Spotlight on BHS Teacher Stacy Kissel: Creating Inspirational Curriculum from Tutorial to 9th Grade Physics

The Brookline High School Innovation Fund offers many unique opportunities to both faculty and students that can enhance their experience at BHS. Students have the ability to take an array of unique classes covering topics ranging from global current events to engineering and design. Faculty are also able to participate in many different programs that can add even more value to the work they are already doing at the high school. Through participation in these programs, teachers are able to support and create lasting connections with individual students, find inspiration and value as an educator, and have the ability to create or refine curriculum. Stacy Kissel is a teacher who has been able to experience all of those things through her time working with the Innovation Fund.

Establishing Tutorial as an Academic Resource

Kissel started working as a physics teacher at BHS in 1998. She became involved with the Innovation Fund very early on in its existence after former headmaster Bob Weintraub helped establish it at BHS. Throughout her time at the high school, Kissel has been involved in a number of different programs supported by the fund. She was one of the first teachers to participate in Tutorial, and most recently she has been working with other physics teachers to develop a curriculum for a new physics course. “I heard former Head of School Bob Weintraub talking about it during the early days when he was still raising money for this idea to encourage creativity in the school, and to give teachers opportunities to pilot new classes, and he was just so enthusiastic about it,” she explains. After hearing about a new program called Tutorial, Kissel knew that this was something she wanted to get involved in. As a part of the first group of Tutorial teachers, Kissel was able to collaborate with other teachers and decide what Tutorial should be and how it should work. “There were eight of us meeting to come up with what Tutorial is. We met frequently and talked about what the ideal model is and what we can do with the resources we have, and that was a very collaborative experience, since that was a completely new program.” Eighteen years later, Tutorial is a class where students can receive individualized support to help with their studies. Students work with their Tutorial teachers to identify areas where they can improve their academic performance, and spend their class time receiving support from their teachers and doing independent work. Tutorial continues to be a program that many students benefit from.

Throughout her involvement in Tutorial, Kissel gained a lot more insight into the daily schedules of her students outside of the physics classroom. She explains, “I think early on with Tutorial, it sort of changed me in that I got to see the big picture of a student’s day.” When previously she only knew what students were doing within the walls of her classroom, teaching Tutorial allowed her to see what students were learning in other courses. “It was especially great for me to see what the kids were doing in math, and how that meshed with what we were doing in physics.” Being more aware of the other work students were doing was also a way that Kissel made sure she wasn’t assigning a large physics project on top of other large assignments they were working on for other classes, as not to overwhelm them.

Another benefit Kissel gained from teaching Tutorial were the connections she was able to make with her students. She really valued having meaningful relationships with students and really appreciated it when there were opportunities for her to create those meaningful relationships. Tutorial was one place where Kissel could begin to do so. When Tutorial started only 40 kids in the entire school were enrolled, so for the first few years she taught Tutorial with the same teacher every year and had the same kids in her class. “There was a kid, for example, that I had freshman year in my physics class, and then I had in Tutorial sophomore, junior, and senior years. I had that kid for four years of high school and I knew him so well by the end, and that was at the beginning of the program, but what I loved about Tutorial was that they’re with the same teacher and you’re with the same kid.” In this case, Kissel was able to create and maintain a relationship with that student throughout the four years they were at BHS. Although the program has changed and grown a lot over the years, and teachers no longer have the same students every year, she says that you still get to know the students very well. “Even just one year with kids, you get to know them so well having them in a small group four times a week.”

Building Connections with Students
There have been a number of ways Kissel has been able to create bonds with students throughout her career, whether it was simply in her physics classroom, or during her time teaching at the Old Lincoln School, or accompanying BHS students on the Chinese Exchange program. One experience that really stood out from our conversation was from the Family Partnership program. The Family Partnership program, founded in 2007, was a program in partnership with the BHS guidance department that was working towards narrowing the achievement gap between students. Part of the purpose of the program, as explained by Kissel, was to “Team up with ninth graders who were identified as being kids who might just slip through the cracks. They weren’t the most struggling students or necessarily on their teacher’s radar, but kids who would probably struggle a bit, but not enough to ever warrant the attention of their guidance counselor or dean.” Teachers would get paired up with one or two students, and they would meet up once a week so that the students could have a trusted adult in the school that they could turn to if they ever needed help and didn’t know where to get it from. Kissel was paired up with two students that she met with that year, but it was with one student that she was really able to create a lasting relationship. Every week the two of them would go to Virginia’s Cafe near the high school and talk over a piece of cake or tea. “We just really connected. We liked some of the same things; we both really liked cats and we are both interested in Japanese culture, and we just bonded over random things like that.” Even though the program wasn’t integrated after the first three years, Kissel continued to meet with the student constantly throughout their four years of high school. Their relationship continued even after the student graduated from BHS, meeting up a few times each year, and most recently meeting up for a socially distanced picnic outside. “She’s now 28! And because we are both vaccinated now, she recently came over for dinner. We’re not in touch everyday, but she is a person who I will text about things or email or we’ll meet up and go to a movie or go out to dinner. It’s been great because as a teacher, there is generally this borderline and some things you aren’t really supposed to do with your students, like go out to a cafe after school, but in this program that’s what you did and it was nice that it broke down that boundary between teacher and student.”

