Kindergarten Teacher, The Baldwin SchoolMonica Henkel teaches kindergarten at The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in a team partnership with Barbara Frishberg. This is not Monica’s first teaching experience – not by a long shot – and the diversity of her background extends to both sides of “the pond.” “This is my eighth year teaching kindergarten at Baldwin. I began my teaching career at St. David’s Nursery School in Wayne, Pennsylvania. I have also taught in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District and for St John’s College School in Cambridge, England. I hold a bachelors degree in education (with a concentration in psychology) from Bucknell University, and master’s degrees in both education and social work from Washington University in St. Louis. I also have a certificate in counseling. While in England, I received a certificate for Teachers of Students with Learning Differences.” Barbara Frishberg, the other kindergarten teacher at Baldwin, complements Monica with added training and expertise. “I have my master’s in art therapy from Hahnemann University, and have taught special education, nursery school and kindergarten for twenty-eight years.” Certainly Monica’s time in England is an asset to her classroom. “My husband works in the pharmaceutical industry. Our family moved to England with his company for what turned out to be four years. We lived in Cambridge, and I taught at a school where nearly one-third of the students had learning differences. It was highly recommended that all the teachers at St. John’s enroll in a one-year course to help these students. I am grateful to have been able to receive this specialized training.” Her background in learning differences and family counseling allows Monica to bring additional tools to both her classroom and her work with parents. “And, of course, being a parent myself and being able to say, ‘I know how that is; I’ve walked in your shoes,’ is also very helpful.” Monica’s experiences at co-ed schools in St. John’s and Tredyffrin/Easttown, combined with her current position at the all-girls Baldwin School, provide an interesting insight on these two types of settings. “Each child, of course, has individual needs – one student might favor one learning environment over another. My daughters went to Baldwin. Their classes tended to be a bit smaller, and they were called on to answer questions even if they did not have their hands up. It’s hard to get lost in this kind of environment. I think there are definite advantages to an all-girls school. It is well known that girls learn differently than boys. For example, girls enjoy cooperative learning and tend to be quite verbal. At an all-girls school they are given lots of opportunities to work together, share their ideas and express themselves.” As is the case with many progressive schools, the kindergarten curriculum is both diverse and skill-based. “In our kindergarten, we have certain concepts and units we must teach. We begin the year focusing on community. ‘Where am I in the world?’ Then we move to units on Thanksgiving, holidays around the world, dinosaurs, and Japan. For many years, the last unit of the year was kind of up for grabs and based on the interests of that year’s students or on some special event.” Monica and Barbara attended the VAST (Visual Arts as Sources for Teaching) program at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the summer of 2007, and they thought that an art unit might be a good way to close their school year. Barbara notes, “This is a hands-on art appreciation course developed over the past four years. The children are exposed to various artists, both alive and dead, through stories, songs and books.” The unit was so well received by the students and their parents that the colleagues decided to make this a regular part of Baldwin’s kindergarten curriculum.
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