Kate Chassner – Team Highlight

Kate Chassner – Team Highlight

As we gear up for the school year, we thought it would be fun to highlight one of the first faces you’ll see on campus: Kate Chassner! She is Rainbow’s Office Manager.

She seemingly knows the answers to everything. Need keys? She’s got ’em. Need to know the schedule? She can tell you. Need to find someone on campus? Kate will know. Need to locate a form? Kate’s got you covered.

We gave her a set of questions to answer, interview style. It’s so fun to read the answers of these team highlights.

Kate_team highlight

You’re originally from Florida, right? How did you end up at Rainbow?

After I graduated from Florida State University, I moved to New Orleans with my sister. On a trip back home to Florida one Thanksgiving I ran into a friend from college and we started dating soon after. He lived in Asheville. I then decided that I should move here, too. We have been together for 10 years and have two kids. I’m glad I moved.

How long have you been in Asheville? At Rainbow?

I have been in Asheville since January 2010, and I have been at Rainbow since August 2011.

Why did you decide to do the work you’re doing now?

I was teaching preschool when I first started at Rainbow (and I taught preschool for years before coming to RCS). After I had my first child, coming back as a full-time preschool teacher was very challenging. I knew I did not want to leave Rainbow but I needed a change. At that time, the current Office Manager was transitioning out and I was able to begin helping part-time in the office. I was thrilled to train for the position.

What is the favorite part of your job?

I love getting to know everyone in the school and make connections with teachers, staff, parents and students.

Kate_chassner_team_highlight

What do you like to do when you’re not at Rainbow?

I love my family time! Going on hikes, bike rides, swimming, making forts, dance parties, cooking, painting and really anything with my family is what I look forward to most.

I am making more time for art lately, too. In addition, I have been taking marimba with Sue Ford.

I also try to run a few times a week and get into a good book.

You’re taking an art class on campus. What sorts of art do you like to create?

I am currently taking a drawing class, and I every time I take an art class I find out a new style or medium I love. Currently I create a lot of mixed media pieces (collage with my drawings layered in). Most of my art has a message about something I am passionate about. (You can see my art on my Instagram page @k8couture.)

What’s the best way to start the day?

My 2 year old wakes me up most mornings, earlier than I would like. But ideally I would like to wake up (after the sun has come up) and sit on the porch with a cup of coffee or go for an early run. Still, I know I will miss my sweet early mornings with my kiddos as they get older.

What irrational fear do you have?

As a parent I have all sorts of irrational fears for my kids. To that end, I have to find a balance between letting them be adventurous and keeping them safe.

What book(s) are you reading?

Right now I am reading, The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro and Conversations Worth Having by Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres.

I read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche earlier in the year. I loved it and really enjoy anything by her.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled from home?

I lived in Tokyo, Japan for 2 years when I was young (6 years old).

My family lived in Geneva, Switzerland when I was in college, so I visited there often. I also studied Art History in Paris, France. All were super interesting and wonderful. Traveling is such an amazing experience and I can’t wait to travel more as my kids get older.

What is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives?

Travel to another country.

What is an item on your bucket list?

A long overdue honeymoon with my husband

If you could talk to any person, living or deceased, for half an hour, who would it be?

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Pablo Picasso

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Take risks. Stay true to yourself. Tell the people you love how wonderful they are… as often as possible.

You have been granted one wish that WILL come true. What do you wish for?

I would wish for a greater understanding throughout the human race to treat people with respect and to celebrate our differences.

Repurpose and Reimagine

Repurpose and Reimagine

Freedom and Creativity

Summer is a time when folks often invite freedom and creativity back into their busy lives. Maybe they pick up a project that has taken a back seat, take a workshop, or reconnect with a lost skill, art or craft. Maybe they learn, read, or try something new. Summer is a great time to nurture the young inventor in each child.

The long days of the season allow more time to drop into open-ended, free and constructivist play. Making time for STEM concepts, for inventing and engineering can tap into imaginations, foster creativity and enhance problem-solving capacities. You can try offering this space to them by spending some time exploring, asking questions, creating and building. Allow for simple invention and engineering projects by providing tools and materials such as items found in a junk drawer, recyclables, or simple office supplies.

Once you have ignited their passion for inventing, try stretching their thinking with various books.

What do you do with an Idea? By Kobi Yamada

This is a great book a child’s brilliant idea to bring it to the world. After reading, you can begin by asking what an animal needs to survive. Then you might ask what more the animals need to grow and thrive. Continue the discussion by likening animal growth to “idea growth.” State that our ideas can grow, thrive, survive, and evolve by nurturing them. Follow up with a discussion about the author’s message: stick with your idea, follow it through, persevere and your idea could change the world.

