Welcome Letter, Supply List, and Activities for 2015-2016

Dear Parents,

I am thrilled to be part of the amazing team of professionals at Montessori Education Centre. This campus is truly a vibrant learning community. In my years of teaching learners of varying ages and cultures, I have learned that one thing stays the same: the individual children form the strongest fibers in a successful learning community. As a Montessori teacher, or guide, I provide the tools, but it is the children themselves who are actively building their own minds.

Research has shown child-centered educational practices to be more effective in the long-term; a Montessori classroom better accommodates a wide range of learners. Here diversity becomes strength.  I try to allow children as many options as possible within the supportive structure we build as a class. This means that the children will determine the rules for the classroom as well as choosing work on a daily basis. They will help each other learn and work in harmony according to their group and individual decisions. After each lesson, each child is free to choose the necessary follow-up work and monitor their own progress. Students are held accountable through frequent mini-conferences.

The Montessori philosophy of education strongly values the importance of the shared community, which includes a respect and care for one another (teacher, parents and students) in a way that will ensure a year of positive learning and success. To help foster this success, it is important that parents and students read and understand the “Rights and Responsibilities” and “Peace Agreement,” both of which can be found on display in our classroom. They exemplify our community expectations in which everyone is kept physically, emotionally and academically safe. We ask that each student and his or her parents sign these documents as a means of committing to a community in which such ideals are upheld.

Our classroom will hold regular community meetings and team-building exercises to help foster these ideals in each member of our class. Each student will be assigned a weekly job to contribute to taking care of our community. These include preparing the environment for daily learning and keeping it clean and tidy. We will also be planning activities with room 101 throughout the school year. As your child matures in this classroom, you can expect them to take more responsibility at home as well. It is important to have a similarly nurturing environment at home for the life lessons that we provide to have a full effect. Listed below are some of the key elements that provide a stable framework in the classroom to balance freedom and responsibility. My goal is to make each teachable moment significant for life.

Curriculum and Activities: We will be exploring many curriculum areas this year, which include Math, Geometry, Language, History (Modern History and Current Events), Accelerated Math, Creative Writing and Spelling, Geography, Biology (anatomy and botany), Physics, Chemistry, Art and Music Theory, and some Spanish and German language lessons.

In preparation for the AZ Merit testing in spring, we will also incorporate targeted skill instruction in our lessons.  Children will be encouraged to publish writing in all academic areas for the bookbinding projects, presentations, podcasts, and our future class website. The best writing will be selected by the students to be published in an end of year classroom yearbook. Please read each newsletter thoroughly with your child to stay current on what is going on in the classroom. More details of classroom activities will be given at the open house.
Open House: Our open house is taking place along with the rest of North Campus on Friday, August 7th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Although we will be here there entire time, please attend according to the following schedule:

If Your Last Name
Starts With

You Should Attend At
A through L
6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
M through Z
7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Students and parents will have the opportunity to explore our classroom environment and meet the teacher and one another during this time. Parents and students are also encouraged to come to open house in order to receive important information and paper work pertaining to the school year.

Peace Table: We teach students to solve their own problems as independently as possible. This includes disagreements with peers. Aside from serious safety issues, I have found that children learn best to get along when they are allowed the opportunity to confront conflicts with minimal adult interference. The peace table is used as a tool to help foster communication in a safe way. It is the place two children can go to resolve any conflicts. Often children discover that they each did something wrong and such disagreements are quickly mended. If it is taking longer, the students can request a peer mediator to intervene.

Portfolios: Students will choose their best work each week to place in their portfolios. They will have the opportunity to showcase their learning during parent teacher conferences.

Homework:  Homework should be selected by the child to complement the work that is done in the classroom and ensure mastery of all state standards. This includes choosing books, writing and research projects at home as well as finishing incomplete classwork. This year, part of the homework requirement will require access to a computer to complete self-paced skill instruction in language and math.  We will be using technology in lieu of workbooks as a way to provide more individualized and self-correcting instruction for each student.  Those without access to a computer will have the opportunity to complete work before or after school.  

