TNCS Student Book Review: An Immersed First!

At The New Century School, language-learning informs much of the spirit of the academic program . . . and English Language Arts is a core subject!

In the beginning of October, ELA teacher Gab Sussman assigned her middle school students the book Starfish by Lisa Fipps. Written in free verse, Starfish recounts the trials and tribulations (and triumphs!) of an 11-year-old girl bullied because of her weight. This theme tied in perfectly with the Q1 emphasis on stomping out bullying (see this post for more).

Ms. Sussman got a lot of mileage out of Starfish, weaving in lessons on metaphors, puns, proverbs, and idioms, and asking students to mark any use of such figurative language. After about a month, students were asked to complete a culminating book project comprising three components: a video assignment, a comic design, and a book review essay. “Would Immersed like to feature a stand-out book review,” asked Ms. Sussman? “Spotlight a TNCS student’s literary efforts? Yes, please!” answered Immersed, and so, without further ado, we give you . . .

A Book Review of Starfish by Lisa Fipps: By Schonbek Glazer

Lisa Fipps, the author of Starfish, grew up in a small city named Kokomo, located in Indiana. Lisa Fipps is an award-winning former journalist who graduated from Indiana’s Ball State University. She loves collecting rocks. She stated, “Everywhere I go, I find an interesting one and then bring it home to put in jars with all the others to remind myself of my travels.” Her favorite rock in her collection is a white rock from Nice, France.

The main character, Ellie, is what people may call “fat,” and she has been bullied about it. She is primarily bullied by her classmates Kortnee, Marrisa, as well as her brother Liam and her mother. The next obstacle she encounters is when her next-door neighbor/”bestie,” Viv, moves away to Indiana. She’s heartbroken, but a new neighbor named Catalina moves in. In the beginning, Ellie is skeptical of Catalina but then learns that she is an ally and doesn’t make fun of her. They both go on adventures together and overcome obstacles, she realizes that she can trust Catalina, and she makes Ellie feel better. Ellie spends most of her time in her house’s swimming pool where she feels “weightless”. Ellie then gets a therapist who she likes, she learns from her that she can let her emotions go and stick up for herself, and to love herself even more. Ellie knows that she and her body are beautiful and she stands up to her bullies.

Two themes in this book are self-love and courage. There are many aspects of self-love in the book. An example is on page 171 when she takes off all the articles her mother has hung up on the refrigerator about weight-loss and replaces them with very specific articles that are the opposite of what her mother thinks. Some titles include, “Studies show a family’s comments about an overweight child add to a negative self-image,” and “Studies show it’s not just kids and teachers at school who make fun of overweight kids; parents also bully them.” These headlines show that Ellie loves herself and worries about herself, and doesn’t agree with what her mom thinks. She tries to make the articles visible for her mother to see. She isn’t crying or anything, just sticking up for herself. An example of an act of courage is on page 226 where Ellie stands up to her bullies, Marisa and Kortnee, because they have held her dog hostage and will only give it back if Ellie eats a whale cake on camera. Ellie ends up tossing the cake at the bullies and steps up to them. Fipps writes, “I’m defending myself, I close in on Marissa. I said, ‘Give me my dog!’” This shows that she stood up against her bullies and it takes a lot of courage to do that.

The purpose of Starfish is to stand up for yourself, have self-respect, being fat is not bad, be proud of who you are, and many other things. Fipps does a lot by sharing essential details and writes from Ellie’s point-of-view. The reader feels like they are in her shoes. I think Fipps was trying to say that you never know how other people feel. She also tried to share details about herself and others suffering from fatphobia so that her readers could feel it for themselves and maybe understand a little more.

As a whole, I recommend this book to everyone. The author does an excellent job of hooking you into the book. I believe it’s a great book and has great life lessons. In my opinion, this book is for all those who like to read, who are bullied, or who don’t like their own appearance. Before you read the book, you should know that it does get shocking and a little bit sad at some parts. It demonstrates the problems we have in life but it has a valuable point of view. This also is good for people who experience fatphobia because you may be able to relate to it a lot  and have a great connection with the main character, Ellie.

Courage: A TNCS Core Value!

