Monica Gries, Kindergarten

The child is truly a miraculous being, and this should be felt deeply by the educator” (Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, 1995, pp.121)

My name is Monica Gries. I was born in Brazil and have been living in the USA since 1999 when I married my husband, Peter. Julia, our daughter, is blessed to be a student at TVDS. My background is in Engineering and Marketing. After having had Julia, I was a stay-at-home Mom and experienced the happiest years of my life – I had always loved children and being around Julia and her friends as they were growing up really had a deep impact on me and how I saw my future. When Julia started Kindergarten, I wanted to go back to work, but I wanted a career change, and a job that would be truly meaningful to me. I wanted to be a teacher! I worked for one year as a Math Resources teacher at Kennedy Elementary school (teaching children from Kindergarten through 4th grade) and then, I started my Masters in Montessori Education. I graduated and did a one-year internship both at Terra Verde with Lindsay Berryhill, as well as at Westminster, in Oklahoma City. This is going to be my 3rd year as a Kindergarten teacher. I can’t wait for another fantastic year!!!

In her book “Raising Happiness”, Christine Carter writes: “We are lucky to be engaged in this business of Raising Happiness. This work is not trivial; it is the foundation for a better world. We are lucky to have the opportunity to teach kids the skills they need to be kind and compassionate, confident and emotionally intelligent, socially connected and loving. What the world needs now is more of these children, these people. This is the way that our society and civilization will grow stronger and become more peaceful.”

I, for my part, want to be personally involved in this “Raising Happiness business.” Not only for my own daughter but also for as many other children as I can.

I am extremely interested in “positive psychology” when it comes to dealing with children. I believe that we can teach children how to reach their fullest potential, whatever that might be to each individual child. I am not talking about the empty “self-esteem” that involves empty praise for anything and everything a child does despite of if a real effort has been made, but the positive psychology that believes parents and teachers can teach children the skills they need to be successful and happy in life now and as they grow up. How to set high but realistic expectations. Teach children how to study, how to try new things without being scared of making mistakes, knowing that the effort is more important than the final product and natural talent does not necessarily take you further but effort, practice, and hard work does.

I believe in the importance of raising a wholesome person, focusing not only on cognitive but also on the children’s emotional and social development, encouraging a child to love to learn and don’t shy away from challenges—In my view, this is what a real education that will prepare our children for the 21st century should be.

Whitney Lawrence, 2nd Grade

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.

I am thrilled to be a part of the Terra Verde family. I began my public school teaching experience in Norman in 2006 as a first/second grade looping teacher. Going through OU’s Early Childhood Program and spending field study hours at the Institute of Child Development, I entered the teaching profession with big dreams and a strong philosophy about teaching and learning, a philosophy in which was fundamentally grounded on the constructivist views of Piaget. My first year of teaching, I realized I had a great amount yet to learn. Since the very start of my career in education, I’ve continuously had a desire to improve my instructional practices. I feel I have done that by attending conferences, collaborating with colleagues, and building positive relationships with children and families.

My wonderful family…..I married my husband, Zach, on the beautiful island of St. Lucia. I have a wonderful stepdaughter, Zoee, who is a freshman at UCO. We are the proud parents of two busy boys, Lane and Jax. A few of my favorite things are: hearing children laugh, watching my boys play, sipping lattes at Starbucks, taking family adventures and trying out new recipes!

I feel all young children have an interest in learning as they are naturally curious to explore the world around them. Children should always feel their ideas are respected and valued. I am committed to establishing a classroom environment in which children feel physically and emotionally safe, where high expectations are held for all students. In order to encourage my children to be productive and responsible members of society, I continuously model and discuss appropriate behaviors and expectations for taking care of one another, our work space and tools, and the environment. I strongly believe in intrinsic motivation. Children should be respectful and kind to one another, because that is how they want to be treated.

I feel Terra Verde is an amazing fit into my life, and I am honored to be a part of the amazing Terra Verde Discovery School family. Thanks for taking time to find out more about me.