Reimagining 9th Grade Physics
Aside from allowing Kissel to build upon her relationships with her students, the Innovation Fund has also given her another really valuable gift. During the 2019-2020 school year, Kissel worked with other teachers to create the new curriculum for 9th grade physics. While Kissel has worked collaboratively with other teachers in the past, it’s nothing like how they have been able to work together now because of this grant. “I have definitely worked collaboratively with teachers over the years somewhat, but it’s usually after school, you’re tired and then you walk into someone’s room and they might have some interesting lab setup that you talk about and then you might collaborate on something, or talk during lunch or during the little collaboration time we have built into our schedule. But having time set aside each week for deliberate collaboration with other physics teachers is something that I really have not had in this quantity.” The physics teachers are completing year two of a three year grant to develop a new course, but it’s already given them something that they don’t often get, which is time. “I think really one of the most important things that the fund does is give teachers course release time so that they can collaborate with other teachers during the school day as opposed to collaborating after school when you have a pile of papers waiting for you and other commitments. As a teacher there’s just never enough time to plan everything you want to do, and that really is the best gift, the gift of time; it’s the biggest gift that the fund can give.”

Apart from the collaborative time Kissel had to spend working with other teachers, developing the new course has also had an impact on the teaching she is doing in her own physics classroom. “It has changed my teaching to encourage more collaboration among students, more hands-on activities especially for projects, and also a deeper development of scientific skills or mathematical skills like graphing, but also just skills of asking questions and working with others in a group in a constructive way. So my work with the fund course definitely has changed my way of teaching.” As a result, students get to participate in engaging assignments and learn valuable skills that they will continue to benefit from throughout their time at BHS.

— Interview by Maya Rozen, BHS Alumna, July 2020

2020-21 Grant Announcements: Nearly $250,000 Invested in New Programs

2020-21 Grant Announcements: Nearly $250,000 Invested in New Programs

COVID-19 Teaching and Learning Response Grant

$55,000 investment

The BHS Innovation Fund is excited to award a special COVID-19 Teaching and Learning Response Grant to Brookline High School educators in Summer 2020. Reacting with urgency to the unprecedented change in the educational environment due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Innovation Fund recently spearheaded an effort to offer new grant funding, outside of our annual budget, for targeted faculty summer workshops. Funding these workshops will provide more than 30 educators from 7 departments the opportunity to collaborate simultaneously to address academic skill gaps, assess remote learning, share best practices and build community for students for the 2020-21 school year.

 

COVID-19 Response Planning Grants

$5,500 investment

The BHS Innovation Fund has offered short-term Planning Grants to faculty members who want to initiate innovative standalone projects or explore an opportunity to develop a full course proposal in the upcoming year. As part of our COVID-19 response, we are supporting the following faculty projects:

  • Special Education Department (Faculty — Alissa Parker and Alexa Bader): Special Education in a Virtual World
  • Special Education Department (Faculty — Andrea Lynch, Brendan McCarthy, and Jim Henry): Online Virtual Learning Planning Grant For Transition Curriculum Using Signal Success
  • Performing Arts Department/Music (Faculty — Carolyn Castellano): Alumni/Professional Zoom Workshops in the Field of Music
  • Visual Arts Department (Faculty — Elizabeth Brennan, Donna Sartanowicz, and Lisa Francescon): Online Atelier
  • BHS Library (Faculty — Ann Collins, Bridget Knightly, Shelley Mains, and Maura McGill): Cybrary: Building a More Digitally Dynamic Library
  • Special Education Department/School-wide (Faculty — Matthew DeGrace): Remote Learning Example Catalog

New Grant: Coding @ BHS

$150,0000 investment over two years

This new, interdepartmental grant is a collaborative effort from the departments of Math, Science and Career and Technical Education that will offer coding experiences to all BHS students by embedding computer science (coding) curriculum into general math and science courses at the high school so that every student will graduate with a basic understanding of how to code through hands-on coding practice. The Innovation Fund is excited to support this grant because exposing all BHS students to coding will:

  • Begin to prepare all students who wish to pursue career opportunities in the computer science field;
  • Provide all students with coding knowledge and problem solving experiences that are applicable to a wide variety of career paths; and
  • Address systemic inequities that create roadblocks for students of color and young women to enter computer science fields.

