Meet Our Teachers: Lynsey Bochenek-Robertson

We are pleased to welcome Lynsey Bochenek-Robertson ’06 back to Morgan Park Academy this fall to teach Upper School science. This year, she is teaching chemistry and genetics, plus coaching tennis and soccer.

Ms. Bochenek attended Murray State University on a full tennis scholarship, earning an undergraduate degree in pre-med biology and chemistry and a graduate degree in biochemistry while conducting research in renal physiology. After teaching human anatomy and human physiology as a grad student, she entered the profession by teaching chemistry at Butler College Prep.

Q&A

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I teach because I believe it is my calling. I am always aiming to help each student unravel his or her uniqueness. I also want to install a love of learning in students, so they will always have a desire to grow and develop into the best version of themselves.

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Meet Our Teachers: Erin McDuffie

Kindergarten teacher Erin McDuffie joins Morgan Park Academy this fall after teaching in public schools in both Chicago and Boston and working as an ESL teacher in a public charter school for refugee and immigrant children in Columbus, Ohio.

In 2011, she received the Rochelle Lee Boundless Readers Individual Award, and the following year, she participated in the Fulbright Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Sustainable Development.

She holds a B.A. in sociology and political science from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Education degree in elementary education from Boston College.

Q&A

Why did you choose to work at Morgan Park Academy?

Initially I came to MPA as a prospective parent. I fell in love with the small class sizes, the student body diversity, the child-centered, developmentally appropriate curriculum, and the strong sense of community. During my admissions tour, I kept thinking, “What a wonderful place to learn!” When I saw the job posting for what became my position, I thought, “What an even better place to teach!” I feel so lucky to be joining the MPA community as both a parent and a teacher.

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Reinventing the Student Notebook

Three years ago, during my first year at Morgan Park Academy, I had to improvise part of a lesson after I was left without one of the handouts I planned to use.

I tried a slightly different way to get my seventh-grade English students to engage with the classic Robert Frost poem “The Road Less Traveled.”

I had them take out a piece of notebook paper and draw their understanding of the poem. Think about what the poem represents. What do you think it means? What images are most prominent? What colors come into your mind when you read it?

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The students loved this approach. Some of them drew compelling images from their interpretations of the poem. When asked to explain their images and how they connected to the poem, they had clear, analytical answers that showed their understanding and a higher level reading of the poem.

This success got me thinking: How can I do more of this in my classroom?

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Meet Our Teachers: Aileen Halvorsen

Second-grade teacher Aileen Halvorsen joins Morgan Park Academy this fall after 17 years teaching in Urbana, Evanston, Burbank, and Chicago, most recently at Annie Keller Regional Gifted Center in Mount Greenwood. She has taught kindergarten through fourth grade, including multi-age classes.

Along with teaching second grade at Keller last year, Mrs. Halvorsen was selected as a Learning Leader through the CPS Office of Early Childhood Education and also served on their Instructional Leadership Team.

She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at National Louis University.

Q&A

How do you inspire students to enjoy learning?

If you walk by my classroom, you might hear a lot of singing and wonder what is going on in there. You might see students all over the room instead of sitting at their desks.

I use music and movement to enhance our lessons and to help with transitions. Children retain new information better by singing or acting it out.

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Meet Our Teachers: Derek Smith

Derek Smith teaches English and Social Studies classes in the Upper School and is our Director of Service Learning. He is teaching American literature and consumer economics this school year, his sixth at Morgan Park Academy.

Mr. Smith holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master’s degree from Framingham State University.

Q&A

What do you like best about teaching at Morgan Park Academy?

I enjoy how much autonomy and flexibility we are afforded as educators. I’ve created courses from scratch about Middle Eastern literature and about graphic novels, for example, and we’re reintroducing a speech class next spring. The encouragement to create new classes and to make use of our strengths enables and pushes us to continually grow as educators.

I also love our small community and the connection I have with students, including the opportunity to make connections outside of the classroom. As teachers here, we do not lose touch with our students once they graduate and move on to college and adult life.

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Meet Our Teachers: Jessica Stephens

Please help us welcome Jessica Stephens, who joins the Morgan Park Academy faculty as a sixth-grade math and science teacher and sixth-grade advisor.

Mrs. Stephens has taught at both the middle school and high school level, teaching algebra, chemistry, biology, and seventh- and eighth-grade science.

She holds a B.A. from Princeton University, where she majored in psychology as a pre-medicine student.

Q&A

What is the most important life lesson you want students to learn in your class?

I appreciate George Bernard Shaw’s quote that what is most important is seeing “the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” I desire most that students learn the value of knowledge and the importance of pursuing truth. This life lesson will transform students into individual persons who set the intent to educate the self rather than passively awaiting another to dispense knowledge — only to be tempted to either instill such knowledge or carelessly discard it upon its false evaluation of its worth. Therefore, my hope is that in understanding the worth of knowledge and the pursuit of truth, one’s perspective will be the impetus in doing the former rather than the latter.

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Summer Service Learning in Ecuador

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Our journey into the Amazon rainforest was a long one: two flights, an eight-hour bus ride, and a boat ride before we reached the Minga Lodge on the Upper Napo River in northeast Ecuador. But it was worth every minute.

We were thrilled to represent the MPA faculty and school community on a remarkable service trip this summer, volunteering with fellow teachers from throughout the U.S. and Canada on a life-changing development project through the ME to WE charity program.

To say that we gained a fuller perspective on life and community is an understatement.

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