01 Jun

Ms. Kanter

Ms. Kanter has taught third grade at the Lower School for seven years and has become known for her tireless work ethic and commitment to her students. She is often the first to arrive in the morning and can be found preparing lessons and activities that keep her students focused, engaged, motivated and always learning. She expects a lot from students, but she helps them get there, and she celebrates each and every one of them along the way. Along with her partner, she has helped make third grade a year that students look forward to with excitement and look back upon with happiness. She helped create the signature third-grade program “Third Graders Making A Difference” which has become an important way in which the Lower School contributes to the local and global community.

Ms. Kanter started her professional career as a lawyer but found her calling as a third-grade teacher. We are lucky she honed her craft here at the Lower School. Those who have observed her impressive energy may be surprised to learn she commutes from Westchester each morning and has decided to take a position closer to home to minimize her commuting time – and most importantly use that extra time to spend with her three growing children.

01 Jun

Ms. DeJesus

Although Ms. DeJesus joined us very recently, her work and impact is evident in our hallways and the smiles on the faces of the children as they go to and from Swartley Art Center for her classes.

Since she arrived in January the hallway displays showcase nightscapes, cherry blossoms and elephants perched on locker tops. Flexible and creative, she has worked with the kindergarten students and teachers to re-imagine the signature zoo project, and together they transformed the kindergarten classrooms into an art studio where students learned and practiced art technique and then brought the animals they studied to life. Kindergarten families will see their creations when they visit the kindergarten zoo next week!

A native New Yorker, Ms. DeJesus’s professional career launched in 2001 when she and a group of friends animated the cartoon segment for the live action movie Super Troopers.  She went on to publish a series of graphic novels including a short comic featured in the young adult novel, Fan Art, and has shared this love with our students in her art classes, as well as in a popular ACE class she offered. Her teaching career is just launching, and we anticipate great things in her future. Her future art students will be very lucky to have her, and we are delighted she chose to spend time here with us at the Lower School.

01 Jun

Mr. Coyne

It may surprise you to learn that originally Mr. Coyne’s professional goal was to teach high school English. However, an assistant teaching position in our kindergarten inspired and showed him how impactful and rewarding working with young children can be. Here at the Lower School he has grown from a kindergarten assistant teacher to a head kindergarten teacher to a first grade teacher and finally librarian, along the way nurturing and celebrating the reading and writing lives of many Lower School students. He coached Middle School basketball and has contributed immensely to the Dwight-Englewood community – not to mention that in his time here he has become a father to Olivia and Jackson. Mr. Coyne is ready for the next step in his professional life, which for him means going back to his original dream of teaching great literature to adolescent minds. His love of the written word and his love of learning will serve him well in this position.

01 Jun

Mrs. Nicolau

When Mrs. Nicolau began teaching at the Lower School we had a cart of PC computers, floppy disks and we were just learning about a new technology called Smartboards. Now, all of our classrooms have Smartboards, and even our youngest students have access to and the skills to use not only PCs but also ipads, robotics materials, coding programs and any number of applications and tools which help them interact meaningfully with technology.

In her time at the Lower School, Mrs. Nicolau has provided an approachable learning environment and training to everyone – not only the students but also the adults – from those just learning to others seeking to improve their instructional practices and gain deeper understanding of the use and purpose of technology. Her resourceful nature, as well as her creative and innovative ideas, promoted teaching for understanding in students and adult learners. Students have learned to visualize and use the computer as a tool and as an instructional aid. She has opened up new worlds to students, perhaps most noticeably with her most recent work around coding and programming, two areas of great enthusiasm that she shares with her students.

She has led many charges around the integration of technology and has been a forward thinker, constantly rethinking how we do things and bringing new ideas and approaches to our school. We are in a very different place since Mrs. Nicolau arrived. She has helped children face the challenges of a changing world.

We hope you join us in thanking these teachers for their service to the Dwight-Englewood community. It is with gratitude and fondness that we  say goodbye and wish them all the best.

25 May

4th Grade Hudson River Study

Submitted by Beth Lemire

On Tuesday, May 22, the fourth-grade classes took a trip to the Clearwater Sloop.  The sloop is a replica of the 19th-century sloops that once sailed the Hudson.