Homework should include at least 30 minutes of reading, spelling and vocabulary practice, and research and writing to supplement any classroom projects. It can also include practical life tasks, such as cleaning and organizing, or following a recipe. It can include going to the store and making a purchase, learning a new hobby, watching an educational program or discussing current events with an adult. Many students naturally do such work at home. All we ask is for the child to account for 45-60 minutes of their time each weeknight by writing it in their planner and having it signed by an adult. Please allow your child to make their own choices about their homework unless it is determined that further structure is needed.  Feel free to let me know if you have any concerns about homework by sending me an email or a note in your child’s planner.  Homework expectations will be explained in greater detail at the open house and subsequent meetings.

Student Planners:  Your child will receive a planner to record all their completed work in during the day, as well as homework done on Monday-Thursday.  Their spelling lists will also be recorded in their planner.  Please help your child remember to bring their planner each day, as we will check that they are recording their homework and classwork each day.  Also, feel free to have discussions with your child about the work they have completed at school. We want our students to develop good time management skills that will serve them well each year.  It will cost $10 to replace a planner and students who habitually forget their planners will miss out on some of their free time.

Student Conferences: In addition to goal-setting conferences, students will have other conferences with the goal of helping them help themselves. For example, they will initially be taught how to evaluate their own writing and that of others. Learning to write is enhanced as students share and evaluate their written work. At the final stage of the writing process, I will conference one-on-one with the student to help them fine tune their editing skills independently.

Care for Environment: Students are responsible to keep the classroom clean and orderly.  The students will determine who is responsible for which task. This includes caring for plants and animals in the classroom as well as cleaning and washing materials used in the classroom. Every week, the cleaning cloths and placemats will be sent home with a different child. We expect this to be a learning experience for each student in that they should launder them on their own. If you have any expertise regarding the care of particular animals or plants, I would appreciate your advice. I also welcome any donations of plants and animals as the children are ready for additional responsibilities.

Outdoor Environment: We are fortunate to have an outdoor environment teacher, Ms. Peggy, who supports children with completing work and initiating special projects. There are so many lessons to be learned when working outside that are integrated with other subject areas.

Going Out: Going out is a Montessori term for student-planned trips beyond the classroom, such as trips to the library, store, or other places. This is different from school-wide field trips. When students take responsibility for the classroom and the outdoor environment, they are generally ready for planning a going out. In going out, the children determine the destination, how they will get there and who will accompany them, as well as any other details such as cost and lunch.  I will give further information about going out during later parent education meetings. If you are willing to chaperone for such trips, please put your name on the volunteer list that will circulate at each parent night or feel free to send an email to MECroom102@gmail.com  Also, please make sure your child has a library card in their name for trips to the library.
Birthdays: Your child will have the opportunity to celebrate their birthday by presenting a timeline or book about his or her life. As it gets closer to the chosen day of the celebration, please give your child some photos (either hard-copy or digital) so that they may have some illustrations for this work. We welcome birthday treats that are simple and good for all to eat. Parents are welcome to come to their child’s birthday presentation. Please contact us in advance.

Snack: Students will take turns bringing and preparing snack from a snack calendar that is also prepared by the children.  This is a valuable part of our practical life curriculum.  A new snack calendar will be sent home each month.   

Lunch: Students are encouraged to pack a healthy, eco-friendly (reusable containers instead of plastic bags) lunch daily. Sodas and high-sugared items will be returned home. We will end our morning work cycle at 11:45 each morning to begin to clean up and prepare for lunch. A microwave will be available for use for the re-heating of pre-prepared foods that have been packed. The microwave may only be used for one minute at a time. We ask that pre-packaged foods such as Ramen or Mac-n-Cheese be made at home ahead of time and be packed to be reheated at lunch so that they are not cooked during lunch time. Our lunch will end at 12:30 and students will clean up for recess at that time. We ask that an ice pack be used in lunch boxes to keep lunches cool and fresh, as we will not have a refrigerator available for student use. The MEC lunch staff will prepare “snack plates” for students who forget their lunch. The cost is $3.00 per snack plate.

Special Needs: Every child’s mind is unique, requiring at times extra attention in specific areas. If your child has specific needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me. As your child’s teacher, I rely heavily on your observations about your child’s needs. Most accommodations are easily made within the classroom. As a former special education teacher, I understand the importance of making these accommodations.

Tutoring:  We will offer time before and after-school for students to complete projects, daily homework, and receive specialized instruction from September through April.  Please come to one of our parent nights for more details.

