at The New Century School has just ended. Immersed finds this news bittersweet—grateful for all the good times, learning, friendships, and memories it gave us, but also wistful that it’s over. Sniff.

To cheer ourselves up, let’s take a look at all the special ways TNCS teachers and staff made the end of the school year one big, happy celebration. Overseeing each event with warmth and grace was Head of School Alicia Danyali.

Primary Field Day

Although the scheduled Elementary Field Day got rained out, TNCS Primary students dodged the weather a week before school let out and had a . . . “field day” in Patterson Park! Primary teachers Maria Mosby, Catherine Lawson, Lisa Reynolds, and Martellies Warren pulled out all the stops, with games, snacks, and even a special guest performance by former TNCS Primary teacher, Ms. Laz! (Read more about Ms. Lazarony’s alter ego as Planet Uptune songwriter and vocalist here!)

There were beads, balls, bubbles, balloons, badminton, and bats—and that’s just the b’s! Frisbees, kites, and even baby ducks were also on hand to make this event the perfect send-off for the 3- to 5-year old set. See for yourself in this slide show that will make you wish you were a kid again.

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All-School Picnic

Next up was the chance for parents to join their kids during the annual TNCS outdoor picnic lunch. Initially rained out, the weather cooperated beautifully on Monday, and the playground was full to capacity of happy TNCS community members. Mrs. Duprau brought along a special new guest (and future TNCS enrollee), and Mr. Warren once again got mauled by his adoring fans. (But seemed to be okay with that ;).)

Grade 5 Graduation Ceremony

The following day saw a truly momentous occasion unfolding, not to mention a huge TNCS first. The oldest cohort of TNCS students graduated out of the Elementary program. You can read on their faces the many emotions this inspired. From pensive to elated to quite somber, they are clearly aware of the significance of graduating. This event not only means that this group, whom we have watched grow and mature into fine young ladies and gentlemen over the years under the expert tutelage of Elementary teachers Dan McGonigal and Kiley Stasch, will embark on a whole new scholastic phase—Middle School—but also that TNCS itself has grown and will embark on its own Middle School journey. These are wonderful tidings . . . notwithstanding their undeniable poignancy. Such great things lie ahead.

Kindergarten/Grade 1 End-of-Year Celebration

On the penultimate day of school, another graduation ceremony of sorts transpired. What started as a low-key, in-classroom potluck brunch grew into a full-on TNCS event, courtesy of K/1st teachers Teresa Jacoby and Manuel Caceres. They even had the kids collaborate on a “quilt” of self-portraits that will grace the halls of TNCS in perpetuity.

The Kindergarteners were awarded diplomas to signal their imminent passage grade-school status.

And the first-graders passed on some pearls of wisdom to their junior counterparts to ease their transition to the Big Time.

So thanks for the memories TNCS . . . and for making school such a positive experience for students and their families. What a profound gift this is. Other than being able to share these memories, the only other thing that makes closing out the school year bearable is knowing we’ll be back for 2016–2017 to share more great times :)!

 

TNCS Teachers and Admin Share School Memories, Part 2

As mentioned in TNCS Teachers and Admin Share School Memories a couple of weeks ago, with the 2015–2016 school year almost over, it’s a great time to reflect on all that The New Century School does for its students as well as all that education has given us. Prompted by TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali’s questions, “What is your fondest memory of school? and What teacher/school event influenced you the most in your educational experience?” here is another round of teacher and staff responses that provide a window into who they are as people, as educators, and as friends.

Emma Novashinski, Executive Chef & Master Gardener

Chef Emma draws on her love of growing things and the importance—and rewards—of practicing environmental sustainability.

My fondest memory at the school was actually this year’s Earth day. I have always wanted to watch a weeping willow tree grow, and I bought one to donate to the school as they are too large for a conventional garden. It was a little bittersweet.
I heard they were going to plant it on Earth day and got a call during lunch to join them. When I got out there the whole school was there! They all clapped and thanked me for the tree! To put roots into the Earth on Earth day was so fulfilling. My heart burst with love for everyone at the school. So thoughtful and meaningful and kind!!

Dan McGonigal, Elementary STEM Teacher

Mr. McGonigal shows us where his drive for protecting the environment began to develop and also that sometimes you just can’t take yourself too seriously.

