Wrapping up SummerPrep and BSHS 2014

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As the summer semester comes to a close, MATs, students, and families alike have celebrated another successful summer of SummerPrep and Brown Summer High School. After three weeks of SummerPrep, students showcased their work in an Exhibition Day. Families were invited to visit students in their classrooms and hear about the projects they had worked on throughout the summer, which ranged from engineering walls to sharing their bravest moments to building model communities.

Brown Summer High School students also shared final projects from their classes in various exhibitions. BSHS Science classes created sustainable urban designs for Providence, which they described in a poster session attended by Rhode Island officials from the Department of Education, Public Transit Authority, and Providence Plan. Students also had an opportunity to share their work and experiences through live performances in a final BSHS assembly.

After an active summer filled with practicum teaching, methods, and literacy classes, our MAT cohorts are still busy completing their summer coursework and preparing their digital portfolios. We’re happy to be celebrating another successful summer and are looking forward to the year ahead!

Our second BSHS Math cohort

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This summer marks our second year as a grant recipient from Math for America, which has helped us bring four undergraduate students to teach at Brown Summer High School. Our four BSHS math teachers are students at partner colleges in the Consortium for Excellence in Teacher Education (CETE). We received over twenty applicants for our four math teaching positions this summer. Our math cohort this year hails from Dartmouth College, Gettysburg College, Tufts University, and Wellesley College. Like our MATs, summer math students take discipline-specific methods classes with adjunct professor Ellie Goldberg and summer mentor Erin Escher, recently named the Rhode Island Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Science Teaching.

As the summer comes to a close, our math cohort reflects on their teaching experience at Brown Summer High School. We’re thankful they were able to join us and hope to continue our summer math program at Brown Summer High School!

BSHS DarcieDarcie: Before I started this program, I thought I wanted to be a teacher, but didn’t have any experience in a classroom or know much about what being a teacher really involves.  There is so much about teaching that I didn’t know – how to plan a lesson, manage a classroom, or engage a student who isn’t engaged. I hadn’t been faced with any of this until I was in a real classroom with real students, but having this experience with the support of my mentors and fellow math teachers has really given me the chance to explore teaching as a career.

BSHS TomTom: I have really enjoyed the collegiate atmosphere and the deep intellectual respect that this program holds for the teaching profession in general and the challenges of teaching mathematics in particular. I feel like I have been taken seriously as a mathematical thinker as well as a math teacher this summer, and that is an experience that I don’t know if I could have gotten in an equal measure anywhere else. This experience has helped me to affirm my love of teaching, and I hope it will serve as a stepping stone towards the beginning of a teaching career for me.

BSHS MelissaMelissa: I always knew teachers had an impact on people’s lives but did not understand the vast depth of this connection until I had the opportunity to enter the classroom at BSHS. I was not only able to give students tools to develop and expand their mathematical thinking but also give them tools to incorporate into their daily lives. My co-teacher and I took students who said they hated math and showed them they have what it takes to be a true mathematician. People have told me teaching is hard yet rewarding, and they could not be more correct. Many of these students came into the program with a fixed mindset (e.g. “I cannot do math because I am bad at it”) but are leaving with a growth mindset. I am leaving this program with new connections, unforgettable experiences, and a clearer view of what I want to do in the future.

BSHS AnnieAnnie Laurie: From the first few days (spent working on math problems with my colleagues) to this last week (leading our students through their final projects), everyday has been packed with learning moments.  We have been incredibly supported throughout the process; having an experienced mentor teacher in our classroom every day has ensured that no “teachable moment” is passed by.  We are constantly being pushed to take our teaching to the next level, whether in terms of classroom management, setting clear objectives, or using effective questioning.  While no day has ever been perfect – this summer has made me appreciate the complexity of teaching – seeing our classroom come together has been incredible.

Learn more about this year’s BSHS math program through our CETE partner website.

Kicking off SummerPrep & BSHS

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Summer teaching has begun here at the MAT program! Yesterday marked the start of SummerPrep and Brown Summer High School (BSHS), our summer academic enrichment programs for Providence-area students. SummerPrep celebrates its 15th year with 160 students entering grades 2 through 6. Students are grouped by grade across eight classrooms, each named after a World Cup team. Over the next three weeks, SummerPrep students will explore the question, “What does it really take to be successful?” Brown Summer High School, now in its 46th year, has enrolled over 250 high school students with the support of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and the Providence PROMISE initiative. In classrooms with a range of 9th through 12th graders, BSHS students investigate essential questions in English, History/Social Studies, Science, and Math through hands-on activities, including elements from the ArtsLiteracy cycle.

Both SummerPrep and BSHS are taught by current MATs who collaborate in teams of two or three students with guidance from one of our mentor teachers, many of whom return each summer. Using a theme specific to their discipline, each teaching team has designed a curriculum and lessons unique to their classroom. With the start of SummerPrep and BSHS, MATs begin the process of planning, teaching, and reflecting that is central to the Brown MAT program. For the next few weeks, MAT candidates will explore strategies and concepts from Methods and Literacy classes as they develop their teaching styles. They’re off to a strong start, and we’re excited to see how both MATs and their students grow throughout the summer!

