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So far Rachel Esser has created 19 blog entries.
8 02, 2018

Note from Nancy: Curriculum Night | February 8, 2018

By | February 8th, 2018|Curriculum Connection, Parent News|0 Comments

Dear Parents,

Yesterday evening we hosted an incredible Curriculum Night! Over 70 people were in attendance and of that number, almost half were prospective families. It was a wonderful evening filled with stimulating conversation and community building. Teachers made the learning visible through wonderful displays of student work and thoughtful presentations of our learning models. Parents shared with me how informative the event was in helping them understand teaching and learning at Ancona. 

Our prospective families were thrilled to meet teachers and parents alike—they engaged in wonderful discussions about the school, and expressed that they hoped to be with us next year. It was a challenge ushering attendants out at the close of the evening as everyone wanted to continue the conversations. 

As I have shared in previous messages and at different forums this year, one of our goals as a school is to continually improve communications with our families, particularly as they relate to learning. The theme continues to be visible learning.  As such, I have been hard at work planning a parent education series that will launch in a few short weeks! One of the primary goals of this initiative is to help parents navigate the different developmental stages of their children, and the respective challenges associated with these milestones. I look forward to sharing more information with you, and hearing from each of you, what else you would like to see as a part of this initiative. 

We have so many wonderful things happening here at Ancona, and I’m excited about all that is to come. Thank you all for your continued partnership.



18 01, 2018

Note from Nancy: The Social Justice Data Fair | January 18, 2018

By | January 18th, 2018|Curriculum Connection, Parent News|0 Comments

Dear Parents,

We look forward to seeing many of you at our Middle School Social Justice Data Fair this Friday! The Social Justice Data Fair is a great example of how we integrate learning from across the curriculum into one comprehensive project driven by student interest.  

After students select a topic rooted in a social justice issue, they are then prompted to generate a research question that explores the issue. For example, students might explore gender equality, incarceration rates in different countries, healthcare, environmental rights, or any number of other topics that pique a genuine interest for our learners. Students spend a good deal of time researching the topic, crafting a thesis, and then presenting their findings and solutions using mathematical models learned in class.

Initially, students learn to compare and explore numbers using percentages, compare data from different sample sizes, and investigate the relative size of numbers using pie charts. Over the years, this learning grows into a more nuanced understanding of statistical correlations and applications using scatter plots and other more complex visual representations.

The work culminates in a synthesis of the students’ learning when our student researchers prepare and present proposed solutions for tackling the issue. It’s truly an incredible learning experience for our students, combining our commitment to issues that matter with specific, content-area application. It simply should not be missed. Come help us celebrate our students and their learning by joining us this Friday!


11 01, 2018

Note from Nancy | January 11, 2018

By | January 11th, 2018|Curriculum Connection, Parent News|0 Comments

Dear Parents,

Welcome back, and Happy New Year! 

We have had a wonderful start to our new year, with students and teachers diving into new learnings. Students in middle school are working fervently on completing their Social Justice Data Fair projects for their upcoming presentations, while third and fourth graders are steadily working on preparing their play for the Peace and Justice Assembly.

This year will also mark the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. For many of us, this will be a time of reflection as we think about the implications of losing one of the greatest social justice activists our country has ever seen. For others, it will be a time of action, or perhaps some combination of both. In either case, I invite you to think about the words of Dr. King when he stated: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” At Ancona, we take a position and we care about the fundamental dignity of every human being. We are an organization that will continue to challenge students academically and educate the whole child in the context of activism and care. 

For those of you thinking about how you might want to spend time with your children on this momentous day of commemoration, take some time to peruse the the options being presented by the National Civil Rights Museum. This link will take you to a wonderful symposium they are hosting called “Where Do We Go From Here”; the symposium is happening in April with tickets still available. 

We are off to a great start, and I look forward to a strong finish.


14 12, 2017

Note from Nancy | December 14, 2017

By | December 14th, 2017|Curriculum Connection, Parent News|0 Comments

Dear Parents,

Earlier this week, I got to spend some time in Anne’s 5th and 6th grade social studies class as students prepared to engage in a role play of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, the first-ever women’s rights convention held in the United States. I was able to watch and interact with our students as they took on the identities of different marginalized women’s groups—Cherokee women, Enslaved African-American women, New Mexican women, etc. Students were asked to consider the needs of these groups individually and then prioritize them with the goal of unifying all the groups to present at the convention later that week. 

