Step into the classroom

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Social distancing and masks used during band

How did you get ready for this unique school year?

For July and August, I lived and breathed figuring out ways the band students could play their instruments given the recommendations by national and state music organizations. I designed a facemask for the wind instrumentalists as well as bell coverings. I’m so thankful to Shirley Ries, Marlyce Miller, Kris Carlson, and Alvina Hofer who helped sew them. You’ve got to make it work for the kids’ sake. Music is their release and a change of pace during the school day. 

What are some bright spots?
First, having student leaders. Ethan Rops composed an arrangement of a hymn for our virtual church visits for the saxophone quartet. I then allowed Ethan to take on a leadership role and follow his heart for jazz. He taught classes for two weeks, teaching students how to improvise. At the conclusion students volunteered to start a small jazz group that meets after school now. This group played one song for our Yuletide performance that included improvisation and it was amazing.

Second, being able to have band in the band room. It’s comforting be in our usual space during these unsettling times. We were able to have everything in the band room except 7-12 band moved to the gym.

How does instrumental instruction work during remote learning?
The goal is to keep students playing! Middle school students continue their weekly at-home practice and do Zoom meetings for lessons. All grade 7-12 students record songs on Flipgrid and practice on which is new. I’ve always wanted to do more sight reading because there is a sight reading component to the all-state band audition plus when students can sight read music well, it takes less rehearsal time to get ready for a performance.

What does pep band look like this year?
On a warm day this fall, the pep band played a concert outside at the Salem Home. It was good to get out and perform and the residents enjoyed the sunshine on the deck as students played. Live music is our goal for the January basketball games. Because of social distancing, pep band will play in the band room. With the use of amplification, our songs will be heard in the gym. The annual pep band concert is scheduled for May and more than likely will be held outside.

The earthquake simulator at the front of Carol Stastny’s Science classroom is a dead giveaway for the learning and engagement that happens at the black lab tables under the ever-watchful eye of Lefty the skeleton who stands ready to help students bone up for Biology 2. Explaining her strategy Stastny shared, “Learning should be fun. If students have a little fun, they engage more, own their experiment process, and solidify their knowledge of key concepts.”

Students waving a large balloon overheadThis fall the science room holds Biology 2, Earth Science, Physical Science, Computer Science and Chemistry, but quite often, the room just isn’t big enough for Stastny’s experiments. On a calm day, the junior high earth science class headed for the Arboretum and let the sun’s heat excite air molecules in a 50 foot solar balloon until it floated above their heads. 

Science students sitting in stairwell while working on a hot wheel simulationAnother day, cheers echoed through the halls when physical science students successfully sent HotWheels cars rocketing down two flights of stairs on curved race track – a fun twist for calculating velocity.  “That took a lot of teamwork and communication,” Stastny said. “Everyone takes a part, pitching in to find a solution together.”

Students dropping eggs in Styrofoam containersStastny is known for letting students customize their experiments. “When possible I allow them to explore their ideas. There’s a lot of discovery involved in that. We want to keep curiosity going,” she said.  An example: Styrofoam, tape and tissues piled up on lab tables last week as each student engineered a container to insure their raw egg had a safe landing after a two-story drop.

Cabinets on the back wall hold slides of mold spores, rock samples, and bottles of chemicals. Generous donations from alumni classes have helped in adding new equipment including microscopes, KNEX building kits and robotic kits that teach computer coding. “These new resources allow students to dive in and learn,” Stastny shared. “We’re very thankful for them.” 

How does it feel to be back at Freeman Academy?

It feels great! There’s a reason I came back here to teach. I owe who I am largely to Freeman Academy – to the teachers and staff who invested in me. I feel so blessed that I have the opportunity to do my part in giving back to the school that gave so much to me.

High school students in English class readingAs the new English teacher, what reflects your Language Arts style?

One is taking a “publishing” approach to major papers. High school students will “submit their papers for publishing” which can happen multiple times as I provide direction for improvements. The main point is for students to do their best work and be proud of it. It also stimulates real life experiences. Writing needs to meet a certain standard for many positions.

Then there’s Tea Time Tuesday which is part of the Free Reading component in my classroom. During the last 10 minutes of class, students read what they want, learning about topics they are interested in. Students might not like novels but they might enjoy looking up internet articles on topics they are passionate about. Free Reading not only fosters a love of reading but also a love of learning. Once a month we’ll have Tea Time Tuesday where we’ll drink tea and discuss the different Free Reading topics students have chosen.

Strings of lights provide great atmosphere in your classroom. What kind of learning atmosphere are you aiming for?

One of the big things for me is developing trust and a sense of belonging in the classroom. Learning can’t really happen until that is established. Good relationships and mutual respect are very important.

Tell us about your journey since you graduated from Freeman Academy.
Last year I taught at Sioux Falls Christian Schools as I finished my degree in English at the University of Sioux Falls where I played the cello and sang in choir.  I also met my husband, Billy, there while running on the cross country team.

Courses offered

Click the + on each area to visit updates from our classrooms below.

  • Creation & Promise
  • Jesus’ Story
  • Global Christianity
  • Kingdom Living
  • Computer Basics
  • Communications & Technology
  • Advanced Computer
  • Language Arts
  • Composition
  • Literature
  • English Fundamentals
  • American Literature
  • British Literature
  • Speech
  • Short Stories
  • Theater
  • Film Appreciation
  • Life-Skills
  • Internships
  • Spanish I
  • Spanish II
  • Arts
  • Humanities
  • Algebra I
  • Algebra II
  • Geometry
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Calculus
  • Choral
  • Chamber Choir
  • Instrumental
  • Music Theory I
  • Music Theory II
  • Exploring the Ukulele
  • Physical Science
  • Chemistry
  • Biology I
  • Biology II
  • Physics
  • Robotics
  • Geography
  • World History
  • Government History I
  • Government History II
  • Physical Education (P.E.)
  • Health
  • Personal Finance

Freeman Academy curriculum is geared toward readying each student for what lies beyond graduation. We aim to develop in students the critical thinking, reading, and writing skills needed to flourish as an adult, as well as spiritual influence and formation that points to Christ discipleship. Our academic community integrates knowledge from mathematics, English, the sciences, social studies, and theology, shaping students to be intellectually active, curious, thoughtful, and reflective.