Blue School is excited to introduce to you a new segment titled "I'm So Glad I'm Here" named after the song we sing during Community Meeting.  Periodically, we'll be spotlighting a faculty member in a dedicated post; each one of them is a remarkable individual with distinctive talents and interests that should be shared with our community. 

The questions will be the same for each person:

  1. What do you do at Blue School and how long have you been here?

  2. What do you value about being at Blue School?

  3. What’s something you’ve learned teaching or working here?

  4. Which educator has influenced you the most in your life, and how?

  5. What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year?

  6. What is an example of your approach to dynamically balancing creative intelligence, self and social intelligence and academic mastery in your work at Blue School?

  7. If you could live in a book, what book would it be?

Choice Questions:

  1. In what ways are you the same as your childhood self?

  2. What five records would you bring with you to a desert island?

  3. What’s something this community might not know about you?

Mariangela Lopez, Movement and Dance

What do you do at Blue School and how long have you been here?

I teach and collaborate through Movement and Dance to Pre-primary, Primary and Middle school Division.

What do you value about being at Blue School?

I value the opportunities that children and faculty have to connect with one other through collaboration and creativity.

What’s something you’ve learned teaching or working here?

I learned that as a teacher and artist my own interests, aesthetics and passions can be the fundaments of my teachings and collaborations. And when I am able to create a container to share all this I open the space for the students to discover their own world.

Which educator has influenced you the most in your life, and how?

My Laban teacher in college, Keyla Kalk. This woman opened my eyes to discover my artistic path and mission. With her I learned that what I needed to obtain was tools, practice and a bunch of experiences, good and bad ones! But  if I could identify and describe the world around me I could actually use endless sources to create and teach.

What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year?

I always look forward to witnessing how students become more and more comfortable with their bodies and creative choices when they delve themselves into a specific creative process that leads into a presentation of some kind. I feel fortunate to see all the students of the school and notice their growth through the creative process of making work and share it with the community. Exploration, shaping and presentation give the students the opportunity to experience "real life" process of art making.

What is an example of your approach to dynamically balancing creative intelligence, self and social intelligence and academic mastery in your work at Blue School?

I think the process of dance making allows the students to meet all of this. This is the reason why it is so important for me to provide the students with a daily opportunity to create and share work among each other, allowing time for feedback and afterthoughts. Through dance making children are challenged to explore their own movement potential, share it with a working group to negotiate and select choices and ideas; polish and rehears the work to then share with their peers. At the end this process is about learning how to navigate through all these intelligences.

If you could live in a book, what book would it be?

 I would love to live in the world of Roberto Bolaño. Especially on the book of "The wild detectives" (Los detectives salvajes). This books refreshes my memories of living in latin america and traveling through the world. I can read this over and over...

What’s something this community might not know about you?

I appear on a Sesame Street episode. Look for it!


Anne Cohen - Music

             1. What do you do at Blue School and how long have you been here?

I teach music across all divisions, from the 4/5s through seventh grade. Music literacy and healthy singing starts in pre-primary, 3rd graders play recorders, and 4th-7th graders all have band (flute, clarinet, alto sax, trumpet, trombone). This year, I’m the co-curricular team coordinator, and I’m excited to be part of the accreditation steering committee. This is my 5th year at Blue.

2. What do you value about being at Blue School?

More than any other place I’ve worked, the Blue School community thrives on big ideas. I sometimes joke that no matter what it is I ask for, the answer is always “Yeah, sure.” “Can we sing in the stairwell?” “Yeah, sure.”  “Hey, can  we start a band program?” “Yeah, sure.” “Can we march around the neighborhood in costumes and play music loudly?” “Yeah, sure.” As a teacher, it’s a pleasure to hear “yes,” and it inspires me to give children a similar response to their ideas.

3. What’s something you’ve learned teaching or working here?

I’ve learned a great deal about collaboration, approaching situations with curiosity rather than judgement, and taking risks. Also, I finally know my way around the Financial District well enough to give directions to tourists.

4. Which educator has influenced you the most in your life, and how?

Mr. Cooper, my college trombone instructor, was a real old-school guy with a military background.  Both our schedules were pretty packed, and it was tough to find a common time for a  lesson. Finally, he suggested Tuesdays at 7:00 am. At first I was hesitant, but then realized that if he could drive an hour each way and make it to campus before the sun was up, the least I could do was roll out of bed and put forth my best effort. Not only was Mr. Cooper a world-class musician and instructor, but he taught me that sometimes, you just need to roll up your sleeves and make things work. I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention Dr. Bill Kenny, band director extraordinaire, and Dr. Georgia Newlin, a pedagogical genius who I am now lucky enough to call a colleague.