I was moved by the way this lesson humanized the people often written out of the historical record. Not only were students given the opportunity to learn about these groups, they were then empowered to use that knowledge to champion for the social, cultural, ethnic, and religious rights of women. What an incredible way to live our commitment to social justice in practice. 

It goes without saying that our current cultural and social climate as it relates to women is fraught with challenges. If the #metoo movement is any indication of where we are in terms of gender equity and equality, the world is in need of change and far from where we might want it to be. Each time I walk into a class, I am reminded that our classrooms are the incubators for that change. We are doing the work of both educating our students and helping them engage critically in the world around them.

I can’t believe we are only a week and a day away from winter break! It’s been such a busy year and I hope you enjoy this well-deserved time off. I wish you all a restful weekend with your loved ones.



7 12, 2017

Note from Nancy | December 7, 2017

By | December 7th, 2017|Curriculum Connection, Parent News|0 Comments

Dear Parents,

In our ever-changing world, one of the challenges we face as educators is making sure we design learning experiences that will help anticipate the challenges and problems of the world our young people will be ushered into. One of the ways the workforce is changing is that employers have started to identify a need to hire emotionally intelligent employees. In fact, conversations in the world of education have shifted quite dramatically over the last forty years from an emphasis on a child’s IQ (intelligence quotient) to a focus on their EQ (emotional quotient)

If a student has a high degree of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management they are more likely to graduate and excel in life. Researchers have also found a strong correlation between great leaders and individuals who exhibit the aforementioned qualities. 

One of the ways we work with our students at Ancona is by cultivating a sense of self-awareness early on. We support that work in a number of ways, including through our use of restorative practices. The goal of restorative practices is to empower children and adults alike with the agency to contribute positively or change situations and relationships that aren’t quite “right.” The power of restorative practices is rooted in the idea of community and that we are all capable of positive change. 

I share this as a way of highlighting just one of the robust ways we support the emotional growth of our children at Ancona. Helping students take ownership over their actions, even when they are negative, provides students with opportunities to reflect on the “why” of their choices. An important part of any child’s development is how they come to learn who they are, and why they make the choices they do. The more time we commit to metacognitive practices with our students, the greater degree of growth and development we will see in their emotional intelligence and maturity—a characteristic that will serve them well, long after they have left us. 

Stay warm and cozy!


7 12, 2017

Winter 2018 After School Programming

By | December 7th, 2017|Parent News|0 Comments

We are excited to announce our After School offerings for Winter, 2018!

The majority of our student-centered, experiential programming is included with your After School registration. Two of our partner organizations—Sticky Fingers Cooking and Renaissance Knights Chess— require registration and fees separate from After School. You are not required to sign your child(ren) up for After School if they would like to participate in either of these two programs. If students remain in After School beyond the duration of the partner class, the After School daily drop-in rate will apply.

In addition to our new offerings, we are happy to continue providing Homework Help and the Middle School Lounge and Cafe as part of our After School program. 

Click here to register for After School!

Monday: Voici Francais, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. / NO ADDITIONAL COST for 15 sessions

Margaret Patterson will engage students of all ages in a fun and no pressure introduction to French each Monday afternoon here at Ancona. Students will have the opportunity to learn basic vocabulary, play games, and speak a variety of French phrases over the course of this fifteen session offering. On the final class students will make a trip to a local French bakery to enjoy a delicious pastry or baguette and try out some of their new linguistic skills!

Monday: Play Go! and Othello with Keom, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. / NO ADDITIONAL COST for 15 sessions

Our resident tabletop master Keom Granger will battle students 3rd grade and older in the timeless strategic games of Go! And Othello every Monday in the Commons. No skill level is required as Keom takes meaningful time to instruct each player in basic strategy and gameplay from the first session to the last session. The focus of the course is to ensure students are engaging their minds while having a great time playing classic strategy games.

Tuesday: Theater Games and Even More Improv!, 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. / NO ADDITIONAL COST for 15 sessions

Rose Gottlieb will instruct the students in a variety of improvisation activities, games, and skits all the while creating an environment of acceptance, freedom, and fun! Children will be encouraged and assisted in crafting their very own performances that will range from stand up comedy routines to short theatrical performances and improv skits.