Tracy Miller, 3rd Grade

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”–Nelson Mandela

Terra Verde invited me to join the team in the Spring of 2015. Even though I have been teaching for 20 years, my first year at Terra Verde is reviving my creative drive and passion for teaching! Over the years I have taught 3rd-6th grades, including a Special Education resource classroom setting. I am proud to be a third generation teacher, following in my parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps.

My philosophy about teaching and learning falls in line with Terra Verde’s mission. I feel so blessed to be at a school where children are expected to be seekers of their own knowledge. I see myself as a facilitator and guide in the students’ process. Holding very high expectations for both social and academic growth creates a classroom environment in which students feel safe to make mistakes.

My own family includes a supportive husband, James, and two daughters, Jenna and Lindsey. James and I have been married and living in Norman for 21 years. We love and support our community. Our daughters are in middle school and high school. The girls are both in competitive soccer so our family stays very busy on the weekends!

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to teach at Terra Verde. I am often awed and inspired to work even harder for my students when they show that “spark” for learning!

Megan Moser, 4th grade

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to make many ripples.  -Mother Teresa

Joining the Terra Verde staff is a dream-come-true for me. It truly is a family, as students, teachers, and parents work together not only for student achievement, but also to make a difference in the community around them.

I grew up in Kansas, and moved to Norman for college. I graduated in 2003 from The University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. I have taught for 10 years in Norman Public Schools, teaching third grade for 9 years and one year in fourth. I achieved National Board Certification in 2009 as a Middle Childhood Generalist. I have been the recipient of several Norman Public Schools Foundation grants, Donors Choose grants, an Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence grant for professional development, and was voted Teacher of the Year in 2008 by my fellow faculty members.

In 2009, I married my husband, George. Our son Greyson was born in 2011. I enjoy reading, and am an avid runner. I have run the Oklahoma Memorial Marathon twice, finishing both the half and the full marathon. The two other members of the family are our dogs, Lucy (a Boxer) and the newest addition, Bo (a Boston Terrier).

I believe in creating a community of learners. Building relationships with my students is my number-one priority. I believe in creating an atmosphere of trust, kindness, mutual respect, and one where we cheer each other to success! I believe in differentiating instruction through the use of small groups in order to meet individual student needs. Small group instruction is important because it allows students to interact with one another about the subject matter. I believe this interaction solidifies the concepts I am trying to teach, as well as creating a classroom environment where we all (teacher and students) have the opportunity to teach and learn. Small group work also allows me to interact personally, and connect with each student so that I can tailor my instruction to their individual needs.

I feel that imagination is one of the most important qualities in a student that should be encouraged. I believe in facilitating learning experiences that allow students to use their imaginations and creativity. Students will engage in many simulations that will encourage them to place themselves in the shoes of someone from the past. This year students will be explorers, detectives, pioneers, and passengers on the Titanic! These experiences will allow students to explore other perspectives and engage in critical thinking as they discover more about the past, as well as helping them grow into people who can appreciate another person’s point of view, look for solutions to complex problems, and work together with differing personality types to achieve group goals.

I am honored to join the Terra Verde staff and look forward to continuing to grow as a teacher. Each year of my career, I have felt that my students teach me as much as I teach them, and I’m happy that I will have the chance at Terra Verde to challenge myself as a teacher in new and exciting ways.

Maureen Dolan, 5th Grade

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein

My name is Maureen Dolan and I was born in Yorkshire in the north of England, the middle child of Harry and Irene who had both left school at age fourteen. Their families’ circumstances dictated that staying on at school was not an option for them. Irene found a job sewing men’s suits in a factory and Harry’s first job was mending sewing machines. A match made in heaven, you could say, except the sewing machine mending job lasted only a few weeks. When they themselves became parents, education for their children became a priority. Because they had lacked further formal schooling, they imparted what they knew with certainty to be important: working hard, doing your best, turning up when you say you are going to turn up, being responsible and accountable. With opportunity, everything else would fall into place.

