Dawn Newman is an MCS alumna (Class of 1998) and an MCS staff member. Last month she added
"MCS Parent" to her title when her son Jackson started in the 4-5s. We spoke with her recently about her journey back to MCS as both a teacher and a proud parent.
How did you end up becoming a teacher at MCS?
I was a hustling and working [musical theater] artist looking for more work in between shows. I grew up helping and assisting my mother with her music and movement classes. I ran into Mary [Trowbridge] on the 6 train in 2008 and she told me to stop by MCS and help out. I began subbing in 2009 and I loved it! During that time, I was also acting in various off Broadway shows, regional work and performing with The Little Orchestra Society.. In 2011, Lois Gelernt [former teacher and admissions director] encouraged me to go to graduate school for a teaching degree. I attended Sarah Lawrence from 2012-2014 and received my M.S. Ed.
As part of my graduate program, I was a student teacher in the 5-6s for one year, then spent one year working with 2nd and 6th graders at a public school. After I received my degree, I became an assistant teacher in the 6-7s with Laura [Swindler] teaching this year's graduating Class of 2022! I left MCS for a year to perform in a touring musical for New York City Children's Theater. I then came back to MCS as a lower school resource teacher. I love supporting the teachers and children. As an intuitive observer, I can see where students and teachers need support and help as needed and desired.
Were there particular experiences, events or pieces of curriculum that you remember from MCS that resonated with you later in life?
Being a bi-racial person and raised with a single white mother, the civil rights movement always resonated with me. Junius Harris, my teacher in 7-8s (and in the 6th grade) really drove home some larger inequity topics. As a child of mixed background. I felt like I could identify with all the parts of me and all sides of my family. The civil rights movement was always something we returned to - in social studies, music class, acting out concepts and ideas in classes. At home I sing civil rights songs with Jackson. As a teacher, I like using songs that mean more than just words and as transitions to explain the lyrics as part of the curriculum.
I remember as a student liking my teachers. And maybe that is something rare for young children and teens to feel. I thought most of my teachers were pretty interesting and cool. They of course had lives outside of the MCS world, and I knew that, and I felt like I genuinely liked being around them. Spending time at the Farm with teachers was also such a sweet, sweet memory I have. It was still within school parameters in terms of relationship and respect, but without certain academic pressures or expectations.
From your perspective today, what do you think is the most valuable about MCS’ mission and program?
Understanding and developing identity, self care, good listening, being kind to others and yourself and having fun! What I took from MCS is a sense of self and self confidence and understanding how to be true to myself in the world around me. I also learned how to be a listener, not just to speak up and out, but to understand others in order to have a productive or meaningful conversation. I learned that it's ok to have different opinions and the need to respect them.
Besides the values mentioned above, are there other reasons why you chose to send Jackson to MCS?
Even when I was younger, I knew my child had to go to MCS.
What is so special about MCS is the diversity of learners, no one has to be on exactly the same page; we all learn and grow and experience at different paces and spaces. At MCS, we meet the children where they are. One of the reasons why I am so thankful that Jackson is here.
I think MCS draws a type of person and teacher, past and present, that is interesting, kind, thoughtful and diverse in so many ways. It's another dynamic that makes this place so special, and makes me feel proud and lucky that Jackson is part of the community now.
What are you looking forward to Jackson experiencing and learning while at MCS?
The 4-5s home visits and the Baby Study! I also hope that parents can come into the classroom and cook together as part of the ongoing social studies curriculum.
My husband and I have so much faith in and respect for Paulo [4-5s head teacher] and Jen [4-5s assistant teacher]. I know the way the classroom moves throughout their day. It's a loving safe space where he is seen and heard.
MCS always felt like a home to me. I felt safe, comfortable, wanted and welcome. That is all I want for my child - to feel like he belongs and wants to be here. Jackson has already made friends in other classes at the playground too! A true testament to progressive learning and MCS culture extending beyond this building.
What are your memories of Farm Festival as a child and are you bringing Jackson this year?
Oh yes, as a kid I loved Farm Festival, the rides on 96th Street and running all around exploring. I particularly loved the rummage sale held in the 4-5s room [at East 96th Street].
We are definitely bringing Jackson to Farm Festival this year. I think he will run all around as well, eat a lot of yummy fall treats and then fall asleep on the way home!
Please join Dawn and Jackson at Farm Festival on Saturday, October 16, 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. and be sure to stop by the Alumni Table and Outdoor Lounge.