5. What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year?

I love it when we’re making music in class, and a student excitedly  tells me he or she already knows that song because an older sibling has been singing it at home. I look forward to the kids bringing music to the rest of their lives outside the music room-- whether they’re singing while walking to recess, Skype-ing "Hot Cross Buns" with each other (true story), or jamming with parents at home.

6. What is an example of your approach to dynamically balancing creative intelligence, self and social intelligence and academic mastery in your work at Blue School?

To complement their classroom medieval study, 4th graders read a biography of Guido D’Arezzo, a Benedictine Monk who is largely credited with creating our standardized system of western musical notation. Music literacy is at the core of everything we do across divisions, and it’s fun for 4th graders to dig a little deeper into musical history. They then create their own short compositions using a modernized version of Guido’s system of musical notation, and perform each other’s works using band instruments.

7. If you could live in a book, what book would it be?

Some of my very favorite books feature pretty unpleasant living situations (Running With Scissors, Middlesex, World According to Garp), so I’ll be honest: Babysitters Club. Kristie will always be my favorite, but Stacy had the best wardrobe.

8. In what ways are you the same as your childhood self?

I used to fantasize about breaking into my elementary school at night and trying all the instruments in the band room. I guess I picked the right career.

             9. What’s something this community might not know about you?

I’m a student as well as a teacher. I recently started an advanced certification program in Educational Leadership. The workload is intense, so forgive me if I look a bit more tired than usual these days.


 

Clare Hammoor - Drama

January 8, 2016

What do you do at Blue School and how long have you been here?

I collaborate with folks in the Primary and Middle divisions through drama. This is my second year.

What do you value about being at Blue School?

I value the work toward interconnectivity for each choice and moment we are able to create with and offer to students. These could come as clear collaborations between drama and movement and could also appear in big ideas that span the curriculum and school.

What’s something you’ve learned teaching or working here?

I’ve learned that teachers do not need to hold the answers — just the space. More important than discovering facts with students is engaging with them in complex questions about the historical past, their present moment and the future they want to create for themselves and the world.

Which educator has influenced you the most in your life, and how?

I’ve been profoundly influenced by my grade school music/drama and advanced English teachers. These women gave me the space and tools to ask big questions and explore learning and creativity that was imperative to me as a youngster and to the work I do everyday. That’s a real gift anywhere, especially in a school that was surrounded by cornfields in the rolling hills of Indiana.

What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year?

I am looking forward to continuing our after school performance practice projects! With Feeling Blue going up in a couple of weeks, I am delighted to share the beautiful work these children have devised. I cannot wait to continue to engage and play with our young performers this spring and into the future as they create theatre that is exciting and interesting to them. 

What is an example of your approach to dynamically balancing creative intelligence, self and social intelligence and academic mastery in your work at Blue School?

The work we are able to do everyday, I hope, strives to meet these goals. The work we are able to do in our productions, especially Feeling Blue right now, where children are challenged to work in an ensemble, maintain the rigor of rehearsal, devise from their imaginations and polish a product to share with their community all after a full day of school balances these intelligences and many more. I can't wait to continue supporting them as they rise to this challenge again and again.

If you could live in a book, what book would it be?

I dunno about living, many many books I’d like to visit — David Wojnarowicz’s New York in Fire in the Belly by Cynthia Carr or New England during Stacy Schiff’s The Witches or Paul Beatty’s world in The Sellout… 

What’s something this community might not know about you?

I was a champion wrestler as a child.

Tickets for January's performances of Feeling Blue can be purchased here.


Ashley Semrick - 4th Grade Teacher

December 11, 2015

Ashley.jpg

1 What do you do at Blue School and how long have you been here?

This is my third year at Blue School, and I have had the pleasure of teaching 4th grade every year! 

2 What do you value about being at Blue School?

The commitment my colleagues have to collaborating with each other is incredible. I value so much the opportunities to learn from my talented coworkers. Of course, the students are what makes each and every day worth it. Their humor, their questions, and their excitement keep me going.

