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LOWER SCHOOL FACULTY

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 but I have been living in the USA for almost 20 years now. Julia, my 12 year old daughter, is going to be in 7th grade at TVDS this year. My background is in Engineering and Marketing, but 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 5th 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.

 

Melissa McCurry – 1st Grade

Hello Terra Verde, my name is Missy McCurry. I am honored to be joining the Terra Verde community this fall as the first grade teacher. I am originally from Wichita Falls, TX where I graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education from Midwestern State University. I meet my husband, Jason McCurry, while in college. He was an officer in the United States Air Force at the time which allowed us to live in amazing locations. While in Texas, I taught one year in Kindergarten before moving to the United Kingdom for four years. Once we returned to the states, we are stationed in Florida where I had the privilege to teach kindergarten at an excellent charter school. I moved with those kindergarten students to first grade. After two years in Florida, we moved back to my husband’s home state of Oklahoma. We are proud to call Norman our forever home and raise our children in this wonderful community. Since living in Oklahoma, I have taught first grade for three years and just recently transitioned to kindergarten. I will begin my 8th year of teaching this fall.

I have a daughter, Emily, who will be starting fourth grade at Terra Verde. I also have a son, Jon, who is four. Our lives stay busy with piano practices, dance classes, and soccer games. In our free time, my family loves to travel as much as possible. We are also active OU fans. Our family’s favorite sporting event to attend is the OU women’s gymnastics meets. I enjoy reading books, gardening, and attending barre yoga classes.

My life’s passion is teaching. I am in constant state of learning, researching, and improving my craft. My teaching philosophy is that all students can be successful when learning is student-centered and hands-on. I gear my classroom to be a nurturing environment where students can take risks, try new and challenging tasks, support each other, and question the world around them. First grade is a remarkable time when young learners explore many different passions and interests, and I have to privilege to guide them to new discoveries. My favorite aspect about teaching is when a student finally overcomes a difficult task and a celebration of excitement happens because of the achievement. Nothing is worth more in the world than seeing a child beam with pride and happiness after achieving a goal. I am thrilled to share my love of teaching with the students of Terra Verde!

Natalie Baugh, 2nd Grade

“Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understand the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.” – Rita Person, Educator

My name is Natalie Baugh. I was born in Lubbock, Texas and moved to Norman to attend The University of Oklahoma in the fall of 2013. During my time at OU, I studied Early Childhood Education. I have known that I wanted to be a teacher for most of my life and my experiences throughout my undergraduate program confirmed that working with children is where my passion lies. I had the opportunity to intern at The University of Oklahoma’s Institute of Childhood Development where I discovered just how special working with young children truly is. Spending days in the classroom is unlike any experience in the world. This career will allow me to reflect, grow and continue learning for life. I am eager to join the Terra Verde team and learn alongside the children each day!

My parents, Tim and Gina still reside in Lubbock, Texas and are avid Texas Tech fans. I am the youngest of two and my sister is my best friend. My favorite weekend activity is meeting up with my parents, sister and our beloved Shih Tzu, Molly at the lake. Some more of my favorite things include yoga, reading, dachshunds, any latte from Starbucks and watching college basketball. Boomer!

I feel that Terra Verde is the perfect fit for me. My philosophy and beliefs regarding education align with the mission and goals of Terra Verde. I am eager to create a community of learners who respect the differences of our world and recognize the role they play. Students must learn the cognitive skills to succeed in this world but more importantly they must learn how to be caring individuals. Our classroom will be one in which children produce knowledge and form meaning based on their experiences. I maintain a passion and commitment to help all students become independent thinkers who believe in themselves as unique individuals. I am delighted to have the opportunity to join the amazing faculty, families and children that make up Terra Verde Discovery School.

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.

 

Angela Reed, 5th Grade

I am beyond excited for the adventure of teaching and learning at Terra Verde Discovery School.  Being a teacher is a great responsibility, but it is also very rewarding.  It is my job to inspire students to excel in academics, build their social skills, encourage their creative thinking, and to prepare them to take on any challenges in life.  None of these things are possible without a classroom of mutual respect where all students have the opportunity to grow individually and as a team.

When I was a kid my dad worked in the oilfields.   I was in fourteen different schools on three different continents by the time I began the 9th grade.  My diversified childhood helped mold me into a teacher that creates a challenging but safe environment so students are more willing to take risks.

I graduated high school in New Mexico and attended college in-state.  My junior year I moved to Norman to attend the University of Oklahoma.  I graduated in 1997 with my bachelor’s degree in elementary education and then in 1999 with my master’s degree in instructional leadership and academic curriculum.  During this same time, I met my husband.  We have three children.  Our oldest son is married and lives in Norman.  Our daughter will graduate from University of Central Oklahoma in the spring of 2018.  Our youngest son was born in 2006 and will start as a 6th grade student at Terra Verde in the fall of 2017.

Since beginning my teaching career in 1997, I have taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.  I began teaching for Oklahoma City Public Schools.  I also taught in Norman Public Schools at Kennedy Elementary for five years beginning in 2012.  I have been a team leader, a mentor to many young people entering the teaching profession, and in 2016 I was selected by my peers as the site teacher of the year.

Outside of school I love to read and spend quality time with my family.  We are often at our youngest son’s baseball or basketball games or his taekwondo events.  I enjoy watching just about any sport, but especially OU.