Faculty & Staff Directory

Mary Bayer

Faculty: MS & US Theater
Master of Science
Master of Arts
Bachelor of Arts

Mary Bayer (Teaching Philosophy) - My role as an educator is to help each student become a life­long learner—one who is always questioning and seeking, posing new problems and formulating creative solutions, one who digs deeper and reaches farther to find the answer, but understands that the process of seeking the answer is more important than the answer itself. I believe this would be my role regardless of what subject I teach. As a theatre teacher, I facilitate an appreciation for learning on a daily basis, as students in my classroom explore theatre through a variety of lenses—not just performing, but also theatre history, design, script analysis, directing, and criticism. Through this broad exploration of the art form, students gain an understanding of the collaborative nature of theatre, as well as form a basis for life­long appreciation of humanity's most personal and living form of artistic expression.


In my classroom, I value the unique contributions of students and help them start from where they are, understanding that not everyone has the same level of theatre experience or innate ability. Students often feel vulnerable or unsure when asked to express themselves in ways that are asked of them in a theatre class. In order to make my students feel safe, I strive to establish an atmosphere of respect, fun, and collaboration in my classroom every day. This helps students set aside fears of personal weakness and creates a platform for bold exploration. By creating an an environment where students feel safe being themselves, my classroom becomes a place where they feel that they can take risks with artistic and emotional expression, make and grow from mistakes, feel comfortable giving honest and kind feedback to others, and be able to hear and implement feedback in their own work.


In my classroom, students engage physically with the material on a daily basis. Theatre is the art of doing, as the most basic vocabulary of the theatre demonstrates—act, play, imitate...A theatre artist's medium is not paint or clay, but rather physical action. Because of this, physical engagement is one of the most important aspects of my teaching. In a typical class period, I am on my feet the whole time, and I try to get the students on their feet as much as possible, whether for physical and vocal warm­ups, monologue and scene rehearsals, or acting and directing exercises. Even in more academic lessons, such as theatre history, students are asked to engage physically as well, by taking written notes, moving around the classroom to work with different discussion groups, or to examine historical contexts through experimental means; for example, when studying the question of the real authorship of Shakespeare's plays, the students physically create a mock trial where the question is debated in a classroom “courtroom.” By physically experiencing the material in my classroom, students gain a more complete understanding of that material.


A student who has completed a theatre course with me will leave with not only a specific set of artistic skills that can be used to approach a play in the future, but also expanded concrete knowledge and practice at in-depth analysis. Students must learn to see plays as ways to tell story, create character, investigate thought, speak and hear prose and poetry, move fluidly, and interact with architecture. They must be able to think critically and combine those elements in ways that create meaning. In all of my classes, we practice writing, because writing teaches students to articulate ideas in a clear and persuasive manner. In addition, reading as much as possible increases student exposure to the larger field and its connection to other disciplines. I base nearly every unit of my classes out of a dramatic text, regardless of what age of student or area of theatre being studied. For example, when studying theatre of the English Renaissance, we read A Midsummer Night's Dream, explore the historical context in which it was written, look at theatre production elements of the time, analyze and perform acting scenes from the play, and design sets and costumes for each students' own hypothetical production. In another course, the students rehearse and perform a ten­minute play, as well as complete a character analysis based on a study of the text. In both cases, the script becomes the gateway to the examination of theatre through several different lenses.


Students who make and interpret theatrical art are learning to interpret the world around them on a much broader stage than just the one in the school. By teaching theatre, I teach students to question the world around them, to investigate the implications of all performed culture, to come up with creative solutions to dramatic problems, and to think critically about not just art, but about their world.

Courtney Boborci

Faculty: Grade 3
Master of Arts in Teaching
Bachelor of Arts

Courtney Boborci (Teaching Philosophy) - Thinking back on my childhood, school was not my thing. I have distinct memories of hiding from my parents when it was time to get on the bus. Sure, I liked seeing my friends, but the whole academic aspect of school was not for me. I surprised myself when finally, my junior year in college, the academics began to click. Then I became a mom, and by default really, a teacher. Everything was new, fun and exciting and I felt the need to perpetuate that energy. Learning wasn’t fun until I was personally invested in the learning itself. After earning a Master’s degree in education and five years in the classroom, this still holds true. I am still passionate about learning because of the energy my students bring to the classroom each day. Personal investment drives learning.