Not a Box

Next time you read with your child, you can try reading Not a Box by Antoinette Portis. This is a fabulous book about a rabbit with a very BIG imagination. After completing the book, you can discuss with your child how imagination and creativity are magical elements of who they are. Talking about different perspectives allows children to see that showing and sharing are part of what makes them unique and special.

Next, lay out a box of recyclables or knickknacks and let your child choose one or more items to repurpose. Ask your child to reimagine how this ordinary object can become extraordinary. Encourage them to use their artistic skills to reimagine it by creating something new. You may also want to extend their learning by inviting them to use the materials and resources to create a 3-D representation of their new invention. Once they have finished, it’s always quite powerful to spend time reflecting about it together.

Implications of Your Work

Children appreciate “thinking outside of the box.” They thrive off of creation and love to deep dive into their own imaginations. They approach STEM activities, such as this one, in the most authentic way when they know that their learning environment is supportive and safe. Children are most creative when the learning environment highlights many perspectives, emphasizes process over product, and failure as opportunity.

Know Thyself

Know Thyself

Rites of passage are important, sacred ceremonies that highlight a transitional period in a person’s life.

In many cultures, tribes and soceities around the world, children engage in various rites of passage. Often these are times when a child is recognized for passing though the threshold toward adulthood. Graduation at Rainbow Community School serves as an integral rite of passage for our graduating Omega Middle Schoolers.

Preparation for this rite officially begins as they join the Omega program. Subtle and more obvious practices support each Omegan’s readiness. For example, each day that middle schoolers pass through a physical threshold. As enter the building, they pass under a wooden panel inscribed with “Know Thyself.” Additionally, their arrival is also marked with a sacred time called Centering; this time is used for grounding, centering, pondering life’s big questions. Lessons, activities and learning experiences throughout the day not only foster a culture of connectedness but support the work of nurturing the child to individuate- to

Know Thyself.

These opportunities, although grounded in the safety of community, encourage personal identity development, person spirituality and ultimately- wholeness. According to decades of research by Dr. Lisa Miller, head of clinical psychology at Columbia’s Teachers College, teens who have the benefit of developing a personal spirituality are 80% less likely to suffer from ongoing and recurring depression and 60% less likely to become substance abusers. To that end, it is reasonable to suggest that spirituality is indeed the cornerstone for mental health and human well-being. Intentional rites of passage are but one way to nourish that health.

To KNOW THYSELF is to answer these questions:
Who am I?
Who are you?
Why am I here?
What is my purpose?

Graduating Omegans write commencement speeches that reflect on their time at Rainbow and acknowledge their gratitude, growth, challenges, hopes and dreams. Each student, as part of the rite, share these speeches publicly. This public sharing is an amazingly brave yet vulnerable challenge.

But more importantly, the words of wisdom spoken by these young adults are nothing less than profound.

They are informed by years of social, emotional and spiritual engagement and learning. They are guided by opportunities to explore life’s big mysteries and ponder personal purpose. They are rooted in a a collective AND personal identity.

If you are curious what happens when soul is invited into the classroom, please click here to listen to Noah Mraz’s graduation speech.

Please also consider:

  • What are the implications of integrating rites of passage, existential questioning and the spiritual domain into your own work with children?
  • What are you already doing that serves the spiritual development of your students? What more can you do?
Team Highlight: Peter “Wind” Motika

Team Highlight: Peter “Wind” Motika

For this team highlight feature, we wanted to share about our “Custodial Ninja” as he calls himself: Peter, or Wind Motika.

We asked him some interview questions and the responses are pretty awesome. Next time you see Wind, be sure to give him some gratitude for all the hard work he does in keeping our campus running smoothly.

peter wind motika team highlight

Where are you originally from? How did you end up at Rainbow? How long have you been at Rainbow?

I’m from a small rural township in northeast Ohio called Newbury. It’s about 40 miles outside of Cleveland. I went to school from Kindergarten thru grade 12 in the same building. I graduated in 1977. I believe I’ve been in the Rainbow community since 1997.

My son Allijah went to Rainbow for Kindergarten thru 5th grade, and then came back in 8th grade and graduated from Rainbow. Allijah had to leave Rainbow in 5th grade because we got behind on tuition. The school had an opening for a custodian and the Director at the time, Jane Stanhope, offered me the job. Half of my salary went to pay off the tuition. After it was paid off I decided to keep the job. So I’ve been the custodian since 2002 – 16 years!