Although it can be no mystery why that excellent review was chosen, Ms. Sussman factored in more than just good writing, when she selected this 7th-grader’s work for special attention:

I was drawn to Schonbek’s report for many reasons. His writing is clear, honest, and it met the assignment requirements. However, the most important and poignant reason I chose to showcase his writing on Immersed is because even after only teaching him for 3 short months, I’ve seen him embody so much self-love and courage. I know that Starfish was a powerful mirror for him and he showed up to ELA class each day, bursting with connections, reflections, and deep insights. Thank you, Schonbek, for allowing us to read your work and celebrate you!


Want to learn more on how to avoid “fatphobia” and “fat-shaming”? After wrapping up their Starfish project, Ms. Sussman showed her students Kelli Jean Drinkwater’s Tedx Talk, “Enough with the fear of fat.” “[Students] answered comprehension, analytic, and reflection questions about what they learned. Her speech contextualizes and builds upon a major theme from Starfish, fatphobia, and explains how unfortunately common and harmful this problem is in our society. Many students shared how inspired they were by her words and the work she does,” said Ms. Sussman.

Thank you, Schonbeck for your inspirational work, and thank you Ms. Sussman, for giving your middle school students a space to flourish in. Finally, thanks to you both for helping make the world a more body-positive place.

Adriana DuPrau: TNCS’s Dean of Students on Service-Learning, Fundraising, Community-Building, and the All-New Advisory Board!

Adriana DuPrau has been an integral member of The New Century School since its inception. She was one of the original teachers, a role she held for several years, then became the Curriculum Director for a few years, and is now embracing her brand-new position as Dean of Students. When we say “embracing,” we really mean it. Mrs. DuPrau is shaking up the 2021–2022 school year in ways never before seen at TNCS!

In just the first couple of months of school, Mrs. DuPrau has initiated several service-learning, fundraising, and community-building projects, and she has also been an important member of the all-new Advisory Board (along with TNCS Head of School Tad Jacks, Student Counselor Daphnee Hope, and other faculty members). Here is an overview of what’s been happening!

Service-Learning Projects

Service-learning is annually a big deal at TNCS, but Mrs. DuPrau approached it a bit differently this time around. “I met with all the K–8 classes and found out what their interested in,” she explained. “Animals are definitely at the top of the list!

BARCS

I wanted to do something related to what their wishes are because I feel like when they get to make the choices, they are that much more involved.” They decided to go with BARCS (The Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter), who compiled a wishlist of items so that our TNCS community can help support these wonderful animals in need.

This service-learning initiative will continue for the entire month of November, and items can be dropped off directly at TNCS. “We thought abut donating through Amazon, but then I thought, there’s something really special about like holding on to the item that you’re going to donate and walking into the school and putting it in a bin versus just ordering something and never really getting the actual item,” said Mrs. DuPrau. Students can drop off their items in bins placed by the front desk. The TNCS Student Council will help handle all the items, which will be delivered to BARCS on Tuesday, November 30th. (Wait, what TNCS Student Council? Keep reading!)

Puerto Rico

Although details are still being hashed out, the annual middle school capstone service-learning trip will be to Puerto Rico this February. COVID-19 continues to complicate and sometimes thwart big plans, but TNCS family the Waylands were instrumental in making this happen. Mrs. DuPrau and Mrs. Hope will chaperone, and everyone is excited about undertaking a service project in a tropical locale where they can also practice their Spanish-speaking skills and foster independence!

Other Service-Learning Projects

Smaller but no less important initiatives are happening all over TNCS. The Kindergarteners and 1st-graders are writing letters to veterans and walking them to the post office to mail them, which includes all kinds of incidental opportunities for learning, and Mrs. DuPrau also hopes to find a way to have TNCS students donate leftover Halloween candy to send to troops overseas. This aligns well with TNCS’s sugar-free mandate, and parents will appreciate the chance to get rid of some of it!

The TNCS Parent Council is also in the planning stages of some initiatives like the annual Adopt-A-Family for the holidays, the Coat and Warm Clothing Drive for Wolfe St. Academy that has taken place over the last few years, and hygiene boxes around MLK Day. We’ll dig deeper into all things Parent Council–related in a separate post.

Fundraising Initiatives

Related to at least one service-learning project—Puerto Rico—the TNCS student body needs to raise some funds!

TNCS School Store!

