Category Archives: Lower School

Why Family Game Night is More Important Than Ever

Do you enjoy playing board games with your child, or do you shudder with dread at pleas to play Pretty, Pretty Princess or Hungry, Hungry Hippos just one more time? Are you thinking of your to-do list as you agree to one more game? I know I was!

But making time for screen-free activities with children, especially when they are younger, is very important. Games can teach children important skills that are crucial to success in school. Board and card games with dice or number cards foster number sense in young children, and games reinforce social, verbal, math, fine/gross motor, listening, and reading skills for children of all ages.

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Exploring Computer Science in Lower School

Morgan Park Academy’s Computer Science curriculum begins in Lower School, with classes that introduce the fundamental concepts of CS to all students, beginning even before children learn to read.

During tech classes, MPA students are introduced to CS principles through algorithmic thinking. A typical lesson for kindergarten would include a brief discussion of the concept, followed by a series of computer activities on pattern recognition in computing.

Students in grades 1-5 streamline their focus on algorithmic thinking through loops and conditionals. Each class has a different goal; thus, student expectations are clearly defined. We accomplish these goals through various teacher-led, independent, and collaborative learning activities.

I try to make these activities fun for young learners; it is vital that students enjoy their newfound experience of programming. I’m also hands-on with the students, which means logging onto my device and working together to problem-solve these activities. It’s important for students to see me participate and to know that we’re a team!

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Meet Our Teachers: Beth Ferguson

First-grade teacher Beth Ferguson has been a member of our Early Childhood faculty for nearly two decades, teaching students from Pre-Kindergarten through second grade.

Mrs. Ferguson holds a B.A. in Elementary Education from Trinity International University and an M.A. in Curriculum Development from National Louis University, plus 15 additional hours of Special Education courses.

In her time at Morgan Park Academy, she also has served as Dean of Early Childhood and directed our Summer Camps and ABC programs.


Why did you choose to work at Morgan Park Academy?

I began teaching at the Academy fresh out of college. I taught second grade for eight years, loving the time I had with Kathy Keelan as a teaching partner! Then I taught at a CPS alternative school for children with behavior disorders. I learned a great deal about myself and my teaching philosophy during that time.

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Meet Our Teachers: Betsey Donohue

Pre-Kindergarten teacher Betsey Donohue joined the Morgan Park Academy faculty in 2015 after three years teaching Early Childhood in the Boston area. She teaches Pre-K 4-year-olds and also coaches varsity girls tennis.

Mrs. Donohue holds a B.A. in communication from DePauw University and a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Boston College.


What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I love teaching 4- and 5-year-olds. Students at this age are excited to be at school, eager to learn, and are so curious about what is going on around them. I feel the most important part of my job is to instill a love of school and learning at this young age!

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Meet Our Teachers: Paula Cuadros

After graduating from Morgan Park Academy, kindergarten teacher Paula Cuadros ’87 earned an undergraduate degree in Latin American Studies at Carleton College, an M.A. in social science at the University of Chicago, and an M.S. in Elementary Education at Northwestern University.

paula-cuadrosMrs. Cuadros taught kindergarten for nine years in the Chicago Public Schools before working as a stay-at-home parent. Upon resuming her teaching career, she taught 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds and worked as a school librarian before joining the MPA faculty this fall.


Why did you choose to return to MPA as a teacher?

Once my youngest child was settled in school and I was ready to return to teaching full-time, I knew that MPA would be a great place to do that. The small class sizes mean teachers have a better opportunity to connect to students. The ability to create a true relationship with students and families is essential to teaching and learning.

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Meet Our Teachers: Sara Tesmond

Fourth-grade teacher Sara Tesmond is a lifelong South Sider, leaving only to attend the University of Dayton in Ohio, where she earned a B.S. in education. After teaching middle school math her first year in the classroom, she has taught fourth grade the past few years.

She taught second- and third-grade academic enrichment classes at Morgan Park Academy for four summers before joining our full-time faculty this fall.


What motivated you to become a teacher?

I wanted to become a teacher because I find education to be an essential part of life. I have always loved learning and I want to show my passion to the future generation. When I was in school I was always the student trying to help others understand the material, and that led me to become a teacher. I had many influential teachers in my life that have inspired me. I love that with teaching, each day is different and each child is unique.

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Incorporating Technology in the Elementary Classroom

Morgan Park Academy students often cheer at the opportunity to use iPads or Chromebooks during class, although the assignment involves much more than simply play time. But don’t tell them that!

Technology is an alternative learning avenue for students. Educational apps and programs reinforce and enhance the curriculum. The students are so engaged in the activity — whether self-selecting their next book or solving 10 more math problems to reach a higher level — that they do not view their time on the device as working, but rather play. In addition to increased productivity, there are several other hidden benefits.

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