The King Community took a trip around the world last week and never left the LS gymnasium. It was an afternoon filled with memories of faraway places where the roots of our community began; delicious food once shared by families much like our own; and the differences that bring us together.
Meet Amy Vorenberg, Head of Lower School
Amy Vorenberg is enthusiastic to lead because she believes King's Lower School academic excellence is built upon a foundation of thoughtfully designed programming, excellent teaching, and a kind community.
"We believe that curiosity is a natural ability that children bring to their learning – we encourage students to ask questions, make discoveries, think critically, analyze and solve problems, be good listeners, and have fun being involved in the dynamic process of learning. We value every child and build strong, safe classroom communities where exploration and discovery leads to mastery."
-Amy Vorenberg, Head of Lower School
Dear King School Community,
I am inspired each day by students' curiosity and confidence, pride in their school, and joy in being King students.
I have dedicated my career to working with young learners in independent schools. Plato said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” As I collaborate with teachers, parents, and administrators, we are guided by a respect for childhood and by our shared belief that the foundation established in strong, early childhood and elementary classrooms helps provide a base for successes of all kinds.
Lower School children thrive when they are known for their individual passions and strengths, in classrooms where they feel safe and valued. King’s classrooms skillfully blend engaging intellectual inquiry with kindness and compassion. We believe in children. We see every child as smart, capable, and ready to learn. We know that all children have preferences and interests, questions and opinions. They are naturally curious about the world around them and seek answers from not only their teachers and friends, but also from the environment around them. For that reason, we work intentionally to build extraordinary learning communities that value the voices of each child.
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Q&A with Amy Vorenberg
Why did you choose to join King School as the Head of Lower School?
King’s student-centered, challenging program, its expert teachers, and its kind community were all factors in my decision to join King. I believe these elements combine to make King an exceptional school that empowers students to achieve their personal best. In my 30+ years in education, I have witnessed in countless ways the enormous, life-changing benefits of a robust early childhood and elementary school program. I enthusiastically bring my experience to help shape the vibrant future of King’s wonderful Lower School.
What do you feel distinguishes King Lower School?
King faculty know students as individuals, understand them as learners, and take great joy in challenging students to realize their individual personal best. The close relationship between Lower School students and teachers, and the partnership with teachers and parents, help students get to know themselves as learners, empowering them with a self-awareness that opens up more avenues to explore and succeed. It is this approach to teaching and learning -- knowing each student’s personal passions and goals -- that I believe is at the center of King.
How do you think about classroom environments and design?
Each teacher makes decisions about the set-up and organization of a teaching space. We see the classroom as opportunity. We purposefully choose materials that will inspire, challenge, and stretch learners to new understandings. Our classroom spaces are both flexible and intentionally designed. Children, especially in our early childhood classrooms, find materials and make choices within our classrooms that build skills, including social skills. Because academic achievement is enhanced through social interaction, we design activities for children to work and play together daily. Our trained teachers balance emergent curriculum - curriculum generated by student questions and interests - with developmentally appropriate skill development. Pre-academic and academic areas are integrated into project work and students become experts in areas of study.
How does King challenge students?
Teachers respect students as learners by asking them to stretch their capacity beyond the comfortable and known, and by providing rich opportunities for growth as students strive to realize their individual potential. Lower School faculty use student-centered approaches to teaching and learning, leveraging the latest research on best practices in education. They integrate curriculum, providing opportunities for children to express their understandings of topics through multiple disciplines. Our curriculum supports a project-based approach, where children represent their understanding through various expressions. For example, a child may explain a science concept by building a scaled model, creating an artistic sculpture, or written summary. Multiple avenues of expression provide greater successes for learners as they represent meaning and demonstrate understanding.
How do King educators support all students?
We approach our work as a team. Together, administrators and teachers collaborate and share what we know and observe about student learning. A dedicated Director of Teaching and Learning in the Lower School, and in each division, supports the faculty. King has developed a proprietary, internal system that highlights each student’s strengths, challenges, and goals. Teachers actively contribute to and utilize this database to support each student’s development over time as a student moves through our challenging academic program.
Does King offer robust programs in STEM?
Yes! STEM is integrated throughout PreK-Grade 12 and students understand how these disciplines influence one another. In the Lower School, students develop elementary concepts of computer programming while enhancing their fine motor skills using iPads, Scratch programming, and animation software. The Singapore Math Program provides students with sold skills in numeracy, pattern recognition, and geometric relationships. A new Lower School Makerspace, Science Lab, Computer Science Media Center, Garden, and classroom activities all provide inspiration and tools for students to tinker and practice designing solutions to real world problems, so students gain a greater sense of self-confidence and purpose.
What is the Readers and Writers workshop?
The Readers and Writers workshop approach engages students with material that is of high interest and aligns with their personal goals so students develop as avid and skilled readers and writers. Teachers address whole group skills and differentiate for the needs of each student within smaller groups and one-on-one meetings. The goals established for each student are informed by assessments. There are different genres and topics for children to explore. Using a “just right” book, a book which a student can both decode and comprehend, and writing about a topic that has meaning to the student, stretches each student to achieve the student's personal best.
How do King teachers grow professionally?