For the first time ever, TNCS students opened a pop-up school store happening on Fridays (weather permitting). See our Facebook event for more!

The grand opening last month was a huge success,
and you’ve got plenty more chances to shop ’til you drop on successive Fridays throughout the fall and winter.

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Breakfast with Blacksauce Kitchen!

TNCS dad and restauranteur Damian Mosely once again donated his valuable time and his delicious homemade Blacksauce Kitchen biscuits to help raise funds for the big trip. Mrs. DuPrau says this will really help bring down the cost of flying to Puerto Rico, and she also locked in a great group rate. So thank you, Blacksauce, and thank you Southwest!

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Community-Building Initiatives

The internal community building Mrs. DuPrau has engendered so far this year is off the charts.

Student Council

in yet another first at TNCS, this year saw the creation of an official Student Council. Students voted today for President and Vice President, after candidates built their campaigns throughout the month of October, culminating with presenting their speeches on Monday, November 1st and debating their opponents on Wednesday the 3rd. We are pleased to salute Indigo Mosely as President and Schonbeck Glazer as her trusty VP.

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Spirit Days

Mrs. DuPrau has held several Spirit Days this year, with good reason. She has sensed some lingering social and emotional issues from the recent pandemic and felt that injecting some extra fun into the school day would lift everyone’s “spirits”! “After our COVID year last year of hybrid learning, it seems like some students are still struggling with their social connections.” she said

Good Neighbor Day was the first Spirit Day of the school year. “It was so much fun to see everybody in their TNCS shirts outside smiling and laughing and taking pictures together,” said Mrs. DuPrau. The race was on to see who demonstrated the most school spirit both on campus and as a good neighbor!

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“I worked with all the homeroom teachers to get kids out of the classroom and off of campus with mini field trips, such as to go get a pretzel and lemonade for Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Longchamps birthday or buying plants at Fell’s Point Cultivated Creations for lessons in genetics for science class. I want students to get time together outside of the class so they can work on their relationships by doing fun things,” she said.

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TNCS students are also going to ethnic restaurants and ordering food in the language spoken there. They went to an El Salvadoran restaurant during Hispanic Heritage Month, and on Thursday, November 4th, TNCS middle school students went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered their lunch in Chinese. “The Chinese owner of the restaurant was so impressed by our students’ good manners and amazing Chinese,” said Li Laoshi. “Also, our students really enjoyed their yummy Chinese lunch and learned a lot from this field trip. You should feel so proud of your child!”

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Anti-Bullying Campaign

Hand in hand with building community, Mrs. DuPrau and Mrs. Hope held a Blue Out day to address bullying. Everyone, and we mean everyone, wore blue to school that day in solidarity. “I got a chance to kind of get into each class and do a fun restorative circle as well as a follow-up activity. Each student created a puzzle piece, which were then hung up in their classrooms to show that they are all part of the puzzle. We all fit,” explained Mrs. DuPrau.

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The class with the most blue—Ms. Weiskopf’s 2nd- and 3rd-graders—won bragging rights!

American Education Week

Finally, American Education Week happens the week of November 15th through 18th, and Mrs. DuPrau is working hard to get everyone excited about that. “We’re going to hold an assembly that gets us all together. I want the assembly to be super fun, and I want to jump into our core values, but I mainly want us to also work on building our school spirit—singing songs and fun things like that,” she said.

Creating a TNCS cookbook is planned for this week also. The cookbook will be full of international recipes to celebrate all of our diverse cultures and backgrounds and available for purchase online.

Let’s make school fun. We want to make school a place that children want to come to, that makes them feel special. Of course academics are important, but it’s also important that we feel like we’re a family, that we feel comfortable and not overly stressed, and we can let our hair down a little bit. So I’m hoping that spirit days and assemblies and off-campus field trips are helping build that community feel.

Advisory Program

And, finally, the new Advisory Program has been doing wonders for TNCS students. Mr. Jacks and Mrs. Hope work mostly with the 8th-graders, Lori Gorbey works with mostly 7th-graders, Ms. Sussman works with a group of 6th- and 7th-graders, Mrs. DuPrau works with a group of 5th- and 6th-grades, and Mrs. Sharma and Mr. Brosius work grades 4 and 5.