The timing of this school-wide initiative is aligned with the current construction of the new STEM wing at BHS. Part of the work that faculty will do, in examining the existing BHS curricula across departments, will also determine how coding fits in with other STEM courses and learning opportunities for all students. Faculty leads will be: Tyler Wooley-Brown (Science/Physics), Adam Fried (Math) and Christine Shen (Math).

A Special Grant Announcement for Brookline High School

A Special Grant Announcement for Brookline High School

The BHS Innovation Fund is excited to award a special COVID-19 Teaching and Learning Response Grant to Brookline High School educators in Summer 2020. Reacting with urgency to the unprecedented change in the educational environment due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Innovation Fund recently spearheaded an effort to offer new grant funding, outside of our annual budget, for targeted faculty summer workshops. For the first time ever, all five core academic department chairs came together and proposed a unified effort to solve the school-wide challenges ahead. During a three-week period this summer, approximately 30 BHS educators from the Departments of English, Math, Science, Social Studies and World Language, as well as Special Education and Career and Technology Education, will collaborate simultaneously to address academic skill gaps, assess remote learning, share best practices and build community for students. Teachers, department chairs and school administrators will prepare for the 2020-21 school year by developing a cohesive vision, a workable strategy and a functional implementation plan, ensuring that the educational experience at BHS remains as strong and supportive as ever.

The BHS Innovation Fund is constantly evolving and responding to the academic needs identified by BHS teachers across departments, supporting teacher-driven curricular initiatives at Brookline High School for over twenty years. Funded program areas include: new and interdisciplinary courses, academic scaffolding, school-wide connections and faculty inspiration. With the COVID-19 Teaching and Learning Response Grant, the Innovation Fund further accelerates academic innovation by providing necessary resources to educators who have identified urgent needs for out-of-the box thinking and planning. At the summer workshops, educators will:

  • Capture best practices at BHS and beyond in response to the school closures and resulting remote teaching and learning;
  • Research strategies for improved remote teaching experiences from peer institutions at the state and national level;
  • Examine the BHS curriculum through the lens of synchronous and asynchronous education;
  • Create a “Welcome Back to School” plan for September that will build a strong sense of community and establish routines and opportunities to connect with students; and
  • Build a variety of diagnostic approaches to assess the needs of incoming students, from content understanding to learning styles and support needs.

Founded in 1998, the BHS Innovation Fund is a community-supported 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is unique for a public high school because it offers grant funding to faculty and administrators for initiatives that aren’t covered in the current curriculum and budget. Learn more about the 30+ innovative, interdisciplinary and forward-thinking programs the BHS Innovation Fund has supported, thanks to the generosity of the Brookline community, parents, alumni and education advocates, at www.bhsinnovationfund.org. For more information, please contact bhsinnovationfund@psbma.org.

Brookline Lens: a New Student-Run Production House Serving the BHS Community

Brookline Lens: a New Student-Run Production House Serving the BHS Community

Brookline Lens CollageBrookline Lens, a BHS student-run photo and video production house, serves clients outside of Brookline High School, in addition to acceptingin-house project requests. The ultimate goal is for Brookline Lens students to graduate with a strong portfolio and resume highlighting advanced skills in photo and video design, project management and business communication. Launched in the 2019-20 school year, Brookline Lens is one of four new programs currently funded by a grant from the BHS Innovation Fund. The BHS Innovation Fund empowers the BHS faculty and community by fostering a culture of innovation and supporting the development of new ideas and initiatives that will enable our students to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

We caught up with the course leads Lori Lynn, a Visual Arts teacher, and Thato Mwosa, a TV Film and Documentary teacher, who share their insights into Brookline Lens this year, both before and after school closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

How did you come up with Brookline Lens as an idea for an Innovation Fund course?

This course created itself. There was a demand for video and photography projects from entities inside and outside the BHS community. We were often approached with project requests and saw an opportunity for BHS students to do real work for real clients. We decided to turn the demand into a class because we needed time and space for students to focus on client work.

How does Brookline Lens differ from other Visual Arts courses?

Brookline Lens is different from other Visual Arts courses mainly because the projects are client-centered. Rather than creating artwork based on a student’s own personal expression, Brookline Lens students must use their creativity and organizational skills to fulfill the needs of others. This model allows students to learn meaningful communication and business skills that are not necessarily part of other Visual Arts courses.

How are community projects distributed to students and how do they manage their workload?

As requests come in from the community, we match projects to Brookline Lens students—taking into consideration skills and workload. In addition, students sometimes see a need within the community for a project and approach potential clients. Students must think about time management and can build a team for larger tasks. We schedule weekly meetings to discuss new job opportunities and the status of any current projects.

What are the opportunities and challenges of this course?