What’s the hardest part of your job? The easiest? What title do you give yourself?

The hardest part of the job is cleaning toilets. Not that it’s hard, but I clean an average of 100 toilets per week while school is in session. Ultimately that’s a few thousand a year for 16 years.

I am also starting to have a problem with my shoulder from repetitive motion from all the vacuuming I have to do now, so that’s probably the true hardest part of the job.

The easiest part is working in a quality community of people. Eddy once called me “The Custodial Ninja” a few years ago. I like that title a lot!

What was the funniest thing you saw a teacher do?

Not sure if this is funny, but we had a past Omega teacher named William Harwood, who used the campus for his personal gym! He had weights in a spare room, (the current 3rd grade room). He would run also around the campus and use the play ground equipment for his workouts.

Who was your favorite teacher?

Hmm, favorite teacher…I’d hate to hurt feelings! I have many for different reasons. Some of the teachers have become my friends over the years. So I choose not to answer this question.

I will say the teacher I respected the most, and those who know her would agree, would be Mary Virginia.

Are you reading any books? (Or, what is your favorite book?)

I read books in waves. Sometimes I might go a year without reading much and then I’ll read 3 books at a time for a year. Overall, I read a lot. My favorite authors are Paulo Coelho, Barbara Kingsolver and Richard Bach who wrote probably my favorite book called Illusions. I identify with the main character.

The last books I read were the Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

What is something that you’re interested in that most people don’t know?

I kinda keep to myself, so there’s probably a lot folks don’t know about me. Most likely that I am a screenwriter and I follow NBA basketball. Go Cavs!

peter wind motika team highlight

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I am an avid disc golfer and I love it although I found the sport later in my life. I am a member of several clubs, one of which is WNCDGA, a 501(c3) non-profit. For the past 4 years, I have been a member and served as vice-chairman for a year. We just donated two baskets to rainbow!

I was on Asheville’s Parks and Rec Advisory Board and served as Vice-Chairman for 2 years. “Interspecies Internet” was another organization in which I served on the advisory board. I worked with people like Peter Gabriel, Vint Cerf, Sue Savage Rumbaugh and other interesting folks who focused on creating ways for humans to communicate with animals.

I also spent a number of years volunteering at the Language Research Center at Georgia State University working with Bonobo apes! I mostly played music for and with them.

I love to cook! It’s important to me to make myself a healthy and organic breakfast and dinner everyday! I like to garden as well.

peter wind motika

We hear that you published some music. Tell us more about it.

I have been a musician since 8th grade. Even though I was from a tiny school I was a two-time all state vocalist, and I sang with the Cleveland Orchestra. We toured Europe with “America’s Youth In Concert” in 1976.

When I was young, I was part of a band that played at all the Cleveland and Akron venues. Many bands like Devo, Chrissy Hind/Pretenders, Joe Walsh/James Gang, U2 and many others had played there. I have been the front man for a couple of rock bands that played my original music.

I’ve had 2 popular bands in Asheville, as well. We put on multi-media music and dance shows. The recordings that came from some of my solo work, as well as from my Asheville bands, allowed me to make a CD. I released that in conjunction with an article written about me in the July 2003 issue of The New Yorker. I played music with Peter Gabriel and the famous Bonobo Apes from Georgia State University. We made it onto Spotify. It’s called “Connected.”

I’ve also done a lot of busking in Asheville. Native American flute music is another passion of mine, and I have 2 CDs that you can download in a number of places. I have also made about 1500 bamboo flutes and even made the flute that Renee plays at school.

There’s a rumor that you’re writing a screen play? Is that true? Tell us about it.

I just got my IMDb page for a movie I co-wrote called Mercy Kill. We hope to film it in the fall for a 2019 release. I have been co-writing for about 15 years and have written 5 screenplays in the last 3 years. I have 5 other screenplays I’ve written, as well.

What was your favorite subject in school?

My favorite subject in school was music. I liked history, too. English became another favorite once I got that life-changing English teacher in 10th grade.

What’s the best way to start the day?

I start everyday with a shower, a healthy breakfast and a big glass of water.

What is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives?

I think everyone should pursue their dreams and not give up on their Creator-given talents. One particular thing people should try is growing their own food.

What are two items on your bucket list?

The first is to move to southern France and win an Oscar for screenwriting. And, okay, a Sundance award for writing would be cool, too!peter wind motika team highlight

Do you have any irrational fears? What are they?

My biggest irrational fear is that I will die alone without being with my soulmate. Ah, melancholy right?

If you could talk to any person, living or deceased, for half an hour, who would it be?

