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The Octagon

Veteran biology, English teachers to dramatically change 2017-18 schedules

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Sonja Hansen
Biology teacher Kellie Whited introduces one of her classroom rats, Fossey, whom the visiting second graders loved to pet.

Not only is Country Day hiring three new faculty members next year, but two long-standing teachers – biology teacher Kellie Whited and English teacher Patricia Fels – are also changing their teaching duties.

Whited will spend 20 percent of her time working in the lower school next year, while Fels will no longer teach sophomore English.

For many years, Whited had worked with science classes in the lower school.

“It was my own passion project,” Whited said.

“I started helping out in the lower school by adding dissections, science demos and lessons.”

Whited also encouraged her high-school students to do activities with the lower school.

Sonja Hansen
Junior Cole Johnson shows a spider model.

But this year, Whited’s passion project turned into part of her job.

“I am now the lower school’s science coordinator,” Whited said.

“One day I was talking with (head of school Lee) Thomsen about how much I loved teaching in the lower school, and I asked him if it could be part of my contract as I was up for the challenge.

“Thomsen immediately replied, ‘Great! Let’s make it happen.’”

Whited said her first step is going to be meeting with the lower-school teachers to discuss their current science curriculum and ideas.

Whited will also meet with the sixth-grade science teachers to establish the skills that kids will need before entering middle school.

Whited said she has many ideas for next year.

Sonja Hansen
Senior Austin Talamantes takes a look at a second grader’s website on the Monarch butterfly.

“One idea that I have discussed is an addition to the current literacy program in the kindergarten, where they use Zoo-phonics.”

Zoo-phonics is a literacy program in which different animals are assigned to different letters in the alphabet to easily teach students the alphabet.

“My idea was to bring in my unique background in animal behavior to the program to try and tie English and science together,” Whited said.

“That information could then also go along with the kindergartners’ end-of-the-year zoo field trip.”

Whited said she also plans to teach physics and chemistry in the lower school, not just the biological sciences.

She added that the overall reaction of the community has been very supportive.

“The lower-school teachers have been asking for help in implementing ideas and curriculum for years, so this was just a natural step.”

Sonja Hansen
Second graders observe junior Theo Kaufman as he takes a peek at a bug jar. On April 19, teacher Kellie Whited’s biology class was studying insects at the same time as the second grade, so they visited the lower school and saw their bug projects. They also invited the second graders up to the high school to show them insects in Whited’s room.

Because Whited will now be spending a fifth of her time in the lower school, she will no longer teach the electives Biology of the B Movie or College Health and Nutrition.

Fels will also be making a big change to her schedule; she will no longer be teaching sophomores her traditional Bible As/In Literature class.

“I will really miss it because I have taught it for so long,” Fels said.

Instead, Fels will teach two junior AP English classes.

Head of high school Brooke Wells attributes the change to a high number of qualified students in the sophomore class.

“This number exceeded the number of spots in an effective class, so we decided to add another section,” Wells said.

Fels said that the change will make her life easier.

Bianca Hansen
English teacher Patricia Fels teaches a lesson to her sophomore English class.

“Now I will have only one class to prepare for – and Octagon,” she said.

“The hard part is that I wish I had known sooner because every year I think of improvements to make in my classes.

“But now, there’s no more improvement; (my sophomore English class) has reached its pinnacle!”

Next year, middle-school English teacher Kathryn LaComb will split the three sophomore English sections with Wells.

“I am looking forward to seeing my former students and seeing how their skills have improved,” LaComb said.

“I can’t wait to work with them on a whole new level.”​

By Jack Christian

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