In an email, Mrs. Hope described what this program is all about. Advisory is a program in which students meet regularly with a caring faculty member during a scheduled period in the school day. The underlying goal of advisory programs is to provide each student with consistent support and guidance from a member of the school staff. This adult, called the advisor, advocates for their group of students and runs the day-to-day activities of the advisory program. These activities range from the implementation of a curriculum to facilitation of a discussion to the distribution of important school information.

Perhaps the most talked-about benefits of an advisory program are the positive relationships that are created. Advisories help to build a sense of community in schools, which is important for preventing alienation. Furthermore, studies have shown that students’ educational success is based on academic as well as social support.

“We all do different things with our groups since our groups are all so different,” explained Mrs. DuPrau. Mrs. Sharma’s advisory meeting, for example, focuses on wellness and social relationships through dialogue and game-playing.

Mr. Brosius’s meeting encourages role-playing to think more critically about character traits. They built an imaginary village where each student adopted a different role. They discuss why they chose the roles while trying to relate this to goals in their own lives. When things get a little too rambunctious, he leads the group in light yoga to re-center them.

Mrs. DuPrau has an all-female advisory group. She introduced journaling as a way for her students to understand their emotions and how to gain control of them.  They do restorative circles to get to know each another on a deeper level. They also decorated their lockers with inspirational pictures and quotes. They also spend time in the all-new Harmony Room in Building North to relieve stress.

Ms. Sussman’s group is building trust through conversation and art. They use a deck of affirmation cards throughout the week to share their more reflective sides. They will also work on creative activities that will allow them to better appreciate each other’s uniqueness.

Ms. Gorbey’s group spent the first couple of weeks of school participating in open-ended circle time and playing games like Uno or Get-To-Know-You Bingo. During “Mindful Mondays,” students discuss their goals for the week. On “Words of Affirmation Wednesday,” students learn to confront their weaknesses and share how they can turn them into strengths.

Mr. Jacks and Mrs. Hope guide the 8th-graders through their final year at TNCS and get them ready for the transition to high school. These students have attended school with each other for several years and, as a result, have created warm and trusting relationships. As teenagers, they often want to talk about their feelings regarding ongoing issues in the world.

Stay tuned for further updates on this truly wonderful and important program.


After an undeniably tumultuous period for the world, Mrs. DuPrau and everyone at TNCS are making sure TNCS students continue to thrive in all ways, including academically, socially, and emotionally. The TNCS community is beyond grateful for this very special care.

Devin Martin: Giving TNCS the Whole Picture!

Part of The New Century School‘s mission is to nurture the whole child. This means faculty and staff focus not just on academics but also on, among other things, social and emotional learning, physical education, and The Arts.

Background

For the 2021–2021 school year, art class has a brand-new teacher: Meet Devin Martin. She even has “art”in her name!

But that’s not the whole picture. Ms. Devin is a natural fit at TNCS in several ways, as you’ll quickly see. She originally came to Baltimore from Ithaca, New York, where she grew up, to attend Maryland Institute College of Art—which we all know as MICA, of course! She graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art and also did some course work in Art Education.

She found that Baltimore felt like home to her and has been here ever since. “I’ve made great friends here, and I’m never bored in this city. The art community here is so collaborative, and every time I spend time with my friends we come up with something artistic to do together. People are always performing at each other shows and collaborating, and it’s just a really great place to make interesting art,” she explained.

As for what her medium as an artist is, she says that the general Fine Arts degree allowed her to pursue multiple ways to create. “Fine Arts is a little bit of everything, which works well for me because I used to get bored with just one medium. I bounced around from photography to miniature painting to book arts . . . but what all of that ended up coalescing into was shadow puppetry, which became my main thing. It’s cut paper, it’s more theatrical, and I really got into theater arts after graduating.”

Ms. Devin uses transparencies, water, and ink to illustrate scenes in a stage adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Art Meets Montessori

Alongside this passion for art, Ms. Devin also has known that she wanted to teach since she was 16 years old and has worked with children in various capacities since then. After college, she began leading after-school community art programs. Shortly thereafter, she got a job at the Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School, and as you’ve probably guessed, became intrigued with Montessori education. “I was doing after-school things with them and realized that I wanted to be around there all the time! That was also one of the first times I worked with early childhood in the primary classroom. It was a good fit for my personality. Young kids and I have a lot in common in terms of enjoying tactile experiences in nature and art and animals . . . so I feel like I can engage them really easily.” She went on to tie that fascination with small objects to the Montessori tenet of the characteristics of the primary-age child.

