One of the challenging but rewarding aspects of my role as Director of Curriculum and Instruction is making sure that Morgan Park Academy students and teachers have the educational tools and resources they need for 21st-century teaching and learning.
This fall, we have been excited to debut two major improvements that have boosted our math curriculum for grades 3-12. The numbers at the core of mathematics haven’t changed, but the tools and approaches our teachers employ to convey this often-vexing subject are ever evolving.
The principals, teachers, curriculum leaders, and I dedicated a lengthy review last year to our textbook needs for math in grades 3-8. In analyzing several options, we found an amazing package from educational industry leader McGraw-Hill that aligned well with MPA’s approach to teaching and learning. It offers digital accessibility to the textbook and materials, allows teachers to customize content, and provides supplemental tutorials and resources online.
Shavonne Terry is Morgan Park Academy’s educational technology coordinator, a role that encompasses classroom instruction across all school divisions as well as supporting the school’s information technology needs.
Ms. Terry holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Illinois Institute of Art, where she focused on media arts and animation, and a Master of Education degree from DePaul University.
Matthew McDowell teaches AP Government and Politics, AP U.S. History, and world history in the Upper School, coaches Middle School cross country, and serves as faculty moderator for Morgan Park Academy’s Model UN and Diversity Council.
Mr. McDowell holds a B.A. from Saint Xavier University and an M.S.Ed. degree from DePaul University.
What is the most important life lesson you want students to learn in your class?
That failure is part of life and a learning experience, not a crutch or low point on which to cling. Failure teaches us how to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, learn, and move forward. You may not ever be the smartest, the fastest, the most talented or most popular. But if you are kind and you try to always do your best, you will go far in life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.