Meet the Newest Addition to TNCS’s Administration!

tncs-new-admissions director

Welcome to TNCS, Ms. Sanchies!

This summer, The New Century School welcomes Dominique Sanchies to the vibrant and dedicated administrative team. Ms. Sanchies will adopt a somewhat new-for-2015 “combination role”—she will take over as Admissions Director (the position recently vacated by Robin Munro as she returns to the Biology classroom) as well as becoming Assistant Head of School to support current Head of School Alicia Danyali.

Ms. Sanchies and her husband moved to Baltimore in March from Portland, Maine, a move she expected to be a bit of an upheaval. Instead, she says, “We love it here. In fact, Fell’s Point is a lot like Portland, which in turn is a lot like Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is Fell’s Point’s sister city.” Good to know! So far, they are glad to see the cobblestones, which remind them of home, but are still acclimating to the notorious Baltimore accent (“hon”). Also, hailing from the “Pine Tree State” as she does, she notes that we have a lot more deciduous trees, whereas Maine features largely coniferous varieties.

She arrives at TNCS with quite a diverse background, experiences that will serve her well in her new multifaceted position. Her degree is in Communications, earned at the University of Southern Maine. After graduating from college, she first worked in the television industry as Affiliate Relations Manager for Resort Sports Network (RSN), an independent cable sports network now known as Outside Television. In addition to traveling all over the country and getting the chance to “ski in some really wonderful places” she negotiated contracts between RSN and their more than 30 affiliate networks in all of the key U.S. destination skiing and golf resorts.

After 6 years with RSN, she became an account executive for a local Portland network where she fortuitously encountered a former colleague who was starting up her own local production company. Ms. Sanchies was hired as Director of Sales for Bohler Productions, a lifestyle television network with multiple Emmy-award-winning shows to their credit. “We sold nontraditional television media to area businesses,” she said, for such shows as Maine Home and Design and The Best of Portland. “Instead of traditional commercials, we sold 90-second spots that told the story of the business.” What emerged was basically a showcase of the best area spots for dining, shopping, lodging, etc., which was a very effective approach to advertising, a testament to Ms. Sanchies’ ability to innovate.

“From there,” she says, “I went corporate!” She became a Senior Analyst with the Fortune 500 insurance company UNUM, adjudicating claims in the long-term disability department, which she says was a surprisingly nice experience. “I had been accustomed to working for small companies, so to go to a major organization where I was pretty much just a number taught me the value of accountability and giving really clear expectations to not only myself but also to the people I was mentoring and managing. So, it brought a lot of formality that was kind of new to me but that I grew to love.”

The experience showed her that the right systems can be actually liberating rather than confining. Here at TNCS, she hopes to help the team implement a similar structure with upcoming initiatives and future school planning, “so that we work smarter, not harder to realize our new goals” she said.

While certainly dynamic, Ms. Sanchies’ résumé is nevertheless unified by a common thread. “I’ve been a relationship manager the whole time. If I were to distill selling media, for example, or working as a long-term care analyst, it all still comes down to relating to people,” she said. It’s this capacity for civil collaboration that will make her the ideal fit for her new position at TNCS, in which she will interact with teachers, other staff members, families, and, of course, students from ages 2 to 12.

Oh, and by the way, she’s multilingual—yet another plus! She grew up in a bilingual French/English household with most of her relatives from Québec, Canada speaking only French. She also picked up some Spanish along the way as she put herself through college working as a group representative for EF Foundation for Foreign Study, a foreign exchange student company headquartered in Switzerland. Her role was initially to find host families and teachers for her group of 22 Spanish students, but she ultimately traveled to Madrid, Spain to teach English as a second language there.

As if this impressive portfolio wasn’t enough, she is also a musician and has spent time as a part-time preschool music instructor—yet another boon for music-loving TNCS students! She describes the music in her two albums as “Cheryl Crow meets Dave Matthews.”

So what are her initial impressions of TNCS? “It’s summertime, so I haven’t gotten to meet all of the teachers—let alone the students—but what I’ve seen during the summer session is a charming place with lovely little people and a really dedicated staff,” she said. “So far so good!” She thinks the multilingual approach is “brilliant” and speaks from firsthand experience. Scientific research (see Immersed‘s Resources and Links pages) demonstrates that TNCS students are at the perfect age to learn languages because their nimble young brains are so nimble. “It also wards off dementia in old age and is really good exercise for the brain,” she said. (This phenomenon is known as “cognitive reserve”; read Ellen Bialystok and team’s fascinating research here.)

