Friday, July 12, 2013

Parent Preview Letter: 2013-2014

12 July 2013

Dear Parents,

I hope you are enjoying your summer vacation. Despite the recent heat, I am sure your sons and daughters have taken advantage of their free time and been very active. The 2012-2013 school year was a busy one! We successfully integrated the 5th grade into the middle school, welcomed five new faculty and staff members into the Canterbury community, rolled out a new student and parent portal in NetCommunity, and launched our Leadership Program. In addition to this work, we spent the year enhancing or developing our program in five key areas: academic support, leadership, science, trips, and tablets. I’d like to take a moment to preview the key points within these five areas of growth for the Middle School.

2013-2014 Preview

Academic Support

During the 2011-2012 school year, we identified the need to better support Canterbury’s students across the spectrum of learning styles. As a school, we were also seeking a more consistent approach to academic support across divisions. Judy Cram was hired and began teaching in the middle school in August of 2012.  She spent last year observing and analyzing the needs of the middle school in terms of academic support, as well as researching best practices in terms of programming (in addition to working with students and teachers on direct support). Over the course of this past year Judy, in conjunction with Katie Leezer and the Program Team, developed a plan for academic support that is much more comprehensive than it has ever been in the life of the school.  

Essentially, Judy has developed a five level plan of support that addresses students’ needs at every level of academic ability. First, classroom teacher tutorials will become more defined in terms of expectations and reasons for attending. Second, in-class monitoring, small group and inclusion work in the class will be another area of support. Third, in the 5th and 6th grades, Judy will be available to work with individuals or small groups as needed in a separate space during their study hall periods twice a week. Fourth, for those students who qualify based on outside evaluation, we now offer a small group academic support class that is taken in lieu of a foreign language. Fifth, we will also offer an in-school tutoring service, consisting of identifying, matching, and coordinating tutors, for those students who need significant and focused remediation.

As you can see, the academic support program is significantly more robust than it has been in the past and we are excited to implement this program. If you have any questions, please direct them to Judy Cram (, who is the point person for all academic support issues in the middle school.


Over the course of the 2011-2012 school year, we researched, discussed, and developed a definition of leadership at Canterbury and created four leadership principles to help guide us as we created a more explicit leadership program at the school. Leadership at Canterbury promotes learning about self and others, loving across all boundaries, and serving one’s community and beyond. We seek to engrain leadership in our students through empowering a respect for differences, creating and sustaining positive relationships, seeking and learning from a variety of opportunities to serve, and developing an intentional understanding of one’s self and its impact on others.

We decided to focus on four areas of leadership development over a three year period: curriculum, Canterbury leadership opportunities, service learning, and something we call premiere leadership experiences. In 2012-2013 we focused on developing a leadership curriculum and offered trimester long leadership classes for grades 5 through 8. We will tweak the 5th and 6th grade curriculums to fall in line with the 7th and 8th grade for 2013-2014 which will allow us to have the following focus:

  • 5th grade will focus on the leadership principle of empowering a respect for differences. This curriculum will be more targeted at a leadership context and the curriculum is currently being developed.
  • 6th grade will continue to focus on the leadership principle of creating and sustaining positive relationships through a focus on communication principles and social awareness.
  • 7th grade focuses on the basics of leadership such as types of leaders, styles of leadership, and logistics of leadership. The 7th Grade class culminates with a leadership project that serves the school in some way. Through this project, the 7th Grade focuses on the leadership principle of seeking and learning from a variety of opportunities to serve.
  • 8th grade focuses on developing an intentional understanding of one’s self and its impact on others through a class that is exclusive to the ropes course, an outdoor, experiential experience that has been life-changing for many of our alumni. By the end of their time in this class, they are able to complete all individual and team challenges that the ropes course has to offer and are capable of leading others through the various challenges of the ropes course.

In 2013-2014 we will be focusing on three areas within the leadership program: service learning, 8th grade internships, and developing premiere leadership experiences.

In addition to significantly enhancing the service learning in terms of activities and integration, we will be offering a Servant Leadership class that runs in the same trimester rotation as Theology and Leadership for grades 5 through 8. Inherent in this is the on going task of identifying our own God-given gifts through spiritual practice and discernment (the connection to theology and faith explored with Fr. Finnin) and employing those gifts in service to the world (the connection to the skills and understandings developed in leadership with Tricia Fisher, our point person on leadership at Canterbury). This will be active, hands-on learning that will encourage both the exploration of different spiritual practices and the application of personal gifts and call to challenges in our community (the service learning projects).  In part, we will be using the principles of and adapting materials from the Servant Leadership School.

Under the supervision of Tricia Fisher, we will be starting an 8th grade internship program. 8th graders will be working with staff and faculty on meaningful internships throughout the school that will help to develop a deeper understanding of the school, provide an opportunity to develop relationships outside of their peer group, and engrain a sense of commitment and dedication to a larger purpose.

Finally, we will continue to develop premiere leadership experiences for all of our students. Last year, a number of our students attended various off-campus leadership conferences and this will continue next year. We also hosted a student leadership conference for area schools that was designed and led by our 8th graders, and we will continue and grow this particular program. Lastly, we hosted a NCAIS conference on campus on experiential education and leadership for approximately 20 teachers and administrators from 10 schools to show how we incorporate these approaches into our program at Canterbury. This will continue next year and will include even more student involvement.


