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Upper Core Teachers

The Upper Core is comprised of the Fourth through Sixth Grades.

Upper Core students (also known as Ponderers) participate in a workshop approach to teaching and are provided the opportunity to dissect or master a subject, re-invent and play with the elements that make it up, as well as struggle to produce something they can understand and connect with.

Goals and intentions for students are collaborative between students, parents, and teachers. Students keep learning portfolios and use meta-cognitive practice and reflective learning to deepen their understanding.

Upper Core Lead Teachers

Janet Chae: 4/5 Lead Teacher

I nurture a child's natural wonder and personal dignity. I embrace each child's uniqueness and individuality. I care about each individual child and encourage each child to practice responsibility, excellence, understanding, and respect. I model these values through my own actions, thoughts, and words.

Janet Chae
4/5 Lead Teacher (Social Studies)

Inside the Classroom

Professional Growth & Renewal

2013
Project Based Learning Conference
PBL Buck Institute for Education

2012
Writing Workshop
Columbia University Teachers College

2012
Responsive Classroom
Westside Community School

Danica Dermott: 6th Grade Lead Teacher

The life of a 12 year old is complicated, exhilarating, and incredibly special. With one foot in childhood and one foot in adolescence, I teach to their range of needs by including play, humor, and a sense of awe and wonder in their learning as well as continually setting higher expectations for their level excellence, responsibility, initiative, and accountability. I empower students to have a growth mindset and recognize their strengths and needs, personalizing the curriculum to meet them where they are so they can maximize their learning.

I am their guide and their coach, but they are leaders of their own learning in a student-centered classroom. I honor the wisdom of my students’ and create an environment where they learn through their own experiences, collaboration and Socratic discussion, and opportunities to demonstrate their ever increasing level of independence.

By modeling respect, empathy, and mindfulness as well as deliberate direct instruction they learn positive conflict resolution skills and to work through challenging ethical dilemmas. I teach critical and creative thinking skills with a strong emphasis on understanding and valuing multiple perspectives.

I teach leadership and integrity in the classroom and give them opportunities to apply these skills with younger classes they mentor, with their peers in the Upper Core, in their lives outside Walden, and even out in the world through academic learning projects. I not only teach skills of being a lifelong learner where they pursue their passions and answers to their inquiries, but also to be a life-long steward of the world.

Danica Dermott
6th Grade Lead Teacher

Inside the Classroom

Professional Growth & Renewal

2013
Summer Institute on the Teaching of Reading and Balanced Literacy
Growing Educators

2012
Social Studies Workshop
Teachers College Columbia University

2011
Institute on the Teaching of Writing
Teachers College Columbia University

2010
Discovering Ancient Greece Through the Lens of Art and Architecture
Vermont University abroad program (Athens and Samos, Greece)

Sydni Myrick-Causey: 4/5 Lead Teacher

As a teacher, I facilitate learning and guide students through their educational journey. Providing them with strategies and giving them access to discovering information themselves, leads them to be independent, critical thinkers, and become their own problem solvers.

Students learn best when they experience hands-on what they are learning and are active participants in their learning. They need to go out and experience things to acquire a better sense of knowledge about it; and it is through exposure that their understanding will deepen.

Each year that I teach I am continually learning, reflecting, and improving on past experiences. Not only am I learning from my own experiences but also from trainings, colleagues, schooling, the community, and especially from my own students.

Teaching is a lifelong learning process, and therefore I plan on remaining current in my field and bringing research-based practices forward and putting them in use in my classroom for the benefit of my students.

Sydni Myrick-Causey
4/5 Lead Teacher (Math)

Inside the Classroom

Professional Growth & Renewal

2013
Regional Conference
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

Responsive Classroom Institute II (RCII)
Westside Community School

2012
Problem-Solving Institute
Math Solutions™ (founded by Marilyn Burns)

2011
Math Institute
Worcester State University

Responsive Classroom Institute I (RCI)
Westside Community School

Grace Park Cubas: 4/5 Lead Teacher

In my teaching, I begin with the understanding that my students and families all come with their own strengths, struggles, and stories and that each child possesses a unique set of interests, talents, and skills to be valued. Because of this, I am intentional about building and strengthening the community of our classroom, as I believe in the power and peace that come with taking the time to understand one another.

