In January of 2014, it was decided by head of school Dr. Julie Sherrill and the board of trustees that The Gregory School would add a fifth grade to the lower school. The hope was that a fifth grade would increase overall enrollment and enter the school into the highly competitive field of elementary education.
To complete this goal, at the beginning of the 2014-2015 year a main fifth grade teacher, Margaret Scofield, and an assistant teacher, Amie Bergersen, were hired, with two classrooms devoted to the grade. Scofield has taught students age pre-kindergarten to sixth grade for over 30 years, notably at Sunrise Drive Elementary School and Castlehill Country Day School.
As a teacher, Scofield hopes to instill in the fifth graders critical thinking skills, confidence, and a willingness to take risks in all aspects of their education. She believes that the openness of The Gregory School campus and the resulting independence it provides are huge factors that set this fifth grade apart from others in the Tucson community.
In its introductory year, the fifth grade boasts fifteen students. It operates as a separate adjunct to the middle school, with a different course list and slightly modified schedule. Fifth graders, however, are welcome to participate in all middle school extracurricular sports, clubs, student council, and any other activities.
Even just minimal time spent with the fifth graders will quickly enforce the idea that they’re really just like any other class within The Gregory School. The vast majority of them are involved in two to three clubs, and many play sports both in and out of school.
In their classes, they study complex issues like density, in unique and entertaining ways. Fifth grader Hannah Calonje said she loves her teachers “because they make everything fun.”
In one memorable example provided by Calonje, the class used rockets to study geography. In their English studies, the class traveled to the movie theater on a Friday night to watch and analyze the new film adaptation of the famous novel “The Giver” after reading it in class.
A particular favorite feature of the campus for the fifth graders is undoubtedly the farm yard. Many of them belong to the farm yard club, and believe strongly that the goats contribute something special to the campus.
For most of the fifth graders, a defining factor of their transfer to The Gregory School was the wealth of opportunities afforded to them by a school that was previously 6-12, meaning that there are strong extracurricular athletic programs and clubs they can participate in that enable them to have more freedom than the average fifth grader. Fifth graders Nicholas Mojica and Kris Bolds both even said they were most looking forward to becoming involved with the Hawks soccer team later this year.
Elisa Acuna, daughter of Athletic Director Vic Acuña, said of the increased independence, “At break we don’t have to stay in the classroom and stay right where our teachers can see us. We get to go to the cafeteria on the high school side and have time to play in other places.”
The fifth graders are ecstatic to be at The Gregory School; many of them are unable to determine their favorite characteristic of the school because they love it all so much. Although by large all of the older students and faculty have been very welcoming of the fifth grade, and the adjustment to a new school has gone seamlessly, Acuna does point out that she knows some of the higher grades might feel as though the fifth graders don’t deserve to be here.
She responded, “I just want to let them know, although we might not be middle schoolers, we’re mature enough to be here and we love it.”
Perhaps in our times of lack of school spirit, we could all learn a bit from the fifth graders and their new exuberant appreciation for the school.
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