Meet the Teacher: Kiley Stasch Joins TNCS Elementary!

As the elementary program at The New Century School expands to accommodate its growing elementary student body, so too grows the elementary staff who guide and help educate them. For the 2015–2016 school year, TNCS welcomed Montgomery County native turned Baltimore resident Kiley Stasch as the new Language Arts and Global Studies teacher.

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Elementary Language Arts and Global Studies teacher Kiley Stasch in her TNCS homeroom.

“I’ve taught a broad range of areas in both public and private education,” said Ms. Stasch, all of which was part of her search to find the right fit. She graduated from Goucher College in 2012 with an Education major and a minor in Spanish. Since that time and before joining TNCS, she did lots of substitute teaching across Baltimore, such as at Roland Park Elementary and The Friends School to get the feel of both types of schools. Before deciding where she ultimately wanted to lead her own classroom, however, she went back for a Master’s Degree in teaching at-risk and diverse learners at Goucher. Then, being fluent in Spanish, she taught English in Peru over the past summer. “So being at a school like this is really exciting, to be able to find that bilingual connection and be in an environment that supports my speaking Spanish in the classroom,” she said. That sealed the deal for her.

Her bilingualism has not only been fun for her to use among classrooms full of students who share her ability to speak both English and Spanish, it has also allowed her to guide a (now formerly) non-English-speaking student who joined TNCS this academic year through the process of acclimating to unfamiliar surrounding amidst a new cohort of peers.

She spent the first weeks of school meeting in small groups to see where each student was in terms of reading and writing status so that she could differentiate instruction both among class levels and within each 2nd- through 5th-grade class itself. “Because we are able to do four separate small groups,” she said, “each student can be placed exactly where they should be and then challenged appropriately at that level.”

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The Daily 5.

As her main classroom focus is reading and writing, her students do the Daily 5, as they did  in previous years with Mrs. Duprau, but they reduce it to four daily rotations. “I decided to give the students a little more time with each of four components every day rather than squeezing in all five in the same day, so each day they get a break from one of the components and don’t get too tired of what they’re doing.” The Daily 5 components are:

  1. Tech Time with RazKids or SuccessMaker followed by comprehension questions
  2. Work on Words with Wordly Wise with accompanying assessment activities
  3. Work on Writing, which includes free writing such as letter-writing and regular, long-term formal assignments such as research on all things presidential (in preparation for their fall-term field trip to the White House)
  4. Meet with Teacher, which is shared chapter book–reading (of their choice, e.g., Bridge to Terabithia, Esperanza Rising, Because of Winn-Dixie, etc.) that they treat like a book club of about four or five students with group discussion
  5. Read to Self, which can be continuing to read the group book but independently, followed by the opportunity for reflective writing, or reading a book of their own choice

IMG_7142“Some students avoided writing at the beginning of the year, but now they are enjoying their assignments and looking forward to writing, which is huge progress,” said Ms. Stasch.

Global studies, the other subject she teaches, integrates well in the Language Arts classroom and invites independent and group inquiry as well as getting out of the classroom and into the world. A TNCS parent who works in government was able to arrange a special White House tour, so they headed to Washington, D.C. this past November. They also visited various museums depending on what particular unit they were studying. The 4th and 5th grades, for example, when to the National Museum of the American Indian to deepen what they had been learning in class about the First Americans.

In her first few months at TNCS Ms. Stasch has settled in quite well. “I’m happy with how things are going,” she said. “The first couple of weeks were focused on routines—getting into the flow of things. Now I think the students are in a more secure place and understanding what’s expected of them.” Teaching the diverse student personalities and learning styles—not to mention mixed-age classrooms—has also been a rewarding experience for her. Her past work experience includes teaching from Kindergarten through 7th grade, but “differentiating instruction when the grades are all together is quite different,” she said. “I’m enjoying that; it’s a lot of fun to be able to see all the different things I can do within classes and across levels.” It has served her well in other ways, too. From her student teaching and her substituting background, she thought she had settled on her ideal age-group of 2nd- and 3rd-graders. “But teaching 4th and 5th grades has been eye-opening,” she said. “I didn’t think I wanted to go that high, but the independence of the older group is great and allows us to take on more advanced projects. The older group surprised me.”

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Planners keep TNCS elementary students on task and on track.

That last statement has a somewhat wistful note, as some of those students will be moving on to Middle School soon, regarding which Ms. Stasch says she has been working hard to get the students ready for this transition. “What I’m focusing on is building skills, responsibility, organization, accountability. This grade level represents a fairly large jump in academic responsibility from what they were doing even last year, so they need to be prepared.” She has the 4th- and 5th-grade students use planners and be more self-motivated about completing and turning in their homework assignments, rather than relying on parents to organize them.”

Regarding homework, she has struck a nice balance between not overburdening students each night and creating assignments that can be augmented by parents should they feel their kids need more practice in certain areas. All of these things can be communicated via the planners, which also act as a conduit between Ms. Stasch and parents.

With 2015 behind us, Ms. Stasch has the winter and spring of 2016 brimming with engaging and inspiring academic explorations. Stay tuned to see what great new things TNCS elementary students will be doing!

 

 

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!