“It is nice to know that you can help others and they can help you…”

Hello #SISRocks ! This week on Teachers of SIS, we are pleased to have Pre-K 1D Teacher Jenny Chen from our Mountainside campus. Jenny walked me through how she empowers and builds confidence in her young (but vey able) students.








Here are her responses to the questions:

What did you want your students to know or understand?

I have been teaching 3-4 year olds and 2-3 year olds at SIS – so they’re very young but I still want them to believe in themselves and that they are able to do things – because a lot of times, especially at the beginning of the year there is a tendency for them to get frustrated and feel like they cannot self help themselves.

Children at this age are also very sensitive so I really have to walk through and work with them every time and and say “you can do it” and that I will be over here with you.

As time goes by, they increasingly begin to feel pride about the things they are able to accomplish. As a teacher, I want them to have this feeling of success and gratification  but keep challenging them as well.

I also want them to understand that we are a small community and that even though you believe in your own ability it is nice to know that you can help others and they can help you.

What skills did you want your students to gain?

As a class, the goal is to help students become more independent. That said, this must done in a differentiated approach and realizing that every child has different challenges. When we down and set goals for each student, they typically range from fine motor to self help skills to language acquisition, when necessary.

How did you problem solve come up with this new method for this lesson?

Let’s take self help skills, for example… This year we introduced nap time which involves quite a bit of set up and cleaning up. Continuing to integrate the idea of community and that each student is a helper has transformed that activity into a fast and efficient process. We now have have student modeling and printed photos of students on our “I can do it” window that helps reinforce good habits and behaviors. I’m really proud of them.

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


Libraries should be seen as a meeting place within the school. A place that kids come to during their free time …

For this week’s installment of Teachers of #sisrocks, we are pleased to have Bayside librarian Lauren Elliot. Lauren sat down to talk about the library being more than a physical space and how she uses lib guides to meet students where they are. Here are her responses to the questions regarding her lesson.








What did you want your students to know or understand?

I think from a librarian’s perspective, I want student to know that a library is a place they can come to for answers and find information – so whether that’s the physical space of the library or accessing our online spaces, our databases or our subscriptions, I want them to know that that’s where they can find information. Also when I’m teaching in the library, I hope that the lessons show them not only how to find information but also to use it ethically and responsibly.

What skills did you want your students to gain?

Well, I want them to understand information and understand how to evaluate it and find good and reputable sources and use it responsibly.

How have libraries changed over the years? / What do you think a library should be?

I think that a library should be seen as a meeting place within the school. A place that kids come to during their free time … during break or lunch time, I want them to feel comfortable to come here to find books, to read, to be with their friends, to work collaboratively with other students or to even find a quiet spot to work on their own. I also want teachers to see it as a place where they can come and find answers or information or help.

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

In addition to the physical space, I think a library can exist virtually and have a strong presence online. Also, as teachers, we have to meet kids where they are – so some kids love coming to the library and love being here while others might just find the library online. And so, lib guides are one of the ways I meet students online. I’ll prepare subject guides or class guides which I then link with various websites and/or our online subscriptions, for example. This not only directs student research traffic to those databases that we as a school are using and paying for., it also encourages students to use high quality resources.



It started as a project…but now it is a regular set activity which kids love!

This week the LI team had the pleasure of interviewing Meaghan Wilson for her “extraordinary” work in providing PE classes for the Nursery students’ at Mountainside.

Her work with the Nursery involves TWO main components.

First, she creates lessons teachers can run on their own and models for the teachers how they can do this at the beginning of the year. However, Meaghan strictly becomes a facilitator and helps identify physical development and motor skills for teachers as the year moves on.

Second, she builds community by incorporating her 7th and 8th grade Life Skills students, who pick a topic or concept they are learning and then demonstrate their mastery by taking it down to a level where a 3-4-year-old understands.

Oh yeah, Meaghan does all of this on her prep, when she is not teaching her own classes.

