Special Subject Areas
A student's Lower School journey is filled with rich opportunities that create a well-rounded educational experience. We help reveal the artist and the athlete as well as the academic in each child and provide the arena for students to begin to discover their gifts and talents. These discoveries begin with an enriched curriculum that includes cross grade subjects that spiral through the Lower School years. With 8 specialists subject areas, students are exposed to perspectives The visual arts, performing arts, science, physical education and world language classes all work in concert with the core curriculum. They provide even more depth to a child’s education, all the while giving varied outlets for children to express themselves and to learn.
Special Subject Areas
- Health & Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
- Literacy Specialists
- Math Specialist
- Performing Arts
- Physical Education
- Visual Arts
- World Language
The Health and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) program at Germantown Academy promotes a healthy foundation for Lower School students. We have created a dedicated team staffed by a full-time psychologist and pediatrician to support the development of the whole child: social, emotional, cognitive and physical. In partnership with all teachers, we strive to build a healthy, happy environment where young learners thrive. Our Health and SEL team works with every child in the Lower School each year, providing a unique developmental lens and longitudinal perspective as students grow.
Health & Social-Emotional Learning Goals
- Provide a developmentally appropriate health curriculum that includes nutrition, hygiene, and healthy habits
- Give children language and strategies to identify and express their emotions
- Engage students in positive problem-solving and friendship building skills
- Provide opportunities to practice self-reflection and mindfulness
- Promote self-advocacy skills and empathic thinking
- Supporting a diverse and inclusive Lower School community by affirming each child's identity
Meet Our Health & Social-Emotional Learning Team
Dr. Angela Jones
- B.S. Psychology, James Madison University
- M. Ed. Education, Temple University
- Ph.D. School Psychology with an Early Childhood Specialization, Temple University
- Diplomate in School Neuropsychology and board-certified by the American Board of School Neuropsychology
I teach because I want to empower children to know themselves and to interact confidently with others. I believe that when students engage in social problem solving, utilizing empathy and self-advocacy, their social sense-of-self is strengthened. When students feel socially confident, they are most open to optimally engage in the rich learning environment that surrounds them.
I love teaching at GA because of the school’s progressive stance regarding student mental health. Having counselors in each division speaks to the value the school places on optimizing resilience in every student. I am honored to be a member of our Counseling Department with its group of talented clinicians.
Dr. Leigh Serra
- B.S. Biology, Bryn Mawr College
- M.D., The University of Pennsylvania
- Residency in Pediatrics at MS Children's Hospital of New York, Columbia University Campus
In private practice I was growing increasingly frustrated with the small amount of time I had to educate children and their families about such vital topics as nutrition and sleep. I discovered that the continuity and multiple points of contact with a child during a single year and then again over their GA career allows me to practice 'preventative medicine' in a way that being in my office never provided.
As a parent of GA students, I was impressed with the Lower School's desire to meet every child where they are and to aim to educate and support them in many arenas not covered in the traditional segments of education. I wanted to be part of such a dynamic and responsive educational construct.
Two Lower School literacy specialists lead and coordinate the balanced literacy program for PreK-5th grades. Their roles include:
- providing student literacy support in whole and small groups
- coaching and teacher professional development
- developing the Lower School balanced literacy program
All students in grades K-2 participate in the Signs for Sounds program in the Village of Alphabetia. Through interactive mini-lessons featuring songs and puppet shows followed by a variety of activities, games, and reading in meaningful contexts, children become word detectives and learn how words work, internalizing the strategies of good readers and spellers. Alphabetia is also a place where our literacy specialists work with individuals and small groups during scheduled support and World Language periods.
The Language Network
The Language Network (LN) classroom provides an additional space for our literacy specialists to help students to grow as literacy leaders. Through the use of explicit small group instruction and 1-on-1 conferring, LN provides students in grades 3-5 with differentiated instruction to meet their individual reading growth goals. Through this work, students develop strategies to help increase their stamina as readers and writers, in addition to a deepened understanding of text genres, complex plots and themes, vocabulary, and how words work.
Meet Our Literacy Specialists: Sharifa Kelly and Joy Holmes
Our math specialist leads and coordinates our Lower School math program for grades PreK-5. In the Lower School the role of the math specialist includes:
- developing and coordinating the Lower School math program
- leading small group math instruction for students
- offering coaching and professional development to teachers
At GA, eligible students also receive math support from a specialist at the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. This specialist works with Lower School students on an individual and small group setting several times each week.
Students in Kindergarten through 5th Grade are instructed weekly in the basics of computer coding. At GA, our coding program includes hands-on practice as well as digital tools and a curriculum based on code.org.