So, she started working as a primary assistant (eventually going on to lead a classroom) and decided to pursue Montessori training. She did her assistant Montessori training at Loyola University Maryland’s Center for Montessori Education and her Lead training at the Barrie Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies, where she also worked for a while.

Here at TNCS

And then the pandemic hit, so Ms. Devin had to shift gears. She answered a job listing put up by a group of TNCS families who were interested in finding a Montessori-trained teacher to teach their young children in a home/pod setting. Says Ms. Devin:

It was a wonderful group of seven kids age 2 1/2 through 6 years, and met every day in the guest room one of the families had turned into a primary classroom. We also spent most of the afternoon in Patterson Park learning about nature. We learned all about what kinds of trees grow there, and we extensively studied the cicadas. We learned all about their life cycle, their body parts, and what they do and why they sing. It was a fun way to be able to bring my passion for early childhood science into this wonderful, wonderful park. It was a really great experience, and I think I learned a lot about myself as a teacher during that time.

As will now seem predestined, this is how she ultimately found out about TNCS. She first began long-term substituting in the primary classroom while Señora Salas is out on maternity leave but then saw the art education opening. “A lot of my background is in art education, and it’s definitely a major passion of mine, so I asked if I can do both. In the morning I’m teaching in the primary classroom, and then in the afternoon I’m teaching K through 8 art,” she said.

Although this schedule might sound daunting, it’s easy to see how she blends her various talents and makes it all work. (Puppets in the primary classroom? Match made in heaven! She also makes great use of her skill with miniatures.)

So how is she faring so far this year? Short answer: beautifully in both spheres. In the primary world, she says, “All the primary teachers are kind of new this year, so we were able to figure out how we wanted to run things ourselves. Although I have a lot of experience in primary classrooms, this year is totally different because of COVID. There are all sorts of different considerations for how to stay COVID-safe, from the way we do lunch to the way we do play time. So, there’s a lot of trying new things, but the kids are really adaptable, and I think we’ve fallen into a nice little rhythm and routine.”

As for art . . .

In the afternoon, I’m running around doing art in all the classrooms, and I’ve just been loving it. I think art teaching is really what I’m best at in the world. I’m always smiling so big when I’m walking around the classroom, looking at everyone’s art. They’re all elementary and middle school age and at that point where they haven’t quite decided whether they’re an artist or not. They might say they can’t draw, but they they can and with a bit of encouragement, they’re able to do things that really impress them. For example, we did a geometric tile project looking at Islamic, Moroccan, and Mexican tile-work, and we made simple designs using a straight edge and a circle. At the end of one of the classes, one of the students said, ‘how did you do that?’ and, I replied, ‘you did that.’ They responded, ‘how did you get me to do that?!’ It was funny, and she was so surprised at her own skills.

During the first quarter, students have been focused on building drawing skills through observational drawing as well as imaginative drawing. Recent projects have included drawings based on the colors, compositions, and motifs of Panamanian textiles and a street art–inspired project using bent wire to bring line drawings to life. “I like to take a skill and apply it in a bunch of different ways, but soon we’ll be moving on from drawing into 3D stuff like sewing and clay work. It’s been very fun to figure out what I want to teach and what areas of art I want to delve into.”


Ms. Martin will display student works of art around the two TNCS buildings—get a peek when you can!

Ann Marie Simonetti Joins TNCS as Admissions Director!

The 2021–2022 school year at The New Century School has been characterized by hope, joy, and glad new faces in the student body and the faculty and staff. One such new member of the TNCS community is Ann Marie Simonetti, Director of Enrollment Management (Admissions) and Marketing. Ms. Simonetti joined TNCS in September, when former TNCS Admissions Director Suzannah Hopkins accepted a position at St. Mary’s School in Annapolis, where her son is completing his senior year. Although the TNCS community was sorry to see Ms. Hopkins go, wishing her well in a position she will obviously enjoy deeply and being thrilled to welcome Ms. Simonetti are more than adequate consolation.

