Teacher Feature: Meet Ms. Catharine and Ms. Lesley

Recently there was a question on my neighborhood listserv. A family had just been accepted into SSDS and was looking for feedback to decide whether they should attend. I shared our experiences as a new family in the school, a place where our family could not be happier. The reply from the poster was that she had received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and would be sending their daughter next year.

It is clear that SSDS has gathered together an extraordinary group of people who believe in a community-oriented, learning-through-play culture. This culture that so captivates parents and children alike at SSDS is fostered and championed first-and-foremost by the leaders of the classroom: the teachers. Teacher Feature, in The Spotlight Community Blog, will hopefully help us get to know our SSDS teachers a little better.

In this Teacher Feature we welcome two new teachers: Catharine Duncan, who teaches pre-K, and Lesley Gramaglia, who teaches four-year-olds. Both teachers are or were SSDS parents and we are lucky to have them heading up their respective classes. I asked each a couple of questions and here is what they had to say:

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Quick facts about Ms. Catharine

Teaches: pre-K
Grew up: Cheyenne, Wyoming
Favorite book: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Favorite places: Colorado Rocky Mountains
Favorite season: Warm, sunny summers
Favorite kids’ joke: Knock, knock! Who’s there? Boo! Boo who? Don’t cry; it’s just a joke!
Favorite kids’ song: You Are My Friend by Mr. Rogers

Why did you want to work with preschoolers and their parents at SSDS?

I work with children because they are so eager to learn. Not only are they eager to learn their ABC’s and 123’s, they are eager to learn how to relate to their friends, parents, and the community in which they live. They seek understanding and compassion. I enjoy working with children because I also learn from them. I’ve learned a vast amount of patience and have been shown a type of love that only exists in the eyes of children. They are naturally inquisitive, creative, and open to new opportunities. I love working with parents because of their enthusiasm for their children and their education. The parents I’ve encountered at SSDS are incredibly helpful and always willing to jump into whatever I have planned for the day.

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Ms. Catherine: “Children are more forgiving than you know; they aren’t looking for perfection.”

Any favorite playground equipment/feature?

I love the giant sandbox at the school. I’ve always felt that children are at their best when they are getting their hands, feet, and little bodies dirty creating in the mud or sand.

What do you find the most challenging about working with preschoolers?

I’ve found that children have a hard time in the classroom whenever frustration, of any type, arises. Sometimes it can be difficult to help children work through their frustration. Luckily, the Solution Suitcase helps children learn how to work through their problems and learn different tools to help them in and outside of the classroom.

What one or two pieces of advice would you share with co-oping parents?

Children are more forgiving than you know; they aren’t looking for perfection. They are looking for your love, patience, and compassion. I would also tell parents that kids love it when adults can be silly sometimes.

MsLesley_horizQuick facts about Ms. Lesley

Teaches: 4’s
Grew up: Born in D.C. but grew up overseas —Ivory Coast, Egypt, India, and Indonesia.
Favorite book: fiction and biographies
Favorite places: too many amazing spots to choose
Favorite season: loves the change in seasons. Each season is unique.
Favorite kids’ joke: Any knock-knock joke, even a nonsense one
Favorite kids’ song: a Swinging song for pushing kids on the swing

Why did you want to work with preschoolers and their parents at SSDS?

I used to work in the international development and contract management field and this is much more fun and gratifying. Being a teacher has so many different components—planning, observing, organizing, communicating, problem-solving, orchestrating. I think early childhood is a magical time and also a really important time in a person’s development and having a part in this is really exciting and challenging. My favorite things about SSDS are the energy and the sense of community. And I think it’s really cool that you may see kids in elementary, middle, and high school that you knew at SSDS! That is happening to my own girls as they go through school. Some of their closest friends are kids they met at age 3.

Any favorite playground equipment/feature?

I really love the monkey bars because I think they are a great measure of a child’s development. At the beginning of the year in the 4’s many kids can’t even hang confidently from the first bar. By the end of the year most of them can get all the way across on their own! It is such a strength and confidence builder.

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On pajama day, a few hams pose with Ms. Claudia (back row left) and Ms. Lesley (back row right)

What do you find the most challenging about working with preschoolers?

Trying to decipher them and keep up with them. J One year a project is perfect and the next year it is a flop. Things are always changing but that is really exciting.

What one or two pieces of advice would you share with co-oping parents?

Remember that you are just seeing a tiny snapshot of our class and our routine, and enjoy your co-op days because once your children are older you won’t have the same opportunities to spend time at school with them.

Whether “relating books to their everyday experiences and observations” (Ms. Lesley) or attempting to “teach through a variety of different songs” (Ms. Catherine), these two new teachers are working hard to create the environment of comfort and supportive learning through play that makes SSDS such a special place.

 

By Sibren Isaacman, Dad to Rahm (Ms. Beth’s 3’s) and Satya (2 months)