My most influential teacher was one of my high school teachers, Mr. Shearer. He taught Environmental Issues. I remember him because he was so passionate about what he did, and it really hit home with me. I always had an appreciation for the outdoors, but he made me look at our environment in a different way. He discussed things in his class that came true later in my life, such as climate change, population problems, and even the flooding of New Orleans. It was a very memorable class for me and has impacted my own teaching.
My most memorable school moment was also my most embarrassing. I was called to the foul line during our assembly in the gym to show how I used routine to help me shoot a foul shot for our basketball team. I started my routine and heard some people laughing, and I continued and made the shot. I was asked to do it again, and more people laughed, but I made the shot again. The third time everyone was laughing and I didn’t realize why. But as it turned out part of my routine was sticking my tongue out! It was something that still makes me smile when I think about it.

Johanna Ramos, Pre-Primary Lead Spanish Immersion Teacher

Sra. Ramos gives some well-deserved props to a colleague and probably speaks for many in so doing.

I could say that the teacher that influenced me the most in my educational experience is Mr. Warren because of his hard work and dedication toward the school and the students.

Kiley Stasch, Elementary Language Arts & Global Studies Teacher

In her recollection, Ms. Stasch demonstrates the undeniable value of service learning and of mixed-age activities—two core TNCS elementary values!

One of my fondest memories of school was when my school had what they called “Stewardship Day.” On this day, we were split up into groups from K–12th grade and assigned different tasks to help improve our community. Not only was this a fun time to have the chance to climb on top of school buses to wash them, go on long hikes to pick up trash, and clean up community gardens, but it was also one of the few times
out of the year that we were able to interact with students of all ages that attended our school!

Elizabeth Salas-Viaux, Pre-Primary Lead Spanish Immersion Teacher

Sra. Salas’s takes a different approach and gives a shout out to the awe-inspiringly involved families of the TNCS community.

One of the things that have inspired me as a teacher is to see how families and communities work along with teachers in order to provide the best positive learning experience for our students.

It’s true that the educational environment works best when all stakeholders are invested both internally and externally. The TNCS community is a beautiful synergy in the truest sense of that word, as the students who go on to enter the world as kind, compassionate, caretakers of it will reveal.

TNCS Teachers and Admin Share School Memories

It’s just plain hard to believe that the 2015–2016 school year is almost over, but with only a handful of weeks remaining, this is a great opportunity to reflect on all that The New Century School does for its students as well as all that education has given us. In perhaps a similarly nostalgic frame of mind, TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali posed the following questions to her staff recently: “What is your fondest memory of school? What teacher/school event influenced you the most in your educational experience?”

It’s interesting to note the various ways the questions were interpreted—some answering from their past school experiences as young students, and others bringing their more recent TNCS experiences to bear. Regardless, Dear Readers, what follows are their heartwarming, often funny, and always insightful responses. You will get to know these wonderful educators in a new way, seeing what particular experiences and moments shaped them into who they have become as well as whence the unique gifts each brings to the art of educating your children.

Tissues handy? Okay, in no particular order, here we go!

Teresa Jacoby, K/1st Math & Science Teacher

Mrs. Jacoby, fittingly, reveals being awed by the power of science.

I think my fondest memory is winning first place in my 8th-grade Science Fair. My father who was a plumber helped me build a water cycle table. My water cycle table actually rained and had thunder and lightning. It showed the path that water follows from the mountains to the ocean. My father being my first and best teacher taught me to weld pipes and install a small water pump, which pumped the water to a showerhead hidden in the clouds. The water then followed a small river from the top of the mountain to the seashore draining into a bucket where the pump pumped it back to the showerhead.

Catherine Lawson, Lead Primary Montessori Teacher

Mrs. Lawson shows us where her compassion for students and her fun-loving side may have begun to develop in earnest.

I have two vivid memories from attending Fernwood Elementary School in Bethesda, Maryland. The first was in the 3rd grade, when my class did a play called “February On Trial,” which was about February not having enough days to be counted as a month.  All of the holidays in February were represented by a character who were called on to defend why February was important to have. I was the bailiff and got to walk the defenses (characters) across the stage and have them say that they would tell the truth and nothing but the truth. These included The Groundhog, Cupid, George Washington, and February 29. I was very proud of my part. As I think back now as an adult, I realize that my teacher, Mrs. Reader, made up this part just for me because I wanted to be in the play so badly. I could not remember lines, so she simply had me have to say the same line over and over: “Do you promise to tell the truth and nothing but the truth?” I love Mrs. Reader for that.