With school leadership experience in professional development, admissions, digital marketing and design, and advancement, Ms. Simonetti brings a wealth of knowledge to her position, which is so integral to the school. “I’m super excited to be here,” she said. “Everyone is so helpful and welcoming. It’s been a great couple of weeks, and [Ms. Hopkins] certainly did a great job of giving me all the institutional knowledge in the couple of days we got to be together.” Let’s get to know our new Admissions Director!

Educational and Professional Background

Ms. Simonetti attended the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the alma mater of her parents and a few other family members, right out of high school. “I was undetermined for a while but eventually got into the major of hospitality and quickly found that to be the right place for me. I felt passionate about it, enough to pursue that as a career after college,” she explained. After graduation in 2003, she did a 400-hour internship at the Radisson in Valley Forge (since renamed). A Conference Center was attached to this very large business-oriented hotel, and her internship involved working in all the departments—front desk, sales, reservations, housekeeping—and getting a comprehensive picture of what operations required on a day-to-day basis.

“Through that, I found that sales and marketing was the area I really wanted to focus on and was very lucky to be asked to stay on in that role. I had the opportunity to do that for a while and then connected with the Radnor Hotel on the main line of Philadelphia, where I got into a management position and really started getting my footing in terms of how sales and marketing works together.” During her time at the Radnor Hotel, an unexpected opportunity arose for her to transition from corporate meeting planning to wedding planning. “Doing that, I got more experience working with all members of the family and how they each had individual wants and needs, hopes, and dreams to express. I also quickly acclimated to managing a rigorous project schedule and began exploring workflow management tools.”

It will become clear that her rich, diverse background primed her for her new role. Answering inquiries, providing customer service, following up on the detail-oriented pieces, and communicating the necessary information to all the people who need to work together to make an event successful served her well and parallels some of her current tasks. “The conversations I have now are very similar to those I had in that role in that they are focused on common goals and rely heavily on building a relationship to achieve those goals,” she said.

While weighing various options for graduate school she spent time as a private nanny. This experience reminded her of the many hours she spent in her Mom’s classroom and Dad’s school office as a child. She started on a post-baccalaureate degree at Cabrini University, where, coincidentally, our Head of School, Mr. Jacks, used to ride his bike through campus. During this time, she visited her hometown in south-central Pennsylvania and reconnected with her now-husband who she knew growing up. The couple had their first daughter in 2010 followed by twin daughters soon after.

After moving back to Pennsylvania she transferred from Cabrini into a unique post-baccalaureate teacher intern program. The program allows those with bachelor’s degrees to get hands-on observation time and experience in the classroom. “In this way, we progressed through to an instructional teaching certificate more expeditiously than we may have in a more traditional degree program,” she explained.

From Pennsylvania to Maryland . . . and TNCS!

Before Ms. Simonetti moved to Maryland, she had some more knowledge and experience to glean. After finishing her teaching certificate, she earned a master’s in curriculum instruction while working as a graduate assistant in the Teacher Education Department at Shippensburg University. Adding another piece to the puzzle, she then started working at the Montessori school where her oldest daughter was attending. “This was exciting for us in terms of wanting her to be there—it’s a philosophy I’m very passionate about—so when the opportunity came around to jump on board, I did my Montessori certification with them,” she explained. Toward the end of 2019, her husband was approached with a contract in Glen Burnie. Although only an hour and 20 minutes from where they lived in Pennsylvania, they felt that was not a reasonable daily commute.

So, I started looking for school administration opportunities that might be available near Glen Burnie. The robust community of Montessorians in this area was brought to my attention in talking with colleagues and members of my Montessori training cohort. After accepting a position in Columbia, we started researching schools and different places that we could live. We settled on Marriottsville/Woodstock, which is right in between Glen Burnie and Columbia and moved here in March of 2020.

If March 2020 sounds familiar, you’re probably feeling sympathetic for the timing of the Simonettis’ move. She was in school for only 6 days before the shutdown. Fortunately, this allowed them to get to know their surroundings and neighbors, and, as she neared the end of her 1-year contract, she started looking for different opportunities where she could grow and be part of a larger community. She began looking for schools with a toddler through 8th-grade model similar to the Montessori Academy of Chambersburg, where she worked in Pennsylvania.

