Lower School Teachers Inspire Intellectual Curiosity and a Love of Learning

Gretchen Lee

The proverbial reading, writing, and arithmetic aren’t the only things students need to learn in their first years of school. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that they may not even be the most important things students need to learn. In the Lower School at Saddle River Day School, there is, of course, an emphasis on giving our students the academic foundation necessary for future success. But our teachers are also focused on instilling a love of knowledge and an intellectual curiosity that make learning a lifelong passion. 
 
Division Head, Dana M. Stern says Lower School teachers, “go above and beyond to make sure that each child feels like they are a unique child in the room.” This special skill is due, in part, to the low student-to-teacher ratio at Saddle River Day School. But it is also due to the exceptional educators who choose to share their talents with the families who enroll their children. Teachers in the Lower School have a unique ability to create a safe environment in which each child can feel free to express their individuality and to learn at his/her own pace. Students are encouraged to ask hard questions, to explore concepts deeply, and to think creatively. Current PreK parent Nassdja Anthony, says that in her experience, teachers focus on the strengths and areas of improvement for each child. “My son runs into school each morning with a smile on his face, which is all I could hope for!” Alyson Sugar, P ‘31 & 34, agrees: “There is an unparalleled level of excitement that our children have from the moment they are greeted until the moment they recap the day with us, which is certainly testament to the energy and enthusiastic dedication that the staff imbues.” They’re right, of course. Having a child who is excited for their school day and the discoveries it might bring is at least half the battle on those cold winter days when staying in bed, under the covers, is such a temptation.
 
But really, what child wouldn’t be enthusiastic about going to a school where knowledge is delivered in a variety of formats, some so subtle it feels more like play than education? Teachers in the SRDS Lower School will soon be able to take advantage of the brand new Lower School Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship which will allow students to experiment and learn in an environment that is more like a learning lab than a traditional classroom. Special Area classes like Science, World Language, Art, Music, and the IDEAS Lab integrate learning that supplements what they are studying in their classrooms. Project-based learning gives students an experiential, hands-on way to engage with new concepts and ideas. What parents can be sure of is that SRDS educators look for the opportunities for new understanding and growth in every minute of the school day, whether inside the classroom or out. 
 
SRDS Lower School teachers are committed to teaching the whole child. In practice, this means that they take the time to get to know each child, their learning styles, their interests, their outstanding abilities, their hopes, dreams, strengths and areas for improvement. The way parent Kim Lawrie sees it, “The faculty at Saddle River Day School has been instrumental in helping build academic confidence in my children. The teachers consistently provide a safe but challenging classroom where my children are encouraged and inspired daily.” It is only when educators know and understand each child thoroughly that they are able to provide the student with the individualized attention that supports not only their academic, but their social and emotional growth. This is what differentiates the Lower School at Saddle River Day School and this is how our students succeed.