In order to love learning my students need to feel secure and confident in the classroom. They need to know that they are not alone on this risky journey of learning. I begin every year letting my class know that we are a team for the year, myself included. Together we set out some guidelines for how team members treat one another. Our team and these guidelines are referenced frequently throughout the year, both in the classroom and out. (PE, recess, etc) This makes risk taking within the classroom easier for each member of our team. We make mistakes, make corrections, and learn to embrace uniqueness. When I see how my class works together and supports one another on Field Day I know they don’t just look like a team, they have become one.

Learning needs to be fun and engaging whenever possible. Creating opportunities where students are guiding the learning is one of the ways I make learning fun. I’ll often ask a student to, “show us” and I will sit in their seat while they take the lead at the board. I use frequent breaks and physical activity to help maintain focus and energy throughout the day. We stand up and move around the room, dance, bounce balls, and more. Physical activity is proven to improve brain activity, and the students love to know they are exercising the muscle they need to be successful in school.

I get to know my students and they get to know me, too. It is important to make time for non-academic conversations. I share stories and ask questions to further my understanding of who they are as individuals, and in doing so learn the strengths they have to offer our team.

It is the combination of feeling like part of a team, my classroom being a fun place to be, and having a strong personal connection to my students that garners a personal investment from each student.

Donna Bolz

Faculty: Grade 4
Master of Arts
Bachelor of Arts

Donna Bolz (Philosophy of Teaching) - During my teaching tenure in both public and independent schools, I have taught in several diverse communities, traveled globally, and served in mission and service capacities. I am sensitive to the varying physical and emotional needs and abilities children bring to the learning environment and strive to create a classroom that supports each child's emerging identity, respecting and providing for each student's personal voice . In my class, children experience challenges and respect for each other as they explore their world and creativity, learning to “think outside the box” (a favorite poster in my room). Through  relationships and connections and independent and group work, children learn to develop critical thinking skills, writing, and problem solving as they progress through the curriculum in a safe learning environment. For example, in the social studies unit of global interdependence studying countries collaborating together and the impact of groups such as OXFAM, the Red Cross, and the Unites Nations, the students work in small groups and design their own union and its area of help and purpose. This activity allows them to put themselves in a larger global situation and role-play what they have learned.

As my students get to know each other during the year through many varied activities whether classroom based, games, or field trip in nature, they also get to know me. We share not only the discovery of learning and knowledge each day, but the respect and compassion for each other as individuals with unique talents and personalities. The bond and relationships we build create a safe and nurturing atmosphere that allow self-worth and confidence to grow as independent and collaborative thinkers and learners develop.  My continuing joy is seeing and corresponding with them as young adults in middle school, high school and college . It is then that the impact of my role as teacher and truly empowering the whole child becomes my greatest reward.
Education and teaching are areas and careers that are changing constantly especially in the 21st Century along with the surge in technology development. We as educators can remain current and compassionate, working in a collaborative school climate promoting student, parent, and teacher engagement, keeping our children’s best interest in the forefront.

Jennifer Brown

PS-4 Administrative Assistant

Jessica Brown

7th & 8th Grade English
Master of Arts
Master of Science in Education
Bachelor of Arts

My teaching philosophy stems from a quote by Madeline Hunter: "Expecting all children the same age to learn from the same materials is like expecting all children the same age to wear the same size clothing." As an educator, it is essential to understand that students have different learning styles and be able to accommodate those. I must be ready and willing to adapt lessons to ensure students are confident about learning and are achieving their personal best in the classroom, while providing students with engaging activities and promoting personal accountability.

Heather Cannon

Faculty: LS & MS French
Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Science

Heather Cannon (Teaching Philosophy) - Over the years, I have developed a philosophy of education, which is the driving force behind my teaching practices. In order to best describe who I am as a teacher, I would like to describe this philosophy. First and foremost, I believe that all children can learn. They just learn in different ways. As an educator, it is my responsibility to utilize the appropriate teaching methodology for all of the students to whom I am responsible. Therefore I must constantly be willing to learn and grow in order to provide the best educational experience for my students. Collaborating with colleagues, attending workshops and reading current literature in the field of world language education are a few ways in which I strive to accomplish that goal. It is indeed through the process of learning that I have become and continue to become a better teacher.