Singer/songwriter/environmentalist Pete Seeger created it along with programs to educate others about the Hudson River.

Children participated in six different activities onboard including turbidity tests, navigation, living animals, knot tying and more.  Although it was a bit rainy, they were still in awe at the majesty of the river and the natural beauty of Storm King Mountain.

By giving children the opportunity to experience the Hudson away from the city area along with the educational activities provided, it is my hope that they will better understand the importance of keeping our waterways clean.

If you are interested in a family sail and to find out more about the Clearwater visit https://www.clearwater.org/  .


Photo credit: (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Daniel Mennerich https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielmennerich/

25 May

We Are Making A Difference!

Submitted by Ms. Kanter and Ms. Sussman

It’s been four years since the start of Third Graders Making a Difference, our curriculum for giving back, and the program continues to grow and flourish.  Students enthusiastically participate in each project while growing a greater appreciation for making a difference in the lives of others and the world.  In the last few months, we have been very busy doing just that!

In March Third Graders learned about the homeless and people who are having trouble paying for the things they need to survive – things like shampoo and soap.  We asked the whole Lower School to help with this collection and in the end, we collected 1,253 toiletries. We gave them to the Center for Food Action to give to families in need. Over the past four years, the Lower School has helped us to collect over 4,500 toiletries!

In April Third Graders worked to help the whole world.  First, we read about how plastic bags are bad for the environment.  After learning this, we wanted to make a difference not just in our lives, but in the lives of others.  So, we took what we learned in writing workshop and we wrote persuasive letters to people trying to convince them to use reusable canvas bags instead of plastic bags.  Then, we designed and decorated two canvas bags. We kept one for ourselves, and we gave the other to the person we wrote the persuasive letter to. This was our way of helping make a change so that people use less plastic and more canvas bags.

In May, we continued the long tradition of the used book sale.  We, once again, asked the Lower School to bring in their gently used books.  Then we held a sale where everyone could shop for great books at really good prices.  We raised over $2100! Even after making all that money we still had books leftover. The books will be donated to a school in Africa that doesn’t have many books.  Over the past four years, not only have so many of us purchased great books, but we have raised a total of over $7,200!

This month’s project was especially exciting because by this point, Third Graders had had learned so much about making a difference that they got to be in charge of where all the money would go.  First students chose a charity that was close to their hearts, then they did research on that charity. Next students wrote a persuasive speech about why they feel that charity should get the book sale money.

Here’s an excerpt of what one student wrote for his persuasive speech…

Can you imagine life without sight?  Would you even know what to do? In an unprepared school, you would be stumbling, bumping into objects and other people and have no way to study reading.  Not so with the St. Joseph’s School for the Blind.

St. Joseph’s School for the Blind is a very charitable and welcoming organization.  They give without getting back anything except gratitude. We need to give something back to this organization that has done so much for people with visual impairments – the considerable proceeds of the Third Grade Used Book Sale.

This is where you come in.  You need to vote for St. Joseph’s for the world to reap the full benefits of this generous nonprofit organization.  Additional funding could help St. Joseph’s students access the community more easily and thoroughly and in turn, we could learn more about their lives and how we are connected.

Give people with visual impairments a proper education.  Vote for St. Joseph’s School or the Blind!

Everyone in the grade and even some 4th graders came to our presentations.  Then everyone voted for the charity they thought the money should go to.  The votes have been tallied, and the money will go to The World Wildlife Fund and Hope for Paws—two worthwhile charities.

This year the Third Grade created a piece of art and poem to commemorate our year’s work of making a difference. We’re going to donate it to the Lower School, so we can all be reminded to make a difference every day.

Our year of giving was celebrated with an assembly on May 23rd.  Third Graders shared all they accomplished throughout the year.  Hoping their audience was inspired to make a difference over the summer, they announced this summer’s call to action.  All Lower School families were asked to clean out their Halloween costume collection and bring any costumes they no longer need to school in September.  These costumes will be donated to the Bergen Family Center right here in Englewood. They will be able to provide a “pop-up shop” for families to get great costumes for free.

