Lower School

Harry Gould

Lower School Director
Master of Arts, United States International University
Bachelor of Arts, University of Stirling - Scotland

I am an advocate of the holistic approach to education in recognition of the fact that social and emotional factors affect progress in the academic domain. However, not only should we give social and emotional factors consideration, we should coach students in managing the social and emotional factors which constitute a major part of the context in which their learning takes place.
- Harry Gould

When I was still a student in high school, one of my teachers sparked in me an interest in education and psychology through his regular diversions from our German language lessons into the realm of psycholinguistics. The thoroughly engaging lessons that he created for his students were unlike anything I had experienced up to that point, and it led to a change in direction for me. Some years later, I entered the teaching profession with a degree in psychology and a great sense of purpose.

Since then, my philosophy has developed though teaching general subjects in K – 8 classrooms in the UK, in international schools in Germany and the Middle East, in public schools in the US, and in recent years at Elgin Academy. This background has led me to cherish the diversity among my students, not only in terms of their cultural origins, but also as regards their individuality. In essence, I believe that we should celebrate this individuality and recognize it as a driving force in the educational process.

I am an advocate of the holistic approach to education in recognition of the fact that social and emotional factors affect progress in the academic domain. However, not only should we give social and emotional factors consideration, we should coach students in managing the social and emotional factors which constitute a major part of the context in which their learning takes place. This includes building confidence and a focus on character education, one that goes beyond important traits such as responsibility, honesty, and caring, to include for example, self-discipline and perseverance.

While each curricular area presents certain knowledge, skills, and concepts, I believe it is important for students to make cross-curricular connections, and for them to apply what they have learned. This leads me to encourage the active participation of my students in the learning process. I want them become involved in decision making about which resources to access in order to answer questions or solve problems that are interesting, relevant, and important to them here and now. Research shows that this purposeful approach results in higher levels of student engagement and motivation, and with that, more effective learning.

Also integral to this approach are the development of oral and written communication skills and expertise in the use of modern technology. As members of a community of learners, my students communicate with one another when collaborating with their peers, when addressing invited adult audiences, and when connecting with the world at large. Along with monitoring student progress on a daily basis, it is is here that I can observe the outcome of my endeavors and assess the effectiveness of what I do.

Jennifer Brown

Lower School Administrative Assistant, Development Associate
Bachelor of Science, St. Louis University

Being a part of the EA Community means being in a place where people genuinely care. We celebrate each other in our successes and support each other in our challenges. We come to this place not just because it is a job or it is our school, but because we truly believe in the experience that takes place on our campus.
- Jenn Brown

Helen Elayan

PS-12 School Counselor
Bachelor of Arts, DePaul University
Masters of Arts, Adler School of Professional Psychology

Courtney Boborci

Third Grade Teacher
Master of Arts, Aurora University
Bachelor of Arts, Illinois State University

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.
- Courtney Boborci

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.

Suzy Ceci

Lower School French and Spanish, Middle School Spanish
Master of Arts, Universite de Toulouse Le Mirail
Bachelor of Arts, Universite Stendahl

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.
- Suzy Ceci

"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.

Linley Collins

First Grade Teacher
Bachelor of Science, Western Illinois University

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.
- Linley Collins

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.

Heather Giebel

Lower School Music & Choir Director, Middle School Music
Master of Music, New England Conservatory
Bachelor of Music, University of Massachusetts

Music should make a young child smile. Music should make a child move and dance. When children are laughing, singing, dancing and playing instruments together, it is easy to teach the fundamental skills of rhythm, beat, pitch and notation.
- Heather Giebel

Do you remember your childhood music class? I do. We sat and sang songs once a week for 30 minutes while the teacher played the piano and chomped on original flavor trident gum. The fact that I can remember her preferred brand of gum, but cannot recall a memory of an enjoyable musical experience is telling! Thankfully, as a child my house was filled with music and dance every day. The stark contrast between a stimulating musical experience at home and a dry stagnant experience at school helped shape the philosophy that drives my teaching. Music should make a young child smile. Music should make a child move and dance. When children are laughing, singing, dancing and playing instruments together, it is easy to teach the fundamental skills of rhythm, beat, pitch and notation.