I received a BA Hons. In Textile Design and Management, with minors in Economics and Art History from the University of Leeds followed by a postgraduate Diploma in Art Education from Leeds Polytechnic. And since that time I have been an educator in some form or another, totaling over thirty years of service and experience and learning from some of the best practitioners along the way.

As a young teacher I taught Art, Art History and English at a tough inner city high school. English high school students are aged eleven to eighteen. A broad age spread. I later taught all girls in a lock down, juvenile detention setting. These were both very challenging and rewarding positions where I learned that education is powerful, but even more powerful, are the connections that teachers can make with their charges. I found that my students responded not so much to what was being taught but to the fact that someone believed that they had ability and could achieve. A seven year teaching position followed, in a private school in Yorkshire, Leeds Girls’ High (now The Grammar School at Leeds) .This was another enriching experience for me. I worked with very bright children who came from very supportive homes. I learned that despite their vastly different socio-economic backgrounds from my inner city students, my Grammar School students responded in much the same way and that their learning was enhanced when they had a teacher who clearly felt they were capable and worthy.

A pivotal moment for me was when at the age of six, my second year of school, I had painted a picture of Little Red Riding Hood confronting the wolf. Both were in profile and facing one another. A kind of stare down if you will. I was struggling with the wolf’s front legs which were, rather unsatisfactorily, coming down from the its neck. I repainted the scene several times finally getting the anatomy of the wolf to my liking. Mrs. Thorpe did not press me to get on with it, or try to restrict me to the number of sheets of paper I could use, she simply allowed me to solve the problem. Perhaps a day or two later, Mrs. Thorpe asked if I would like to paint the same scene on the back wall of the classroom. I can remember standing on tables that were pushed up to the wall as I recreated the woodland encounter. The front legs turned out rather well. The back legs too. I remember looking around the room, the children getting on with their activities, and thinking something like “I must be pretty good at this otherwise Mrs. Thorpe would never have put me up here.” And probably “Thank goodness the legs turned out ok.” I felt capable and validated. I just couldn’t verbalize it. Children simply understand these things intrinsically.

In 1983 I met my husband Don, moved to France and began teaching English as a Second Language both privately and in a community center. We were married there and stayed for four glorious years living in a small town not far from the Beaujolais region. This was followed another four year stint in Norway at the Birralee International School where I taught students from all over the world. Birralee was situated within a Norwegian school so we shared the playground, the building, the staff lounge etc. with the Norwegian students and teachers. I had a mixed age class of seven, eight and nine year old children and taught in English. This was a wonderful experience for any teacher. I loved the emphasis that the Norwegians put on being outdoors, on health and on being close to nature. Students are not expected to start to learn to read until they are six with more importance being placed upon play, creativity and discovery based learning, tapping into that deep seated and natural curiosity that all children possess. This model is akin to what Terra Verde espouses and one of the many things that have drawn me to the school.
My last teaching position before joining Terra Verde was as 5th, Grade teacher at All Saints Catholic School and before this I was the director of St. Joseph’s Early Childhood Development Center for ten years. Having taught French at night school where many of my students were retirees, and briefly, ESL at OU’s Language School, I can confidently say that I have taught every age group possible. As the mother of high school freshmen, twins Tom and Kate, I have also had my own personal ongoing child development study to learn and draw from as I have seen their different learning styles unfold before my eyes.

What an honor to be able to bring all I have learned thus far into the 5th. Grade Classroom at Terra Verde. The environment that has been created by all involved with the school is stimulating, exciting and challenging. I promise I am still learning, every day, from the talented and committed teachers that Shelly and Pete Wilson have gathered together in this place. I hope to light the imagination of my students through the subjects we will study, I want to open their minds to global issues and how children in other parts of the world live. I want to empower them with the knowledge that they are problem solvers and can effect change. I want them to develop their own opinions and be able to express them. I want them to understand the beauty of philanthropy. And love for the planet. I want to grow a garden with them. I want them to feel validated and capable.

I am excited to be part of this exceptional school. At every turn one is confronted by creativity, enquiring minds, enthusiasm and smiling faces, from faculty, parents and students alike. Mrs. Thorpe would have fit in perfectly.