Acera BlogAcera NewsCourtney's Corner

Evolution and the Acera Boomerang

By May 30, 2024No Comments

Dear Acera community.  

We seek to evolve and improve our school every year, and we also seek to partner well with our families. Together, we plot a learning trajectory for each student to become their best selves through their years at Acera!  

What is coming, now and down the road?  

Annual Surveys:  

Our Parent Satisfaction Reflection Survey is a vital part of how we hear from you, every year, about ways to improve our program and to reflect back on students’ experiences. The survey will be shared the week of June 10, and we encourage all families to participate! We also have student wellbeing and staff satisfaction surveys annually each spring. All are analyzed and copiously reviewed by the management team (we work through the summer) to help with deeper thinking on how to evolve. We also share highlights from the parent satisfaction reflection survey as part of our annual Back to School night. As always, if new needs come to the fore re: students, we reach out and work with parents, as appropriate.

Classroom Planning – for Core & Math:  

Each February through May, we solicit input broadly from our team and from parents as we plan core classroom configurations, teacher roles shifts and staffing needs, and student placements for the following year.  More on our class placement approach and philosophy can be found on page six of our Family Handbook. Core Classroom teacher and student lists will be shared June 10 week. We also plan which math classes we will offer based upon students’ needs, and coalesce how this impacts our hiring / staffing.  

Boomerang Teachers

We are delighted to share that an incredible phenomenon – the “Boomerang of Acera” – is alive and well!   This is when teachers or students leave the school but then later come back to us. Ms. Anastasia, who was out on sabbatical this school year, will be back as a core teacher next year, and Ms. Katie, who was a core elementary teacher for 2011-2017, is going to return to Acera as a co-teacher working with Ms. Lisa in Room 1!  Ms. Emily (core elementary teacher and lower school coordinator, who left for a year to work in public school administration) is another example of the Boomerang!  

Ms. Katie is beloved by all, and brings alive robust project based and hands-on learning with complex scientific ideas and questions which truly honor the runway of students’ curiosity and capacity! She brings extraordinary skill with students in classic academics – reading, writing and math – but woven together with creative threads that truly motivate students. Her warmth and intellect shine and we are elated to welcome her back! She holds a BA in Anthropology and a Masters in Education, both from Tufts University. Katie will be at Acera daily from 9:30am-1:30pm, taking an instrumental role in co-planning curriculum, co-designing and co-leading math, literacy, and thematic learning, and will be an integral part of parent conferences, ILP writing, assessment, and progress reports. The entire classroom staffing plan will be shared with Room 1 families this summer.  

Spring Math Planning for Grade 6 Parents

Each spring, parents of grade 6 students are invited to a check-in meeting to discuss their child’s math pathway through seventh and eighth grade at Acera, and to envision a target for where they land for grade 9.  Those math pathway meetings consider the various upper school math paths through our school.  Click HERE for our upper school math program overview guide. Viktor, our math curriculum coordinator, is not returning to Acera next year. He and Jamie, upper school coordinator, will both be present for this spring math planning meetings in order to assure that the conversation carries through into practice.  

Next year, math curriculum coordinator responsibilities will be shared in new ways across the coordinator and teacher mentor team.  Organizational components – planning math class groups, NWEA assessment, math contests, and elementary math teacher mentorship will be managed by our Upper & Lower School Coordinators (Jamie & Emily) and our Teacher mentor & Assessment lead Sarah Slubowski. 

A new math teacher and teacher leader, Mark Illingworth, is also joining us part time next year; his skills will help round out the team’s ability to continue our strong math program next year! Mark holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Virginia. In 1997 he received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Math Teaching. He directed a Gifted and Talented Program and taught all subjects as a fifth grade teacher, and then went on to teach high school math for twenty years. He will bring to Acera his curriculum for teaching geometry through a problem-solving and higher order thinking skill perspective. Mark has great synergy with our learning philosophies, and we are excited for him to join our team and bring his knowledge, creativity and warmth into our community!  

Come and be part of the community! Join us for the following end of year events: 

  • IMPposium, Thursday May 30 from 6-8PM: Students share portfolios with families from 6-6:30PM, then transition to IMPPosium 6:30-8PM.
  • End of Year Progress Notes: Shared at end of this week 
  • Exit interviews: We offer these for all families who graduate or transition out of Acera, and they give input into our annual continuous improvement efforts.  
  • Museum Walk: Wednesday, June 5 from 10:45AM  to 12PM.
  • Field Day: Wednesday, June 5 from 12PM to 3PM at Leonard Field.  
  • Graduation, Friday June 7 at 2PM: Join us! All are welcome! This joyful, student-planned event is brief and focuses on students’ reflections on their time at Acera.
  • Acera Graduates/Alumni Gathering: Friday June 7 at 3pm 
  • Staff Collaboration Week: June 10-14, during which we debrief, plan next year, and engage in professional development. 

Transition to Next Year: 

  • 2024/25 Afterschool Sign Up Open: Friday June 1. Sign up and get first dibs on your child’s favorite classes! Our Enrichment programs will expand to offer more theater, sports, and Spanish (for grades 6+).
  • Summer Camp: Starts Monday June 10! Check out the full schedule on our website.
  • 2024/25 Class Lists: These will be shared during the week of June 10 
  • Core Program Admissions: Our rolling admissions process continues throughout summer for available spots.  
  • Student Support Program Planning: These meetings between our counseling team and parents are for planning specifics for students with added-on SSP.  
  • Acera Parent Wine & Cheese: July 24. Open to all parents, to welcome new parents. Details to come!
  • Summer Admin Workshops: We review survey data across all constituencies and plan improvements
  • Instructional Leadership Team: Launched this winter, this team meets weekly and will have a summer workshop to re-evaluate how our ILP, Progress Notes, Portfolios and Performances of Understanding interconnect and capture students learning goals and progress in ways that make the learning visible.

Other Updates: 

  • Acera’s Strategic Plan was approved by Acera’s Trustees at our Board meeting last week, and will be shared with the community soon.   
  • Heather, our incoming Associate Head of School, is on track with her plans to move her family to New England! Many of you saw her and her two children – both of whom will attend Acera next year – at the Love to Learn / Star Wars movie night on May 4!  Heather was excited to see that both her current school, Speyer, and her next school, Acera, are part of the new, to-be-launched website showcasing schools nationwide which focus on gifted education – the Associated Independent Schools for Gifted Students –  AISGS.  

We look forward to a wonderful end of year, and and exciting year ahead!  Thanks, all of you, for being part of it all. As always, reach out to me or anyone on the team with questions, hopes, and ideas. 

All the best, Courtney   

Courtney Dickinson is Acera’s Founder & Head of School.

Download the Annual Report