3 What’s something you’ve learned teaching or working here?

Listening to kids is one of the most valuable teaching tools. Kids have things to say, and when you really listen to them you hear incredible things. This goes for every aspect of working with them, from writing workshop to science to math.

4 Which educator has influenced you the most in your life, and how? 

It’s hard for me to pick just one, since every teacher I’ve had and every teacher I’ve worked with have helped me grow and learn. If I had to pick one of my teachers, it would probably be Tim Quinn — one of my theatre professors in college. He was one of the first teachers who really helped me realize my potential, while providing that perfect balance of mentorship, trust in what we did as students, and passion for the craft. 

5 What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year? 

One of the Blue School 4th grade rites of passage is going away to sleep-away camp for two nights in the Catskills. It is an incredible privilege to shepherd the students through this trip - from the giddy, nervous anticipation beforehand to the the pure joy of outdoor adventure and sense of accomplishment they feel after having made the trip. Plus, give kids sticks in the woods and they’ll amuse themselves for hours. It’s glorious to witness.

6 What is an example of your approach to dynamically balancing creative intelligence, self and social intelligence and academic mastery in your work at Blue School? 

One of the things I love most about my students is the way they grow as writers throughout the year. We work to build a supportive writing community within the classroom. I truly believe that kids have powerful things to say about their world and this world they are growing up in, and I think teaching young writers to find and trust their voices is a good example of that multi-dimentional mastery.

7 If you could live in a book, what book would it be?

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Every time I read that book, I wish I could go back in time and be best friends with Francie Nolan. She has an beautiful way of drinking in the world around her. Of course there is the added bonus of the entire story taking place in historic New York City.

8 In what ways are you the same as your childhood self?

I’m just as loud and I move just as fast. Also, green is still my favorite color.

9 What five records would you bring with you to a desert island?

Portishead - Dummy

Tom Waits - Rain Dogs

The Kills - Midnight Boom

Rachel’s - The Sea and The Bells

The National - Boxer

10 What’s something this community might not know about you?

I write songs for, play piano, and sing in a Brooklyn-based rock band. Also, I like to do scary things like bungee jump and skydive.


Tara Lynn Cole - 3s Teacher

November 20, 2015

What do you do at Blue School and how long have you been here? My name is Tara Lynn Cole and I'm a 3s teacher at Blue School.  This is my fifth year at Blue!  I was a 2s teacher for three years and floater for pre-primary.  I also taught movement my first year for all the grades.  I was DT Leader for Pre-Primary for a year.  I like to support early drop off and also have taught yoga for a couple years for the after school program. I have led certain committees and also have worked alongside the team in the Advancement office.

What do you value about being at Blue School? I value learning through play, exploration, self discovery, wondering how something works,  and building community. I value what the children share and wonder about.  Their words say so much as they are working together collaboratively.  My co-workers are some of my closest friends. I adore all the children and their families.


What’s something you’ve learned teaching or working here?  I have learned how to be patient, flexible, confident, and to have a voice.  There is great joy in what we do each day and even in those challenging moments we all work collaboratively to strive.  I also have learned that at times we may not always have the answers or things might not be perfect and thats okay.

Which educator has influenced you the most in your life, and how?  My fifth grade teacher ( Mrs. Mock) stands out in my mind as a positive role model, who supported me if I was struggling with a math problem.  She would take time with me after school to work it out before I went to dance class.  She also was the teacher who said to me as a senior in high school "you should study dance in college as that is a passion of yours and has made you an independent determined person who likes to work hard, be active and likes a challenge."  Dance taught me how to balance a busy schedule and how to strive to reach goals.  I never really liked math but I loved to dance.  Somehow with the support of my teacher I knew that I could also focus in Math and reach certain goals if I put my mind to it.

What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year?  I look forward to the opportunities as I grow at Blue.  I seek working in different departments with various teams to collaborate.  I look forward to meeting new families and also become excited to see current families too!

What is an example of your approach to dynamically balancing creative intelligence, self and social intelligence and academic mastery in your work at Blue School?  My approach is to have a nurturing, safe environment filled with natural materials where children can explore in  sections.  One section of the room for messy activities and a dry section for dramatic play, building activities, and reading.  A place where children's voices are heard and where they discover how to be in a community and learn how to collaborate. An environment filled with open ended materials that allows for the children to creatively think and expand their knowledge or share that they discovered something new or how something works.  The classroom inquires  are always evolving based on the children's interests.

