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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.

Denise Barnes
2/3 Lead Teacher

Inside the Classroom

Professional Growth & Renewal

Writing Workshop
Columbia University Teachers College

Responsive Classroom Institute
-building classroom community, interactive modeling, and establishing a learning environment

Terra Dean: 2/3 Lead Teacher

In my work, I strive to reach young people wherever they are at and help them to realize who they are, with their own unique set of strengths and challenges.

I wish to help these children become their best selves, including working with them on personal goals (both interpersonal and intra-personal) such as mindfulness, being a good friend, as well as helping them to consider their place and role in their families, society, and the world.

This also includes learning good habits for lifelong learning like curiosity and interest through reading, researching, sharing, practicing, exploring, playing, writing, etc.

It is through connecting with others, and helping students learn to be comfortable with and express who they are that I feel a greater sense of connection to the world.

Terra Dean
2/3 Lead Teacher

Inside the Classroom

Professional Growth & Renewal

Responsive Classroom Institute
Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc.

Writing Workshop
Columbia University Teachers College

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.

Janet Thometz
2/3 Lead Teacher

Inside the Classroom

Professional Growth & Renewal

Singapore Math Training

Progressive Education Network Yearly Conference

-Minnesota Association of Independent Schools: Teacher Services Committee
-Teacher Representative in planning professional development for teachers
-Independent Schools of the Central States (ISACS): Yearly Conference

Opal School Visitation Days

Opal School Summer Symposium

Middle Core Associate Teachers

Whitney Matsuno: 2/3 Associate Teacher

Teaching never stops being exciting for me. It gives me a chance to be creative with the information I have and present it in an engaging way that all students are able to grasp.

I believe every child can learn, and I have high expectations for each student. My goal is to foster curiosity and promote respect and trust for one another. I encourage and develop the strengths of each child. If a child does not learn the way I teach, then I will teach the way the child learns.

I strive to provide a warm and nurturing environment where children develop a love for learning. My classroom will be a supportive environment where children are not afraid to make mistakes. I provide a balanced program that is child centered. Learning is achieved through meaningful, manipulative, hands-on experiences. My classroom goal is to become a community of learners where children are encouraged to be expressive, to collaborate, to take risks, and to learn from each other through conversation and reflection. I teach my students how to be kind, independent learners. I hope to give children the tools they need to create and explore tough questions they may have about the world and problem solve with resilience. Each student is encouraged to strive for excellence and to always do his or her personal best.

Nan McCormack: 2/3 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.

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