The results have been noticeable. Pawel, says there is a definite difference since Meagahn has started providing these services. The students are ready to go and ready to learn when they enter Kindergarten, whereas in the past they were not.

For example, Ritu’s son went home and told his parents what the 7th and 8th-grade students taught them about the harmful effect of eating Nutella. This prompted them to make some changes in their diet.

This just highlights how well the 7th and 8th-grade students taught the lesson!

But, on to her responses.

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

The focus was for ECC students to be more aware of their mental, emotional, and physical states.

The ECC teachers are amazing at helping them create habits already, and I just wanted to come in to help them learn more about how to take care of their bodies.

We work as a team to develop the whole child from a young age.

For my 7th and 8th grade students, it is about cultivating empathy, as they get to see how difficult it is to be a teacher and learn more about themselves in the process.

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

For the ECC students, I wanted them to improve their listening and collaborative skills. Additionally, how to better behave and respect their older buddies.

For the MS students, I wanted them to learn how to improve their confidence. Especially the ELL students who are scared to talk in front of their peers, but talk so much in front of ECC kids.

Lastly, I wanted both groups of students to understand how to change their habits bit by bit. Often times students are told you are too young and have time in the future to form quality habits, but I want them to realize they can create these habits now!

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

In the past, I would just give a lecture to my MS students and then show them a video. Then, I would have them write a paper for one unit, and then create a presentation for another.


Pretty amazing to see where we are now.

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

A lot of it came from research for my doctorate.

I immersed myself in material dealing with Project Based Learning (PBL) and reached out to others who were using the model to improve student learning.

Additionally, I started experimenting with my own lessons and built in a feedback loop so I could gather information from the students’ on how to improve the lessons.

You know, what worked, what didn’t.

This helped ensure the learning for both me and my students and helped us make the necessary changes to get the program where it is today.

I am so glad I was able to start incorporating the PBL model in my life skills class.

It started as a project, but now it is a regular set activity every 8 days, where kids from both ECC and MS love it!

It reminded me of the importance of providing learning experience to help our students become a better version of themselves, whatever age level they are at!


Ria and Ritu have vast knowledge about PBLs. They presented at EARCOS about it.

Any class at SIS…all you have to do is step into any class and it is an opportunity to learn. There are so many great teachers and learning happening daily!



The best way is for teachers to support other teachers

Welcome to another edition of Teachers of SIS Rocks!

This week we want to highlight Rachael MacMillan, a Pre-K 2 teacher at Mountainside.

She was nominated by her peers for her leadership in fostering a strong grade level team.

In her words, “The best way is for teachers to support other teachers.”

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

We are a team, everyone has a place in a team.

It does not matter if you are a team leader or not, you can always help others.

I remember when I was new you always felt behind trying to balance all the daily things you had to complete. This is where a team can come in and help sort these things out.

This helps them get organized and settled as a teacher. Which in turn, allows them to focus on what is important…improving the student learning in the class. Additionally, this makes it easier for the new teacher to give back to the team.

2. What skills did you want your fellow teachers to gain?

Every new person brings something to the table. The more we are able to make them comfortable, the quicker they will be able to add their unique abilities to the students and to our team.

Essentially it is the idea to “pass the buck” or “pay it forward.”

When you are able to give, it will come back to you!

3. How did you lead in the past?

Well, for me it started out at a very young age.

First, there was babysitting. Then I worked as a manager at Dunkin Doughnuts. Through it all, I always was the person to teach and train new people.

Even when I go home for a break now, my mom waits for me to teach her about the newest technologies.

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

I have always been an introspective person, but this has improved as I have gotten older. This growth came because I grew as an adult, which then impacted my leadership abilities.

Leadership centers around being open, asking questions, and making mistakes.

I am consistently asking myself,

How could I have done that better?

Or, collaborating with other teachers and asking,

How would you have handled that, what would you have done differently?

