The Best Teacher is Experience…

This week we have the pleasure of interviewing Michelle and Betty,  two teacher assis…no, TWO AMAZING CO-TEACHERS of the Nursery program.

I can attest to their amazing work, as my two and a half-year-old son started nursery crying and not able to articulate any thoughts on day one, and is now able to understand the routines and is able to express his emotions, all in a span of six short months.

This is no small feat, as my son is one of 14 other students in the class.

So my hat goes off to the amazing nursery program! You guys are rock star educators!

Now, onto the questions.

1. What did you want your students to know or understand?

Michelle: I wanted the children to understand they can enjoy the time without their family.

That school is a place where they can feel a sense of safety, thus allowing them to start learning about their uniqueness.

Betty: For me, I wanted them to understand the information about them and using that to form knowledge.

2. What skills did you want your students to gain?

Michelle: First, Self-confidence. The knowledge they don’t need their family to do a lot of things for them, they can do it by themselves. I have seen this help children make more connections and create more friendships.

Second, is to properly know and show their emotions. This allows them to use their language to express emotions and communicate with friends. This empowers them to take ownership and responsibility to make their own choices (even at this young age).

Third, is to help them understand the world is not all about them.

Betty: There are FIVE main things I wanted them to understand.

First, social skills/behavior. This plays a huge impact on their communication and interaction with others.

Second, Language. Extend their use of language and develop vocabulary to improve communication.

Third, Independent thinking and problem-solving. Cause and effect, starting with why and reasoning; it all helps them become better problem solvers.

Four, physical skill. Learning about gross and fine motor skills to keep themselves and others safe.

Lastly, emotions. How to control oneself and how to handle feelings in order to improve communication and interaction with others.

3. How did you teach this lesson in the past?

Michelle: In the past, I would guide them and demo how to do something the right way, while simultaneously explaining the reason of why it was a good choice.

This required helping with language so they could communicate with friends, but more importantly, caring and connecting with the children; going to their level, listening, and giving hugs (a lot of them).

Betty: I would use interactions to role model behavior. This could take the form of telling them directly, modeling actions, reading books/stories, and through songs.

4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?

Michelle: The best teacher is experience. I learned a lot of it on the job and learning from other teachers.

Today, I try to give the children small choices, as if you only ask them “yes and no” questions, they will always say no.

Additionally, I do not tell them what they are doing is “wrong,” rather I try to engage them by saying

“how about if you…”

To take corrective action.

Lastly, if a student cries I direct them back to routines. This has two main benefits. First, it allows them to express their emotions. Second, they feel a safe knowing that they will see their parents again at the end of the day.

Betty: I believe in the power of collaboration. First, I observe the situation so I can understand it. Then, I discuss it with workmates to look for strategies and ideas. This provides a few different ways to solve the problem.


ECC classrooms. Poking in your head in one will open you up to new ways of teaching and learning.

“We’re talking about it and really just being mindful about the food that we are eating.” 

Happy Monday #SISRocks !

This week on Teachers of SIS, we are pleased to have PE teacher Brad Ill from Bayside. He’s been nominated for all the experience, enthusiasm and knowledge around health that he brings to our students. Enjoy!









What did you want your students to know or understand?

Life Skills is a course that focuses on kids understanding the importance of making good choices and making appropriate decisions throughout their entire life. Some of the topics we touch on include stress management, self awareness, and drugs and alcohol.

Right now, we’re focusing on nutrition. The unit is called healthy eating and physical activity and one of the things we want them to understand is how to eat right, what foods to avoid and make sure they understand that if they’re going to live a healthy active lifestyle, they’re going to have to eat right, find a balance, and do things to make sure they’re not just sitting on their rear ends.

What skills did you want your students to gain?

Keeping with the example of healthy eating and physical activity, one of the skills we want students to take away is cooking and being able to put together a healthy balanced meal. One of my classes is putting together an entire full course meal -one group has got the appetizers going on, the next group has the main dish happening and the next is in charge of putting together the dessert. And so they need to understand what it takes/what needs to go into these meal to make them healthy. This becomes evident when they present their summative assessments to the class and when they ultimately teach us how to make their dish. Ultimately it is a fun learning situation where the presentation and the preparation of the food inform one another.

How did you teach this lesson in the past?

In the past, we used to do powerpoint presentations where there was a  bit of a disconnect.