Brookline Lens students must communicate with clients and colleagues in a professional and timely manner, create work that reaches a level of quality expected and respect all deadlines. Students are challenged to always meet the level of professionalism required to complete designs for real clients. These skills are new and challenging for students, but they provide a fantastic opportunity to gain real-world experience and build essential professional skills.

How do you guide and support Brookline Lens students?

As facilitators, we guide students to create work that falls under their expertise, but we also encourage students to try projects that are out of their comfort zone. We work together with students to facilitate the business elements of the course, to inspire individuals to take leadership in groups and with clients and to evaluate performance.

Have students pivoted any projects in response to Coronavirus?

We have a year-long Public Service Campaign that focuses on Mental Health Awareness. When COVID-19 hit our community, we decided to shift gears to create content that still tackles mental health, but with the pandemic in mind. We hope to share those PSAs with the community upon completion. We added a Coronavirus link on the Brookline Lens website. This is space to display both PSAs about how to flatten the curve, and to show off the personal work students have produced during their time at home. The creation of art never stops, even when everyone is separated.

How has teaching remotely impacted Brookline Lens?

One of the big projects our Brookline Lens students were working on was a “Math Video Series” to promote a love of math in middle school. The project was in a pre-production phase and filming had not yet begun when we transitioned to remote learning. The project had to be put on hold, and we are hoping to resume when school opens in the fall. We do have some projects that students are still working on for clients, however. In addition to the COVID-19 PSA, our students just received an opportunity to complete a video for the Brookline Commission for Women.

Please visit brooklinelens.wixsite.com/brooklinelens for more insight into the Brookline Lens team, the students and the projects.

 

An Update from the Chair of our Board of Directors, Ellen Rizika

An Update from the Chair of our Board of Directors, Ellen Rizika

Dear BHS Parents, Caregivers and Community Members,

Ellen Rizika, Chair of the Board of Directors, the BHS Innovation Fund

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and well. I am writing to provide an update on the BHS Innovation Fund and how we as an organization are working to support BHS leadership, faculty and students during this uncertain time. With the coronavirus pandemic, the last month has brought unprecedented change to our world, both globally and locally. All of us have been impacted in some way by this public health crisis, and many are experiencing challenges that we never thought we’d be facing.

As a parent of two high schoolers and a college student, and a daughter of aging parents, I imagine that I’m not alone in my efforts to keep everyone safe, happy and fed. Yet, in my role as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the BHS Innovation Fund, a nonprofit organization within the high school, I am buoyed by the momentum I see in the BHS community as we all navigate towards a “new normal” at the high school.

At the Innovation Fund, our 2019-2020 funded Program Faculty have also been hard at work adapting their curriculum goals and lessons for online learning:

Our Innovation Fellow, Roger Grande, continues to build a culture of climate sustainability at BHS, by promoting many Earth Day activities and lessons for the community via email and on his GraduateGreen webpage. In addition, Roger is offering timely activities focusing on “pathways out of a pandemic” through his Global Leadership class as well as interviews with leading speakers on important topics including:

  • a scientific understanding of the pandemic (Jonathan Lambert, Science News);
  • historical perspective (Dr. Johanna Daily, MD, MS, Infectious Disease Specialist);
  • taking action (Juliette Kayyem, Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs for Homeland Security in the Obama Administration and Belfer Senior Lecturer in International Security at the Harvard Kennedy School); and
  • building empathy for marginalized groups (Brooke Bischoff, JD, Attorney, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and Burt Pusch, Disability Rights Advocate).

In Experiential Physics for Ninth Grade, teachers are introducing new content on sources of energy around the world, combining the specific physics concepts already taught with a broader discussion of the environmental and health implications of different energy sources.

In Brookline Lens, students are researching COVID-19 PSA Campaigns and then they will write a compare and contrast analysis between two PSAs (print or video) they find online. They will also write and create their own COVID-19 campaign, which may be submitted for statewide competition.

In Hub, teachers connected to ninth grade students remotely to share ideas about how they could replicate some elements of their “circle” practices from Hub with their family members up-close or at-a-distance. These focused on mindfulness and breathing exercises and “rounds” of questions, discussions and personal reflections.

In keeping with our mission to foster a culture of academic innovation at BHS, we at the Innovation Fund are discussing how we can support both teachers and students to address the educational impact of COVID-19. We are asking,

  • “What does academic innovation look like in a new educational environment?”
  • “How can we best support BHS teachers with new funding opportunities for out-of-the-box ideas?”
  • “How can our work support BHS students as they adjust to new learning challenges?”
  • “What else might be on the horizon and how can we respond?”

I look forward to providing an update and sharing more information with you as we solidify our program plans.

Wishing you all good health at home,
Ellen Rizika, P ‘22
Chair, BHS Innovation Fund Board of Directors

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