Great Expectations. Even Greater Results

Potomac Educators Before, During and After Coronavirus. Here are Profiles of a Few of the Best Who Develop Student Greatness

Article by Lauri Gross

Photography by Ana Gutierrez Covarrubias

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

Bullis School, Upper School Honors Geometry and Precalculus Teacher Rebecca Turett

“Becca is one of our best teachers. She engages students and keeps them interested. She is dedicated to her craft 100 percent,” said Sharon Kessler, Director of Advancement & External Affairs.  

Ms. Turett said, “I had success moving to remote learning because I worked with the students for 3/4 of the year and had gained their trust. They knew I cared about them, cared about their learning and would do anything to help them learn. I still had high expectations for them, still allowed them to retake assessments, was still available for extra instruction.” During remote learning, Ms. Turett changed the way she assessed students. Flipgrid software was one way. “I am definitely going to use Flipgrid again. It makes it easier to have students explain their thought process. It’s so important to not just understand but be able to explain their thinking,” she said.

Feynman School, Middle-School STEM Teacher Gayathri Janakiraman Paramasivan (AKA Ms. JP.)

“Inquiry-based projects are great for relating STEM concepts to everyday experience and they provide an intellectually stimulating environment for all kinds of learners,” said Ms. JP. “My students have enthusiastically worked on projects such as Zombie Cure, where they applied concepts of neuroanatomy and neurotransmitters, and The Baloney Detection Kit, where they analyzed fake news to understand the nature of science.”

Ms. JP makes scientific theories and concepts accessible by discussing historical context. “In my 8th-grade astronomy class,” she said, “students figured Earth’s circumference without realizing Eratosthenes in ancient Greece did exactly what they did.”   

During the pandemic, the Feynman middle-school community had 100 percent student participation. She explained, “I keep my students invested in learning by making their online/screen time meaningful through peer interactions and team/partner collaboration for students to have a sense of connection and normalcy.”  

Fusion Academy Rockville, Homework Café Teacher Andra Harmatuck

Ms. Harmatuck began at Fusion in 2010 at the original California campus, and now she’s been with Fusion the longest of anyone at the Rockville campus.

“Building positive relationships with our students is the foundation for success at Fusion,” she said.  “Talking with our students and learning about them as unique individuals allows positive and trusting relationships to develop organically. My role helps to develop skills beyond those taught in a traditional classroom. While some students may need help with a math problem and others might need help editing a paper, other students might also need support in developing friendships and building confidence.  In the Homework Cafe, our students learn to advocate for themselves and develop comfort in seeking and receiving help. We think of the Homework Cafe as the heart of the campus and the love we pour into our students enables them to flourish.”   

Geneva Day School, Art Enrichment Teacher Barbara Korb

“It’s ‘Lavender Mist’ by Jackson Pollock!” Geneva Day Kindergartners have been known to exclaim when visiting the National Gallery of Art, as a finale to Mrs. Barbara Korb’s beloved Art Enrichment Program. Mrs. Korb’s informed and inspired graduates revel in understanding art vocabulary and techniques, and feel confident about their ability to recognize masterpieces.

“Children have the freedom to express their unique ideas and they feel joy in their art processes,” explained Mrs. Korb. Her spiraling art curricula, defined by hands-on lessons that expand on previous years’ instruction, include Elements of Art (for 3s and 4s), Nature Art and Native American Indian Art (for PreK) and Art History (for Kindergarten). 

A bi-annual, school-wide art show celebrating student-generated masterpieces is a colorful complement to the National Gallery of Art field trip and another way Geneva Day School fosters a lifelong love of learning.

Winston Churchill High School, Honors Chemistry/Physics Teacher, Jonathan Lee

“They're very visual subjects,” said Mr. Lee, referring to chemistry and physics, when he added, “which helps to keep them exciting.”

Mr. Lee’s enthusiasm also helps. “Students clearly see I enjoy what I teach and have a good time doing it. So, it's easier for them to buy in and get invested,” he explained.

 Mr. Lee’s students say that they think he is “chill, casual and fun, but serious when it matters." Reflecting on his own childhood, Mr. Lee said, “It was harder when my teachers were clearly putting on airs or wearing another face: It just seemed fake. I try very hard to genuinely be who I am. I think the students appreciate this because they don't put on faces in class: They are who they are, so I should be who I am when I do the same for them.”

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