It is my experience that the most effective educators make connections with their students. Personal relationships in schools are vitally important in order for both the teacher and the student to be successful. In my French class at Elgin Academy, many discussions and writing assignments focus on the lives and interests of the students as well as my own. Storytelling in all grades gives the students an opportunity to develop their own voice and create in French in a fun way. Additionally I have discovered that connecting the language to subject matter in the core curriculum deepens the interest level of the class. When language is seen as meaningful, the desire to learn is stronger. For example, while eighth graders are discussing the era of WWII in history class, we discuss the war from the perspective of a French child. Communicating with native speakers also sharpens the awareness of the students that they are citizens of the world. Using a networking site, the students post journal entries and receive corrections from French speakers in real time. It is wonderful to hear the conversations among the kids as they learn directly about another culture through communication with a native speaker.

Another way I work to create a learning environment that is relevant to the students is to make it child centered as opposed to teacher directed. In such a classroom, there is presence of academic choice and ownership. Additionally critical thinking opportunities are integrated into the curriculum. The students feel empowered to voice their opinions and know that their thoughts matter. Furthermore, the students consistently reflect on themselves as learners and begin to identify their strengths and weaknesses. One way I do this is by asking the students to predict how they will perform on an assessment as well as describe what they did to prepare. Upon receiving the results, they are asked to reflect on their learning strategies and to come up with a plan for improvement if necessary.

I am fortunate to teach at a school, such as Elgin Academy, where I am surrounded by colleagues and administrators who share these same beliefs. In such an environment, the students are provided an opportunity to reach their full potential.

Suzy Ceci

Faculty: EC, LS, MS French and Spanish
Master of Arts
Bachelor of Arts

Suzy Ceci (Teaching Philosophy) - If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart (Nelson Mandela) I love this quote by Nelson Mandela because I do believe that a special connection happens when one speaks to a person in his own language. To me, that heart connection emerges when we understand language as being more than what the Webster dictionary defines as “A system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other”. Languages live. They own people and land, have customs and idiosyncrasies that cannot be explained, only accepted. They evolve; constantly interacting with and borrowing words and expressions from each other, and yes, languages become extinct from underuse.

When I teach my students to speak French or Spanish, I fancy myself doing a bit more than simply teaching them the skills to express themselves in those languages. I envision myself poking a hole in the language drapery, to enable them to peep at the conglomerate that makes it up: people, culture, land, history, and much more. None of it happens overnight but time is of essence. Every language is someone’s treasure box, filled over the course of a lifetime, which we get to share with them. However, before any of my students can touch a native speaker’s heart, they have to learn to speak, which I encourage them to do right from the start. I use lots of prompting, repetitions, and movement. Eventually, one-word answers become full sentences, and prompted answers become spontaneous ones.

Learning to speak another language is scary, much like jumping at the deep end of the swimming pool without knowing how to swim. This is where music comes in handy. We use songs for everything in our classroom, whether to say that we are hungry or to describe people, to talk about the weather or to ask someone’s age, and tell how old we are. My students can sing many of the useful expressions they need long before realizing what they are doing. Later on, slowing down to speaking those is the easy part.

Aside from singing, my students acquire language through play, hands on activities, using it in context. The goal is to commit as much of the students’ learning to their automatic memory early (younger grades), so that they can access it down the road (in Middle School, Upper School… life) to discuss all sorts of topics like art, food, or make lively presentations about world pollution in front of our school green screen as my 5th grade class of the year 2012/13 did.

So what’s the big deal with learning other languages when English is spoken around the world? A heart connection. The thing with the heart is that it loves reciprocated feelings and when it receives them, there is much goodwill to go around the world doing good work as a global citizen.

