Archive for Staff

Cooking Class

Talking about making Thai red curry

Karen's recent post is a perfect segue to this one about the cooking class that takes place once or twice a week at Clearwater. A core group of students is involved in every class, and others come and go as their other interests and activities allow. The class is headed up by staff member Mat Riggle, a skilled chef who has worked in and managed a number of restaurants.

Demonstrating how to cut an onion

Chopping mango

Mat demonstrating how to roll a tamale in a banana leaf

Students involved in class range in age from 8 to 17. Early in the year I became a fly on the wall, watching Mat demonstrate knife skills, make a quick stock from vegetable peels and meat trimmings, put ingredients together using his vast experience, playfulness and curiosity instead of using exact measurements, encourage creativity and experimentation, effortlessly assign different people to specific tasks, and engage everyone in the fun of preparing food from scratch and then cleaning up afterward.

Click on the link to see more pictures and read more...

Oiling a banana leaf

Placing masa on a banana leaf

One 11-year-old student explained that she especially liked the chicken curry dish and thought the number of spices for the dish was interesting. She also felt proud that she was able to stay engaged and focused for the 3-1/2 to 4 hours the class lasts from beginning to end.

Masa dough on oiled banana leaf

Rolling tamale in banana leaf

Early on in the class 17-year-old Braden (who along with 15-year-old Robert will be attending a Sudbury school in Denmark this April and May) talked about learning to cut onions and garlic to release their flavors and was interested to discover that some Asian foods use different flavors such as fermented shrimp paste that one wouldn't expect based on the taste of the finished dish. He especially enjoyed the flavor of the Indian dish, saag paneer. Robert said he's enjoying learning how to cook everything and chop fast and efficiently.

Building a tamale

A 9-year-old enjoyed learning how to cut things and peel potatoes so the potato itself doesn't end up in the trash can. She especially enjoyed the tamales, spicy chicken sandwich, corned beef and teriyaki dishes they made.

Making fresh rolls

I enjoyed watching Mat moving around the kitchen, efficiency personified, freely offering his encyclopedic knowledge of food preparation and the many different ways to combine ingredients and flavors, even as he kept an eye on at least two pots on the stove top, whatever was cooking in the oven, corrected someone's hand position while chopping, talked about the "why" of what he was doing, AND laughed and joked with everyone.

Making stock

The cooking class is a delightful place to hang out not only to pick up tips and try to pick up some of Mat's efficiency and knowledge by osmosis, but also to enjoy the camaraderie between everyone whether they're in the middle of chopping, mixing or cooking or waiting for their turn to try out the next step.

Making Thai fresh rolls

A short list of things that have been prepared this year include: Thai fresh rolls, creme brulee, Djawa (Java) curry, chicken masala, Thai red curry, Gado sauce, Jamaican jerk chicken, roast beef sandwiches au jus, tamales wrapped in banana leaves, macaroons, macaroni and cheese from scratch using aged cheddar and gouda cheese, crepes and saag paneer. Students also have at their disposal approximately 50 spices and spice combinations.

Some Asian food ingredients and condiments

End of post.

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Staffing Our School

The top three factors that parents are considering in the decision to enroll are: 1) Staff 2)Tuition and 3)Location. We learned this from the survey results we collected in December. Let’s take a look at the question of staff.

We have learned from the experiences of other Sudbury schools that getting the right person on staff takes time. It is likely that anyone who ends up being on staff will have spent a good amount of time working to start or maintain our school. This person will have also spent a good amount of time working with the start-up team and with our students (your children), before they are selected for that role. What we seek in staff is described well in the following quote,

“Good adult role models, whether teachers or not, are what [we] are looking for. People who are dynamic, intelligent, hard workers and who enjoy the company of children, and who have a strong moral and ethical sense…Nothing will amaze you more than how unimportant formal instruction is and how important the ability to communicate with children as human beings is….”

Starting a Sudbury School, (p. 114)

Our ability to hire paid staff during our first year is directly related to the number of students who are enrolled. We are fairly certain that the school year will begin with at least 12 students but we won’t have a clear picture of the actual number until we are much closer to officially opening our doors. So when parents ask us, “who will be staff at the school?” We generally answer that we know all three of the start-up team members will be serving as staff at the beginning of the school year.

Here is a little background on each of us:

Idelma Quintana – is mom to Ian (7). She holds a Master’s degree in educational change and innovation. She has 17 years of combined experience in education as a classroom teacher, diversity awareness trainer and providing professional development for school leaders and teachers on the use of technology for learning. She had a lot of ideas to un-learn in the process of embracing the Sudbury model of education. Her son’s experience in traditional schooling prompted her to re-evaluate her beliefs about education. Now she can’t imagine any place better for her son to learn and grow into a confident, self-directed and responsible person. She hopes that by opening this school, the many kids in our area who need this opportunity, will have the kind of schooling experience they deserve to have.

Dionne Ekendiz – is mom to Leila (soon to be 4 years old) and baby Luna. Dionne has over 12 years of experience in the engineering and computer science fields working for companies such as Ford, Boeing, and Microsoft. When she got pregnant with her first child, she decided to finally pursue her passion for education, so she returned to school to get a Master’s degree in Education. Watching her daughter grow and learn on her own made her question what she had been taught in the traditional education model. When she learned about the Sudbury model everything about it immediately clicked and she knew she would have to create this school in South Florida. Dionne currently works in the Applied Research Center at Nova Southeastern University’s school of education where she is slowly spreading the Sudbury idea. She can’t imagine her daughters attending any other school.

Kathy Williams – is mom to Joshua (8) and Benjamin (5). Before her children were born, she used her computer science degree to build a one-woman software consulting business with both national and international clients. Once her children were born her focus shifted to spending her time doing things that would allow her to focus on her role as a parent. She co-created the Hollywood Attachment Parenting Support group and by doing so developed a strong connection with other parents in South Florida.   She went on to create an internet cloth diaper business that deepened her connection to the local mom community.  She has 8 years of experience unschooling her boys. Both boys are excited to be entering our new school this fall.  And Kathy is excited for them to be part of a community that will provide such fantastic opportunities for them to grow, build, learn and relate.

In the Spring of 2011 students will take part in the first staff elections that will occur annually. At that point students may choose to retain staff or to vote staff out of their position.

We invite your questions, comments and thoughts on this topic.


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Improvements Around Campus

Mat and Matt were hard at work over the summer, making improvements to the buildings and grounds. 

 The Mat(t)s

They finished the painting of the buildings and fixed up the basement of the house which made room for a game room and freed up the upstairs for the playroom again. They also worked on the drainage swale and another swampy area adjacent to the swale, which they now call the "frog garden", right near the newly installed big tires in the play yard.

The swale was made by many members of
our community, and deserves a post of its own.

Frog garden


But they didn't stop there. They upgraded the music room, improving the acoustics and adding recording equipment.

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A New Perspective on Clearwater Staff

Michelle, a 13-year-old student, dashed off caricatures of each of us staff members recently. They are quite delightful and have captured us pretty well. See if you can identify who's who. Match the caricature with the correct staff member.

__ Mat R.
__ Matt G.
__ Shawna
__ Stephanie





Mat made some buttons out of the images just for Michelle. If you're having trouble, here's a key.
C = Mat R.
A = Matt G.
D = Shawna
B = Stephanie

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