At TNCS, the culture and the community appealed to her as well as the core values, which align with her personal mission statement and her vision for her professional and personal life. So, when this opportunity became available, she quickly reached out to TNCS Co-Executive Directors/Co-Founders Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner to convey her interest in the position but also as a “new place to call home and dig in there and set some roots. I really feel like I could contribute to the success and the growth of the students, the school, and the community and also to have that symbiotic relationship that we try to cultivate in the environment with the children,” she said.

In just her few weeks here so far, she’s already enjoying TNCS tremendously:

I really feel that everyone has been welcoming and helpful. The sense of community that I was getting from the website, my first visit here, and from some of the testimonials I’ve read online, is what I’m experiencing here on a daily basis. As someone who spent a lot of time in the classroom, I’m seeing that the things that are happening in practice are what I’m discussing with potential students and families as our philosophy, as our pedagogy and our curriculum. That’s so inspiring and makes it easy for me to promote the school because we really are providing those great opportunities and robust activities and meeting the individual needs of everyone in our community in a way that sets the foundation for learning and growing. It’s a great place for them to be but it’s also what I’m experiencing as a new team member—being met where I am and in terms of what I know and what I don’t know and what I need to bridge the gap.

For now, she’s focused on finding students who are the right fit for TNCS as well as continuing to getting to know current students and their families, learning more about the new advisory program (stay tuned for an upcoming blog!), and bringing some of her background and experience with outreach enrichment. “I’m getting to know our internal community and bringing ideas for how to strengthen our relationship with our external community outside the walls of the school.”

“I look forward to being here every day,” she said. And, when she’s back home in Marriottsville, you can bet she’s staying active. She coaches field hockey for the Howard Stampede and teaches a group fitness class. She also spends a lot of time enjoying the outdoors with her family, kayaking, exploring, and soaking up the beautiful surroundings.


Ms. Simonetti will be offering both in-person/virtual admissions events throughout the year. Please reach out to her if you know of a family who would benefit from being part of the TNCS community. Psst—our Fall Open House Is Saturday, October 23, 2021!

Gab Sussman: Opening Windows to the World in ELA!

Middle school at The New Century School enters its fourth year with a fresh new face as homeroom teacher: Gab Sussman. The first thing that strikes anyone walking into Ms. Sussman’s classroom is her warmth. She positively radiates enthusiasm and kindness, and it’s obvious that she wants to be there.

Educational and Professional Background

Growing up in Putnam County, in New York, Ms. Sussman attended both public and private schools and has a broad understanding of what both types of school have to offer. She attended Loyola University Maryland here in Baltimore as an undergraduate in a pre-med program. She said that battling the physics and calculus courses was fine for a while until she heard a classmate talking about her elementary education classes. Something clicked, and just like that Ms. Sussman changed her major to elementary ed. “That’s where it all began,” she said. “After I graduated in 2012, I went back to New York City and began teaching in early elementary classrooms in independent schools.” She also pursued a master’s degree in educational leadership at Fordham University. “There I did a lot of professional development around integrating technology; about reading and designing curricula; as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion,” she explained.

After her time teaching and earning her graduate degree, she returned to Baltimore in 2019 to “close the gap,” as she puts it—she and her now-spouse had been maintaining a long-distance relationship and decided it was time to change that. “When I started working here in Baltimore, I had the opportunity to teach the upper elementary grades, and now I’m really excited to be teaching middle school,” she said. The impetus for her progression up through the grades came about during that professional development for coding and computer programming. Although she loved teaching early elementary, she and the school librarian started a coding club, and so she began interacting more with upper elementary school students. “What was also fun about that was, as my own students were getting older and advancing into older grades, I was able to keep in touch with them through the club and see how much they had changed. Our relationships grew and got deeper because they were older and experiencing a perspective shift. Through that after school program of coding, I realized that I really enjoy teaching older kids.”

So, when she was planning her move back to Baltimore, she had a good deal of flexibility as far as what grades she was comfortable teaching as well as what age groups she enjoys teaching. She got a position teaching in an upper elementary classroom in a Baltimore independent school. “This felt really familiar,” she said, “to be teaching 4th- and 5th-graders. It was new, but also at the same time I had the experience of teaching coding to that age, so it was a way to expand my career and my skills as a teacher.”

