Teacher gratitude

Waves of Gratitude and Lower School Learning: Week Seven

National Teacher Appreciation Week began on May 4 and throughout the week our own Mount Madonna School (MMS) teachers were showered with tokens of appreciation and expressions of gratitude from students, parents and colleagues. The special honoring began a day early, on May 3, with surprise gifts from the MMS board of directors, delivered to each teacher’s home – cards, flowers, local chocolates and olive oil, and locally grown strawberries.

“What a pleasant surprise!” commented teacher high school Tiffany Wayne. “I do feel appreciated and supported during this time.”

“This was delivered to my porch this morning and made my day. I am grateful to work where I do,” said teacher Nicole Silva, sharing a photo of the gifts on her Facebook page.

“I’m reflecting on the board’s call to shower appreciation on the educators who infuse the spirit of Mount Madonna School with their gifts and passion,” commented MMS Board of Directors President, Sarada Diffenbaugh, Ph.D. “Stretching out of comfort and into effort on behalf of others is one of Mount Madonna’s core values and one that our faculty team exemplifies.”

MMS board member and parent Carson Kelly agreed.

“Our teachers comprise the fabric of our community,” said Kelly. “They are all incredible, and we are grateful for the unique contributions each brings to our special school.”

“It made my day that we brought a smile, some hope and acknowledged how special each of our faculty are to our community,” added board member and alumni parent Sahana Lakka.

In the lower school, students and parents, preschool through fifth grade, offered teachers – via Zoom meetings, photos and videos – an array of handmade cards and heartfelt, personal sentiments.

“This week our lower school teachers received very special thank you messages from their students, which really touched them and meant more than ever, since they are truly missing connecting with their students in-person,” said Lower School Director Kami Pacheco. ”Teachers are finding what works best for each class and have streamlined their Zoom lessons to include whole class, small group, as well as one-on-one teaching times. They are also connecting with parents on a weekly basis ensuring that students are staying on track at home and are understanding assignments.”

Recently lower school teachers took time to reflect on school projects and class work in the present moment. Following are their observations.

Preschool and kindergarten students celebrated “Teddy Bear Day” with special teddy bear lessons, stories and circle time. Students were encouraged to bring a teddy bear to the class Zoom circle times. Kindergarteners continued working on “addition with objects” at their level for math lesson. In language arts, kindergarten students continued work on their individual Sound Book, with practice on the letter “T.” – Hema Walker, preschool/kindergarten director

In first grade students are writing their first book, a collection of three perspective stories based on Beatrix Potter’s classic tale of Peter Rabbit. Students have met weekly for three weeks for one-on-one writing workshops with me to work on these stories. They have made beautiful book covers, book dedication pages, and completed an “about the author” page as well. This week the culmination of all of this hard work, creativity, and drafting is visible with completion of their books! Students are practicing reading their creative stories and next week videos of each student reading their favorite of three will be shared for their peers to watch via YouTube.

As students did with the awesome Native American projects they just completed, students will offer any compliments and questions they may have, we will discuss and share these reflections in our class Zoom session. Students are learning about artist Pablo Picasso and created some Picasso-inspired collages and drawings. First graders are learning and growing so much in the areas of storytelling, writing, and creativity! – Cassia Laffin, first grade teacher

In second grade students worked identifying the parts of plants and flowers, practiced multiplication facts, and reviewed their persuasive writings. Students began learning about the role of Congress in passing bills into laws, and the class held a mock debate via Zoom, with each student assuming the role of a member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives. Second graders’ artistic muscles also got a workout, with a group discussion about artists who are known for still life works, and each student painting their own still life of fruit or flowers. – Prema Gammons, second grade teacher

Third graders have done an amazing job of working diligently throughout this interesting time. We completed our Zoom rendition of our Cultural Awareness play on Wangari Maathai, and it’s now in the editing phase. It will be fun to see how it all turns out! Students are now working on an “American Heroes” project, exploring how just one person can change the world in different ways. This week the students made their final decisions about who they will be getting to know more deeply, researching, writing a report, creating a poster board of their hero’s life – and presenting to their classmates – all dressed as their hero! – Kristin Webb, third grade teacher

As the remote learning weeks go by, I feel confident that our fourth grade students are grasping new concepts and getting into a rhythm with the assignments, Zoom classes, and presentations. The Summit for the Planet Keep Moving spirit days are going great so far, and the kids are asking about sending in videos and how to register for Summit. In history, instead of the traditional Mission report project, fourth graders will do a Native American history project. This in-depth project will including having each student write an essay addressing multiple facets of their tribe’s daily life and culture; take their research and create a slide show to present to the class; and build a model of the village that represents the tribe they are learning about. – Nick Cabassa, fourth grade teacher

In fifth grade, reading, social studies, math and writing lessons are continuing. As part of the Summit for the Planet Keep Moving Campaign, fifth grade scheduled spirit days twice a week through the campaign end on May 15. Today, May 8, fifth graders celebrated with “Bring Your Pet to Zoom Class Day”!  The class’ educational movie about great white sharks is in the editing stage (fortunately students completed all of their filming on campus before the shelter-in-place began). I have been editing their movie and I must say it is a bit sad not to be sitting and laughing with them as we edit together and bring it to life. I am grateful we finished filming the movie and are able to put it together. I will be working with the kids to complete the voiceovers and DVD cover remotely. – Jessica Cambell, fifth grade teacher


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communication,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.