Kendal Healey: “Acorn Montessori School is proud to be adopting and implementing the new, rigorous Arizona English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards, also known as the Common Core Standards, for the 2012-2013 school year. Arizona is one of 48 states to adopt this new set of standards in order to better prepare students for college and career success. Expectations will be raised for all students, kindergarten through twelfth grade. Students will be delving deeper into critical thinking and application which will allow for better global competition nationwide. One of the biggest advantages of these new standards is that students will be able to learn a common set of standards no matter where they live. The teachers at Acorn Montessori School have been attending conferences and trainings to learn how to use the Common Core Standards in their classrooms. These trainings provide teachers with a better understanding of how to transition from their current teaching practices to the new set of standards. Our teachers will also be using their summer to develop a year-long plan that will implement these new standards for all subject areas in the coming year. The curriculum for all grades will be aligned to the new expectations to ensure that our students will be engaged, from the first day of school, in the higher learning now demanded from students nationwide.”
Michael Whitwell: “I’ve found it difficult at times juggling two full time jobs; teaching 1st grade, and raising two pre-school aged children. Both positions have a symbiotic relationship. Working at Acorn has helped me practice patience and paying attention to the needs of 1st grade learners, which in return has also made me more patient with my children and instilling their quality of life. Acorn Montessori’s philosophy of, “Children first. Always.” has really made me put myself on the back burner, and my students and children first. Although they are both challenging, they have proven to be extremely beneficial to one another thus improving the quality of my teaching abilities and relationship with my children.”
Shannon Weilenmann: “My first year of teaching at Acorn Montessori Charter School has been a wonderful experience. Both the staff and students have welcomed me into their lives. I am excited to come to work each day greeted by faces eager to tell me what has happened since last time I have seen them. As this year is coming to an end, I look back and can see how much each of my students has grown, either socially, academically or both. I am blessed to be given the opportunity to positively impact so many lives.”
Jennie Turner: “Having the opportunity to work as a paraprofessional while simultaneously attending the degree program at Northern Arizona University has been an invaluable experience. The education I’ve received from NAU combined with the practical and real life experience I’ve acquired at Acorn Montessori has given me a chance to significantly prepare myself for being a lead teacher someday. In addition, I have been fortunate enough to work with some wonderful and highly qualified teachers, who have influenced me greatly. I have learned many useful methods, techniques, and ideas for my own classroom. I have also found a great deal of support and encouragement from the staff, parents, and students I work with. I appreciate and value my experience at Acorn as a student, employee, and parent.”
Wendi Akins & Annette House: “Our classroom is unique because it is a 3rd and 4th grade combination classroom. At Acorn we know that different children have different needs, and we strive to meet those needs. We do this by identifying children who need to be challenged academically because they demonstrate high achievement, and have the ability to achieve at high levels. We, the lucky teachers of these enthusiastic gifted learners allow innovative and creative teaching methods to meet their educational goals. Some examples for their writing and literature tasks are biographical dioramas, extension literacy reports presented through computer application story telling, and project based research which is transferred into visual and oral presentations for whole class enrichment. Our students have the opportunity to work in Project Based Learning groups which builds skills such as leadership, communication, organization, time management, research and inquiry skills. Our science and social studies outcomes are enhanced by utilizing local programs such as Project Wet and Arizona Mining and Mineral in which the presenters have brought in an array of raw minerals and their modern day products that are current and visually appealing for our age group. In the past, for the appreciation of our diverse Native American population and their history, Mr. Black Hawk and Mr. White Eagle brought in their collection of spiritual and daily life objects. They introduced and explained the ‘why’s’ about these objects and then blessed the children with healthy childhood chant. We are excited, this year, to have each of our students memorize an oral piece to present at the Thumb Butte Speech Festival. This opportunity will allow our children to read a dramatic piece in front of an audience and build self-esteem and confidence. Simply said, the creative and in-depth learning in our class is achieved through as much hands-on as we can physically and timely provide. To top it off, our school provides the children with gardens, field trips and opportunities to engage in the areas of art, drama, music, computers and physical successes which extends the learning that is already happening in the classroom.”
Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius
Early in my career as a teacher, I had no real notion of what Montessori education was. I was lucky enough to get a job, which happened to be labeled as a Montessori school. But so what? What does that really mean anyways? Montessori is an educational approach, with its own materials and specialized way of running a classroom. However, as I have learned, the Montessori educational system can be adapted for use in a traditional educational classroom.
Many strategies already implemented in my classroom have a foundation in the Montessori approach. For example, Exercises of Practical Life are used in the classroom weekly. Students are taught real world procedures like serving snack, washing hands, and cleaning up after lunch which also has an educational foundation in Montessori. The regular education teacher in me says that this is preparing the students for a task that they will need to be able to successfully complete independently. Montessori says that “purposeful activity employs the hands in the service of the mind.” That is, that children’s’ minds best engage when they are moving, and completing the activity that they are also learning about. This is a very simple concept that can be cross adapted into other curriculum pieces in my classroom with a more hands-on method.
My educational approach in our classroom would be considered an “origin” classroom. The classroom has clear and consistent rules, but students are allowed (in time) to have educational say and drive in how the classroom operates. The behavioral plan in the classroom is set up in a way that students are responsible for the outcome of their day. I feel that this institutes respect and trust in the classroom, but the Montessori approach says that this strategy makes the students feel more worthy, competent and valuable. I have found this to be true, and instrumental in the behavioral success of our classroom.
Finally, another Montessori approach that I have found to be helpful is interest. Maria Montessori’s theory says that children are more driven in their schoolwork when they are interested. I have applied this technique in my classroom to all areas of learning – math, science, art, social studies and so on. Students buy in – they are more willing to be interested and involved – when the content is something that they care about. Or even content that they understand, that relates to them somehow. Students engage, lock in, and can’t wait to share their learning with you.
I found this text informative and insightful. Many of these Montessori approaches I have begun to utilize in my own room because I have found, in my own experience that they are good pedagogy. While I don’t agree with all of the studies in the book, I am open to reconsidering how I do something in favor of other theories or practices. I think I would like to use some more Montessori materials in my classroom to solve some of the issues I didn’t know that it could help with.
Teacher Shout Outs –
One of the things that continues to inspire me about Acorn is how kids from difficult situations can get a special kind of caring here. Mr. Ben has stepped up several times to look out for students who are not even in his class, and give them the extra attention that helps to heal their hurting hearts. Alexa Tupper has teamed up with me to provide support for another child in my class with a difficult home situation. She stops in to cheer her on for making good choices, or look at the picture she drew. Ms. Kendal has continued to show me the way for how to take my next steps in keeping up with education requirements. One of them was getting my Reading Endorsement. My father passed away on July 8th, and the Reading Endorsement test was July 9th. It’s all a blur, but I passed. Mr. Mikie has been a blessing in our classroom. Although he’s just getting started in the world of education, he is a natural. He’s conquered the Para-pro test, and we’ll see what the road ahead has in store for him, as well. He’s very good about taking those struggling kids aside to find out what we need to do to meet their needs.
I, of course, have to do a shout-out to Annette House, my incredible partner. We work so well together and I can’t say enough about her. She is creative, hard-working, and passionate about making sure the kids get the best education they can get.
What fantastic 2nd grade teachers we have here! Kathy Davis has had a tough bunch these past two years, but she perseveres! She and Jennie and so great with their kiddos, working with them in small groups, talking with them gently, but firmly and always going the extra mile. I loved Kathy’s creativity, such as when she buried chicken bones in our playground so the kids could be archaeologists! And Shannon is doing her fabulous job as her first year as a teacher. I am constantly amazed at the amazing writing I see coming out of her class.
This year I have really done much more administration work. I am entering all of the ALEAT information for ADE, which is needed for our T1 monies, and to satisfy our NCLB requirements. In addition, our kids have been able to explore more of the curriculum through participating in the Thumb Butte Speech Festival (where they are all reciting a 1-2 minute piece in front of an audience), to acting in plays with costumes, and doing Project Based Learning where they are doing group based research and brainstorming their own ways to present the material to the class. My plans for this Summer are to plan out how to implement the Daily 5 in my class so I have independent workers working on their writing, spelling and reading. I am excited that I work at a school that allows us to reach the students in so many ways.