Teachers Become Students Over The Summer

Thanks to the generous support of donors, MICDS teachers are able to take advantage of professional development opportunities throughout the summer, bringing back what they’ve experienced and learned to their classrooms.

The Thomas Family Fellowship allowed Lower School teachers Ms. Robin Campbell and Ms. Veronica Wachter the opportunity to travel to Beijing, China. “Our sabbatical featured cultural opportunities that expanded our knowledge and has extended our educational repertoire of our Social Studies/Theme,” they reported. “This amazing journey allowed us to learn beyond the textbook and bring real-world experiences into our classroom and the minds of students. We are excited and look forward to sharing cultural and historical lessons with students and colleagues. These incredible experiences have sharpened our minds, enhance our skills and continue to allow us to deepen our appreciation, compassion and empathy for humanity.”

The Polk Family Summer Sabbatical Fellowship for the Teaching of English was awarded to Mr. Tex Tourais, who spent a portion of the summer at Washington University’s Summer Writer’s Institute working with other aspiring writers to explore their craft. He received instruction, generous feedback and an inexhaustible supply of short story recommendations that should help him both in his own writing as well as in his American Literature and Art of the Short Story classes. “The Writer’s Institute provided me with an opportunity to sit on the other side of the desk—to be reminded of what it’s like to feel confused, frustrated, anxious or wrong-footed by an activity or assignment,” Tourais said. “In that way, the course provided a nice jolt of empathy and compassion for my own students as I continue to seek the right balance of (dis)comfort that will allow them to move confidently off their own, known paths.

The generous funds provided by the Edward M. Rivinus Summer Sabbatical Award allowed Dr. Gabe Grabarek to dig deeper into Roman culture, look at it in a way that is often unnoticed, and bring that knowledge to his Latin students. Dr. Grabarek took a nine-day trip to Italy, starting in Rome, then Assisi, and finally Orvieto. He said, “I went off the beaten path to parts of the city where ancient gathering spots are still being used. I observed how these places functioned, took pictures and created activities for my classroom.”

The Mary Institute Class of 1957 Endowed Fund for Faculty Continuing Education offered Dance Teacher Ms. Summer Beasley the opportunity to experience performing, teaching and learning in another country: Cape Town, South Africa. “It truly had a great influence on the way I experience dance and life. Dance as an art can bring people together,” she said. “We were able to speak the same kinesthetic language and create a contact improvisation (which included weight sharing) with people on the other side of the world!” Ms. Beasley left the experience with a fresh love of teaching, and she’s excited to share her experiences with her students at MICDS.

This endowed fund also gave Senóra Soledad Villagomez the opportunity to participate in a language and cultural program for Spanish teachers in Mérida, Mexico, where she learned about the Mayas in Yucatán, their culture, food and traditions. She also went on excursions to local sights such as museums, Maya’s ruins and other landmarks in Mérida to learn more about the Mayan culture and history. “During the trip, I collected realia, videos and personal photos from Maya’s ruins, museums, attractions and its people to develop my lessons to teach an appreciation and respect for the Maya and Mexican culture,” she said. Last fall, Senóra Villagomez offered an after-school class for 3rd and 4th graders that included history and geography of the Mexican and the Maya civilization along with the distinctive gastronomy from the Yucatán Peninsula.

Ms. Natalie Griffin, Middle School Spanish and Latin Teacher, received The Wilma and Roswell Messing Jr. ’34 Summer Sabbatical, which allowed her to spend nine days in June on the Spanish Mission Trail in California, known as El Camino, to experience significant sites firsthand. Ms. Griffin visited 13 Missions and kept a Pilgrim Credential Log to document each visit. This was a deeply enriching experience as Natalie was able to gain a much greater understanding of the history and culture surrounding Spain’s early presence in North America. While there, Ms. Griffin read extensively about each site and toured each museum and park associated with the Missions. “This school year, I’m using the material, pictures, artifacts and first-hand experiences obtained on this sabbatical to educate my students about the cultural relevance of the Mission period and its importance to the Hispanic presence in the United States today,” she said.

The Carol B. & Jerome T. Loeb Fund for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics award went to Mr. Greg Huntoon, Upper School Math Teacher, so he could attend the Stats Medic Summer Camp. “I got to dive deeper into the specifics of the AP Exam and topics covered while making connections with AP Statistics teachers from across the country, as well as giving my students a reason to poke fun at me (for going to ‘Nerd Camp’).” Mr. Huntoon learned about the “Experience First, Formalize Later” style of teaching and how it applies seamlessly into the curriculum, and he’s applied these techniques and brought them to the classroom, both in AP Stats and a brand new Intro to Statistics class. The goal is for students to collaborate and discuss an activity that allows them to derive their own understanding of the material before Mr. Huntoon comes in with formal definitions and formulas. “I’ve seen students engaged more in class, willing to take more risks and asking more questions that expand upon the concepts,” he said.