May 29, 2019
I grew up in a family of educators. Therefore even as a young child, I knew I would be an elementary school teacher. I dreamed of teaching in my own classroom one day. I wanted to foster a love of learning by creating a classroom where students would feel free to take risks and accept challenges. My dream became a reality and I began teaching in public schools. I taught with very talented and well-educated instructors. Year after year, my classroom was packed (literally) with a wide range of creativity and brilliance. Through my accomplishments there, I had come to believe I was a seasoned and successful teacher. Many teachers would even consider this an ideal working environment. And then I became a mother of a little girl who was nearing school age and my perspective on education changed abruptly. It became impossible to look at education through any eyes other than that of a mother.
When you think about where your child is going to spend the majority of their time, the various influences on them daily, and the type of education they will receive you become very critical of the little details you never seemed to notice. The details began to concern me. I began searching for something more and while doing so I recognized my values as both a teacher and a parent. I realized I value tailor knit curriculum created to meet every individual need in the classroom. I value teaching the noble traits of compassion, empathy, and inclusiveness. I value teaching practices that don’t just have a “one size fits all” model. I value when children’s talents are celebrated through artwork and presentations that demonstrate the depth of learning versus typical “I’m a super kid” award ceremonies. Many schools claim that this is an integral part of their approach, but until the Cooper School, without fail, it has always been lip service. The Cooper School actually puts what I value into practice every single day.
Since joining the Cooper School, I have become aware how fortunate I was to find TCS and how lucky our little community is to have each other. As a teacher, I am not only encouraged, but challenged to exceed my limits of creativity, communication, and education. As a mother I get to watch my little girl thrive in a place that pushes her through individualized curriculum, encourages her to be unique, and insists on her being herself. In my mind, the best gift I can give her is knowing she is receiving the tools, confidence and enthusiasm to realize her potential.
The first time I observed the magic that is The Cooper School, I came with a group of teachers during a professional development outing. We were going through our first year of Responsive Classroom training and the purpose of our visit was to observe the teachers and the power of their language for effective classroom management.
I remember being in complete awe immediately upon entering the building. I knew I was experiencing something that truly spoke to the spirit of what I had always hoped for education to be like. As I toured the building, observing teachers interact genuinely and respectfully in caring ways with students, I experienced a cohesive learning community with an environment that was warm, engaging, calm and so exciting at the same time. The curriculum was rigorous and cozy sock-footed students were fully engaged with the learning that was happening. I was truly engaged in their learning as I simply observed! It made me wish that I had attended a school like this. Everything from the placement of classroom materials to carpet and table learning arrangements was so purposeful and completely child-centered.
We ended the observation with a group discussion where any questions we had could be answered about the teaching we saw and the school in general. I had so many questions and while they were being answered, the students went outside for snack. I had a view of the backyard from my seat and when I saw the joy and beauty of students as they played, I was moved to tears by the whole experience I had while observing that morning. The Cooper School truly embodied joyful learning and where did they find these amazing teachers and how did they create this magic in the classroom? My heart was so inspired! I had experienced way more than my intended purpose.
I walked away from this observation inspired as an educator, hopeful and eager as a parent and extremely grateful for the experience. On this day several things happened to me as a parent and as an educator. First, I knew that I had to get my daughter into this learning environment. As the mother of a tenderhearted, sweet and gentle kindergartener, I was extremely moved and motivated by the beautiful way that childhood is protected and that the whole child is honored at The Cooper School. Not long after my visit, I transferred my daughter to The Cooper School mid-year. It was the best choice I’ve ever made as a parent. I witnessed my shy girl blossom into a brave scholar who eagerly read her poem in front of a packed audience at Pass it On! The second thing that happened to me that day was a realization that I had found the mecca for what I had always hoped for in education. As a person who really values communication, honoring emotions and feelings of people, and supporting those around me, I had a great deal of respect for the work that was being done at The Cooper School. Later that year, I was shocked and honored to accept a position teaching at The Cooper School for the following year! I was thrilled to become a part of a community that I had grown to love and respect so much.
Some days while I’m driving to work, I say things to myself like, “I just really love my job!” I love being a part of a community that protects childhood and fosters joyful learning in thoughtful and respectful ways. I have been stretched as an educator in so many ways. I am honored to work with an incredibly intelligent and talented group of professionals in such a unique learning community where joyful learning takes place everyday. This team of educators models daily with each other, what we teach the children about being encouraging and supportive members of a community of learners. I love the work that we do. I believe in the work that we do. I am a better educator because of the team I get to work with. I learn daily from the work that we do. I am grateful for the coaching, sharing, listening, learning, growth and change that happens daily at The Cooper School.
May 3, 2019
Before moving to Charleston, I had been working in the public school system for over ten years and felt discouraged, dissatisfied, and had become (admittedly) bitter. I was hoping to find a school where I could truly teach again and live up to my full potential. A school that felt more like a home away from home then just a job. I found all this and more at The Cooper School!
Every day at The Cooper School, teachers and administrators respect and show admiration for each other. We consistently work together to help and support each other. I love that about TCS! Each day I learn something new and grow as a teacher because of the wonderful people I work with. It has renewed my love and passion for teaching.
I feel so fortunate to be a part of the TCS family and can’t wait to continue to learn and grow more as a teacher and as a person. It is a perfect place where a child’s childhood is protected and cherished. It is a place where joyful learning happens everyday and is my home away from home!
May 29, 2019
I grew up in a unique environment, on a spiritual ashram in Florida. I attended school there, from nursery school until high school graduation. I knew everyone in the school, had friends across all grades, and had personal relationships with my teachers, both in and out of the classroom. This sense of community was the norm, so much so that I sought the anonymity of a larger university. School was fun, it was hands on and full of projects I still reminisce about today.
From a young age, I loved children. I began babysitting as soon as people would hire me. I worked at summer camps each year. I worked with the administration to create an early childhood development independent study in high school so I could work more with the younger kids. In college, I worked at preschools and continued to babysit. In short, children are where I found joy and employment. It was not a large leap to major in education.
The time I spent interning in classrooms and my first job out of college showed me a very different view of education than I had experienced. Classrooms and teachers felt isolated, students were expected to fit into the mold, and the “teach to the test” mentality abounded. My experience of learning as hands on, joyful, community based, and individualized was lacking in the schools I now found myself in.
Then I found The Cooper School. Upon my first research into the school, I felt strongly that this school aligned with what I knew was possible in education, because I had lived it. I began working at TCS in fall 2009 and know that I have made the best decision for myself, both personally and professionally. I learned more in my first year teaching here than I did in my five years of education classes in college (including my Masters!). College gave me a strong foundation of education; TCS showed me that my unique experience could be replicated.
The Cooper School is a community of learners, from students and teachers to parents and families. There is the feeling that we are all in this together to help each child reach their full potential. There is joy in the learning everyday, without losing the rigor or high academic expectations. What I remembered from my schooling, was brought to life at TCS.
On a personal note, the sense of community never felt stronger than when I was diagnosed with cancer last year. The school, staff, and board rallied around me to be sure I had a place with the school to keep me going through treatment. And the parents, you wonderful parents, had such an outpouring of love and support I knew I had found my place, my people. Most of all, my joy, the students, bring me love and light each day, reminding me why I became a teacher in the first place.