Whereas now that there is more discussion and the collective building of knowledge when students prep for their presentations, there is more of a genuine interest in finding out how many calories, fat and salt there is in food. It’s definitely more hands on. In addition to students going out and having this new awareness when purchasing food, we’ve been bringing in something small for students too demo and share in the can prep. I tell them it’s totally up to them and it can be really simple like smoothies… You can bring in a bunch of fruit, add some coconut water. It has sparked conversations about what type of sugars are in fruit, the different categories, why they are good for you, etc.. Everybody loves fruit smoothies!

How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?

Bringing food into class makes total sense and being able to analyze food is an easy sell. When they bring in their dish, they are presenting on it, we’re talking about it and really just thinking and being mindful about the food that we are eating.




Microsoft Translator

This is a follow up to the demo Rob and Alex gave at Wednesday’s Bayside Faculty meeting.

Microsoft Translator has potential to be very helpful. In addition to helping us with taxi drivers and buying groceries, it will be very helpful for our work with individual parents and when presenting to groups of people who may be more comfortable using a language other than English. Here are a few videos and links that may be helpful as you get started with Microsoft Translator.

Finally, here’s a link to the Microsoft Translator page which has links to the various app stores so you can download it for your phone.


This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Cheryl Uy, who is currently working as a nursery teacher in the ECC.

She was nominated by her peers for her work in bringing the “Third Teacher” into the classrooms at Mountainside.

What is the “Third Teacher” you ask?

Well, it actually was coined from a small town in Italy, called Reggio Emilia, where they have a constructivist, school based in play.

There are three teachers in this type of school, where the first teacher is the teacher, the second is the parent and the third…

Any guesses?

Students, admin…no it is actually the environment.

Yes, the environment is the third teacher as it teaches the students new things on a daily basis.

1. What did you want your students to know or understand?

That the classroom is really just an extension of the home. I wanted both parents and children to feel cozy, comfortable, and safe. A place where their uniqueness will be appreciated.

You can actually see this when you enter my room as the first thing you enter is the family space. It is all about them. A bookcase, sofa, and plants.

Additionally, I placed the cubbies in the back and filled the space in between with a lot of COOL stuff. However, the most important element is the hook…the fish tank. It always faces the door, as it acts like a magnet for them to enter the room. There are lights, different color objects, and of course the fish.

The children are naturally attracted to it!

2. What skills did you want your students to gain?

Two main things.

First, curiosity.

I put a huge emphasis in the first few weeks that it is ok to touch everything. I tell them this is your space, go for it! Build a city, stand on the table…I want them to be comfortable.

Everything is based is sensorial and tactile as well. This is so important for this age group (2.5-5) as they learn so much through their five senses.

For example, this week we put out dried coffee out on a table and have on average about 5-6 kids who play with it every day. They grab it, let it fall through their fingers, and squish it in their hands. However, the most important element is the smell.

This is an element which was not present in the first semester, as there was only sand.

Second, collaboration and communication.

I want kids to collaborate and communicate, negotiate with friends in whatever space they are in the room.

I actually saw this the first time I entered a “Third Teacher “classroom where 3-years old were respecting each other, not screaming and fighting.

I asked, “How did you do this?”

They responded it was taught to them last year when they were 2-years old.

I was hooked and wanted this in my classrooms.

3. How did you teach this lesson in the past?

I would literally follow a book. A home center, a block center…a scripted way to arrange, my room.

It was very teacher centered and I set everything up without knowing the competencies of the children in advance.

I was already telling the students and parents that “this is my room.”

Back then I really did not have a clear philosophy but knew I wanted the kids to have ownership of learning.

So the search was on…

4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?

I actually trained at a Reggio Emilia inspired school in Los Angeles.

I was able to soak in so much information which gave me a good start but kept growing and modifying by consuming more resources, but also experimenting in my classroom every year.

Today, I come in every August to set up and literally get down on all fours so I can see what my future students will see.

I’ve become intentional in setting up their learning space – whilst making sure that the curriculum goals are met. It’s a delicate balance. 🙂

I love the Constructivist model of learning and believe it empowers kids. It puts them in the forefront and makes them the center of the learning.

Again, I want them to not see a classroom, but an extension of the home.

Cozy, comfortable, and safe.

This enables Children to be calm so they can one, communicate, but two, collaborate with each other.

This produces amazing results in their learning.

Lastly, the environment itself has changed my perspective as a teacher. I have learned how to listen and respect their thinking – so I can enable them to express their thoughts visible.


Designs for Living and Learning by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter