Teaching is in my blood. My mother was a third grade teacher and my grandmother, a high school and grade school P.E. teacher. Two of my great-aunts were teachers. I love it that one sister teaches first grade on the east coast, my other sister teaches kindergarten in the midwest, and I teach a kindergarten/first grade multi-age class on the west coast. It makes for some interesting discussions at family get-togethers!
I came to Slater School 7 years ago, having taught 24 years in a neighboring district and 6 years in 3 different districts out of this area. My experience as a classroom teacher has been in kindergarten, first grade, Title 1 (K-5), ELL (K-4), and a Computer/Math/Literacy Lab (K-4), at which time I was honored as Teacher of the Year by my district. In the course of my career I have enjoyed working with my colleagues as a trainer in many different curricular areas – literacy, social studies, science, technology, and math, where I served 6 years as math mentor and 2 as questioning strategies mentor.
Since the beginning of my career, I have invited parents to be involved in my classroom. They bring so much to the children and create another dimension of learning in the classroom! When I heard about the parent-participation program at Slater School, I knew I had to become a part of it. I’ve never been sorry.
We are fortunate at Slater School to have had Dr. Nicki Smith as our principal for the past four years! She is a gifted, insightful leader. Her vision has led us to places we could never have reached alone. A teacher herself, she models what she expects in us – an inquiring mind searching for the truth, a tireless trailblazer in the art of finding and incorporating strategies that work, so that all children experience success in school.
When Dr. Smith arrived four years ago, we were grappling with issues brought forth when a neighborhood population of predominantly Title I children shares the same campus with a smaller parent-participation alternative school-within-a-school. Under Dr. Smith’s leadership, we came together and created an incredible caring community that works together for the benefit of all the children. We managed to do the unthinkable – when our school was targeted to close this June, Slater parents, teachers, and community members working together got a one-year reprieve from the school board. Believing passionately in the value of small neighborhood schools, we are currently hoping for a miracle and working to find ways to keep all schools open in our district.
Slater School consists of 11 multi-age classrooms and 7 straight grade classrooms. There are eight K/1 classrooms, three 2/3 classrooms, two 2nd grade, one 3rd grade, two 4th grade, and two 5th grade classrooms.
The K/1 team consists of 9 members, as two are sharing a contract and work 50% of the year, every other week. We have been together two years. When Nicki asked us two and a half years ago if any of us wanted to work with Dr. Liping Ma in a 3-year project to develop children’s profound understanding of math, we all jumped at the chance! Each of us began our study in a different place, and all of us have grown in an amazing way throughout our work in this project.
We look forward to our Thursday collaboration meetings all week long. During our meetings we look at student work, question and refine our teaching methods, search for ways in which children will gain greater knowledge and deeper understanding, and struggle with difficult issues. Only once have we ended our meeting within the prescribed hour – most meetings go on for several hours, as we brainstorm, question, and research together how to refine lessons which enable all our children to accomplish the learning and articulate their understandings in a meaningful way.
It has been my great pleasure to work with the fine professionals on the K/1 team. I deeply appreciate all that each person has brought to our lesson study, to our meetings, to our team, to our parents, and to the wonderful children whom we teach. The children are the reason we are here, and it is to them that I dedicate this work.