On any given day, visitors come into my classroom and witness children playing music, moving to music, and reading musical notation. Yes, I start this skill in preschool. Young children learn to recognize letters, numbers, and shapes, and are capable of recognizing musical notation as well. We begin understanding the language of music at an early age while the window of opportunity is open! Actively engaging my students through hands on experiences in preschool through – sixth grade keeps them interested in learning and accepting new musical challenges.

Every year the students continue to amaze me as they catch the performance bug! Once they have felt successful as a singer and instrumentalist, (and are rewarded for this experience) the children work even harder, and with greater enthusiasm to hone their musical skills. As a musician, mother and teacher, I see performance as a tool to teach each child how to set goals, prepare, practice and work as a member of a team.

I strive to give my students a musical education they will fondly remember because in my class they laughed, they danced, they acquired skills that could never be taken away, and they worked together to create great music.

Amy Maly

Early Childhood Teacher
Bachelor of Science, Illinois State University

Each day I commit to challenging the children to grow and do so in a fashion that considers where each child is developmentally. By personalizing my interactions and facilitating opportunities for that growth to take place, I am delighted when they emerge into the young person that exemplifies their "true self".
- Amy Maly

My philosophy has evolved over the years through my wide range of experience, in addition to my soon to be 18 years of teaching. At the heart of it all, has always been and continues to be giving students the tools to feel confident in themselves and their ability. In order for anyone to meet their true potential and for their individual gifts to be discovered, self esteem is at the core.

Each day I commit to challenging the children to grow and do so in a fashion that considers where each child is developmentally. By personalizing my interactions and facilitating opportunities for that growth to take place, I am delighted when they emerge into the young person that exemplifies their "true self". It is not my goal for the children to please me, (though, the children at Elgin Academy excel in this) I want them to internalize the feelings of pride that come from within and engage in the magic of learning and growing, while preserving those wonderful imaginations chocked full of creativity, excitement and wonder.

Adeline Moon

Second Grade Teacher, Student Life Activities Support, Summer Program Instructor
Bachelor of Science, University of Illinois

I believe every child has the capability of bringing something unique to the world. As an educator, I help my students realize their potential by utilizing students’ skills and ideas to develop a safe, comfortable learning environment.I incorporate hands on learning, art, technology, and other creative outlets to meet the needs of all types of learners
- Adeline Moon

As an educator, I empower students to take ownership of their learning. It is important that students are given the necessary tools to thrive as learners. I promote a “don’t give up” attitude and allow for students to reflect on their learning, while challenging them at individualized levels.

Teaching is a life long learning process. I hope to show children that it is okay to make mistakes because making mistakes can be one of the greatest learning experiences. Students embody the innocence of childhood and the diversity of ideas in the world. With that in mind, while academics are important, I hope to focus on the whole child’s development in my classroom. This means meeting social/emotional and academic needs. Children continue to remind me of the power of a smile or laugh and the positive impact humans can have on each other regardless of their age.

Craig Pinson

MS Athletic Director, LS & MS PE Teacher, MS Boys Baseball - Head Coach
Bachelor of Science, Northern Illinois University
Master of Science, Ohio University

While I am only just beginning my time at Elgin Academy, I can already see that this community is truly one of a kind. In my entire teaching and coaching career, I have never seen such a caring and supportive student body. The passion, positivity, and dedication that each student brings daily to the EA Community drives me to be the best teacher and leader that I can possibly be.
- Craig Pinson

Rebecca Rome

Band Director - Music Education Services
Bachelor of Arts, Augustana College
Illinois and Post Graduate Credit, Azusa Pacific University

I thrive on precious teaching moments. When a band leaps out of their seat with pride after a performance with the exhilaration after a successful performance, or when a beginning student finds the beat for the first time, I am certain that teaching is what I am meant to do. I also hope for those not so precious moments. A frustrated student is the most motivating factor of teaching. I am driven to find multiple approaches that will help every student discover the solution to his or her problem. No situation or hurdle is unimportant when it comes to the success of a student.
- Rebecca Rome