Not only were so many helped in so many ways this year, but Third Graders learned important, lifelong lessons.

Upon reflecting about the year, Lucy said, “From our work this year, I learned that you should always be thankful for what you have because a lot of people around the world don’t have what you have.”

Ade said, I learned that if you give a little bit, it will make a BIG difference in the world.

And Chelsea said, “A lesson I learned is that you’re never too young to make a difference.”

Thanks to all community members who supported our year-long efforts.  We all helped to Make a Difference!

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23 Apr

All About the Opera: Sparks of Imagination Opera Company News

Contributed by the Opera Public Relations Team

Opera isn’t just about overweight ladies in viking hats! It’s about an important story translated through music and acting. And that’s just what the 5th graders of Sparks of Imagination Opera Company aimed to do.

The theme of the opera is “awareness”. According to 5th grade Public Relations Officer, Radha, “This opera is going to be the next Wonder. It’s definitely going to raise our awareness to a great level.” Melissa adds, “ This opera teaches an important lesson that eventually everyone needs to learn. This opera is a fun way to teach awareness and a way for people to learn the lesson.”

The fifth graders have been working restlessly since the first few weeks of school to create an original opera, entitled Crystal Clear. Students applied and auditioned for opera jobs at the end of September and started working immediately to create and perfect original opera. The writers wrote a full-length 3 act script, while the composers wrote music to accompany the lyrics.  The costume and make-up artists designed costumes based on the personalities of each character. The set designer, Jane, created the settings for the opera, while the carpenters built and painted the backdrops. Electricians built a light board that will run lights for the production. The stage managers, Georgia and Lilly, rehearsed with the performers and will cue them during the show.  Historians gathered information during the opera classes so they could start making their display. The production manager, Gabby made sure everything ran smoothly. All performances will be run completely by 5th graders, with no adults!

Unfortunately this winter has been brutal, resulting in lots of our opera days becoming snow days. This has shortened our work time. Another struggle is the fact that we started working on the opera in mid- October. That hasn’t given us much time to work on the opera, especially with only two classes per week. But we have been able to work through it.

Do you still think that opera is just about ladies in viking hats? We hope not and we hope to see you at the opera! The performance is scheduled for this Thursday, April 26, at 7:30 pm in Hajjar Auditorium on the 2nd floor of the Klein Campus Center.

To listen to a Podcast series from the Sparks of Imagination Opera Company, featuring interviews with various students in different jobs,  click here or go to http://lsnotes.d-e.org/feed/podcast/opera

To visit the Sparks of Imagination website click here or go to www.d-e.org/sparksofimagination *Note: D-E LogIn required.

23 Apr

Spring Carnival & STEM Festival 2018

All in the D-E community are invited to the Spring Carnival & STEM Festival 2018 this Sunday, April 29, from 1 3:00 PM on Leggett Field and the Hajjar STEM Center.Featuring 20+ booths and activities, and a complimentary BBQ lunch included. FREE Admission, rain or shine! The Spring Carnival and STEM Festival is sponsored by D-E Upper School student clubs and the D-E Parents’ Association, and is open to D-E families of all ages. For details visit www.d-e.org/news or www.d-e.org/activities (D-E LogIn required).

23 Apr

Bookmaking in Early Childhood

Submitted by the Early Childhood Faculty

In our kindergarten, it is routine for teachers to pull up a chair alongside children to confer about a piece of their writing. Two years earlier, those same children may have pulled up a chair alongside a teacher who is writing and tried to imitate them. With clipboard, paper, and crayon in hand, preschool children mimic the posture, arm and hand movements of their teachers, especially when teachers are taking notes on their peers,  perfectly capturing purposeful writing. When the dramatic play area becomes a doctor’s office, the children scribble “prescriptions” on pads, another imitation of purposeful writing.

One of the ultimate accomplishments of our emergent writers and readers is to create books. Bookmaking happens throughout our early childhood program. “Oral rehearsal” — repeatedly speaking words that may then become part of a book’s text — is an integral part in the process.