I’ve met and hung out with 2 of my musical idols, Peter Gabriel and Peter Hammill. I’ve also associated with some of the top primate, dolphin and elephant researchers in the world. But if I could have a half hour with John Lennon or Kate Bush, I’d be in heaven!

What advice would you give to yourself as an elementary school student? A middle school student?

My advice to my younger self would be to have a better prosperity conscience, not be shy and take a risk.

Anything else?

I built a geodesic dome home in Madison County from a cardboard model! It’s still standing and a wonderful family is living in it.

I think I was the first Rainbow employee to attend Building Bridges.

Another fun fact is that Renee is the 4th director I’ve worked for at Rainbow.

Mind In A Jar

Mind In A Jar

The integrated RCS curriculum fosters learning in a holistic way.

This approach is void of the restrictions often imposed by teaching discreet subjects. Purposeful integration acknowledges, builds on and reinforces the existing relationships between subject areas and/or topics. The hope is that learning is then more easily transferred into other settings.

Integration is also a “brain compatible strategy” as described by brain researcher, Eric Jenson. Jenson (1996) suggests that, “The brain learns best in real-life, immersion-style, multi-path learning [and] fragmented, piecemeal presenting can forever kill the joy and love of learning.” This immersion style is considered a best practice and is embraced by our teachers. It is, therefore, not uncommon for the theme, topic or unit of study to be woven into the fabric of an entire school day, week, and/or month. For example, the element of water and its states of matter are introduced in kindergarten. First grade elaborates on the water cycle and studies rivers and oceans. During these units, water often becomes a central theme that invites cross curricular learning.

Centering offers cross curricular learning opportunities.

The intended purpose of centering is to awaken the spiritual center of each child, opening pathways to learning. The centering practice activity includes a contemplative experience, but teachers also strive to extend the learning by integrating with the academic curriculum. The Mind Jar centering serves as an excellent example. The Mind Jar begins with a conversation about the various properties of water. Perhaps prompted by photographs of water in various forms or by a book such as, The Water Dance by Thomas Locker. Discussion yields a shared understanding of the ways in which water moves- Water is always moving, flowing, changing, essential to life, found deep in the ocean, under the ground, high in the sky, freezing, melting, etc. The focus being more heavily on the magical and mysterious qualities of the element rather than the scientific descriptions.

The teacher guides students to make connections between their own thoughts and feelings to the movements of water in the natural world

(i.e. a raging river can represent anger, a waterfall- excitement, snowfall- peace) After giving an example or two, the children are then prompted to suggest additional feelings and water movements connections. The teacher explains that The Mind Jar is simply a jar filled with water and glitter. But it is representative a tiny world where we can watch the movements of water and match those movements to our own feelings. The water represents our mind’s natural state and the glitter represents our thoughts, emotions, fears, concerns, and wonderings. When the jar is shaken, our thoughts will whirl around and our mind becomes cloudy and hard to see through. But, as the glitter begins to settle and still, so do our thoughts and feelings. It is in this stillness and calm state that we are able to make good decisions.

The Mind Jar is a simple mason jar containing water, glitter, glitter glue, and food coloring.

Combine warm water with the glitter glue, glitter, and food coloring.  Close the Jar tightly.  Depending on the amount of glue you use, the glitter will settle more slowly. This tool can be used when a child is feeling stressed, overwhelmed or upset. It can calm and relax them. It can serve as a meditation tool or a self-regulation tool. You can explore many versions of this on the web. If you have an interest in extending the learning from this centering, you may want to try a follow up centering using the picture book, Moody Cow Meditates. Peter the cow is moody after having a rough day. A series of unfortunate circumstances leads Peter’s grandfather to teach him how to settle his mind and let go of his frustration using some mediation tools.

 

 

 

 

 

Jenny Armocida – Team Highlight

Jenny Armocida – Team Highlight

Jenny Armocida – Team Highlight

There are some incredible things going on in 6th grade right now. Students are preparing to present on their businesses they created as part of our Rainbow Marketplace on April 27. Recently, 6th had Peace Awards Ceremonies, and have done other incredible things this year such as Pi Day, and a Mayan bartering marketplace, to name a few. We thought we’d take a moment to highlight Jenny Armocida for our Team Highlight this month. She’s our 6th grade teacher who will also be leading a “Staying Sharp Summer Camp” here at Rainbow. Cynthia recently sat down with her for a teacher interview.

You’re originally from Ohio. How did you end up at Rainbow?

