Freedom to Teach at Canterbury

By David Stronczek
Grade 4 Teacher and Team Leader

Being an educator at Canterbury School is both challenging and rewarding. Each teacher is required to bring their A-game to the classroom. Having taught here for 30 years, I have valued that this school has many traditional aspects. I have embraced the curriculum, and with the help of my partner teachers, I have been given the freedom to teach my own way. The small class size has definitely allowed me to meet the needs of the individual student. Some always need extra time and others may need a challenge that may include an independent study. I follow the words of Icanacio Estrada, “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”

The advantage of an independent school is that we don’t need to follow state standards to the letter. Our curriculum is a living document that changes and grows. Over the years this has evolved into best practices in many areas. Having taught for many years, I have seen instruction evolve into what it is now. I remember as a new teacher I developed reading groups. Coming to Canterbury in the early 90’s I was encouraged to teach in a homogeneous group, which more recently has come back to smaller ability or interest groups. This also needs to fit the group of students that you have that year. Some years, ability groups are obvious, and I can adapt to the level that is appropriate for growth.

As a teacher at Canterbury School, all of the core subjects allow the instructor to adapt to the needs of the students. Math, creative writing, and reading allow for a great deal of freedom to meet the needs of the student. Each year also has the challenge of the class dynamic. The energy and interest level of the students changes each year. Being able to adapt has really been so helpful with instruction. The intention is to cover all aspects of the curriculum but some years that can be challenging. Adapting to the energy and behavior of the students has allowed me to adapt and change projects and activities. I did not feel that this group has ever had less of an experience with that experience. Mixing things up has definitely helped me keep fresh with different ways of looking at an activity. Maybe one year we do a written state report and another class may develop a Google Slide with lots of pictures and graphics on the state.

The administration and colleagues are one of the biggest benefits of teaching Canterbury School. I have never felt that I need to teach in the same manner as my grade level team. There has always been encouragement to explore and try new ideas. This may include attending a workshop, seminar, or taking graduate classes. I have also been blessed with gifted colleagues who work collaboratively. Having time to work together and share different ideas on how to approach curriculum or a project has always been beneficial for the students and teachers alike.

Canterbury is definitely a special place to be a teacher. The faculty and students challenge me to be a better teacher each day. It has been my honor to be part of this amazing school.