In anticipation of the new Ketner Science and Technology building, we spent the 2012-2013 school year overhauling our science curriculum. Through intensive review and research, as well as multiple school visits and pedagogical training, we’ve created a curriculum that is significantly enhanced and now includes a STEM approach to teaching science that fits our mission and middle school vision. Based on the Next Generation Science Standards, and including a brand new,  hands-on engineering unit at each grade level, this science curriculum incorporates problem based learning and the design process to help students develop a deeper conceptual understanding of science and to apply those understandings to real life situations. Next year we will begin the process of receiving accreditation from North Carolina as a STEM school.


In my preview letter last summer, I mentioned we would be reviewing trips offerings in order to maximize our resources to provide the best educational experience possible for our students. Over the last three years, a new context (driven by the Middle School Vision and the Leadership Program) has developed in the middle school. As a result, taking a look at our trips offerings through this new prism became a priority for the 2012-2013 school year. We had five guideposts in this conversation.

  • Plan backwards from the outcome: All experiences should be planned starting with the outcome. What do we want students to get out of this experience? How do we get them there?
  • Utilize our local resources and community: How can we maximize campus facilities or facilities in the Triad area to serve the dual purpose of engaging the students in a meaningful experience and exposing them to wonder that is close by?
  • Keep timing in mind: A strategic view should be taken when planning experiences. What is happening at the grade level? What is happening at the division level? What is happening at the school level?
  • Create a scope and sequence that builds from 5th to 8th grade: Trips should be tiered from 5th to 8th in terms of the overall experience - with each grade level building upon the prior year’s. This will make sense to the students and families, provide some excitement for what’s to come, and be more developmentally appropriate.
  • Reinvigorate or rebrand existing experiences: There are experiences students have already that could be enhanced to match this new vision for Canterbury experiences.  

The end result of these conversations is an offering of experiences that surpass a simple trip and incorporates curricular connection, service at every opportunity, leadership development, and fun into the life of each and every middle school student. Some of the changes include:

  • Instead of heading to Trinity Center, the 5th grade orientation will be enhanced and a ropes course element will be added. In addition, we have added an experience at Betsy Jeff Penn 4-H Educational Center and the Proximity Hotel.
  • The 6th grade trip will move to Haw River this year on August 29 - 30. This experience has been designed to include a STEM foundation, adventure, camaraderie, service, and team-building all in a setting that is outdoor-based. The 6th grade will also have a series of day trips within their new Science curriculum, plus an enhanced Archeological experience in their Art and Humanities classes.
  • In 7th grade, the MDGs, once a two day unit in October, has been moved to March and will be an overnight experience. The 7th grade will be doing more in-depth work within their Social Studies classes leading up to the March outdoor village experience. The 7th grade will continue to end their year with a white water rafting trip. Also, as part of our leadership program, we are researching a series of camping trips we may be able to offer throughout the year.
  • The 8th grade will return to Wilderness Adventure this fall from August 28 - 30. This has been a hallmark of the Canterbury Middle School and we feel it is important to maintain it. Since the Week Without Walls takes place during what would have been the time for 8th grade trips, we have decided to move those trips to the end of the year and consolidate the experiences that have been offered in the past. This year, all of our 8th grade will have the opportunity to go to Florida, but within this experience, John Schoultz is developing three distinct strands - all of which include active service learning, as well camaraderie and fun. One of these strands will include the SCUBA certification from the past few years. More information will be available soon.
  • The 7th and 8th grades will be participating in a Week Without Walls during the President’s Day week, February 18 - 21. During this week, 7th and 8th grade teachers will offer mini-units within their discipline and students will register for what most interests them. Most of these units will involve some collaboration with an outside expert or industry contact. Furthermore, many of these units will have a culminating event that will offer unique experiences for our students. More information on this program will be forthcoming.

This is an exciting step for the Middle School as it acknowledges the history and importance of experiences to the culture of the division, yet provides a new direction as we work to implement 21st Century teaching and learning into every aspect of our educational experience.


As you already know, we will be implementing a 1:1 Tablet Learning Program in the 7th and 8th grades next school year. A tablets is an educational transformation tool that allows teachers to differentiate instruction and gives students the creative freedom to explore learning in new and exciting ways. We are very excited about this, and have been hard at work preparing for the roll-out. We have four main goals for this program: become as paperless as possible, facilitate problem-based learning, review and design 21st century assessments that are creative, authentic, multi-faceted, and professional, and to increase our connectivity within and without Canterbury School.

We are ready to roll this program out in August. We have almost completely moved to online or digital e-texts and resources in the 7th and 8th grades. We have reviewed and updated our infrastructure to handle 80 plus tablets on the network, installed a management system for network monitoring and security, and revised our Acceptable Use Policy to reflect the new technology paradigm of the school. We have  developed a comprehensive professional development program for the faculty and staff specific to the goals for the Tablet Learning Program, created a curriculum for students on Tablet Learning which includes care, use, APPs, expectations, efficient utilization, and more, and we’ve created a series of parent education nights that will feature many of these topics.

John Schoultz ( and I ( will be the points of contact for the Tablet Learning Program. We will be in touch soon with the 7th and 8th grade families about late summer tablet registration dates, as well as parent education opportunities for or about the tablets. As this is our first year, we welcome your feedback and ideas as we begin this journey.

I am excited about the direction in which the Middle School is headed and for what 2013-2014 holds in store. We continue to work to make our program as effective as possible and appreciate your continued support as we learn and grow together as a community.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!


David Skeen
Middle School Director
Canterbury School

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