It’s true – I’m originally from Ohio. I went to school in Sarasota, Floria but it was too hot. So I moved to Nyack, New York. But that was too cold. So I came “to the middle” to Asheville and it was just right! I had learned about this amazing school called Rainbow and I knew that wanted to teach there. In order to teach there, I had to move to Asheville. So yes, I moved here specifically to teach at Rainbow!

What made you decide to become a teacher? How long have you been a teacher?

I have been a teacher for nearly 12 years, specifically as a classroom teacher. I chose it as a profession because my favorite things are learning, asking questions, being curious, exploring the world around me, and I also like being with young people. They’re also really curious and creative. The best job I could have that would allow me to do all these things was to be a teacher. An added bonus is that you get to learn right alongside your students.

Jenny Armocida Team Highlight

What’s the hardest part of your job? The easiest?

The hardest part of my job is knowing that you’re never really finished with it. So if I’m at my house or on vacation, I’m always thinking about my job: ideas for lessons, new things to try, that sort of thing. That can be really fun, but sometimes it’s challenging to take a break from my “teacher self.”
The easiest part is, well, what’s most enjoyable, is definitely the relationships I develop with my students. I get to know them and enjoy being with them. I get to try so many new things.

You recently had Brother Wolf come to your classroom, as well as held a Peace Awards Day. In addition, students will be tackling their small business enterprises that are also socially beneficial. Where do you get all your creative ideas for lessons and units?

I think that I am really inspired by working with all my colleagues who are so innovative and inventive. I see them pursuing their interests, sharing the best of themselves, their ideas, and passions. That compels me to look inside myself to see what’s important. Then I think about how I’d like to share all that with my students. I also enjoy doing whatever small things I can to make the world a better place. The result is that I naturally incorporate those ideas into the curriculum.

You were also recognized in 2015 with the Leavey Award for leadership in entrepreneurship education. Can you tell us more about that?

The award came from the Leavey Foundation. They recognize teachers who develop entrepreneurship curricula. I shared with them the small business projects my Rainbow students created. I also let them know that our students present their businesses at the Rainbow Marketplace. The requirement is that these businesses are also socially beneficial. The Leavey Foundation liked that because I found out I had won their award.

As an award recipient, I got a chance to go to New Orleans where they held a social studies conference. I learned about other people who were teaching entrepreneurship programs. However, I was the only middle school teacher there – the rest were high school teachers. I was happy that I could share that it’s not just something that older kids can do. Middle school students can create businesses, too.

What is your favorite subject to teach?

That is hard! We’re fortunate here at Rainbow that we have integrated lessons that incorporate so many subjects – so it’s varied. But, my personal passion is literature. I’m a big reader – I love fiction and I like to write for fun. I also really love doing the entrepreneurship projects. I enjoy history and one of my favorite lessons is when we turn the classroom into a “middle ages feudal system.” There are so many things that I enjoy teaching. I can’t pick, so I’d have to say them I enjoy them all!

What book are you reading? (Or, what is your favorite book?)

I just got back from Cuba (over spring break). Because of that, I’ve been reading a lot of Cuban writers lately. Right now, I’m reading Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. The other awesome book I’ve read lately is called, Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. It was really compelling and a humorous read.

What is something that you’re interested in that most people don’t know?

I had a month where I was briefly interested in “tiny cooking.” That has since passed. But really, I love needlefelting. This is an art form where you use a “wad of wool” and a needle. You basically sculpt the wood and make forms out of it. I’ve made birds, tiny people, tiny hamburgers – they’re all very small. I love to make little creatures on a tiny scale. I once made a terrarium with tiny needlefelted animals inside and gave it away as a gift.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled from home?

I would have to say that one of the farthest placed I’ve traveled was when I went to Iceland. I also went to Germany another time. Iceland, however, convinced me that I should only do beach vacations, though.

What is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives?

People should spend the day with a group of sixth graders. You will learn many interesting things and ponder questions you never thought of before. You will also laugh A LOT.

What are two items on your bucket list?

I’ve never done karaoke. Someday I’d like to try that. I’d also entertain the idea of owning a pet goat – just for the pure joy of it. I’d like a pygmy goat specifically.

If you could talk to any person, living or deceased, for half an hour, who would it be?

I would talk to the Dalai Lama. I feel like he’s very wise and seems to have a joyful sense of humor. I think it would be fun and enlightening.

What advice would you give to your 6th grade self?

I would definitely tell myself just to be authentic and true to who I am. I’d also say to follow my interests and passions and not to worry so much about what other people think.

Well there you have it, friends. A great interview with Jenny. We’re thankful she took the time to have this interview and share with our Rainbow family!