Preschool 3: Marisa Tepley, Rachel DiGiovanni, and Mary Cushman

A precursor to writing is telling a sequential story. In Preschool 3, the most popular subject in storytelling is self. Many three- and four-year-olds enjoy speaking about their experiences. In Preschool 3, we create books about each student by photographing jobs and routines that have a true beginning, middle, and end. The students take “picture walks” through the photographs to develop their titles. Once the books are laminated and bound, the preschoolers -with support from their teachers – read their books to the class. They use transitional words such as first, next, and then. Their books become part of the classroom library until their next publication is ready. Our budding authors are now on their third books, which contain printed text that they have dictated.

Preschool 3 children enjoy drawing. By spring, some are drawing several pictures at a time, and often they reveal to the teachers what they are thinking about or representing on the pages. We jot down their words and ask if they’d like to staple the pages together and make a book. These books may be read aloud to the class by a teacher before being sent home. As you will read below, by Preschool 4 this kind of bookmaking becomes more structured, focused, and independent.

Preschool 4: Teresa Cali and Ericka Butler

In Preschool 4, it is an exciting experience for the children to take their bookmaking to the next level. They understand what an author and illustrator are and appreciate what goes into the making of a book. They learn about different styles of writing and drawing through our many author studies. Children gravitate to the writing center where they create their own original books, incorporating their own pictures and/or words. Before a child begins making a book, a topic may be discussed at a meeting with the whole class or in a one-on-one meeting with a teacher. The Writing Center in the classroom is open for the children to go to at any point in the day should they get a book idea on their own.

The Writing Center has all the materials children need for bookmaking, including pre-stapled blank books, a variety of colored pencils and crayons, letter stamps and pads, whiteboards, chalkboards, sandpaper letters and an alphabet chart. At this age, some children choose to dictate their words, while others begin labeling their pictures using sound spelling. Some writers verbally narrate their picture stories without putting words on a page. When their books are complete, the children have an opportunity to share their books with the class while they sit in a designated author and illustrator chair. It is a delightful and gratifying experience for children to share their books with their friends.

Kindergarten: Tricia Fiore, Lorraine Yamin, Sandy De Cos, and Kristina Gomez

On the first day of kindergarten, teachers gather students in a huddle near the easel to share the great news that bookmaking is celebrated every day and that every student in the room is an author. Students are introduced to Writer’s Workshop, the time in their schedule when they first receive a ten-minute “mini-lesson” where teachers share information about what writers do. This mini lesson is followed by 20 to 30 minutes of practice bookmaking and being an author.

The Writer’s Workshop approach capitalizes on kindergartners’ desire to show the world everything they know. The mechanics of the workshop eventually include planning a book with illustrations, adding labels and word approximations, stretching out words orally to hear the sounds and get them on the page, and using a letter board to help remember sound/letter correspondences. Children learn to share their drafts with a partner and revise. There are three big units of study: narrative writing, “how-to” pieces, and opinion pieces, each culminating in a celebration of everyone’s best work with a publishing party.

23 Apr


Submitted by Cecily Gottling and Michael Rodenbush

What do MINECRAFT coding, flying paper airplanes, folding Halloween origami, controlling robots, and shooting off rockets all have in common?  They are among the myriad engaging activities designed for our fourth-grade girls by the amazing Upper School girls of the WISE club on three eventful days this past year. WISE stands for Women in STEM Education and encourages young women to pursue an interest in STEM courses and topics. Upper Schoolers Ashley, Linda, Marwah, Polina, Roxane, Ashley and Mena got rave reviews from the younger girls for their mentorship as well as hugs and high fives. The fourth-grade girls also got the WISE message about resisting gender stereotypes and taking on leadership roles themselves.

“I think WISE Girls is important because everyone thinks that men are the math and science rulers in the world, but when you think about it, it is pretty equal.” -Amanda

“I loved WISE girls. It taught me lots of things like—never give up and don’t give up because there are barely any girls, only boys!” -Anna

“I also think they should continue WISE GIRLS because girls who are interested in coding, technology and science might want to be the girls in charge of WISE Girls when they get older.”  -Nisha