Pine TreeIn closing, Ms. Sanchies says she is “looking forward to meeting all of the students and families and really getting into her new role. And from what I’ve seen so far, the staff is invested on such a deep level.” Of course, there’s aways a bit of trepidation associated with taking on an entirely new endeavor, so perhaps to make Ms. Sanchies feel more at home, TNCS could debut a “Pine Tree Classroom” for the 2015–2016 school year. That would make a lovely addition to TNCS’s growing arboretum of Lemon Tree, Apple Tree, Pear Tree, Gingko, Oak, etc. classrooms :)!

TNCS Elementary Information Night Rounds Out a Great 2014!

Refreshments were thoughtfully provided by Chef Emma Novashinski.

Refreshments were thoughtfully provided by Chef Emma Novashinski.

The New Century School‘s fifth year has been undeniably amazing. Rounding out 2014 with yet another breakthrough, Admissions Director Robin Munro announced Thursday that TNCS received a record number of K–5th applications by the 12/17/14 due date. That TNCS’s elementary program has earned its bragging rights—and is attracting hordes of new enrollees—was made clear at the Kindergarten/Elementary Information Night held 12/11/14.

The event was well organized, informative, and fun. Yummy refreshments were provided by Chef Emma Novashinski (who also gave away lovely little jars of homemade pickles), and free childcare including dinner was also offered. Recognizing that parent involvement is vital to student success, TNCS makes it so easy—no, appealing—to participate in school functions.

Elementary Program Overview

Mrs. Munro sent out an agenda before the event to help parents make the most of their time there. The schedule started with her Welcome speech, followed by a program overview by Head of School Alicia Danyali and a brief question-and-answer session. The elementary program—“where traditional and progressive education meet”—provides a solid foundation in the liberal arts by incorporating the following elements:
  • Small class size: Keeping classes to no more than 16 students allows for individualized, differentiated instruction. 
  • Daily language classes in both Mandarin Chinese and Spanish: Younger students begin with conversation and vocabulary building. As their written English language skills progress, they begin to work on reading and writing in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Introductory character work in Chinese begins immediately. 
  • Specialty classes: Students have music, art, and physical education classes twice every week. Creativity is encouraged through music and art, while body awareness and health is taught in phys ed class. 
  • Inquiry- and skill-based curricula: We provide a solid foundation in the core subjects of language arts and mathematics, and our teachers develop auxiliary science and global studies lessons based upon student questions and interest. This approach encourages critical thinking and allows children to work to their fullest potential. 
  • Field trips: Teachers take students on weekly trips to our on-site greenhouse and into the school’s extended classroom, lower Fell’s Point. Students take a full-day trip at least once each quarter. Past field trips have included the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the Confucius Institute at University of Maryland College Park, the National Aquarium, and more. 
  • Emphasis on values: Students learn to treat others and themselves with respect. 
  • Mixed-age classrooms: Students to work to their skill level, not just their grade level and benefit both from mentoring and being mentored. 
  • Enhanced learning via technology: Students use children use multiple apps and programs, learn proper keyboarding skills, and begin to learn basic programming.

After the initial gathering, parents were asked to “self-sort” (love that new term coinage!) into three groups and rotate among the three elementary classrooms. In his classroom, Dan McGonigal, the upper elementary mathematics and science teacher, demonstrated a unit on bridge construction in the science curriculum, Engineering is Elementary (scroll below for photos of the students executing this project). Adriana DuPrau, the upper elementary English language arts and social students teacher showcased the English, Chinese, and Spanish curricula. Teresa Jacoby, the K/1st generalist teacher discussed integrating traditional Montessori materials with more progressive curricula and how she differentiates to the various levels in her class. Mrs. Danyali and Mrs. Munro circulated throughout to answer questions.

Elementary Program Philosophy and Approach

As an independent private school, TNCS does not follow the Common Core standards. Individual grade standards set forth by the Maryland State Department of Education are met—and in most cases surpassed—through the use of carefully selected curricula which best supports our mission to challenge students to realize their richest individual potential through progressive, multilingual education and meaningful participation in the world community.
Students are placed according to their birthday into one of three mixed-age classes: K/1st, 2nd/3rd, and 4th/5th. As the student body matures, upper grades will be added (through 8th) each year, accordingly. Mixing ages is part of the school’s Montessori-inspired vision. Research continues to prove what Maria Montessori observed over 100 years ago, which is that children learn best from their peers. By mixing ages, students can work to their own skill level and not be boxed in by grade-level expectations. TNCS students learn to be friends with everyone and to solve social problems without aggression.
A day in the life of a TNCS elementary student. Looks pretty engaging!

A day in the life of a TNCS elementary student. Looks pretty engaging!