Sara Ryan

Fourth Grade Teacher
Bachelor of Science, DePaul University
Masters of Arts, New York University

Elizabeth Sala

LS & MS Visual Arts, Summer Program Instructor
Bachelor of Arts, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Lynne Schick

Librarian, ELL Instructor
Master of Arts, University of Missouri
Bachelor of Arts, University of Missouri

As the Director of the Library/Media Center, information is, quite literally, my job. Every day I have the distinct pleasure of interacting with incredibly bright and curious students across all grade levels.
- Lynne Schick

Oftentimes teaching as an action is condensed into a very simple formula. One image painted of education resembles an assembly line where the student begins as a shell, full of potential, but unrefined and lacking knowledge and skills, and subsequently moves down the line from grade to grade receiving the necessary information needed to be successful. But the system in the aforementioned metaphor is incomplete. It is my belief that, while the lessons learned in the classroom across a comprehensive curriculum are integrally important, an education that fosters exploration and encourages hungry minds to seek the answers which they seek bolsters an already strong education. Inspiring this search is what has led me to become a school librarian and what makes me so pleased to have my roots in education at Elgin Academy.

As the Director of the Library/Media Center, information is, quite literally, my job. Every day I have the distinct pleasure of interacting with incredibly bright and curious students across all grade levels. One of my primary goals is to be a trusted aid that the students and teachers can count on to promptly provide them with the resources they need to pursue their academic goals, but I also want to show the students how to find the information they are looking for by effectively navigating the expanding myriad print and digital mediums; this foundational tenet of my educational philosophy is something that I take extremely seriously.

Take, for example, a scenario that I experience on a daily basis: a student looking for information pertinent to his or her particular topic for a project. Let’s say a middle school student is seeking assistance finding books about Jane Goodall for her Biographers’ Tea project. While my top priority is ensuring that this student leaves the library with strong potential sources that she can sort through and utilize, I also want to make sure that the student plays an active role in finding these sources. I may challenge her to brainstorm and search for media across diverse subject areas (i.e, “women scientists,” Koko the gorilla,” animal communication,” etc.) that will hopefully create a complete list of informational sources about Jane Goodall. While I believe it is extremely important to be technologically conscious and to help show the student how to efficiently explore the Internet for information, I also want to reinforce the timeless merits of books, including eBooks. As faculty, staff, and students at Elgin Academy, we are incredibly lucky to have the premier collection of nearly 20,000 titles housed in the state-of-the-art Rider Center, and I truly love being the one to connect Hilltoppers with these books.

Elgin Academy is a bastion for learning and a place where I feel comfortable and confident living out my educational philosophy. Similar to the proverb that says if you “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; [but] show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime,” I am a passionate supporter of the search for knowledge and showing students how to do so effectively, as it is a life skill they will take with them long after they leave our campus.

Elizabeth Stemn

Kindergarten Teacher
Bachelor of Arts, Minnesota State University

I often think that I am part teacher, part social worker and part parent, and usually all at the same time!I want to advance my students in every way possible –– through academics and social and emotional means –– and I want them to have fun doing it!
- Elizabeth Stemn

My philosophy is to teach the whole child. This means that besides academics; one of the most important jobs of a kindergarten teacher is teaching the social skills children will need to become good citizens. I often think that I am part teacher, part social worker and part parent, and usually all at the same time!I want to advance my students in every way possible –– through academics and social and emotional means –– and I want them to have fun doing it!

Every child is different. I believe that all of them have unique strengths and diverse learning styles. My instruction must provide enough challenge and support for all children to feel successful and confident.Also for me, an important part of teaching children is caring.They have needs and wants, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and a future that I will help mold. In Kindergarten, one of my jobs is to develop the imagination and create memorable rituals, traditions, and celebrations that honor childhood. I want children to be active learners and disciplined, creative thinkers; to learn to make good choices and to work cooperatively, and to be kind and responsible.I want children to love coming to school each day.

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

~Carl W. Buechner