EXTRACURRICULAR MATH OPTIONS
As part of the math program, we offer two extracurricular opportunities for fourth and fifth grade students.
- Math Market: This after-school activity teaches students the basics of the stock market
- Math Olympiad Club: Students work in teams to practice problem solving skills and then compete in monthly contests offered through this international organization
Meet Our Math Specialist: Susan McHugh
Music brings people together. In the Lower School Performing Arts department, we believe music is a language: written and heard, spoken and felt, appreciated and performed. We believe in play-based learning, and the connection between getting physical with music and a child’s confidence. As positive stewards, we meet children where they are and guide them on their musical journeys. Music makes the world a better place, and the GA Lower School is where it starts.
Performing Arts Goals
- Foster a love of music and explore its influence on various cultures around the world
- Expose students to composed music from different periods across history
- Integrate performing arts to enhance classroom learning experiences
- Introduce students to instruments and allow opportunities to explore rhythm and rhyme
Meet Our Performing Arts Teachers
- B.M. Music Education, Westminster Choir College
I teach because I love music and want to help others to enjoy, understand and create it.
I teach at GA because I agree with the school’s mission and philosophy and enjoy being a part of the GA community.
- B.M. Music Education, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
I teach to inspire students to love and appreciate music.
I teach at GA because GA fosters creativity and encourages the children to discover and pursue their passions.
In partnership with our Health and Wellness team, GA's Physical Education program supports an active, healthy lifestyle for young learners. In Lower School, we lay the foundation for lifetime sports appreciation and support the motor development and physical stamina of children. Lower School students participate in P.E. classes every other day during the 7-day rotation, as well as participate in a six-week swimming unit. Even our youngest students enjoy the many athletic facilities our campus offers, including two gyms, athletic fields, and an Olympic-size lap pool.
Physical Education Goals
- Practice habits of cooperation and good sportsmanship built on mutual respect
- Engage students in a range of developmentally appropriate units including cooperative games, ball skills, and track and field games
- Support the social, emotional, and physical development of every child
- Develop self-confidence as students set goals and work to achieve their personal best
Meet our P.E. Teachers
- B.S. Kinesiology, West Chester University
I teach because I love to inspire, challenge, and help children achieve their best. I also enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.
GA’s physical education curriculum is unique in that we meet our students up to four times in a seven-day rotation. I also love the fact that I can teach Lower School children all day then switch hats and coach Upper and Middle School student-athletes in the afternoon.
- B.S. Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, West Chester University
My parents were both educators and I grew up knowing I wanted to follow in their footsteps.
I always wanted to be a part of the private school system; it seemed like a more close-knit community as a whole. And it was an added bonus to be here at GA, because my father was a graduate of the Class of '45!
- B.S. Sport and Leisure Studies, St. Lawrence University
- M.Ed. Exercise Physiology, University of Virginia
I teach and coach, because play, sports, and activity have been passions of mine for as long as I can remember. As a physical education teacher and coach, I’m able to stay immersed in each of these things on a daily basis. It’s fun!
I came to GA after having spent 10 years as a collegiate physical education instructor and coach. The community here at GA enables me to do what I truly love to do and to have a life with my family as well.
At Germantown Academy, students learn science by being scientists. Our program builds on a child’s natural sense of wonder, as they explore wetlands, woods, creeks, and gardens across our 126-acre campus. Our experiential and exploratory-based approach to learning provides children time to ask questions and make discoveries about the world around them.
- Foster a love for science and nature and a connection with the outside world
- Use outdoor spaces to learn about science
- Encourage students to become responsible stewards for the environment
- Develop skills in observing, inferring, predicting, measuring, and problem-solving
- Enrich classroom units of study by connecting it with science learning
- Prepare students with a strong foundation in Life, Physical, and Earth/Space Science
Meet Our Science Teachers
- B.A. Zoology, Drew University
- M.A. Science Education, University of Rhode Island
As a student, science was my passion throughout high school, college and graduate school. I chose a career in science education because I wanted to try to ignite this passion in others. As today's American students are lagging behind those from other countries in the fields of science, technology and engineering, I believe that igniting such passion in our students has become paramount.
I began my teaching career fresh out of graduate school here at GA in 1981. I left GA for what I thought was a dream job—an educator at The Franklin Institute. But after four years there, I truly missed the 'classroom' and GA. I returned and remained. Over the decades, I have witnessed the evolution of GA from a good school to a great school. Our current Mission Statement and the goals of our new Strategic Vision say it all. It is an honor to serve on this faculty. It keeps my passion alive.
