Our Year In Review

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Hello from all of us at The School for Young Performers! It’s been an exciting, challenging, and busy year for our school as we navigated a pandemic, virtual and in-person learning, more than doubled enrollment, and the largest teaching staff we have had in the school’s 25-year history. Though we haven’t been active on our blog throughout this period, as this year begins to conclude, we are thrilled to take a breath and reflect on what we’ve learned as educators and administrators in this uncharted time. We asked our teaching staff to share highlights from the year, professional achievements they’ve reached, and advice for students on how to maximize this summer before we all return to a hopefully more normal fall. 


Cherie Smith - US History Teacher

What is one highlight experience you had with a student this year?  

A student who started out in regular US history decided she loved the curriculum so much that she opted to take the Advanced Placement United States History Exam. Due to her commitment to excellence and a rigorous program of study, I watched this student improve her writing and reasoning skills by two grade levels this past year. She was something to watch!

What is one professional achievement for you this year, and/or something you learned that you'll bring with you to the classroom next year?  

This academic year, The College Board released AP Classroom, a robust tool that tracks many measures of student achievement. I am happy to say that I was an early adopter of this new technology and can use it like a pro!

What should students be doing this summer?

Reading any type of historical fiction is a great way to gain a dynamic understanding of history. Books exist at all reading levels and for all curriculums/periods in both World and United States History. 

Michelle Lynch - Humanities Teacher

What is one highlight experience you had with a student this year?

One of my greatest highlights was working with my student to create a beautiful poetry journal. He worked on 11 different forms, including a full-blown sonnet, and his pride was palpable and well-earned. He told me, "I like poetry - it helps me think about life." 

What is one professional achievement for you this year, and/or something you learned that you'll bring with you to the classroom next year?

I learned to use a lot more technology than I have in all my previous years of teaching! There are so many people around the globe who came together to create rich online experiences and share them with teachers during the pandemic. I'm indebted to their generosity and the chance it gave me to enrich and expand my lessons.

Charlotte Whetstone - Science Teacher

What is one highlight experience you had with a student this year?

I would say that I have had one of my best school years ever this year with 新萄新京十大正规网站.  It has opened my eyes as to where education should be headed in the future. I now know that I can teach anywhere as long as I have a video connection. I was nervous as a science teacher going into it that we may not be able to do labs or hands-on activities because we did not have a lab to share - we had our kitchens and Zoom, and we made it work. Our labs and activities were just as good, if not better, than the ones that I do face-to-face with kids in the lab at school. I just had to get creative as to how to do the labs with the materials that we had in our homes as well as with us being on totally different sides of the country. This experience was also cool for me as an environmentalist, because we did not order any new materials and used repurposed and recycled materials that we could find around our houses. This made our science class not only fun, but also environmentally friendly. 

What are one professional achievement for you this year and something you learned that you'd bring with you to the classroom next year?

Teaching virtually has also forced me as a teacher to spend hours on end raking the internet for virtual field trips, science games, 3D science models, and pictures, diagrams, and videos that will help supplement student learning and engagement. The virtual experiences that are added to the internet each day are so valuable for teachers and students and can only help to enhance learning whether it is face-to-face or virtual. Having one student in my class with me all year also allowed for me to really get to know her on a personal level, and that helped me to better design her lessons around what her plans are for the future, which in turn made her love science even more. I never had even thought about incorporating fashion into a science class for a fifth grader; however, anything is possible, and we did it. I am so blessed to be a part of the 新萄新京十大正规网站 family, and I am grateful each day for this school.  I cannot wait to see what the future holds.     

Justin Merz - Humanities Teacher

What is one highlight experience you had with a student this year?

One of my favorite teaching experiences this past year was getting the chance to listen to my students share their daily journals. In my English classes, I try to start each day with a grammar activity followed by a journal topic. These topics can be as diverse as planning a perfect vacation to evaluating a choice that was made at a previous time in one’s life to simply describing a pet. Regardless of how deep or shallow the topic might be, I’m always fascinated by how my students articulate their responses and express themselves. Additionally, this less structured style of written expression can be a great way for a teacher to evaluate a student’s skills, while learning about different aspects of their personality. Moreover, starting the day with a journal creates a space for students to engage with their own thoughts, before having to dig into more academically rigorous material. 

Pilar Martin - World Language Teacher   

What is one highlight experience you had with a student this year?

So many highlights this year, but my favorite was when my students sent me videos of them singing and practicing our made-up songs. Though this year has been challenging, it has been fun and satisfying. I know that my students will use their Spanish language knowledge and skills in the real world. I instilled confidence and knowledge in them, so I know they’re prepared! 

What are one professional achievement for you this year and something you learned that you'd bring with you to the classroom next year?

