Tag Archives: upper school

Meeting the New Challenges of College Admissions

The college admissions process is constantly evolving. It is much different than it was 10 years ago, even a few years ago. Because of this, it is more important than ever to understand college admission trends, what influences them, and how best to prepare to apply to college.

Tanuja Rathi - Morgan Park AcademyThis year at MPA, we have improved our college counseling curriculum to keep pace with the ongoing demands of the college admission process and keep our students competitive in the applicant pool.

We already have begun to implement some exciting new changes. In eighth grade, we are beginning early college awareness through the use of NextTier College Counseling software. Students will receive assignments that parents and the college counselor can monitor as they progress.

College 102 is now a year-long college counseling class for juniors, while we have added College 103 as a fall semester class to help seniors complete the college application process. We plan to add College 100 and College 101 classes for freshmen and sophomores next year.

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Meet Our Teachers: Tara Gorry

Tara Gorry teaches Spanish in the Upper School and Middle School, having joined Morgan Park Academy this fall from Montrose School, an independent school in suburban Boston.

She holds a B.A. in Spanish and English from Colgate University and an M.A. in Hispanic Studies from Boston College.

Q&A

Why did you choose to work at Morgan Park Academy?

In addition to being an excellent school with strong academics, MPA attracted me with its culture of inclusion, sense of community, and focus on thinking internationally. While it is important to celebrate where we come from and what ties us together, as a language teacher, it is so important to me that a school looks outside of itself to explore other countries, meet other people, and learn to respect different ways of life.

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Meet Our Teachers: Matthew McDowell

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.

Q&A

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.

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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: 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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The Purpose of Semester Examinations

As a college preparatory school, Morgan Park Academy exposes students to a wide range of course assessments, including semester examinations. It is important for teachers to have a variety of ways to gauge student progress; semester and final exams in the Upper School are useful for this very purpose and serve as a means to assess the major learning outcomes for courses. As part of the exam process, students organize and review materials learned, thereby enabling them to gain a broader view of that which they have studied. The practice and discipline of preparing for the various assessments in their courses provides students with invaluable learning experiences that will also help them as they move on to college.

TomEducational theories support the benefits of students reviewing course materials. David Gooblar, a Rhetoric Instructor at the University of Iowa, supports this idea. He feels that exams create a cumulative review of the course content which provides feedback for teachers and lets them determine if they need to revise future lesson plans. At the same time, students benefit from seeing the entire course when they go back to review for their exams because it enables students to have an increased retention of the course materials. Also, students have an increased motivation to retain knowledge during the semester knowing that there will be a culminating exam.

In addition, exams are important in college, so the practice of learning to master exams is vital in high school. Exams help to instill work and study habits for students as well. Moreover, they are an easy way to have a common measuring point of comparison for students. This mode of comparison is important because it allows teachers to see if they have any gaps in their curriculum. Final exams help to ensure that students stay focused until the end of the school year as well and are one way to insure that teachers are covering their entire curriculum. For these reasons we feel that exams serve a useful purpose for our students.

 


By Tom Drahozal

Mr. Drahozal is the Upper School principal. He also teaches history and coaches our varsity baseball and girls’ basketball teams.

What I Learned from my Favorite Teacher

Dr. David Sandmire, a professor in the life sciences department at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, has been one of my most influential teachers. I first met him while taking his Anatomy and Physiology course during my sophomore year. He is the person to whom I credit with changing my major to medical biology, with changing my career aspirations to teaching, and is the reason I enjoy teaching and feel confident in my ability to do so. Dr. Sandmire was the first person who allowed me to experience authentic learning, by which I mean, learning through critical thinking and analysis, rather than just simply memorizing.

drownAdmittedly, I was completely confused and overwhelmed with the first authentic learning case study that he gave us to complete. Dr. Sandmire had configured each study in just the right way that even if we would have had the almighty “Google” at that time (we relied on medical journals and reference encyclopedias) there is no way that it would have helped us conquer these assessments. After my first pathetic attempt to do this case study on my own, I realized that Dr. Sandmire was trying to teach us the value of synthesizing information, asking meaningful questions, and defending our ideas based upon sound evidence and facts. The importance of memorizing facts was diminished significantly by learning how to analyze material and formulate a reasonable conclusion that made sense. I have used these lessons from this class forward, including my current teaching strategies, which focus on using facts to help evaluate situations. And, although these methods may be different than the traditional lecture method students (and parents) may expect, it is so rewarding at the end of the year to see how much they have grown in their ability to be authentic learners.

One of the biggest challenges as a teacher is to be able to reach all types of learners. When you add to this that students can now “google” any fact-related question, teachers have to connect with their students in innovative ways. Teachers no longer hold the position of “sage on the stage.” Instead, our role has evolved to develop lifelong learners, not simply share facts which students then memorize, regurgitate, and forget. Instead, I have changed my teaching style to reflect how I feel best promotes critical analysis, or, authentic learning.

Every year I regularly have a handful of meetings near the beginning of the school year to explain to parents and students how material is learned in my classes. I explain to them my belief that the 42 minutes I get to spend with their child each day is not best utilized by me writing out notes that I have condensed from the textbook that the students are reading. Simply repeating material I think they have already grasped is not a sufficient use of classroom time. When I first began teaching, I felt the need to “know everything” and felt secure with a marker in my hand and prepared notes from the textbook. Classes went by with little discussion or questions, and I didn’t have to worry about unexpected questions that I might not be able to answer. When I think back to those years now, I can’t believe that’s how I used to spend my class time with students. Now, if you pick any day of the week to come into my classroom, you probably won’t see me at the front of the class, and you probably won’t see all students doing the exact same activity. During any given lesson, I might have five or six students at the microscopes, five or six students working from their iPads, and a handful of others working collaboratively to solve a question that I have put up on the board. I work very hard at the beginning of the school year to get students to become comfortable with the idea of a “fluid classroom.” In my mind, this means that students are free to work from one activity to the next at their pace and regulate their time so that they can complete all activities within the given time frame. This allows students to spend more time on what they really like, but also demands that they experience all activities that relate back to one central topic.

It is a great experience to see how the students transition throughout the year from being so dependent upon the teacher to get facts, to working collaboratively with each other to analyze complex problems. Of course, this requires that students still learn the facts, but instead, they are using class time to use the facts to reason out a problem. I am thankful for all of the wonderful teachers that I have had throughout my life and who have exposed me to different teaching and learning styles. I am also thankful for the opportunity to teach and challenge our future.