If you could live in a book, what book would it be?  The Giving Tree

In what ways are you the same as your childhood self?  Organized, social, kind, caring, nurturing, kinesthetic learner, like to have the answers, a leader, positive, happy, not always patient, sweet, giving, confident and adventurous.

 


Wanda Frankel, MS Ed, LCSW

October 30, 2015

1. This is my second year at Blue School as the Early Childhood  Development Specialist in the Pre-Primary Department. In that role, I collaborate with the teaching teams and families to support their understanding of the meaning of children’s behavior, learning styles, and overall development. I also lead monthly discussions with parents about a range of parenting issues such as sleep, toileting training, limit setting, transitions, etc.

2. I have found the staff at Blue School to be incredibly dedicated to their work with children and families. I appreciate how open everyone is to adapting their classroom environments and routines to meet children’s individual needs and inclinations. 

3. My exposure to the Reggio Emilia approach was limited before I came to Blue School. I’ve come to appreciate the extent to which children can lead their own learning if they’re given the opportunity to explore freely. 

4. When I had been teaching for about 2 years, I stumbled upon a book called, I Learn From Children by Caroline Pratt, and it changed the way I thought about what education should look like. Caroline Pratt was the founder of the City and Country School at a time when progressive education was not the norm. She understood how children learn through hands-on direct experiences, and then use play to represent their understandings of the world. This open-ended approach influenced my teaching and my work with teachers tremendously.

5. I get to spend a lot of time in each of the Pre-Primary classrooms and it’s magical to see the enormous growth children make every year. I love watching the 2’s, 3’s and 4/5’s build on their skills as creative learners, friends and community members. 

6. If I could live in one book it would be “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. For me, that story captures how young children struggle with the big feelings that they experience and demonstrates how they find a way to express those emotions by using play and their imaginations. This book also shows how much children need the adults in their lives to be accepting of who they are and offer them unconditional love. And who wouldn’t want to be able to visit a place where you can become the king of all wild things and then be able to come home to a hot cooked meal made by someone who loves you unconditionally!??

7.  There are few people in the Blue School community who know that before I became a social worker, I was a teacher at Lexington School for the Deaf where I taught preschoolers for 17 years. I left there in 2000 so my sign language skills are rusty, but I love to use them whenever I get the chance!


Rob Gilson - STEAM Specialist

October 16, 2015

1.     What do you do at Blue School and how long have you been here?  I joined the Blue School team this year as the STEAM Specialist, teaching the Production course and coordinating the arcs of learning for the STEAM curricula for grades K-8. I'm coming from a mathematics background, and I strive to make explicit the implicit learning that lives in each project we take on. There are limitless opportunities to talk math, engineering, science in so many things we do, so I want kids to look for those opportunities reflexively by practicing that skill in our studio.

2.     What do you value about being at Blue School? The creativity here is off the charts. The community recognizes that learning is not necessarily linear, or even formulaic, and embraces every unit, every lesson, and every child as an opportunity to discover something new, original, and inspiring, about the content and about ourselves.

3.     What’s something you’ve learned teaching or working here?   There's an expression: Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans, and I'm already finding that learning is often what happens when you're busy thinking about something else. The space that Blue School gives its teachers and students to think freely, not just deeply, to find the connections that mean the most to them, allows for true, authentic 'a-ha' moments. Not the predictable a-ha's where the student is saying "Oh, I understand what you are teaching me" but deeply personal moments where the learner says "Oh, I see how this fits into my understanding of life" or, sometimes more satisfying, "Oh, this completely changes my understanding of life." As a teacher I appreciate the space to enter a lesson or project with open-ended closure. I know how I'll begin, where the stepping stones of learning will be, and then I leave space for the students to build the framework for an entirely original interpretation of the content. The results have already been invigorating. Many kids aren't finished with a project even when they're done; just like in life, improvements are always possible. Blue School allows for those inspirations to take flight. Our weekly Production Recharge sessions give them a chance to take on anything; already I have students working on a solar powered tea service, a trombone a la Landfillharmonic, and countless other 'top secret' innovations that I am not at liberty to share until the patents come through, coming soon to a MakerFaire near you...

