Casals School of Excellence Nominees & Administration
Ms. Showalter’s classroom reminds us that there is no reward without risk. Ms. Showalter’s instruction moved to the next level this year with an increased focus and mastery of small group instruction – Guided Reading 2.0. Ms. Showalter opened herself and her practice up to videotaping, observation, and tight cycles of feedback from colleagues/administration in order to move her ELA practice exponentially. The results have been exceptional! Ms. Showalter’s students have taken ownership of their learning and discussion by holding one another accountable for the work at hand. It is not uncommon to go into Ms. Showalter’s classroom and observe students asking group members to leave the table because “they haven’t taken care of their reading responsibilities, or they are not ready for their reading discussion.” Ms. Showalter has built a classroom community where not being prepared or doing your part is unacceptable. Ms. Showalter is able to take a step back as her students take the reins of their learning and push one another to meet/exceed their reading, discussion, and overall academic expectations. Ms. Showalter is a consummate learner and consistently seeks ways to improve her practice. Her risk is her students reward.
Ms. Chavez’s classroom exemplifies the quote “failure is not an option”. Ms. Chavez is relentless in her pursuit of excellence and results in her classroom. As she raises the bar for her students, they continue to strive to meet it. This was exemplified this year when one of her students typed his essay on a cellphone because he did not have a computer at home and didn't want to let Ms. Chavez or himself down. Students feel incredible pride when Ms. Chavez authentically praises them after they’ve accomplished an academic task by overcoming an obstacle. Due to this, Ms. Chavez’s students consistently exceed academic expectations. The academic demands she has placed on her students have only strengthened her relationships with them. Students often seek out Ms. Chavez for support and words of wisdom knowing she’ll give them the honest truth. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Chavez is a leader on our ILT team, PLT team, Multi-Cultural Literacy Family Night, and coaches girls soccer. Ms. Chavez and her grade band partner developed and piloted ELA EngageNY guided notes at Casals; an idea burgeoned from observing and learning from another teacher. Ms. Chavez is an instructional risk taker, thinks outside of the box, and truly believes her students can move mountains.
Ms. Tidwell’s classroom manifests the theme, “We Are Family”. Her classroom culture embodies qualities that cannot be described but only experienced through observing her in action. There is a web of connectivity and accountability between teacher and students and students and their peers that signifies “we’re all in this together” and we’re working to be our best. Ms. Tidwell embraced a math problem solving strategy this year to deepen her students’ math discussion and critical thinking skills in order to meet the higher rigor of CCSS. At this time of the year, Ms. Tidwell’s 3rd grade class is able to independently run through the problem solving strategy in their groups and hold a math discussion with little prompting. During the discussions and in the spirit of teamwork/family you can hear students saying, “What do you think?” “We haven’t heard from ______, what are you thinking?” Student learning in Ms. Tidwell’s classroom is expected and personal. Ms. Tidwell goes above and beyond expectations to ensure her students are learning, often working with students through her lunch and prep times to ensure they have mastered the concept. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Tidwell is a mentor to five middle school girls as a part of Casals after-school DIVA’s program. She supports her mentees through check-ins, grade and behavior checks, and mentoring through difficult situations. At Casals, ALL students are a part of Ms. Tidwell’s family.
As a founding teacher of Casals School of Excellence, Mr. Hall is an anchor in the Casals family. He is respected and trusted by colleagues, students, and families alike. His attitude, actions, and practice remind us that this work “is not about us.” Mr. Hall’s middle school math classroom embodies a demanding yet supportive environment where teacher and student relationships are mutually respectful and valued. It is a unique balance that can only be achieved by working together and trusting one another. Mr. Hall works tirelessly to provide his students with authentic learning experiences that anchor difficult CCSS/EngageNY concepts so they are understood by all of his students. Only in Mr. Hall’s math classroom does the quadratic formula and imaginary numbers seem reasonable for all 7th/8th grade students to master. As a result, Mr. Hall’s students perform at exceptionally high levels in math, often testing into AP or Honors high school math classes. Because of Mr. Hall’s unique style of teaching and strong student relationships, former students often come after-school to get help with their high school math. “Mr. Hall just knows how to explain it so it makes sense.” Mr. Hall’s influence and leadership extends beyond the the walls of his classroom. He is a member of our ILT, PLT, has delivered professional development to the Casals staff as well as network teachers, is the co-AD, and coaches baseball. Mr. Hall was also recently accepted into the New Leaders Emerging Leaders program for the upcoming year. Mr. Hall’s results speak for themselves, but his classroom says even more.
Kristie Langbehn, Principal
From Day 1 of the Turnaround, Principal Langbehn has exemplified extraordinary leadership at Casals. On that day, as she addressed her new staff, Principal Langbehn messaged a vision for Casals that embodied the core values of collaboration, a commitment to excellence, and high expectations for student achievement. In a short time, holding true to these values, Casals moved to Level 1 status and has remained there over these past two years.
The Casals Administrative Team has a laser-like focus on student learning with systems and structures in place to ensure teacher growth and development through coaching and teacher collaboration. The work of the ILT is impressive. Most of these instructional leaders started at Casals as new teachers in year one of the turnaround. Through the administration’s support and leadership development, they now have the capacity to lead and coach others to proficient and distinguished instructional practice.
As one walks the halls at Casals, it is evident that this is truly a community of learners, a school of excellence. It’s a place where admin., staff, teachers, and parents, have together created a supportive, nurturing environment for students and for each other.