Class Activity Fee: In order to support our class activities throughout the year, we are asking for a $75 activity fee from each student. These activities include art and cooking projects, field trips, gardening, community building activities and our end-of-year publishing projects and celebrations. If this is a financial hardship please see the office staff for a way to make payment arrangements. Please have the class fee turned into the office by August 31st, if possible. Please write “activity fee” and your child’s name in the memo portion of your check. Some field trips may require an additional fee.

Tax Credit: We will be planning a “Big Field Trip” to the Grand Canyon scheduled for the end of April/early May 2016. The cost will be approximately $120 per student for a 2-3-night trip. The easiest way to contribute to the cost of this trip is through the Arizona State Tax Credit Program which refunds expenses dollar for dollar, up to $200 per person. We encourage parents to take advantage of this program in addition to our other fundraising activities. Previous year’s tax credit payments can also be rolled over for our bigger, out of state trip the following year.

Parent Communication: Good communication between school and home is vital for your child’s success in the classroom and beyond. You are welcome to communicate with a note in your child’s planner, an email, a phone call or in person before or after school.  I am also happy to make appointments when longer visits are required. If you are reading this information, please send a confirmation email to our school email:  MECroom102@gmail.com I would love to have everyone’s current email addresses before the start of the school year and am happy to communicate in any form during the summer to help ensure a successful transition for your child.

Class Supply List: Please bring these items during the first week of school. They are for community use, so please do not label them unless noted.

Supply List for 2015-2016 School Year
- 1 package of lined paper—wide-ruled
- 2 lined composition books—wide-ruled Labeled with name
- 2 graph paper composition books—(Found at Staples or Office Max)Labeled with name
- 24 Ticondoroga brand #2 pencils
- 1 metal handheld pencil sharpener (found at Michael’s Crafts stores)
- 1 one-inch binders with a clear plastic window on the cover Labeled with name
- 1 Package of 50 clear plastic page protectors
- 3 plastic folders with metal prongs and pockets inside—any color
- 1 pack of 100 index cards
- 1 package of colored pens for corrections (red, green, turquoise, purple, or orange are good colors)
- Black and/or colored fine tip felt pen or pens for illustrations and art projects
- 1 pair Fiskars (or other quality brand) scissors
- 1 large box of facial tissues and hand sanitizer pump

Wish List for 2015-2016 School Year
- colored notebook paper for final copies
- potted plants for inside our class
- herbs such as cilantro, basil, mint, and rosemary for our garden.
- Calligraphy markers or pen and ink sets
- Sculpey or Fimo polymer clay (any size or color, found at Michaels)
- Beads and Jewelry making supplies
- watercolor paper
- ream of white or multicolored card stock
- used laptops, monitors, or computers (we can fix old ones)
** More items will be added throughout the year as needs arise.

Important Dates and Activities for the 2015-2016 school year
Activities take place during the school day unless otherwise noted:
August 7                 Open House   6-8pm
August 10               First Day of School
August 27               Curriculum Night 5:30-6:30pm
September              Field Trip to Boyce Thompson Arboretum (exact day tbd)
September 29         Show Me Night 5:00-7:00pm
October 23              Wax Museum presentations:  Making Modern History
October 30              Fall Mercado
November 5             Field trip to Symphony Hall, Phoenix
December 7            Holiday Concert 5-6pm
December 14-18     Student-Made Holiday Shop open for business
January 12               Moving up/Big trip parent meeting 5:00-6:30pm
January 29               Afternoon Science Fair
February 14             Arizona Statehood Celebration (with a visit to the Arizona History Museum)
March 11                  Pi Day Activities and Celebration
March 25                  Physics fun:  Egg Drop Challenge
April                          Grand Canyon Big trip (exact date tbd)
May                           Spring Mercado