The second activity was 6th grade Outdoor Camp, lasting 3 days and 2 nights. We had to hike to the camp, which was probably only a short hike, but I remember it feeling like miles. Once there, we got to dissect an owl pellet. It was so exciting to open up the pellet and finding the bones of a mouse—even a mouse skull. We slept on bunk beds in sleeping bags. It was very exciting. We had a dance one of the nights and all the boys were expected to ask all the girls to dance. The boy (Ralph Miller) who I liked from afar asked me to dance, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I thought nothing could be better than dancing with him. It is so interesting how your prospective changes as you grow up and mature. I know that we must have done more activities on that trip; however, these are the things that I can remember all these years later.

I hope as a teacher that I can make memories that children will remember all their lives. I am thankful for all the teachers that shaped my life and made me who I am today.

Dominique Sanchies, Admissions Director and Assistant Head of School

Mrs. Sanchies proves that teachers truly make a difference in their students lives.

I’ve had three life-changing teachers:

  1. Mr. Carlo Tucci, my childhood guitar teacher who made me sing during each lesson. This taught me that I had a voice.

  2. Mrs. Patricia Brawn my high school French teacher (4 years), who taught me that my voice (point of view and expression) was beautiful.

  3. My college Avant Garde Film instructor Ms. Kathryn Lasky, who taught me how to organize my voice to best be heard and to think outside the proverbial box.

Elisabeth Willis, Elementary Art Teacher

Ms. Willis demonstrates the undeniable value of differentiation in a child’s education and what it can do for self-esteem when teachers give the learner ways to use their strengths to grow!

It’s very hard to pick just one. Growing up, I had art teachers who recognized my abilities at a young age and always encouraged me to do more. Each art teacher, from 1st grade through high school, all played a major roll in how I learned and what I strived to become.  In elementary school, my teacher created an AP art class based on me and a few other students in my class needing more than just one art class a week. It also meant skipping gym for a day, which, for a clumsy kid, was amazing.

In high school, my teachers all encouraged me to take classes outside of just what the school had to offer. I ended up taking classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and doing precollege at both Parsons and MICA. Without the teachers I had throughout my life, I’m not sure I would have become who I am now or have experienced all I have been able to experience.

Lisa Reynolds, Lead Primary Montessori Teacher

Mrs. Reynolds’ sense of humor shines through in these funny memories from her tenure at TNCS.

A student and teacher go into the greenhouse to pick grapes. The student walks in first with teacher behind him. They startle two doves sitting in the grapevines, and the only way out is the door that the teacher and student are standing in. The birds swoop toward them, as they both duck so not to get struck by the anxious birds. The student looks up with a serious grin and says, “[Teacher], you have bird___ on your forehead!” The teacher says, “Thank you . . . would you please hand me a leaf?” This always makes me laugh when I think back on it!

Another time, I asked a student if her unique name had a special meaning. She thought for a moment and replied, “I just might be related to poison ivy and [my parents] wanted to mix it up a bit.” LOL!

Yu Lin, Pre-Primary Lead Mandarin Immersion Teacher

Lin Laoshi’s fondest memory of her time at TNCS happened when she saw her hard work paying off in a surprising way and in a brand-new context.

We took a field trip to the Baltimore Zoo last year. I was so surprised that many of our children were able to name the animals using Chinese, and they sang Chinese songs about the animals that they had learned in class. I was so proud of them.

Wei Li, Elementary Mandarin Teacher

Li Laoshi used this opportunity to reflect on the new experience of teaching Mandarin as a second language in this country and how she will use it to inform ongoing improvements—a lifelong learner!

This is my first year at TNCS, and it is also my first job in the U.S. I am so excited to be a member of this big and warm family, and I really enjoyed my job in the past year. I gained tons of practical experience in teaching a second language (Chinese), and I am becoming better in communicating with students who are in various ages and learning styles. I believe with the support from all my friendly colleagues, I will run the Chinese program better and better in the following years.

Maria Mosby, Lead Primary Montessori Teacher

Ms. Mosby shares recollections that show her both coming to terms with the need to persist in the face of possible failure as well as her overcoming obstacles with her newfound resolve.

One memory of mine that had a big impact on me was a poetry reading I was supposed to participate in in high school. Only a few students were selected to read their poetry, and I had worked on it for weeks. At the assembly, my teacher could tell that I was very nervous. She asked me if I would rather opt out, and, without thinking, I said “yes.” Everyone else read their poetry, and I stayed in the audience, wincing. I was angry at myself for not having the courage to go up there. I have always regretted that moment and promised myself that I wouldn’t let fear get in the way of another opportunity.

One of my fondest memories would have to be an accomplishment from middle school French class. I created a model of The Louvre while dealing with pneumonia. Several students suggested that I give up and that I would fail, but I pushed through and did it. I was very proud of that model, and kept it for several years.

