27 May

Dr. Aaron

A year in the life of a teacher is not a year in which everything goes perfectly or according to plan, but a year with Dr. Maryann Aaron – who leaves the Lower School at the end of the year – is one in which every teaching moment resonates with students, sticks with them, and matters. It is a year of thoughtful, extremely well-prepared, joyous instruction. Embodying the spirit of our mission statement which describes a commitment to constant growth, Dr. Aaron stimulates and sustains keenly intelligent conversations amongst students and teachers alike and helps us continually strive towards excellence.

Dr. Aaron has worked alongside countless Lower School readers and writers. Watching her work, we are reminded of the power of the printed word and the magical pull that literature and language can have on a growing mind. Sitting alongside students to help develop their skills and understandings, she shows us the influence a teacher has, an influence that can ripple out across years and lives.  As one of her fourth-grade students says, “She never gets frustrated when you don’t understand; she walks through it with you until you actually really understand it. It was easy for me to learn with her and working with her made me feel more confident.” Another student simply and elegantly states, “She just really knows how to help you.”

Dr. Aaron is a model for teaching excellence, and every professional conversation is grounded in years of research and experience. Capturing her influence on the Lower School is not easy  as it permeates so many different aspects of our school, but her contributions include the following: coaching teachers as they strive to meet the needs of all learners; fine tuning assessments to hone in on what readers and writers can do, and identify what they are ready to do next; and representing the best and most current understandings of literacy instruction and the absolute highest standards for teaching. Dr. Aaron has pushed us to think deeply and critically about our instruction through professional conversations that have spanned grades. The robust literacy curriculum and instruction in our school reflect her vision, work ethic, and commitment to the best possible practice.

We thank Dr. Aaron for all she has done. Her influence will be lasting, and it is with heartfelt appreciation that we wish her the best.

27 May


“Once upon a time there were 3 little monkeys in the jungle named Jolly, Molly and Holly.  They were going to try a brand new lunch.  First they tried a drink of river water.  They did not like that.  Next they tried some pebbles.  They definitely did not like them.  Then they thought of an idea!”

In order to find out how the story ends, you must read the rest of first grader Hannah’s story in the inaugural Lower School literary magazine known affectionately as “DEscribe”!

Mrs. Sienicki, Lower School librarian, is the creator and editor of “DEscribe”, a wonderful collection of student writing. Over the course of the school year, all of the Lower School children from grades preschool 3 through grade 5 were encouraged to submit a written piece of work that they would like to share with the full D-E community. The submissions range from drawings to poetry to historical fiction and are quite riveting!

Mrs. Sienicki had this to share about this year long writing adventure:

“Writing is a window into the mind and heart, giving breath to ideas and wishes.  Writing is empowering.  Just listen to and read what are children are saying.  This spring, “DEscribe” has become a reality!  I am so proud of the children that had the courage to share some of their most favored writing pieces.   I hope that all those who read the magazine will have opened a window and enjoyed a breath of fresh air.”

Each Lower School student will receive a copy of “DEscribe” during the coming week.  Be on the lookout for it in your child’s backpack!

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13 May

Annual Scholastic Picture Book Competition

Contributed by Ms. Susan Abramson and Ms. Sheila Dorgan Sienicki

Burning the midnight oil to meet a deadline!  Well, the midnight part is not exactly what happened, but the expression captures the spirit, energy and hard work fifth-grade students Karina, Anya, Mauricio and Eli experienced in order to  complete their twenty-eight page picture book in time for submission to  the Annual Scholastic Picture Book Competition.

The idea for The Quest to Find the Singing Book started with a draft in January, and the edits and revisions were happening right up until the deadline for submission.  The hard work of the writers resulted in a beautiful, hardbound book now displayed in our Lower School library.

The Quest to Find the Singing Book is reminiscent of other quest stories in that the main characters work in service of their king and have to overcome a series of obstacles as they search for the magical singing book. However, the story distinguishes itself with interesting vocabulary words that jump off of every page and the sweet message about teamwork and selflessness delivered at the end. The illustrations are not mere accompaniments; they infuse the story with emotion and humor, and the picture at the end of the three friends sitting alongside one another as they enjoy the magical singing book is particularly charming.

The authors were very proud to share their work with author, Wendy Mass,  during her Lower School visit. Ms. Mass shared with the students the joys and challenges of taking a draft through the writing process. Mrs. Sienicki, advisor, consultant and guide to the writers, says, “I was blown away by the students’ creativity, commitment and work ethic. I enjoyed every minute.”

As a final, loving touch, the children dedicated their book to their good friend and fellow classmate, Charlie Levine.  Whether the children win the Scholastic award or not, The Quest to Find the Singing Book was a labor of love, and we encourage you to visit the Lower School library where you will find it in our permanent collection.

13 May

3rd Grade Book Sale

Contributed by Miss Michelle E. Sussmann

This month Third Graders Making a Difference culminated their yearlong work of helping others by holding the annual used book sale.  This is a much-loved tradition that has taken place for over ten years.  The whole Lower School helped by donating gently used books, which the third-graders sorted, organized and displayed in preparation for the sale. The whole Lower School was invited to purchase books priced very reasonably, children were able to purchase many books to add to their personal collections, and best of all we raised over $1,500.

So what will the third graders do with all that money?  They will donate it to charity.  Third graders will have the opportunity to present about a charity that’s close to their hearts, and the grade will then vote for the charity where they would like the money donated.

$1,500 is a lot of money, so in order to help make this decision we called in an expert –  Allison Jaffin, mother of third graders, Georgia and Jane Unger.  Ms. Jaffin’s job is working for a philanthropic organization, and in her position she helps make  decisions about where to donate large amounts of money.  She presented information about the factors she considers when making these important decisions. Children received great insight into what to consider and what questions to ask in order to make their important upcoming decision of where to give the $1,500 they raised. When asked about Ms. Jaffin’s visit, one third grader said, “I thought that how she chooses the charities was interesting. There’s millions of charities.  I asked her what she does when she gets down to the last two…how she chooses.  She said if it comes down to two that are really good, if I had to choose I would choose the one that looked more fun and creative.”  The students learned a lot and will now make a better informed decision.  It has been an exciting and rewarding year for the Third Graders Making a Difference.