- B.A. Elementary Education and Environmental Sciences, Antioch College
- M.Ed. with Distinction, Science Education, Arcadia University
I teach because I love children and I love science. Every day, I wake up looking forward to going to work. Teaching has offered me the opportunity to share my passions with others.
I teach at GA because it is such a supportive environment for teachers, students, parents, and staff. The school encourages teachers to be creative and to teach in a style that works for them. The natural environment at GA provides the perfect backdrop for an elementary science teacher.
At Germantown Academy, we believe every child who walks into our studios is an artist. We encourage students to take chances, make mistakes, reflect, and grow creatively. Like a muscle, creativity is something that we all have, but it can only be strengthened through practice.
Our curriculum is balanced between structured lessons and open-ended "MakerTime." Through art history, literacy, and exploration of materials and techniques, we aim to develop students' talents and enhance their appreciation of beauty in the world.
Because we treasure your student's artwork as much as you do, we create digital portfolios with high quality images of artwork that are archived, shared, and curated throughout your student's years at Germantown Academy.
Visual Art Goals
- Expose students to a wide variety of media and methods including painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, collage, CAD (computer aided design) and installation art
- Integrate art experiences into learning across the curriculum
- Encourage students to take chances, make mistakes, and grow creatively
- Connect students to professional artists and cultures globally
- Engage students in a rich learning/studio experience that includes collaboration and peer instruction
- Build resilience and resourcefulness through creative problem-solving
Meet Our Visual Art Teachers
- B.A. Integrative Arts and English; minor Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University
- M.A. Ed., Arcadia University
Witnessing children's joy through learning is a powerful experience that, as a teacher, I get to enjoy every day. Starting with simple mark-making, art is the language of young children and I want to help my students build their fluency, growing into confident and competent young artists. Aside from art for art's sake, art is an incredible lens through which one can approach the world with sensitivity. Even if my students do not become professional artists, my hope is that they maintain and apply the life skills they learned in the art studio.
Eliot Eisner says the "arts' position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important." At Germantown Academy, the entire community understands how greatly the arts are supported. I am proud to be part of such a wonderful visual art department and school. While the visual art program initially drew my interest to GA, I never imagined I would be part of such a strong, caring community. I love coming to school and having great conversations with my kids and my colleagues every day!
- B.F.A. Ceramics, Temple University, Tyler School of Art
- PA Certification Art Education K-12
I always say that I have the best job in the school. GA students come to art class excited to learn and motivated to work. I love what I do, and I believe that my work as an art educator is fundamental to a student's development and growth. In my classroom, I teach the methods of art, but I move through the space as a facilitator, among many artistic leaders. We all teach each other, and I am constantly learning and growing with my students every day.
Are you kidding me? Who wouldn’t want to teach on this beautiful campus with such invested and inspirational co-workers and amazingly motivated students? Germantown Academy is more than a school; it is a community of family, who carefully tend to the growth of each other as we all make our path.
Germantown Academy is proud to be one of the few Lower School programs to offer exposure to two World Languages: Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Our programs provide students opportunities to build a multilingual foundation in an increasingly global society. All students in Prekindergarten and Kindergarten are exposed to both languages, while students in first through fifth grades choose to study one of the two languages throughout their Lower School years. Learning a single language allows students to build stronger language skills. Students learn through a variety of hands-on experiences including songs, games, cooking, and multimedia lessons, which help them become familiar with vocabulary, expressions, conversation and in later years, with reading and writing.
World Language Goals
- Engage in a curriculum aligned with the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Language standards that emphasizes communication, culture, connections, comparisons, and communities
- Meet the needs of language learners by teaching along a continuum of developing skills
- Help students develop an understanding of basic conversational language, linguistic structures, and language study skills
- Encourage students to think more globally by developing an understanding and appreciation of other cultures
Meet Our World Language Teachers
- B.S. Early Childhood/Montessori Education, Chestnut Hill College
- M.S. Education, Arcadia University
I enjoy working with enthusiastic learners who enjoy academic curricula and hands-on experiences to enhance their social and intellectual development.
GA is a community of dedicated educators who care for each child and give their best each day. I love working with members who model our mission by being collaborative, honorable and confident in expression.
- B.S. Elementary Education, Special Education minor, West Chester University
- M.S. Educational Psychology, Temple University
I have always wanted to teach because it allows me to contribute in positively shaping the lives of children. I love the privilege of helping them grow into independent, responsible citizens of our community.
I teach at GA because it is so exciting to be a part of GA’s powerful mission! The commitment to everyone’s growth and well-being is rich and motivating. Here, I am completely supported in developing sound, dynamic educational experiences for the students.