4.     Which educator has influenced you the most in your life, and how?  There have been so many, but I'm going to tip my hat to Sir Ken Robinson on this one. The birds-eye-view he provides on the modern educational paradigm has allowed me to find footholds in my own practice to straddle myriad learning styles, limitless curiosity, and unique worldviews. He gave me permission, so to speak, to follow my intuitions about education, intuitions that led me to doing STEAM projects in my previous school and which brought me to Blue School. I'd love to have a cup of tea with Sir Ken.

5.     What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year?  I relish the fact that, at Blue School, my curriculum is meant to weave through the curricula of my colleagues. They are as inspiring to me as the kids. They've managed to stay as curious as their children and light up with questions and ideas every day. The 'water-cooler' here is a veritable fountain of inspiration; I've received countless ideas from the fly-by conversations with other teachers and staff in the classrooms and hallways. Whether we decide in the moment that we're building trebuchets, or that we're wiring a map of the Silk Road to make it interactive, we build on each other's ideas, improv style. Every teacher in the world should be this fortunate.

6.     What is an example of your approach to dynamically balancing creative intelligence, self and social intelligence and academic mastery in your work at Blue School?   One example might be the 6th grade's current "What's in a Box?" project. Many adults with whom I've spoken who took Shop Class when they were in school mention making a box. Some were given permission to make modifications; many had to follow the blueprint. We're taking it on using the Design Process, which doesn't even consider a blueprint until we've explored the empathy, identification, and ideation that supports making a project with purpose. The way it is unfolding, I foresee no two boxes that are alike. One of the criteria for the box is that the total surface area must be less than 200 cm2. This little bit of mathematics has had a surprising set of outcomes. Some students reveal their math phobias and embrace an opportunity to partner with a peer to learn how to do it. Others want to create unusual shapes, like a dodecahedron, and embrace the opportunity to learn how to calculate this more complicated surface area. Then they break out the compasses to try and sketch it for their prototype and the real learning takes off! Social intelligence arises throughout the task as the kids discover talents, both of their peers and their own, as they work through complicated builds and seek opportunities to solicit or share those talents with their classmates. As in life, community grows by sharing resources. They face visceral blocks: parts that won't fit, wiring that won't work, and they have to find the resilience and resources to overcome those challenges. When they do, the satisfaction is palpable.

7.     If you could live in a book, what book would it be?  My immediate response would be an encyclopedia: it's got everything you'd ever want! But my more reflective answer would be The House on Pooh Corner. Pooh has a naturally Zen approach that has served me well in this complicated world. Pooh and I would have a standing Poohsticks date every Tuesday, rain or shine.

8.     In what ways are you the same as your childhood self?  I still find that the worst jokes are often the funniest. I prefer standing over sitting, walking over standing, dancing over walking. I feel most alive outside, preferably near a creek.

9.     What five records would you bring with you to a desert island?

1.     Bob Marley - Legend

2.     Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - The Last Prophet

3.     R. Carlos Nakai - Canyon Trilogy

4.     Radiohead - OK Computer

5.     Fela Kuti - The Best of Fela Kuti


Alice Mangan - School Psychologist (Our first profile!)

October 8, 2015 

1. What do you do at Blue School and how long have you been here?

I am beginning my first year as a consulting psychologist here at Blue School, focusing primarily on 5th and 6th grade, but working across grade levels and divisions to support administration, faculty, parents and children. While it's my first year in this role at the school, my relationship with Blue School began about eight years ago when I worked closely with the founders, administration and faculty to develop and actualize their vision for the school.

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2. What do you value about being at Blue School?

More than merely a place where we come together to learn and grow, Blue School is deeply committed to recognizing and honoring individuality and difference across the many dimensions of identity. It is a community committed to creativity, generativity and play in all it's forms; a place where the social and emotional experience of its constituents is paramount. The faculty, school leaders and staff are engaged in serious thinking about teaching and learning, about children and families, and committed to developing ways to translate this thinking into innovative and responsive education.

3. Which educator has influenced you the most in your life, and how?

I have been deeply moved by the work and words of Paolo Freire. My best teachers have been the children, adolescents, teachers, parents and families with whom I've worked over the years in different capacities.

4. What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year?

I'm looking forward to developing positive and enduring relationships across the community, and upon this essential foundation, I hope to offer effective support in the challenging moments that inevitably arise within any dynamic organization.

5. If you could live in a book, what book would it be?

Charlotte's Web