Martellies Warren, Lead Primary Montessori Teacher and Elementary Music Teacher

Mr. Warren not only gives us another fascinating peek inside his illustrious career, but he also demonstrates that sometimes “the show must go on” even in the face of unimaginable tragedy to lift spirits and spread some love.

In 2001, Wynton Learson Marsalis “trumpeter, composer, teacher, music educator” asked the Morgan State University choir to record his work “All Rise” and perform it at the Famous Hollywood Bowl. We were scheduled to fly from the Dulles international airport headed to Hollywood California on none other than September 11, 2001. This was a huge deal for all of us, and we quickly told everyone we knew. Three weeks before we were scheduled to leave, Wynton called the late and former head of the Morgan State University music department Dr. Nathan Carter to ask if it would be a problem to move our departure date up to September 9th. Dr. Carter agreed, and this decision probably saved all of our lives.

On September 11, 2001, I awaken in Hollywood, California to several choir friends crying and frantically trying to call loved ones. I looked at the news and saw the first airplane fly into the World Trade Center. It was like something out of a horror movie, except it was really happening. Shortly after, the second airplane flew into the other tower, and we watched in horror as both buildings came crashing down. I had been trying to call my parents to let them know we were safe and that we had already flown out prior to the 11th but could not get through. My family and friends thought I was on the flight that left Dulles and had been calling my parents all day with their condolences.

Shortly after the 11th, Wynton and the producers felt that we should still do the show at the Hollywood bowl. We opened the show with an arrangement of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and sang to a packed stadium of patriotic concertgoers. A day later, we were cleared to fly back across the country to Dulles airport, where we learned we were the first flight allowed back into Washington, D.C. airspace! I’ll never forget being escorted into D.C. by fighter jets that surrounded our aircraft (yikes!). We landed safely and taxied to our gate on a runway lined with pilots waving American flags and cheering.

This experience shaped me as an educator. My life was spared for a reason. I have purpose and a duty to educated and provide the highest quality of education I can provide. It was that experience that helped shape me into the passionate educator and musician I am today!

Alicia Danyali, Head of School

And here’s what it all comes down to. Mrs. Danyali reveals both how important it is to be nurtured as a learner, in this case as a young teacher, as well as how essential to provide a nurturing space for the teachers now in her care as Head of School.

The teacher–mentor dynamic can be life-changing in every profession, especially in education. My most significant mentor, whom I find myself quoting throughout my career, is a 3rd-grade teacher, Mrs. Sharon Bleumendaal. Mrs. Bleumendaal was my first mentor and colleague in my first position after graduating from Florida International University with a BS in Elementary Education. I was given the opportunity to work overseas as a Grade 3 teacher, and my path into the international educational community allowed me to grow as a professional in ways I never expected.

Mrs. Bleumendaal was a veteran teacher who had many degrees. Of all these, the Montessori Philosophy was closest to her heart, even though the school where we taught was not Montessori. She opened my eyes to a community of learners who, under her guidance, were compassionate, intrinsically motivated, and excited about being in her classroom. This was the environment I aspired to create as an educator new to the profession. The key to her student success was her ability to differentiate instruction, meet the students right where they were academically, and challenge those students to tap into their full potential.

I was the luckiest new teacher in the world! I could throw out the traditional views and assessments through standardizing tests in the public domain, a bureaucracy that instilled fear into the generation of teachers from the early 90s and beyond, teachers who were, and are, desperately trying to make a difference, even with many odds against them.

At a recent staff development day in my current role, as Head of School, I quoted Sharon Bleumendaal while discussing the application of differentiating techniques to student needs, and not conforming students by honoring their learning style. Mrs. Bleumendaal was nurturing but held her students accountable. The classroom shined with high self-esteem and teamwork, years before these “buzzwords” were a concern for stakeholders worldwide.

Mrs. Bleumendaal was tapped into her students, and offered her full attention and dedication to them daily. She also trusted her students, which goes a long way in making choices that can guide decisions all the way through adulthood. It would be a big claim to state that if I never had Sharon Bleumendaal to mentor me right out of university, I can’t say if I would have stayed in education. My experiences and opportunities since those early days have undoubtedly shaped my career path and my own intrinsic motivation to stay in the field.

Want more? Never fear, Part 2 of this lovely exercise (thanks Mrs. Danyali!) will be published in future, as more responses come in from those who have not yet had a chance to share. The prospect might just make closing out another great year at TNCS bearable!