Wednesday: 3-D Printing and Design, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. / NO ADDITIONAL COST for 12 sessions

Our very own Rodney Williams will be teaching students how to use the online program TinkerCad to create their very own three dimensional objects! Children will have the opportunity to learn the program, create their own designs, and print them out using our 3D Printer. This class is limited to fifteen students, so please be sure to reach out to Jerome Shannon and let him know that your child wants to start designing their very own 3D objects!

Thursday: Sticky Fingers Cooking, 3:30 – 4:15 p.m. and 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. / $216 for 12 sessions

In every delicious Sticky Fingers class, students will get hands-on experience preparing nutritious food that they’ll love. Yes, even the pickiest eaters will eat their own creations with gusto! All recipes are always nut-free and all allergy and food sensitivities can be accommodated in this hands-on class. Ancona is excited to be offering two classes every Thursday this winter: a pre-primary and kindergarten class from 3:30 to 4:15 and a 4:30 to 5:30 class for elementary and middle school students. Space is limited so don’t hesitate, follow the link below to register your child today!

Click Here to Register for ages 3 to 6!           Click Here to Register for ages 7 and up!

Thursday: Dance with T-Kay from Hyde Park School of Dance, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. / NO ADDITIONAL COST for 6 sessions

Dancers of all ages will have the opportunity to get in the groove each week with T-Kay Buchanan of the Hyde Park School of Dance. Students will learn the basics of movement and rhythm in a fun and accepting environment. No experience or skill level is required, just a positive attitude and the need to bust a move!

Friday: Chess by Renaissance Knights Chess Club, 3:30 – 4:30 / $105 for 10 sessions ($115 if registering after January 5, 2018)

Renaissance Knights program is specifically designed to cultivate progressive learning for 21st century students and the skills the students acquire are imperative for them to succeed in school and for their future success in the global information society. Players will be instructed in advanced chess concepts, compete against one another to develop their own personal abilities, and have the opportunity to participate in local tournaments. 

If you would like your child to participate click here to register now!

Friday: Gym Games with Stan, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. (preprimary – 2nd grade) and 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. (3rd grade and up) / NO ADDITIONAL COST for 15 sessions

Stan Coleman brings his high energy and enthusiasm into the gymnasium to end each week with some good ol’ competition filled with sportsmanship, teamwork, and fun. Children will attend their age appropriate class on Fridays and engage in a multitude of classic gym games and indoor sports. A large emphasis is placed on participation, respect, and learning to not take yourself too seriously!

29 11, 2017

Note from Nancy | November 29, 2017

By | November 29th, 2017|Curriculum Connection, Parent News|0 Comments

Dear Parents,

Welcome back from what I hope was a splendid week with your families and loved ones. We could not be more thrilled to have our students back with us. Thank you to all of the families who shared pictures of their Thanksgiving Day tables with me. I’ve included some of these lovely photos at the end of this note. Take a moment to enjoy the ways we define family, and celebrate our customs and cultures through food.

As a reminder we are currently in the midst of our annual fund. We cannot do the amazing work of educating our young people without your support. Please consider donating to the annual fund if you haven’t already. Any dollar amount counts!

Believe it or not, we only have about three weeks before our winter holiday break. Our school year is flying! As you prepare for a family vacation or just some quiet time at home, continue to engage your children in learning experiences. Keep your children’s minds “warm” over break by having them read to themselves or to you. Have them tackle a project that requires the use of multiple skill sets as a way to extend their learning from school. Think back to earlier notes where I described the importance of different types of materials in a child’s learning, and how you can utilize those things at home.



15 11, 2017

Note from Nancy | November 15, 2017

By | November 15th, 2017|Curriculum Connection, Parent News|0 Comments

Dear Parents,

Despite the rainy weather, we welcomed many families at an Open House today where we shared how Montessori principles, social justice, experiential learning, and community underlie our progressive approach to teaching and learning. Every time I walk prospective parents through our school, I am struck anew by our incredibly rich, holistic learning environments. Consider having your friends whose children do not attend Ancona visit one of our open houses. You are all essential conduits for sharing the richness of our school with others, and as such, our most powerful recruiters! Your voice matters. 