The TNCS format of mixed-age, skill-based classrooms allows our teachers to truly teach and inspire students to reach, or more typically exceed, grade expectations. Through inquiry-based lessons, TNCS teachers can educate the whole child and are not limited by the constraints of a standardized test.

Tools they use to help accomplish these goals include the following.
In Language Arts:
  • The Daily 5 consists of reading to self, reading to someone else, listening to reading, writing, and doing word work.
  • Junior Great Books brings high quality literature and student-centered discussions to the classroom.
  • Wordly Wise 3000 improves student vocabulary.

In Mathematics:

  • Singapore Math is the backbone of the mathematics program.
  • Montessori math materials are used in the K/1st classroom to provide a solid foundation for the transition into Singapore Math in upper elementary.
  • The Daily 3 consists of doing math individually, math writing, and doing math with someone else.

In Science and Technology:

  • Engineering is Elementary allows for learning scientific principles through hands on experiments. The photos below show an example of one project in the bridge design unit.
  • SuccessMaker software is aligned with national grade standards and

Now that’s something to brag about, kids! And keep up the great work, TNCS!

Admissions Fridays: Your Ticket To Getting To Know TNCS!

Our very own Robin Munro, TNCS Admissions Director

Our very own Robin Munro, TNCS Admissions Director

Friday, April 25th, marked the first-ever Admissions Friday event at The New Century School, and what a success it was! The brainchild of Admissions Director Robin Munro, this weekly event is designed to give prospective families a taste of TNCS and to give currently enrolled families the chance to drop by and hang out. Ms. Munro says she came up with this idea to be able to respond to more families more quickly and hopes to make it a standing happening. Families interested in the school naturally have lots of questions; Admissions Fridays not only get those questions answered in a timely fashion, but also show you the real deal—this is what TNCS looks like and how it operates in real time.

The inaugural event was well attended by parents (as well as a couple of prospective students!) curious about TNCS’s inner workings. The morning began informally with attendees gathering in the Multipurpose Room for coffee and a nosh prepared by Chef Emma. (Her lemon poppyseed cake was divine!) Prospective parents were looking at a range of enrollment levels from nursery-age, to preschool-age, right up to elementary-age, which Ms. Munro was particularly glad to see. Although TNCS started as a preschool, it has grown up right alongside its original student body and is thriving as it broadens its scope to encompass school-age children. After a chat to get acquainted and a preliminary Q&A, Ms. Munro escorted the group around the school, giving everyone a chance to see each program in action and all of the other special aspects of TNCS that set it apart.

Chef Emma baked lemon poppyseed cake and provided bagels courtesy of Cunningham's Cafe and Bakery. The butter rosettes were Chef's own special flourish!

Chef Emma baked lemon poppyseed cake and provided bagels courtesy of Cunningham’s Cafe and Bakery. The butter rosettes were Chef’s own special flourish!

Refreshing citrus and strong coffee---the perfect combo! Cream is courtesy of Trickling Springs dairy farm.

Refreshing citrus and strong coffee—the perfect combo! Cream was courtesy of Trickling Springs dairy farm.

TNCS offers three divisions: pre-primary (ages 2–3), primary (ages 3–5), and elementary (ages 6 and up). A fourth division in the form of a middle school will debut in the Fall of 2016 for grades 6–8. Extended care and before care are also available. Across all programs, emphases include small classes, language learning, and independent (but guided) academic exploration. Though all share common guiding principles, each program also boasts a unique identity. The pre-primary is complete immersion in either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish, the primary is Montessori, and the elementary is progressive and technology- and inquiry-based. This is, of course, a very cursory description of program highlights. Observing these classes in action tells the complete story, and they really are wondrous sights to behold. The mix of ages all helping one another, the classroom harmony, the freedom-within-limits to choose a topic of exploration . . . these are very integral to TNCS and are best appreciated firsthand.

Then there are the features that put the finishing touches on this one-of-a-kind school—the Kitchen Garden Tuck Shop, the music and art programs, and The Lingo Leap. These are, again, aspects of TNCS that deserve to be appreciated in person, but, in brief, TNCS students have the option of a daily locally sourced lunch of the freshest, best ingredients around (if not from the school greenhouse itself); they get formal instruction in art and music by instructors Jenny Raccuglia and Martellies Warren; and they have gym class with Gerstung equipment and the Imagination Playground!

With so much exciting  information to absorb, Ms. Munro recognized that families might prefer to mull details over later and gave each attendee a comprehensive packet to take home. Prospective families enjoyed getting to know TNCS, while currently enrolled families relished the chance to be there taking part.

So if you are exploring options for where to educate your child(ren), register for an Admissions Friday now through June 6th. Figuring out where your child will be enabled to flourish is no small decision. TNCS openly welcomes your observation, your questions, and you.