King makes among the highest investments in Professional Growth and Development (PG&D) among our peer schools. 100% of teachers participate in at least two PG&D training sessions each year. King’s ongoing PG&D not only furthers teachers’ own learning in the areas of both student development and content mastery, but also engages teachers who believe enthusiastically in the joy of lifelong learning.
How does King prepare students for the transition to Middle School?
The Lower School believes that using an intentionally designed, two-year Grade 5/6 sequence as an incremental progression into the middle school prepares early adolescents for greater academic, social, and emotional success later in the middle and upper schools. This progression capitalizes on the developmental stage of Grade 5 students by positioning them as confident leaders of the Grade 5 program -- an important part of supporting them in their early adolescence -- while also exposing them to the content, skills, and transitional experiences that will prepare them for the challenges of Middle School.
What does King offer above and beyond a challenging academic program?
Every day, King students are encouraged to develop their talents and to pursue experiences in leadership roles, in the lab, on the field, on the stage, in the art studio, and in music. Lower School students participate in Assembly every A day, coming together to practice public speaking as they share and sing together. A highlight of Grade 5 is their musical, performed in the Performing Arts Center with costumes, choreography, sets, and lighting. Additional enrichment offerings include Math Olympiad, Lego Mindstorms, Chess, and a Service Learning Club which offers ongoing opportunities to volunteer.
What is your impression of the King community?
When I arrive at school early each morning, it's a joy to welcome students I know well and an honor to participate in their lives as students. I'm impressed by the King Virtues of integrity, kindness, perseverance, and respect. I believe these exemplify the community’s commitment to inclusion, social responsibility, and skills needed to succeed in a multicultural world. In speaking with the teachers, students, and parents, I can tell that they genuinely care for and listen to one another.
MEET HEAD OF LOWER SCHOOL AMY VORENBERG
Amy was most recently at Beauvoir, The National Cathedral Elementary School, a private PreK-Grade 3 school in Washington D.C. where she served as Head of School. Prior, she was Head of School at The Philadelphia School, a PreK-Grade 8 school, and was the Lower School Division Head at Shady Hill School in MA. Amy has also served as a classroom teacher in elementary schools. Her experience has been built at schools in major urban, independent school markets. She is widely viewed as an elementary school expert, particularly in terms of shaping developmentally appropriate, challenging curriculum for young learners. She has a BA from the University of New Hampshire and a MS in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College.
Amy enjoys outdoor activities, including walks in the woods, skiing, and golf. She also loves to cook and spend time with her extended family. Amy and her husband, Tom, also an educator, are excited to return to New England to be closer to family and their favorite sports team, the Red Sox. Amy and Tom have one daughter, Ella, who is a teacher in an independent school outside of Boston.
King is excited to host its fifth annual El Sistema Residency April 6-8 when talented musicians from our Middle and Upper Schools collaborate in intensive music workshops with visiting students of various El Sistema USA programs, including Stamford's own Project Music. The overarching focus of the residency is to inspire a connection between communities of different socioeconomic backgrounds, using the music ensemble as the vehicle through which to inspire deeper communication.
The student became the teacher on Wednesday night as three US students guided guests through the new Innovation Lab and provided instruction on the equipment. The event served as the grand opening of the Lab and included a ribbon cutting ceremony and donor appreciation reception for a group of faculty, students, and donors.
Students learned about water in the region, including rivers, the Long Island Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean, and how people use water in the Stamford area. They surveyed their families on how they use water at home and interviewed the kitchen staff and other faculty members on how they use water at King. The next step in the unit was their field trip to the Stamford Water Treatment Facility earlier this week.
In celebration of King's inclusive and diverse global community, flags have been installed in all three divisions that represent the countries native to King's students, parents, faculty, and staff. Following a community survey conducted in the fall, the School identified 65 different countries represented in the King family and the flags of origin were installed, over winter break, in the Upper School lobby, as well as the Middle and Lower Schools.
King students have many different opportunities to pursue their passions as they grow as learners and people. The Class of 2019 has achieved success in the classroom, on the athletic fields, on the stage, and now they are preparing to pursue lives of ongoing inquiry in college. Congratulations to the 39 seniors who have been accepted and have already committed to attend their first choice college or university.
The King Cares program continues to participate in an array of wonderful service work throughout the greater community. During the month of December, several Upper School advisories collaborated to support King's partner organizations. For instance, students collected items for Pacific House, a men's shelter in Stamford, others conducted a children's coat drive to support a shelter in Danbury. Another group prepared a meal with Flik to serve at Inspirica, an organization working to break the cycle of homelessness.
How does King School define a kind and inclusive community? Every day our staffulty, students, and parents make a choice to intentionally show consideration and compassion for others. King is committed to our Virtues of integrity, kindness, perseverance, and respect. One important way we show our commitment to cultivating a kind, inclusive community is by supporting staffulty at the NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) and students at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC).
Continuing our tradition of participation in these vital conferences, a group of five Upper School students and six staffulty from multiple divisions and disciplines traveled together to Nashville, Tennessee earlier this month for a unique and memorable experience.
Grade 5 students had been learning about the New England and Middle Colonies and were ready to enjoy an immersive experience at Philipsburg Manor in late November. This field trip provided students with a hands-on understanding of all they had studied in class and a new appreciation for the history of our country.
Anaiya Shah placed three LEGO female figurines on the desk in front of her and began to tell their story. In the end, it was really her own story that she was telling.