English MAT alumni offer free Shakespeare summer camp

Jaymes Sanchez '14 and Laura Neill '14 share their love of reading with campers at the Youth Shakespeare Project

Jaymes Sanchez ’14 and Laura Neill ’14 share their love of literature with campers at the Youth Shakespeare Project

Two recent English MAT graduates, Laura Neill ’14 and Jaymes Sanchez ’14, are putting their degrees to use this summer at the Youth Shakespeare Project (YSP) in Hanover, NH. Founded by Laura and Jaymes in 2012, the Youth Shakespeare Project is a tuition-free summer camp for local students ages 11 to 17. Each summer, campers explore one of Shakespeare’s plays through text study, theater games, and movement and improvisation. The month-long camp culminates in a production of this year’s selected play, As You Like It. Their experience running the YSP in 2012 inspired Laura and Jaymes to pursue a career in teaching English, leading them to the Brown MAT program. This summer Laura and Jaymes will be implementing multimodal ArtsLiteracy activities from their MAT methods classes to develop YSP campers’ literacy skills and engagement with the text.

Learn more about the Youth Shakespeare Project through their website, and keep up with this summer’s production of As You Like It through their Facebook page.

Welcoming in the new MAT cohort

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Today, we welcomed our newest MAT cohort for the 2014-15 year! Students across all four disciplines attended sessions with faculty and staff at orientation this morning before heading to the Community Building workshop facilitated by Laura Snyder, Director of English Education, and guest speaker Steve Kidd. During the workshop, the new MAT students began to explore instructional methods using the ArtsLiteracy cycle. Some highlights included text- and movement-based activities, such as the exchange pictured above.

Throughout the day, MATs, mentor teachers and faculty have started gaining a better sense of how they will work together in the coming year. We look forward to sharing more news from the newest members of our MAT community!

Elementary MAT mentor teacher wins teacher of the year award

Last week during a school-wide assembly at Pleasant View Elementary School, second grade teacher Claudia Jackvony was awarded by Providence Mayor Angel Taveras with the teacher of the year award. Pleasant View Elementary is part of the Providence Public School District. The assembly was billed as a recognition of students’ testing achievement, so the award announcement was a surprise. Although, with years of being recognized as a master teacher, beloved by colleagues, parents, students and student teachers, the Providence Schools 2014 teacher of the year award going to Mrs. Jackvony shouldn’t have been too surprising. She was a mentor for two Brown Elementary MATs this past year, in the fall and spring, respectively, and we hope will continue mentoring beginning teachers for years to come.

Congratulations to Mrs. Jackvony!

Read the story and see a video here.

Annual Brown MAT Teacher Research Project Conference

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Last week saw the successful climax of a major endeavor for all Brown University MATs – the Teacher Research Project. Fondly known as the TRP, Teacher Research Projects involve each MAT, Elementary and Secondary English, History/Social Studies and Science cohorts alike, in examining their teaching practice with the goal of greater student growth and improved outcomes. During their student teaching semester, MATs identify an area in which students in their classroom are particularly struggling. Through an inquiry process, MATs then choose a guiding question, implement one or multiple interventions, collect data, analyze results, and report findings, implications and future investigations. The questions MATs chose to pursue this past semester speak to the range of MAT interests and an understanding of their learners’ needs, such as “How can podcasts be used to support student learning in multilevel secondary social studies classrooms?” and “How does explicit coaching and instruction on student questioning during math promote inter-student math talk?”

As has been tradition for several years, the presentations took place at Brown’s Office of Continuing Education in Providence’s Jewelry District. In attendance were Brown MAT alumni, mentor teachers, program faculty, family and friends of the program, as well as two featured speakers.

Providing an insightful keynote address to kick off the Teacher Research Project Conference was Jed Lippard ‘95, Head of School of Prospect Hill Academy Charter School. Lippard spoke briefly about his 20-year story in becoming an educator and school-leader, including his relationship with well-known education reformer and former Brown University professor Ted Sizer. He then presented his seven C’s for becoming a responsive teacher, each of which Lippard backed-up with personal anecdotes. Although we won’t go into detail, the seven C’s resonated across the audience and include: Check assumptions, find Conspirators, self-Care, Call it out, Cater to and cherish the child, Challenge conventional wisdom and, last but not least, Convene and connect. Lippard will be returning to Brown University on Saturday, May 24th, for a forum with Nancy Faust Sizer.

Longtime mentor teacher and friend of the Brown MAT program, Edward Abbott, History Teacher at Central High School, gave the mentor address. Abbott reflected on his years of relationship-building and teaching and learning with MAT student teachers that have been a part of his classroom. As Abbott is retiring from teaching this year, friends and past mentees were invited to reflect on what they have learned from Abbott, from teaching skills to life lessons. The sheer number of those who spoke about Abbott and the multitude of laughs and tears inspired are testament to the dynamism of this master teacher and mentor, as well as the close knit community that is the Brown MAT program.

