On February 5, 2016, North Cross School celebrated 71 years of excellence at the annual Founders' Day ceremony in the Carter Athletic Center. Founders' Day is an opportunity to recognize the past while honoring the present.
At the start of the ceremony, Dr. Proctor quizzed students with North Cross trivia questions like “What school did we defeat for our first ever soccer win?”(Carlisle) and “What notable newspaper family has an auditorium named after them?” (Fishburn).
Mr. Mark Thompson, Director of the Upper School, introduced the winner of the the 2016 Morris Award for Excellence in Teaching, The award, founded in 2001, recognizes a faculty member who has a minimum of three years teaching experience at North Cross School, expertise in his or her field, the ability to effectively communicate that expertise/knowledge, the desire and commitment to grow professionally, and participation in the greater school community through co-curricular activities. Nominations for the award are made by students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
This year's well-deserving Morris Award recipient is Mrs. Jennifer Landry. Mrs. Landry teaches chemistry, including AP chemistry, and a brand new course called STAD (Science, Technology, Art, and Design). She also leads the Upper School's Honor Council and is chair of Symposium.
She also recognized that lessons learned in her classroom will translate outside the classroom for her students. “While I hope my students learn some chemistry and remember a bit of it down the road, it is more important to me that they learn how to learn. I want them to know how to take notes effectively, how to memorize large amounts of information and how to approach a problem they have never seen before. I want them to hone both their analytical skills and their problem solving skills.”
Mrs. Landry has been a teacher at North Cross since 2005, and in that time, she has influenced countless students and colleagues with her dedication and passion for education.
Congratulations, Mrs. Landry!
Read the full text of Jennifer Landry’s address:
Good afternoon. First I'd like to thank the entire North Cross School community. Specifically, thank you for the support of the administration, my colleagues and the parents, and most especially for all of the hard working students I have taught over the years. As some of you have heard, the timing of my introduction to North Cross was somewhat amusing. When my husband and I decided to start a family, we knew we needed to leave Massachusetts and move somewhere where we could afford to give our children a good education. Since my mother-in-law lived here, I sent my resume to every school in the Roanoke Valley, including North Cross. On the day I was in the hospital having my son Matthew, Mr. Seeley called and asked if I would be interested in coming down for an interview. Needless to say my husband had to call him back and tell him I was a bit busy, but would get back to him soon. I flew down exactly a month later, crying the entire flight after leaving my newborn at home, interviewed, and was offered the job two days after that. Despite the somewhat rocky start, it worked out extremely well for me. I can log my years at North Cross by the age of my son. He turned one my first year here and turns 11 this year.
I didn't always want to be a teacher. When I was working hard to complete my degree in Chemical Engineering at UCLA, I certainly did not think that degree would lead to teaching. When I started in the PhD program at Boston University in Biomedical Engineering and Pharmacology, I was not thinking about teaching high school, but I was considering teaching at the college level. Three and a half years later when I left the PhD program, I did so because I knew that teaching those subjects at the college level really meant writing grants 95% of the time and teaching 5% of the time, and that held no interest for me. Now that I have been teaching for 14 years, I really can't imagine doing anything else. Well, ok, on particularly hard days I have day dreams about opening a coffee shop or selling homemade canned good at the farmers market, but a day in the kitchen cooking for my family and friends usually takes care of that. But in all seriousness, I love my job. I love my students and can't imagine not working with them. Each and every student is special to me. When someone asks me how my kids are, I ask which ones. The kids I gave birth to or the kids I'm lucky enough to spend time with each school day.
Now it hasn't always been easy. Teaching chemistry can be rough. It is a hard subject and requires the ability to both memorize and synthesize at a high level. It requires dedication, which can be difficult if you don't love it. But my hope is that even if my students don't leave my room loving chemistry, they at least leave my room appreciating this branch of science and the people who use it every day to make our lives better. But in all honesty, I don't believe high school is really about teaching specific subjects, but instead about teaching specific skills. While I hope my students learn some chemistry and remember a bit of it down the road, it is more important to me that they learn how to learn. I want them to know how to take notes effectively, how to memorize large amounts of information and how to approach a problem they have never seen before. I want them to hone both their analytical skills and their problem solving skills. In my self-paced flipped classroom chemistry, I want them to learn how to pace themselves, set realistic goals, and how to adjust should they fall short of those goals. I want them to learn to ask questions, be inquisitive and use their peers to better understand the subject. If they can walk away with even a few of these goals met, they will have a stronger foundation when they enter college and do get to choose their major and classes. And should they decide to go on in chemistry, they have had a sound introduction to the field and should be able to navigate that first chemistry weeder class that knocks out half the students thinking they have medical school in their future.
While I have enjoyed teaching chemistry over the years, it is AP Chemistry, my electives, and the small life lessons that I most enjoy. I'll start with the life lessons. This may make many of us feel old, but did you know that many high school students have never seen an ice tray? One day, before I got my nifty desktop icemaker, I told the kids to get a tray of ice from the freezer to make an ice bath. I then proceeded to watch them try to get ice out of the ice tray. How I kept from laughing out loud I don't know, but it made my day. Most recently, on my trip to Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to teach two students how to leave a tip on a credit card receipt. Yes students, you can still leave a tip even though they have given you back your card. As for the classes, maybe it is my love of the challenge of the AP course, the devotion of the student, or the smaller class sizes allowing me to work more closely with the students. As for the electives, it was wonderful to learn all about forensic science so I could then teach my students. I had experience in graduate school with DNA work, but it was fun to learn about fingerprints, blood spatter, forensics anthropology and more. Now, in my science, technology, art and design class, or STAD, I have learned and then taught students how to create orthographic drawings, build an organizer out of wood, make a putt boat, and soon we will work on improving a flashlight and making a robot. It never gets boring!
Finally, on to why I love North Cross School and my hopes for the future. Having grown up going to public school and working my first teaching job in a public school, North Cross is my first, and hopefully only, experience with an independent school, and I love it. I love knowing my children are across the parking lot and I can get to them in a minute if they need me. I love knowing they are being taught by some of the most amazing teachers ever. Knowing that they are being challenged yet nurtured throughout their school experience. I love the feeling of community: from the mom who brought me a dinner for four while working late with students, including her son, so I didn't have to go home and cook, to the restaurant gift cards from parents and colleagues when my daughter had major surgery, we all take care of each other. And now for my dreams. My dream is for NCS to develop a STEM program in the upper school by the time my oldest child reaches the high school in 2019. I am currently working with this region's Girl Scout headquarters to develop STEM programs for the girls of southwest Virginia and I would love for my children to have the same opportunity here. As we learned from Global Studies, new programs take effort and money, a lot of money. I know many of us are willing to put in the effort once we have the money. In case you missed it that was my shameless plug for donations toward a STEM program. I have greatly enjoyed developing my new STAD class and hope to create a second year class as well. I know that between the wonderful teachers in the math and science department, and the leadership of Mr Thompson and Dr Proctor, we could have an amazing STEM program here at North Cross School. I hope that my children have the option to graduate with that distinction.
So in conclusion, I want to again thank my colleagues for putting up with me, the parents for sharing your children, and my kids, all of you, for inspiring me. Thank you.