CA Curious

Innovation on Vacation

August 24, 2023

Have you ever wondered what our teachers are up to during their summer breaks? Each year, many CA faculty spend their well-deserved summer vacation on professional development opportunities that translate their interests into incredible learning opportunities for our students—in the classroom and beyond. 

Cary Academy offers two major grant programs to support the professional development of our faculty during the summer months: the Friday Fellowship and the Innovative Curriculum Grant.

So, what exactly did our tireless teachers work on this summer through these grant programs?

Kendall Bell, Heidi Maloy, and Charlotte Kelly, Upper School science teachers, received a collaborative fellowship to interweave DEI work into the chemistry curriculum, incorporating a broader range of scientific, cultural, and professional examples of who contributes to our understanding of chemical concepts, with the goal of giving all students the opportunity to see themselves doing chemistry.

Lauren Bullock, Middle School language arts and social studies teacher, received fellowship funding to participate in the Kundiman summer retreat for Asian American writers.   Participation in the retreat not only helped to sharpen Lauren’s own skills as a writer, but also enabled Lauren to foster connections to the writing world as the language arts team searches for more diverse voices to add to the Cary Academy literary canon and even invite onto campus.

Tamara Friend and Danae Shipp, Middle School science teachers, received a collaborative fellowship to research and develop a plan for creating a dedicated STEM space in the Middle School building.  Tamara and Danae attended the 2023 ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference with a focus on sessions and exhibitions related to Makerspace development, and also conducted site visits to local schools and public libraries with Makerspaces. They used the information they gathered to produce a layout and equipment acquisition plan for a pilot STEM space to be housed in a first-floor science classroom, with the goal of having the space outfitted and ready to use late in the first semester or early in the second semester of the 2023-24 school year.

David Kaufmann, Middle School math teacher, received a fellowship to participate in the 2023 ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference to learn more about supporting student learning through gamification, coding, and technology-enhanced projects that encourage both application and creative expression. David used the conference experience to design three new digital projects for his math classes.

Ty van de Zande, digital arts and coding teacher, received fellowship funding to undertake a visualization project using hand-made glass objects to model fundamental concepts and principles of computer science. Ty produced a set of models built from glass, photos of the glass models, photo documentation of the building process, and a write-up describing the models and how they represent the fundamental processes. Through the photography process, the glass models can be combined and arranged with other glass models to represent a real computer code program. 

Crystal Bozeman, Middle School learning specialist, and Katie Taylor, Middle School language arts teacher, received a collaborative grant to create a “Leaders in Literacy” program to support Middle School students in developing their literacy skills, especially reading and writing. The new program focuses on teaching the science of reading and writing and strategies that will work across texts, emphasizing hands-on activities that give students active and engaging ways to build their literacy skills.

Kara Caccuitto, Upper School English teacher, received grant funding to develop a new English elective for juniors and seniors on Magical Realism. The majority of anchor texts in the new course are of Latin American origin, giving students a chance to explore the art, history, and culture of this part of the world.  Students also have ample opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of the characteristics of magical realism through a variety of creative self-expression activities, including producing a podcast, compiling an electronic cookbook, and developing a poetry or song anthology.

Sam Krieg, Upper School Spanish teacher, received a grant to develop a new Spanish elective focused on Spanish for business use. The course provides opportunities for students to communicate with professionals from throughout the Spanish-speaking world representing a range of commercial endeavors, including hospitality, banking, agriculture, and education. Students also have the chance to learn about, and reflect on, the (in)equalities of business relationships at different levels and to explore the essential roles of immigrants in different commercial contexts.

Kristi Ramey, Upper School math teacher, received grant funding to create a new model for Calculus 1 that expands access to the course content by creating both a regular and an advanced pathway within the same class. Kristi’s work focused on creating appropriately differentiated assignments and assessments to meet the needs of both groups of students, as well as appropriate supplemental materials for those students opting to pursue the AP exam.

Erick Crepsac, Middle School math teacher, was selected to participate in the Teachers Across Borders Program in Southern Africa (TAB-SA). Erick was part of a team of American math and science teachers who traveled to South Africa during the summer to conduct curriculum-specific workshops with their South African colleagues from rural schools, sharing methodology, techniques, and pedagogy in STEM content areas.

Written by Martina Greene, Dean of Faculty


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CA Curious

Middle School reflections

September 6, 2018

It was truly terrific to see so many parents join us last Thursday at Middle School Meet the Teacher Night. This event for parents is much like the first days of school for the students. There were new parents getting to know other new parents and returning parents catching up with one another. There were those confused by their schedules and went to the wrong classes, those who raced from one class to the next, and those who skipped (no, the kids didn’t try this). And, just like the students, everyone moved between classes in packs. I loved trying to figure out which parents belonged to which students!

Most similar was the energy and enthusiasm that parents brought about learning, as well as affirmation for the talents of our teaching staff.  I constantly heard the comment, “I wish I could have gone to middle school here”.

While appreciated, this comment doesn’t totally surprise me. I don’t know of many people who have amazing memories of their middle school years (people typically remember their high school years in more detail and with nostalgia), and I believe that much of what is remembered about middle school is informed by non-academic experiences.

The transitions, the heightened awareness of self and others, the dramatic physical changes, the social influences and interactions–all the “other stuff” that is happening during these fast and ever-changing adolescent years—can overshadow the academic aspects. If you’ve happen to see the recent movie, Eighth Grade, it hits on these other aspects.

There is so much going on in this three-year period before high school that the best classroom experiences can be somewhat diminished in the memory. So, later as adults, when parents come to visit their own child’s middle school, it is with a much more focused perspective that allows for a better appreciation of the academics.

This actuality doesn’t dissuade our middle school faculty and staff from giving its absolute best effort to engage students in a challenging, interesting, and dynamic program that is cognizant of the unique needs of middle schoolers. Just recently, as I walked the halls, I observed

  • students engaging in a reflective writing exercise that asked them to compare Walt Whitman’s poem about America to their own personal poem about America;
  • in one science class, students travelling via video, viewing the earth from space with astronauts while listening to them speak about the global interconnectedness of humans and our environmental impact on the earth;
  • in another science class, students making observations about atmospheric pressure by watching a balloon expand and contract in a glass container; and
  • in the seventh and eighth-grade world language classes, students reactivating their listening and speaking skills by sharing in the target language what they had done over the summer.

Early on, our wonderful IS staff provided up-close and personal tech training to help our sixth graders develop familiarity and comfort with their new tablets. After such a session, one sixth grade student shared with me that he thought “computers were great” and he was delighted to have had the opportunity to “Lewis and Clark” (explore) on the tablet.

In addition to lots of interesting class activities, there have been events focused on developing friendships and connections between students and faculty. From the seventh-grade advisory tug-of-war, to the eighth-grade day of Elympics, to this week’s sixth-grade trip to Camp Caraway, time is spent on nurturing the social and community growth of our students. It takes a committed faculty and staff, working together, to develop such a holistic and comprehensive program.

We only are in our third full week of school and so much has already taken place within these walls! What an exciting year awaits us!



Written by Marti Jenkins, Head of Middle School

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