Middle Core Teachers

The Middle Core is comprised of the Second and Third Grades.

In the Middle Core, Walden students and their teacher agree on the kind and amount of academic work that will be accomplished through written contracts. Students are introduced to longer, inquiry-driven projects and learn responsibility for planning their time accordingly.

Middle Core Lead Teachers

Denise Barnes: 2/3 Lead Teacher

As an educator, I strive to build a democratic community inside and outside of the classroom. I teach my students that their life experiences, stories, thoughts, and ideas are important in this process.

Our stories always matter. Through in-depth discussions, my students learn how to make connections and sense of the world. This also develops a greater sense of empathy and compassion.

In order to achieve these goals, it is important to support learners in bringing their diversity to our learning community.

Janet Thometz: 2/3 Lead Teacher

I believe in a child-centered, constructivist approach to teaching and learning. The social- emotional growth of children is as important as their academic growth. The two aspects nurture one another and neither can grow and thrive in isolation. Children have many ways to express their thoughts and ideas in addition to speaking and writing. I strongly believe in providing children with many kinds of materials and experiences, which serve as other languages for children to use in order to communicate their thinking and learning. One of my favorite quotes related to human expression is by Elliot Eisner, "The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition."

A caring and safe classroom community is also essential to student learning. In my sixteen years of classroom teaching, I have worked to build routines and procedures into my classroom that are consistent and predictable. There are times and spaces for whole class gatherings in order to check-in with one another, do community building games and activities, problem solve, and to learn from teacher instruction. There are routines and spaces for academic work times that allow for both individual work and cooperative group work, for one-to-one and /or small group conferencing and instruction with the teacher. Feedback from teachers to children about their progress and work is honest and encouraging, and gives students a clear sense that the teacher knows their strengths and areas of challenge, and that the teacher deeply cares for and respects them.

Deep knowledge of the developmental stages of the children in the class guides instruction and activities. Research has shown that children in the early elementary grades benefit from opportunities for movement throughout the day. They also benefit from hands-on learning so that they can visualize abstract concepts. They benefit from making choices about how they will learn, and an early elementary classroom should provide children with a wide variety of activity centers including an art area/studio, blocks, sand, dramatic play, book/listening center, outdoor spaces for play and quiet reflection, indoor spaces for movement and quiet reflection and working, and soft and comfortable spaces to relax. The classroom should reflect the children who work in the space. The walls and display areas are filled with photographs of the children, their artwork and other class work, and favorite books. The classroom reflects what children are learning and studying and, most importantly, it reflects a sense of joy and beauty - a place that belongs to children, a place one wants to stay.

Middle Core Associate Teachers

Nan McCormack: 1/2 Associate Teacher

I feel very fortunate to have found Walden School at this point in my career. With forty-seven years of experience in education and having retired a number of times (which really doesn’t suit me), my passion and interest have steered me to this wonderful school.

Having taught in public schools in Toronto and Oregon and in private schools in Los Angeles, and volunteered on a full-time basis in a Chicago public school for six years, I bring a lifetime of involvement with children of varied backgrounds. My experience in teaching every subject in all grades from Kindergarten to 8th grade, French, English as a Second Language, and teacher education, in addition to being a Reading and Learning Specialist, I believe that I have a good understanding of all ages and learning styles. In the writing of curriculum, and as Interim Assistant Head of a primary school, I also have extensive knowledge and the skills to help me work effectively with children.

I was attracted to Walden by its mission and philosophy, which I’ve come to see as the driving force of the school. This is a place where the faculty and staff as a whole work collaboratively and are reflective and purposeful in all they do. They live by the mission and philosophy of the school, which is consistent with my belief that we should teach the whole child and provide personalized and developmentally appropriate instruction through experiences and instruction that meet their individual needs. I see at Walden a commitment of everyone on the faculty and staff and a dedication as life-long learners working to do exactly that in a caring and professional environment reflected in the joy and curiosity of the students.

My love of learning and commitment to children and their education are my passion, and I am thrilled to be working with the Walden community, where I hope to continue to make a difference in lives of the children.

Janice Orense: 2/3 Associate Teacher

I have been at Walden for eight years and have enjoyed working in the Village, Middle Core, Upper Core, and all aspects of Summer Camp. Walden has become my second home. I come into the classroom eager to teach and interact with each student as they learn. I believe that each one has their own timeline and unique journey; because of that, I strive to assist each one in understanding concepts and teaching them tools so that they become the best that they can be. I like to challenge students and share with them things they normally would not be exposed to.

In recent years, I also have the role of being a Walden Parent. I have the opportunity to see the workings of Walden by day at school and witness the effects by night at home. I knew we were in a good place when one of my sons suggested we do some mindful centering to calm our bodies down before going to bed. Because I am a parent, I have the opportunity to understand both home life and school life. It helps me be a better teacher, while being a teacher helps me become a better parent.

I am truly grateful to be part of a community that supports me as an educator as well as a parent.

Elizabeth Zeleke: 2/3 Associate Teacher

Each new day is an opportunity to create and learn. I try to help each young human being in my class learn and create their SELF by asking questions with no judgement, giving answers without criticism of the asker, and by simply allowing children to have the space to enjoy and discover the world around them even as they make mistakes. I believe some of life's most valuable lessons come out of "mistakes."