My professional achievement this year was keeping my students happy and engaged through the online platform and through so much uncertainty. This year was not easy, but I ensured that every class was the best for my students. Making an interactive notebook with my students was something I tried this year, and I’ll do it in the years to come. It kept my students accountable and engaged in the learning. They also liked making the special and personalized notebook to keep all the lessons, worksheets, songs, and even games as did I! I hope that my students refer back to them and see how much they’ve learned and done in class this year.

What should students be doing this summer? (examples: reading lists, math practice, advice for students transitioning into upper schools, etc.)

Practice. I hope my students use all their Spanish knowledge they’ve gained through the school year during their time off. I hope that they use those language skills in the real world.   

Sheri Taylor - K-5 Teacher

What is one highlight experience you had with a student?

A few weeks ago my student and I visited the Miami Dade County Zoo! It was a perfect close to our reptile and amphibian unit (not to mention we are both animal lovers!). The weather that day was perfect, and we were surprised by the amount of animals (including lions, rhinos, and orangutans) we were able to see up close. Our favorite part of our day was the tortoise encounter. We brushed their shells and enjoyed a fact-filled tour inside the actual exhibit! What a wonderful day! 

What is one professional achievement for you this year, and/or something you learned that you'll bring with you to the classroom next year?

I was reminded to always be ready to change the format and/or presentation of new topics. I love being creative and find that students enjoy structured change just as much!

What should students be doing this summer?

Rest! Join or enjoy some form of sports and/or arts activity, and engage in writing reviews, journals, and/or essays. I’d also recommend a spiral review for math including adding, subtracting, multiplication, fractions, and word problems. It would be great to continue to practice answering comprehension questions by rephrasing and making references to the text, as well as to continue improving typing skills.

Janice Lanzetta - Humanities Teacher

What is one highlight experience you had with a student?

One of the highlights of the school year was our being able to Zoom with a Mexican orphanage/school and speak with the school’s director. My fifth grade student has been studying the geography and culture of the Western Hemisphere.  When we completed the units on Central America and Mexico, I contacted my friend Gaby who was born in a rural village in Mexico.  When she was in fifth grade, her parents sent her to an orphanage in Oaxaca so she could continue her education. She told us about her journey from Oaxaca to the United States, how she learned English, earned her college degree and returned to Oaxaca to run the orphanage that gave her the opportunity to graduate from high school.  She shared with us what it was like to live in the mountains of Mexico and how some of the children who live in the Simply Smiles Home for Children have parents who are too poor to keep them or give them the opportunity for more than a fifth-grade education. 

My student prepared questions to ask Gaby and the children attending the school. One of the students showed us his artwork. This was particularly significant since my 新萄新京十大正规网站 student is a budding artist himself. Young Augusto from Mexico had painted a landscape using only recycled materials.  Thanks to technology and Gaby, our 新萄新京十大正规网站 student got to see and hear first-hand about life for some children in Mexico. He also could see how fortunate we are to educate and be educated. 

What should students be doing this summer?

Summer reading is always recommended for my students. I usually gift them a book related to one or two of the books they really enjoyed reading during the year and encourage them to reach out to me and discuss the book they are reading in book club fashion.  

Dr. Jeff Greiff - Math and Science Teacher

What is one highlight experience you had with a student this year? 

This year I helped lead a team of students in a multi-modal Virtual Reality Team Building Project. It was so much fun watching multiple students work together across the country utilizing multiple forms of technology. Watching a younger student become the mentee and an older student become the mentor was truly an incredible experience.

What is one professional achievement for you this year, and/or something you learned that you will bring to the classroom next year?

This year, I developed a custom curriculum that brought a new form of technology (Virtual Reality) to 新萄新京十大正规网站's educational process. This curriculum allowed students to learn advanced topics in new, easy to digest ways, and it connected groups of students in a way I had never thought of before. I will continue to build upon this curriculum and improve it for future years.

What should students do this summer?

I recommend that all of my Science students read one article per week from a valid source and compose a synopsis of what they learned. In Science, it is important that we keep up with the ever changing world, as today’s fantasy is tomorrow’s reality. 


From all of our administrative team at The School for Young Performers: thank you to our students, teachers, and parents for your tireless work and patience. It has truly been a group effort to make it through this year, and we are thrilled to have worked together to make quality, individualized learning possible across the country (and internationally!) throughout the last nine months. You’ve embraced new technology, reshaped lessons, and found more new and exciting ways to learn than we thought possible. While we are excited to prepare for a school year that will be more “normal” with in-person instruction resuming and guidelines easing, we remain grateful for all that we’ve learned in this year like none other. From the bottom of our hearts: thank you.

Best,

The School for Young Performers

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