Caitlin Childers

Assistant Athletic Director, Middle School Athletic Coordinator

Marie Cinquemani-Thomas

Bachelor of Music

Marie Cinquemani-Thomas (Teaching Philosophy) - Every music student has the capability to be successful, whether it is on a personal, academic, or performance level. As a music teacher, I set my expectations high; at times higher than the students themselves may think they are capable of achieving. Whether the students achieve the stated goal at “face value” is not the point. It is through the process, the journey, that the student discovers their voice, their art, and themselves.

 As both a middle school and an upper school teacher, I have the opportunity to teach many of my students for eight years. This longevity builds trust, and allows me to create on the students’ knowledge base. Each year I generate a new curriculum based on the students that are in my classroom at that time, taking into consideration their individual skill sets. I adapt as much as possible to the individual needs of my students.

My Introduction to Fine Arts Music classes create individual portfolios that help them track their growth in musicianship, and help them to begin to reflect on their role in the learning process. At the end of each quarter, parents are also asked to review the portfolio with their child and reflect on the strengths, and the areas that need to be addressed in their son or daughter’s learning.

My choir concerts are not typical of what you would find in a conventional middle or high school music program. Instead, I create my choir programs around a specific, selected genre. This approach allows the students to be immersed in a specific style for many weeks, and creates time for them to explore the social, economic and political connections to the songs they are learning. I have created concerts ranging from “Music of Afrika and the African American Tradition” to “American Folk Songs” to “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” At times I will program a major choral work such as the Faure Requiem or Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, and these choices are always driven by the changing skills and needs of the students.

The study of music in general, and singing in particular, is personal. Students who learn to sing can become vulnerable during the process, as it involves much more than learning a basic technique, it involves learning to communicate emotion through their physical apparatus. As a music teacher, I guide my students through this process of self-discovery. As a young high school student I remember being terrified to sing in front of others, and struggling with basic musicianship. My own experience with performance anxiety and my personal struggle with music theory gives me a unique understanding of the challenges my students face.

I create a fun and playful atmosphere where my students can explore and create. I share my own personal experiences as a professional singer with them (the amazing performances as well as the embarrassing incidents,) so they feel safe enough to fail with reckless abandon. We have a saying in Room 301: What Happens In The Music Room, Stays In The Music Room. The end result is students who are willing to take risks, and are willing to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. This translates into growth as a musician as well as a student, and a person.

Linley Collins

Faculty: Grade 1
Bachelor of Science

Linley Collins (Teaching Philosophy) - I know that my philosophy will constantly change and evolve as I continue to grow as a teacher.  I will never claim to know everything.  I will continue to learn, along with my students, and I will always try to remain open-minded and willing to grow in my beliefs and practices as a teacher.  Since society is constantly evolving, so must I. Every child that enters into my classroom should feel safe and comfortable. My classroom is an environment full of nurturing and enriching.

I believe that students should be taught about the importance of different perspectives. Seeing new points of view can be truly eye opening.  I will strive to make the environment of my classroom mirror a community, with students being productive members.  Therefore, when a problem arises, I will guide students in solving it as thoughtfully as possible.  I would like to see my students possess self-respect, respect of others, and a strong will for what they believe in—yet they must be able to compromise. These traits can be accomplished through group discussions, one-on-one talks with students, and the learning of different perspectives within my classroom. 

I will take into account the individuality of all students.  Students have diverse needs and I will strive to accommodate each one as successfully as possible by incorporating learner-centered experiences, integration of technology into the classroom, as well as guided individual instruction.  These should be utilized for all subject areas. Learning opportunities must include identity exploration.  Teachers are not only present to help students but also to help guide them through the good and bad of growing up.  I believe that sharing personal stories should be valued in a learning community and students who are making life connections to the lessons we teach are far more likely to understand and remember the material being taught. Therefore, these connections should be embraced.  One way to guide personal connections is to be involved with the children outside of the classroom. 

I will always remember that when students are rewarded for effort, rather than quality of work, they will in turn keep trying to do their best. One of my main goals as a teacher is to produce life-long learners with strong core values.  Every person learns at a different speed and in a different way, and this fact should be respected in the classroom as much as possible. 

I am looking forward to growing as a teacher and as a student of education each year.  I believe that learning along with the students is the greatest benefit of all.

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