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Brittany Collins ’08 & Saenger Breen ’16: Fall 2018 Open House Speeches

On November 3rd, 2018, prospective Campus School parents joined Head of School Chris Marblo, Director of Admissions Maureen Litwin, Campus School teachers and alums for the Fall 2018 Campus School Open House. Below are copies of speeches delivered by two alums, Brittany Collins (‘08) and Saenger Breen (‘16), on the enduring power of a Campus School education. For more information about Campus School, or to schedule a tour, please visit our admissions page.

Brittany Collins (‘08)

“HI everyone, I’m Brittany Collins, and I graduated from Campus School in 2008 before attending the Williston Northampton School for middle and high school and returning to the Smith campus as a college student studying English and education. I often joke that I am a Campus School ‘super fan,’ as I have taken many roles here over the years: observing fourth grade Social Studies for my Multicultural Education class; reading picture books to kindergarteners during the after-school program; teaching ballet and jazz dance to first graders during June Program; answering phones in the office; and bundling up to help Scott Messinger with recess duty during chilly winter days. I now have the pleasure of editing and writing for our online journal, The Lab School, where I share stories of life and learning at Campus School. Telling those stories, with the added knowledge that I now have, having studied education, reaffirms the gratitude that I feel for my time as a Campus School student.

I joined Campus School as a timid fourth grader, as a transfer student. Entering the teal doors of our school, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I’d never had a locker before, had never taken Spanish classes, and at my prior elementary school I’d spent every year with the same twenty classmates. Campus School was different. There were stilts to walk on at recess; new classmates every year; student teachers in every classroom; and a whole campus to explore with my teachers and friends. When Maureen Litwin greeted me and walked me to a third grade classroom for my day of observation, I could tell by her enthusiasm—and the energy of the third graders counting out their days of school using colored cubes to show fractions (‘We’ve been in school for 35 days, and here are 35 ways to make the number 35’)—that this community was special. I took a leap of faith as a little fourth grader, and I firmly believe that my decision to come here changed the rest of my educational trajectory.

When I was a freshman in college, I visited a fourth grade classroom and led a discussion with students about a Maya Angelou quote:

“People will forget what you said.

People will forget what you did.

But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

There are memories of my Campus School experience that are indelible: drawing a picture of the banana tree in the Smith College Botanic Gardens for a fourth grade study of plant adaptations; building and programing robots in technology class; rehearsing and performing a skit called ‘Prinderella and the Cince’ in our sixth grade talent show, right up on that stage; and learning the underpinnings of physics while building an ‘egg machine’ in sixth grade. When I returned to Smith to study education, my respect for the Campus School curriculum was deepened. Suddenly, I had a peek at the behind-the-scenes insight and intentions with which Campus School teachers construct their lessons. I understood the knowledge-building strategies involved; the importance of project-based learning and social justice curricula; the multidisciplinary emphasis that was placed on sustained inquiry. I became fascinated with the educational research being conducted at Campus School by students, professors, and Campus School teachers, as well as the curriculum being piloted and refined here.

However, above all of this– above the theory, above the curriculum– what I remember most about Campus School, and what I still feel as soon as I enter the roundabout, to return to the words of Maya Angelou, is how the Campus School made me feel. Teachers and classmates believed in me so much that they inspired me to believe in myself. Whether participating in a mock trial about child labor laws or stretching my comfort zone on the balance beam in gym class, Campus School taught me that I have a voice. That my voice matters. And that my individual learning will forever reverberate outward, into other classrooms and other communities, as I pass on gifts from Campus School in my own ways as I enter the field of education.

Ten years have passed since I processed through Helen Hills Hills Chapel, right up the street, holding a single candle during my sixth grade graduation. As time continues, I may not recall the vocabulary words that I learned here, or details of the topographical maps that I studied while learning about other countries in Geography class. But what does endure, and what will continue to endure, are those feelings of support, validation, and belief that catalyzed my growth and success as a student at Campus School and beyond it.”

Saenger Breen (‘16)

“HI, I’m Saenger, and I am currently a freshman at Northampton High School. I graduated from Campus School in 2016.

When I think back to my years here, I remember laughing and swinging on the swings with my friends, looking forward to school and loving whichever hands-on unit we were currently doing, and even taking pride in little school traditions such as being on safety duty in 6th grade and opening car doors for younger students as they came to and from school.

Every year at Campus School has one, if not many, special units or activities. My personal favorites were having a reading buddy starting in kindergarten and then, as I got older, becoming someone’s reading buddy. In 2nd grade, there was a big focus on recycling, and we even went to MRF– a recycling facility in Western Massachusetts. In 3rd grade, my class raised salmon… In the spring of 3rd grade, we had Riverfest, where everyone constructed their own boats made only out of twigs and leaves, and then went to Smith College and launched them in the Mill River. The whole medieval unit in 5th grade was so much fun, and everyone did research and then got to make their own shield and attend a reenactment of a medieval banquet. And then, of course, going to Nature’s Classroom for a whole week in 6th grade was an incredible experience. We learned a lot about the environment and how humans have a big impact on the earth. And these are just a few highlights of my years here.

After I graduated 6th grade, I went to Northampton’s public middle school, JFK. Going from Campus School to JFK was definitely a transition. I knew some kids from playing on town team sports, but there were still a lot of new faces. Although it took a little time to find my footing socially, I feel that my years at Campus School helped me adjust academically. Because of all the group work and collaboration projects I’d done at Campus School, I didn’t struggle with participating in discussions or asking questions in class. At Campus School, I was constantly encouraged by all of my teachers to be present and participate in class. And they taught me that making mistakes will help you learn and grow as a student and individual. I took this valuable lesson with me to JFK, and it’s still useful now.

I’ve made so many wonderful memories at Campus School, and the community here has always been so positive and amazing. Campus School has given me so much, and I’m so thankful that I was able to spend seven years here.


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