The mutual respect that is developed helps to create an environment in which students can thrive. In a supportive and consistent yet stimulating environment, students feel safe to explore and express their ideas but also are challenged to consider multiple perspectives, to think critically, and to act with purpose.

We value the collaborative nature of our class, as we share ideas, strategies, and feedback with each other.

Students also grow to be more independent and responsible for their learning, words, and actions, and we encourage the development of perseverance and grit with the idea that "failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."

In my life both in and out of the classroom, I aim to be a model of integrity and compassion for my students as I support their learning and their dreams and work with them toward their success as excellent, ethical, and empowered young people. It is a tall order.

Grace Park Cubas
4/5 Lead Teacher (Language Arts)

Inside the Classroom

Professional Growth & Renewal

2014
Institute for Social and Emotional Learning
Potomac School

2012
Reading Institute
Columbia University Teachers College

2011
Institute on Literacy Coaching and Whole School Reform
Columbia University Teachers College

2010
Writing Institute
Columbia University Teachers College

2008
Institute on Media Literacy
Ithaca College

Upper Core Associate Teachers

Kristina Clinton: 6th Grade Associate Teacher

During my 5 years at Walden, I have met incredible people. The vast majority of them are under 12. I consider myself fortunate to be able to spend my days with these students, teaching, guiding, and growing. And laughing...there's a lot of that, too.

My educational background is in Language Arts, I received my BA in Literature from Cal State LA. Eager to share my love of language with others, I enrolled in the Cal State LA Charter College of Education and earned a Single Subject Teaching Credential in English. I continue to take classes through Cal State, and I strive to continue my personal and professional journey. Through Professional Development at Walden, I have received training from Responsive Classroom and Growing Educators.

During my time at Walden, I have taught 2nd through 6th grade, which has been a great opportunity to grow as a teacher. I have primarily taught Writers Workshop, but I have also enjoyed teaching gardening to Middle Core students. Last year, I started and maintained a school wide composting program that utilizes waste from our hot lunch program, lunches from home, and scrap paper from classrooms. As the program continues, it is becoming more student led, and it is my joy to see our students become stewards of the Earth, living out our school's mission of sustainability.

Jordan Frazier: 4/5 Associate Teacher

I believe strongly in idea that learning takes many shapes and forms. We all have our own stories and paths that have led us together into the same community. So much of growth and learning happens when real connections between people are created and when we have a safe environment for questioning and wonder. I challenge myself and my students to approach every day with a mind ready to grow and ask why.

Tiffanie Hoang: 4/5 Associate Teacher

As an educator, I believe in appreciating, naming, and building each child’s strengths.

In order to honor each child’s unique mind, I believe in employing multiple teaching approaches and strategies when planning and delivering a lesson.

I believe in sharing and studying the stories and voices of people and communities whose stories are often under-told, under-appreciated, and overlooked. I encourage and develop skills in children that enable and empower them to move within the fullness of their person-hood and to tell their own stories.

I believe in cultivating an environment of collaboration, community, and teamwork where children can learn deeply and creatively with and from one another.

I believe embracing our failures and learning from them keeps us growing, learning, and thriving, not only in our academic lives, but in our social and emotional lives as well.

It is my honor to foster a safe place for children to reach places of wonder in themselves, each other, and our world.

Alessandra Santucci: 4/5 Associate Teacher

My approach to teaching values the development of the whole child – physical, social, emotional, cognitive. I strive to develop a learning environment which encourages independence, freedom within limits, and a sense of order. Children are naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment, and I believe that the teacher, child, and environment create a learning triangle in which all are active contributors and participants.

I nurture curiosity and encourage children to take responsibility for their own learning. I offer the tools and strategies which they choose to apply in a way to best grow their learning. When children have choices, they are able to cultivate the skills and abilities essential to effective learning autonomy and positive self-esteem.

Upper Core students understand themselves to be citizens of the world. Thought and emotion are evolving into understanding more abstract, universal concepts such as equity, freedom, and justice. I provide opportunities for students to explore their impact on both local and global communities and to realize that they can be agents of change. Within a community of mutual respect, active learning, and enrichment, I work to model integrity, respect, compassion, and responsibility.
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