Elementary Students Host Public ‘Virtual Museum’ Opening

The third and fifth grade curators of William D'Abate Elementary School on a field trip

Across the Brown MAT programs there is much conversation about real world learning and authentic assessment. What does that look like? Two Elementary MATs worked collaboratively with their mentor teachers and fifty two students in their spring student teaching practicum at William D’Abate Elementary School to provide one example.

Liz Carr and Beau Poppen-Abajian planned a social studies unit that sought to address stereotypes and misconceptions their students had of American Indians. As part of the unit, students did a scavenger hunt of the Tomaquag Virtual Museum, hosted arts educators from the RISD Museum, an anthropologist from the Heffenreffer Museum Culture Caravan, and took field trips to the RISD Museum and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. After several months of research, analyzing artifacts and discussing primary source videos, it only made sense that all of this work would lead to having the third and fifth graders create their own virtual museum to demonstrate their learning, utilizing their growing knowledge of American Indian culture and helping to develop skills with technical writing, curation and digital technology.

Although the students were creating a virtual museum, Liz, Beau, and their mentor teachers Carmen Rodriguez (3rd grade) and Amy Lopes (5th grade), thought it was important for the museum to be exhibited publicly. The students were on board, prepared and dutifully practiced presentations, were assigned roles and responsibilities, and invited guests for the public opening of the “D’Abate Rooms 205 and 206 American Indian Virtual Museum.”

On April 11th, family members, Brown University faculty, city officials, Providence School District administrators, D’Abate students and staff, and others from the community attended the opening. Students gave presentations and toured guests through their virtual museum exhibit on laptops spread throughout the commons. After presenting to several groups, each followed by Q&A, students served refreshments and closed out the virtual museum opening, which was, by all accounts, a tremendous success. Liz, also known as Ms. Carr at D’Abate, says that several guests described the students, their presentations, and the exhibits as “very professional,” and that “the students were beaming with pride.” Now that sounds like real world learning and authentic assessment.

Visit the virtual museum here to see the important work done by the third and fifth graders. Don’t forget to leave a comment for the curators!

Spotlight on Alumni: Eric Spreng ’13


In this Spotlight on Alumni, English MAT alum Eric Spreng shares his insights for those considering the MAT program. Along with his wife, Allison (History MAT ’13), he is now based at the International School of Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso. Both Allison and Eric exemplify the wealth of life experiences you’ll find across the Brown MAT cohorts.

What were you doing before the program?
Before coming to Brown, I spent three years teaching 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts at an international school in Beijing. The professional environment at the school was supportive and collaborative, and the experience pushed me into the questions that ultimately landed me at Brown: How can I facilitate an environment that is more conducive to learning? How do I foster a sense of belonging in the individuals in a learning community? How can I better account for disparate student backgrounds? What can I do to promote human sensitivity as well as knowledge and skills?

What attracted you to Brown’s program?
I was attracted to the program’s emphasis on mentorship, reflection, and personalized feedback. The fact that the MAT year includes two practicums was important, as was the teacher research component. But most importantly, perhaps, was the fact that the program is intentionally small. As the teaching placements are central to the MAT experience, I wanted a director who actually knew me personally and could advise me based on my own interests, strengths, and areas where I needed to grow.

What was the highlight of the program?
To be honest, the whole year was great. The program is well-designed to develop a strong understanding of pedagogy and to provide the chance to develop expertise in your content area as well. That said, the professional relationship that I had the chance to cultivate with my mentor teacher has proven a tremendous resource to me since completing the program.

Where did you student teach?
I student taught at Classical (a Providence public school) and had a really positive experience there.

How did the program meet your expectations?
The MAT year is intense. There is so much to learn and to process and before you know it, it is over. Since completing the experience, I have found that many of the questions that arise in my teaching practice were in some way addressed by the MAT program. One year is not long enough to answer all of these questions, but I do feel the program provided what I need in order to pursue the philosophical and pragmatic questions through further research and practice.

How did the program help you meet your personal goals?
The program provided the chance to push myself toward excellence in a close-knit, supportive community. The friendships that I was able to make with young teachers have been a tremendous professional asset to be sure, but also a source of personal joy and inspiration. Spending a year with such inspiring, brilliant people was awesome.

What do you like best about your work as a teacher?
I love that teaching is never boring. It is always a challenge. I love that I get to work with talented young people who have something to say, and that I can help them develop the skills to say it. And I love engaging on the big ideas that matter—both in my classroom with my students and in the faculty lounge with my colleagues.

What would you tell someone considering the Brown MAT?
Do it! The Brown MAT program is well designed. It is flexible enough to provide the chance for you to pursue your own areas of interest within the field as you strive to develop the competencies that are necessary to be a great teacher.

Anything else?
As an MAT, go to lots of talks and events, and make connections beyond the department as well. As a teacher, at some point in your career, consider teaching abroad. My wife, Allison (History MAT ’13), and I are currently at the International School of Ouagadougou, and we are loving it. Our classes are full of kids who come from countries all over Africa, Europe, North America and beyond. We are learning a lot about what it means to be teachers in the 21st century, and what skills are most important for success in a more connected world.