Meet the Teachers

Ms. Liza Henrikson: I consider my first home to be very similar to a nurturing Montessori classroom.  I was born in Aurora, Colorado, the third of 9 children.  I get my love of Science and math from my engineer dad and love of language from my English teacher mother.  My childhood was filled with experiential education of all kinds.  By third grade, I had memorized the entire field guide to the Birds of North America and acquired an extensive mineral collection.  I was a late bloomer in reading, waiting until 2nd grade to get caught up with the others, yet joining the gifted program in 4th grade.
The idea of becoming a teacher gently sang to me during my second year of college, when I performed at a music education convention.  Years later, parenthood kindled an interest in education that grew deeper with each developmental stage.  I have been in the field of education since the birth of my first child 19 years ago, working first in preschools, and later elementary schools. A certified teacher first,  I became a Montessorian after watching my two sons with special needs thrive in a Montessori community.  
I have a degree in fashion design, a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in literacy instruction, an AMI 6-12 diploma and a master’s degree from Loyola University.  I have received AMI 3-6 training in Dallas, TX and Special education training through Rio Salado’s Teacher in Residence program.
    For the last 10 years, I have worked as a Montessori guide in two states and one country, as well as a special education teacher in a self-contained classroom which utilized Montessori principles.   I am grateful for all the places I have lived and the rich educational and cultural experiences I have been blessed with to help me see multiple points of view. I am so happy to begin my third year at MEC!

Ms. Kathy Vigil: My name is Kathy Vigil and I am pleased to return to MEC after seven years away in Plymouth, MN and Dallas, TX. My first experience with Montessori came when I enrolled my youngest son, Kris, at MEC in 1993, where he stayed until the completion of his 6th year at Main campus. I quickly became fascinated with the beauty and philosophy of Montessori. I began working as an outdoor environment teacher in 1996 and continued working in various positions (primary and upper elementary assistant at Main and North campus). I departed MEC in 2004 after my husband was transferred to Minneapolis and then to Dallas in 2005. In Plymouth MN, I worked as both a primary assistant and administrative assistant at Children’s Workshop Montessori. At New Age Montessori in Irving, TX, I had the opportunity to work as a co-teacher in a pre-primary room, and also as an assistant in their school office. I obtained my primary training in Dallas in 2007, my Spaulding and M.A.C.A.R. training in 2002, as well as the first unit of my upper elementary training in 2000 at the C.M.T.E. satellite facility in Phoenix.

On a personal note, I returned to the Phoenix area in January, 2012, after the passing of my husband of 25 years due to a brief battle with cancer. I have 3 sons, Anthony, Carlos and Kristopher, and one spoiled Maltese dog named Napoleon (Leo).

My motto in life is “Keep Moving,” and I am happy to be able to move forward and to return to back my second home at MEC for the 2013-2014 school year. I’m excited to return to the upper elementary environment to work with Ms. Liza and your children. I truly believe in the Montessori philosophy, and have seen the benefits and beauty of Montessori education first hand. I’m happy to share my experience with your children and the families at North campus.

Ms. Peggy Marchi: I am originally from Mountain Home, Idaho.  I eventually settled in Palm Springs, California, where I raised my four beautiful children – two boys and two girls.  I also volunteered at the YMCA in Palm Desert, California, from 1985 to 1995 and had a blast!  I now have six beautiful grandchildren – five girls and one boy.  I eventually moved to Arizona where most of my children and grandchildren live, and I enjoy spending my free time with them.  This will be my third year as an outdoor environment teacher for the 9-12 year olds.  The kids are all great, and I really enjoy what I do.  Some of the skills I share with my MEC students are cooking, running a breakfast bar, sewing, quilting, and arts and crafts.  I also provide academic tutoring on my patio in the afternoons.  

We look forward to seeing our returning students and meeting our new students and parents. We are sure there is a great year to come for us all and consider it a privilege to be your child’s teachers this year. We encourage you to contact us before or after school if you have any questions or concerns throughout the year. We feel that communication between parents, students, and teachers is essential to ensure a successful school year and are happy to set up appointments so this communication can take place. Class begins promptly at 8:30 every morning and both teachers will be participating in group and individual lessons until our school day ends at 3:10 p.m.

Thank you,

Ms. Liza, Ms. Kathy and Ms. Peggy

A NOTE FROM THE OFFICE: During the night of the Open House, and at other times throughout the year when parents are invited to our campus, parking can be extremely congested. Please use caution and courtesy when finding a parking spot. If the parking lot is full, you can park on Adobe just south of the school. Under no circumstance should you park in the dirt lot to the north of the school. Doing so puts you at risk of having your car towed by the owner of that lot.


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