 These questioning coupled with my calm nature help me get to the root of the problem.

Also, I am not afraid to admit when I make a mistake, as this usually leads to a big learning.

Lastly, is the ability to see everyone as equals. Everybody is human.

I still remember what my mom told me when I was a young child,

 “ Who do you think you are.”

That still reminds me to see everyone eye to eye.


Everyone needs a Smart Auntie (a role model who has had more experience, maybe an admin figure).

“I wanted them to explore how effective their model would be as a teaching tool”








Hello #SISRocks ! For this week’s installment of Teachers of SIS, we are pleased to have middle school Math/ Science teacher Riley Laird, here at our bayside campus. Riley walked me through the many ways her students are using models to demonstrate their understanding of human body systems. Here are her responses to the questions regarding her lesson.

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

There are all sorts of scientific practices with skills every scientist engages in regardless of discipline (biology, chemistry, etc…  ) And one of those skills is the use of models to represent the real world, which also relates back to the scientific process. We decided to explore models in grade six because its a really good way for students to show what they know, especially for those who don’t always have a way of articulating or providing the details around a topic. It’s also just another way to show your scientific understanding. Most people think of classic models like a skeleton but there are so many different types – they can be artistic, three dimensional, interactive, a mathematical model, a simulation..  So in grade six, students really work on that skill all year long and they try to do with as many different types of models.

So for this one, we’re learning about the human body systems and thats definitely tied in with all of these skills. The first system we studied was the musculoskeletal system and a really good way to represent that is with a scientific illustration.

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

So, I wanted to expose the to the different ways of representing science. I also wanted to give them something creative (and artistic) to look at… and so this particular type of scientific model is called a scientific illustration. It’s meant to be used as an effective model – in other words it’s supposed to represent the real structures. There should be a real likeness and proportions should be accurate. It’s also about the fine details and textures but then there are also scientific skills and practices that come in play like the way the illustrations are labeled, which have to follow a particular format. There are also specific artistic techniques students are supposed to use that differs, say, from a diagram, which is another type of model. This was really sparked by former teacher Brittany Morgan, who had that entire class doing scientific illustrations. I have bunch of the work hanging in my classroom and I thought …what better way to kick off models in science.

So students are assessed on the artistic portion of it but also how effective their model is in a scientific context. Could someone who knows nothing about this part of the body and look at it, understand what it is, and see the different parts. Ultimately, I wanted them to explore how effective their model would be as a teaching tool or scientific model for someone else

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

The next type of model illustrates some of the changes that I’ve made to teach this lesson… For example, with modeling the respiratory system, I have some kids building theirs virtually in Minecraft – way more open and allows for creativity. I also added new parameters like there needing to be interactive element. It couldn’t be just a flat or static drawing. That said, some kids are still actually drawing but it’s more like a flip book where viewers can peel the layers away. Other kids are building with lego, some are using clay or making cakes and decorating them with icing to illustrate the functions specific. With these models, for example, they started outlining the general structures, which ties into the science because we’ve been learning about the levels of organization (cells, tissues, organs, system..)

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

I guess wanting to go beyond the classics (the skeleton, the cell, etc…) led to expanding notions of what models can look like and providing my students with as many choices and ays of working – Really just opening it up (creatively) so that I could meet them where they are. So for the kids that didn’t really shine on this model, maybe they’re able to demonstrate  teh real world but do it in the own way.

SIS has been the most collaborative environment I have ever been a part of!

This week we highlight Jaime Bacigalupo and Ceci Gomez-Galvez from Bayside. They have been nominated for their cross-disciplinary and curricular work in bringing about SIS stories.


What is SIS stories you ask?


It is a platform where students are able to build community and connect with others through storytelling.


The inception started when Jaime attended a couple sessions of the famous “Shenzhen Stories” in 2016.


She was floored by the power of storytelling, so she spent the summer reflecting about how she could bring this theme into her 10th-grade class.