Her path to teaching middle school happened along a similar trajectory. At the school where she was teaching, an opportunity to coach middle school field hockey middle school presented itself. This happened during what she calls “the pandemic year” and turned out to involve more than just coaching field hockey. “I was getting to know the students and hearing what their days were like and supporting them social and emotionally. They had just done online school for a whole day, and now they’re showing up for a virtual practice. It was new, but again it was an opportunity for me to interact with this age group.”

Falling into Place at TNCS

TNCS 7th- and 8th-graders on a jaunt around Fell’s Point.

And now here she is at TNCS! She says she started wanting to teach middle schoolers in a more direct academic way, so when the position opened up here, she was quite excited about it. She has both the very familiar upper elementary–age students in her English Language Arts (ELA) classes as well as the fun new chance to teach her 7th- and 8th-graders as both homeroom teacher and ELA teacher as well as Global Studies teacher.

Things are falling into place in multiple ways for Ms. Sussman. “One of my favorite things about teaching upper elementary and now middle school are the amazing middle grade and young adult books. They are engaging and rich and complex, and I love being able to reach students through books,” she said.

Stories are really powerful, and being able to find that genre or find that one book that really turns the student into someone who loves reading feels really fulfilling. It takes the legwork to do the research and find those well-reviewed books and getting them in the hands of students, but those windows and mirrors are a really powerful way for young people to learn about the world and relate to the world outside of their own bubble of families and friends. It broadens their understanding of how the world works. I think that books teach lessons and can be opportunities for connecting with other people.

Gab Sussman being a good neighbor and helping out at Greedy Reads . . . and maybe doing a bit of research?

Ms. Sussman has ideas about how to reach those students who may not be independently grabbing a book to read or defaulting always to graphic novels.

What I love about ELA is helping kids make that bridge from graphic novels to really learning what kind of stories or what kind of characters appeal to them. There are all kinds of graphic novels; they’re not just fantasy. And the graphic novel genre and and format is very appealing to students of all ages and strengths and skill levels. Being able to help students understand that there’s something about the kind of stories that you enjoy, so let’s dig deeper into that. A lot of it has to do with just learning more about who you are. I really try to find those kinds of stories that kids need or are yearning for and and put them in their hands. ‘This is the story you’ve been wanting—once you start reading and you literally fall into the book, you’re not going to miss the pictures. The words will paint those pictures for you.’


In her second month at TNCS, Ms. Sussman says she already loves it. “I’ve always been drawn to smaller communities. As a kid, I was really lost in a large public school, and I felt like it was really hard to figure out who I was and figure out where I fit in the larger community.” She explains that this informed her university choices as well as where she felt most comfortable teaching. “The smaller structure in many ways is conducive to a stronger community feel,” she said. She also feels that TNCS is authentically diverse and multicultural:

It’s very tangible. It really affects how people interact with one another, and even in small communities, you can still feel isolated or you can still feel alone. So, it feels really wonderful to be part of a community that is intentional about representations of cultures and ways of life here. It affects the expectations that people have for each other, and it feels very vibrant in a unique way.

She says this carries over even into how some students are new to the school and some have been at TNCS for their entire academic careers. “There is really rich history in their relationships with each other. It feels natural, and, in a way, it mirrors society in terms of how people have history in a place and some people come and go.”

She’s right at home at TNCS and in her ELA classroom. And the answer is no, if you were wondering whether she experienced any regret about giving up medicine in favor of a career in education.

I would be a very, very different person if I had not gone into education. I think being an educator is part of my identity—from the the training that goes into teacher education to the experience of working with kids and partnering with families to staying up to date on child development and what literature to expose kids to. I can confidently say that I feel really proud and really happy with where I am. As I was growing up, I had an older sister go to medical school and seeing that and wanting to be like her, might’ve been a factor in why I thought I also wanted to be a doctor. But having that conversation with that one person majoring in elementary education allowed me to carve this path on my own and for myself.

That sister went on to become a child forensic psychiatrist, and so she and Ms. Sussman are both experts in different areas of child development and not only have interesting conversations but are also able to support each other in their respective work.

All in all, it’s pretty clear that, at least for this part of Ms. Sussman’s story, the ending is a happy one.

Gab Sussman and her homeroom students, just chillin’ on the TNCS campus.