Wendy Leitner-Sieber, Miquon’s Newest Teacher
This January the Miquon fourth grade welcomed new lead teacher Wendy Leitner-Sieber to its classroom. With a widely varied background in supporting teaching and learning, Wendy was an obvious choice to take over the reins from Sarah Aghajanian, who departed Miquon in December for maternity leave and to become a full-time mother for a few years.
Wendy, a longtime resident of Germantown with a passion for childhood and discovery, has admired Miquon for a long time–from both near and farther afield. Having served as a Miquon substitute teacher in the past, Wendy explains she witnessed the “genuine feeling of community, engagement with the outdoors, and earnest commitment of the teachers to their work” first-hand.
As a teacher, Wendy appreciates the smallest moments in teaching the most–the moments of awareness and understanding, where children connect ideas to meaning and develop a knowledge of their own.
She illustrates: “At Miquon, there are countless opportunities to facilitate that kind of real learning, and to connect it to the real world around us.”
With a wealth of knowledge about the world herself, Wendy’s breadth of experiences are already offering fourth graders new perspectives from which to draw. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and elementary education from Duke University, and she is currently completing a master’s in teaching, learning, and curriculum design at Drexel. She has lived in Central and South America, where she taught Kindergarten in an orphanage. More recently, Wendy taught first and second graders, as well as several group homeschool classes. Just prior to Miquon, she was an administrator of a Germantown nonprofit literacy program where she also taught classes in reading, writing, math, and social studies.
At Miquon, Wendy is already making an impact. Committed to ensuring a smooth mid-year teacher transition for the children, she has been working with fourth grade assistant teacher Sara Slaybaugh to maintain continuity in daily routines–while introducing some new initiatives into the classroom as well. Morning book group has been one of these efforts–an occasion for fourth graders to break into quarter groups and participate in read-alouds and discussions of titles like Because of Winn Dixie and The Borrowers with a teacher.
“It has been a great time for the children to dig in and focus,” reports Sara. At the same time, Wendy and I have been able to witness each individual child’s unique reading strengths and challenges, so we can adjust our approach accordingly.”
Wendy is also excited about math, one of her favorite subjects to teach. Having had her own transformative experiences as a math learner as a child, she now love to help children “break math concepts wide open,” she says.
As a student, Wendy explains, “I realized I could connect my love of puzzles and problem solving with mathematical concepts, and connect math lessons to so many patterns and experiences in daily life. I really enjoy helping kids to develop confidence and enjoyment in math, like writing their own word problems and trying them out with one another, or solving mystery stories with number puzzles.”
In this same way, Wendy hopes to help Miquon children best relate to the math problems they may face, and figure out how to tackle the math as a result.
Demonstrating her diverse background and interests, lately Wendy has been reading Sonia Nieto on creating multicultural classrooms and by Carola Suarez-Orozco on classroom environments that support children of immigration. “Their work on culture and identity is so important for understanding how a learning community can work to become truly inclusive of all kinds of difference,” she says.
When she’s not in the classroom, Wendy’s time is mainly centered on raising her three daughters. She has a passion for historical fiction, playing the cello, and hiking with her dog. Before starting her family, she was a labor doula and childbirth coach. She and her husband were participants in the Catholic Worker movement, working with homeless families and engaging in nonviolent action for peace.
Please join us in welcoming Wendy to Miquon!