Below are there answers to this innovative student learning.


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


Jaime: Largely the power of storytelling. Stories have the power to connect us on a human level and while also building empathy and compassion.


Ceci: Our students have been writing personal narratives since the third grade and we wanted them to understand writing and telling stories is more than academics. We wanted all students, especially the quiet ones, to understand this could be a vehicle to share their voice.


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


Jaime: In terms of the English there were two main components. Frist, the writers’ craft, which consisted of mentor texts, short memoirs, deep reading, and annotations. Also, Stylistic approaches used to reach readers.


Second, was how to express yourself orally. Different mediums require you to express yourself differently. For example, oral presentations are much more casual than formal presentations.


Ceci: We wanted them to show some vulnerability by telling their own story. This, in turn, would allow them to be brave, resilient, and take risks. All things that will help them prepare for their performance tasks in IB Diploma Programme.


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


Jaime: There was NO oral piece, it was only written. Additionally, there was no theme to the lesson, it was really quite open.


Essentially it was a narrative snapshot. Although it gave them a lot of flexibility, there was no foundational piece which ran through all of it where we could see same theme branch out in so many different contexts.


Lastly, I was the audience. There was no one else!


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


Jaime: One word…collaboration. Not just simply talking about things, but building strong relationships to create systems to improve student learning.


SIS has been the only school where this level of flexibility and autonomy are provided, which make it such a fertile environment for collaboration.


SIS has been the most collaborative environment I have ever been a part of!


Teachers are allotted the time and the flexibility to cultivate this environment. I do not know what I would do if I did not have these elements, it would be like not having air to breathe.


This strong collaboration is a vehicle which has enhanced my teaching more than it has for many years combined.


Furthermore, the collaboration opened up connections even outside of the classroom. Attending Shenzhen Stories had me thinking how I could bring in Trey, founder of Shenzhen Stories.


He came in a ran a workshop and gave strategies on the idea surrounding “page and stage.” Additionally, we created a setting which fostered a sense of community; snacks, signs, and furniture.


Ceci: Yeah, exactly. For me, it was true co-teaching. That Ying to Yang relationship.


Jaime had ideas and I had other ideas and questions. I would ask


How can we make the learning better for our students?

How can we make it more interesting?

How can we share it on a bigger stage?



These questions led us to create SIS stories. Where we combine the power of storytelling, Voice, and interdisciplinary connections.


We already mentioned Trey, but Peter reached out to see how we could incorporate the services to his STEAM students. We started chatting and made the connection that we could use a motherboard which connected letters in the alphabet with buttons that triggered something when touched.


We would record each student’s’ golden lines and take professional pictures. Then we would be able to create posters with sensors where buttons will trigger audio files of the golden lines of the students.


Jaime: It was awesome!


Since the inception of SIS stories, everything has grown organically.


And it keeps growing and everything is falling into place.


We are actually going to collaborate with 5th graders and take our students over to Parkside to mentor them on the experience.


Ceci: What is awesome is the task we started with was for each student had to get up and talk for 5-10 minutes.


That is it!


However, now it has grown into this amazing thing called SIS stories


To think it started with a provocation and text (Persepolis: the story of a childhood) then it connected to the power of storytelling, next student voice, next STEAM, and it continues to grow.


Lastly, I want to mention there are many vehicles for empowerment.


Vulnerability and modeling what you want your students to create are powerful.


Jaime wrote a story herself and told it in front of the students.

This gave them a different perspective and automatically built a sense of community. Students’ were eager to share and also hear the stories of others. It was awesome!


A much different result from reading a mentor text published by an author you do not know or have a relationship with.

Students knew right from the beginning they would have an opportunity to share with an authentic audience of their peers and teachers.


Both: (Sit back and sigh)…Can’t wait to see where this goes next year!




Peters STEAM class: They are looking for new clients to build products for. Contact them if you need anything in terms of design which requires any STEAM elements.