In other school news, we are looking forward to parent-teacher and student-led conferences next week. Conferences are a great opportunity to hear about how your child is learning and growing. Look for progress reports to be sent home at the end of this week. 

Looking ahead to the upcoming holidays, I invite you to share with me what you and your family are thankful for. For those of you observing Thanksgiving, consider sending me a photo (gro.l1519004447oohcs1519004447anocn1519004447a@rss1519004447ann1519004447) of your dinner table to share with the larger community. I find that one of the things that truly makes our school so unique is how hard-pressed you’d be to define what family looks like here at Ancona. Food is a unique and powerful way to explore intersectionality and, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, a great way to see how that intersectionality plays out on our dinner tables. What are your special sides? 

I wish you all a wonderful weekend with your loved ones.


9 11, 2017

Note from Nancy | November 9, 2017

By | November 9th, 2017|Curriculum Connection, Parent News|0 Comments

Dear Parents,

Joy. It’s a word I use often, and a central theme of this school year. As you have no doubt heard me share with our community, happiness is central to our work with students. Though it may seem obvious, we can sometimes lose sight of happiness in our day-to-day activities. Today at the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) conference, I had the opportunity to hear from Amy Blankson, a neuroscience researcher and author in the field of positive psychology who reaffirmed the idea that happiness is a critical lever for productivity, satisfaction, and success. 

I share this because in our work with children and adults, the attitude we bring matters. Our brain is constantly bombarded with information, and how we choose to process that information also matters. If we actively seek to understand information through the lens of positivity, we can actually rewire our default settings that oftentimes direct us to things we find stressful, rather than joyful. Helping our children reframe information positively can lead to much greater outcomes for them in the future. In fact, there is a growing body of research that shows that happiness actually leads to healthier and longer lives in individuals. 

Our work together is enriched when we build meaningful connections between one another, rooted in positivity. I encourage you to think about how you can work with your children at home to build what Amy Blankson describes as, “constellations of positive habits”— i.e. chances to reinforce the good and positive in each of our days. Think about incorporating journaling as part of your nightly routine with your children to give you and your family a chance to reflect on the things for which you are grateful; encourage your children to think of something different each night. Come up with “conscious acts of kindness,” where you and your family do something thoughtful for another person each day.

Community, and caring about others, is one of the hallmarks of our school. However, community is not something that sustains itself. Rather, it has to be nurtured and cultivated through conscious behaviors that seek to include everyone. As I visited our fifth and sixth grade students at Nature’s Classroom yesterday, and saw the beautiful way in which they played together as a community, I was reminded how fundamental it is to create spaces for that kind of learning. 

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend, 

2 11, 2017

Note from Nancy | November 2, 2017

By | November 2nd, 2017|Curriculum Connection, Parent News|0 Comments

Dear Parents,

With a wonderful Halloween assembly, a visit to the opera, and the launch of our updated My Classrooms pages, this has been an incredible—and busy—week for us at Ancona!

As I travel in and out of classrooms and confer with teachers, I am excited about the ways students are being encouraged to explore a wide range of ideas and topics. Last Friday, I watched as Katrina and Liz facilitated an inquiry-based discussion with 7th and 8th graders using a simple slinky! Students were quite literally sitting on the edge of their seats as their teachers demonstrated an experiment that forced them to conjecture as to what might be happening and why. Check out the video below to see if you can figure it out! 


In one of our Creative Expression Lab (CEL) classes, also for 7th and 8th grade, Rodney, our Technology Integration Coordinator, is working with students to explore and define the concept of diversity through photography and digital storytelling. 

Elsewhere around the school, we are getting ready to send the 5th and 6th graders off to camp at Nature’s Classroom, where they will build community and explore the natural world around them. These kinds of opportunities we create for students to experience learning with all their senses are central to what we do everyday at school. 

Parent-teacher conferences are coming up soon, so do make sure you sign-up. During your conference, I encourage you to talk with teachers about how to extend learning at home. We are, after all, partners in the work. Learning at home, like learning in school, is best when the child is rooted in a context, an experience, or a story. Think about guiding your children to important pearls of wisdom by using your environment, your routines, or your practices as the frame. 

Wishing you all a joyful and warm weekend,