Danielle Blake is our First Grade Teacher at the Growing Garden Academy.
Danielle sees so much potential in the project-based learning approach to education. The real-life applications of math, science and the arts, all combined into a cohesive lesson, helps the students connect with what’s happening in school to their home lives.
“I also like the social part of inquiry-based projects,” Danielle says. “I can ask the students ‘what do you know’ about a subject, as well as ‘what do you want to know.”
“Trying and not having something work is an important part of the learning process,” she says. “Being able to give feedback and take feedback is something kids can really do at a young age.”
Danielle’s teaching is predicated on encouraging students to be creative and think outside the box. This creative process is important for brain development. It also will be relevant when the children grow up and will use their creativity to resolve everyday challenges in the work world.
In addition, Danielle wants her first grade student to come out of the year with a deep understanding of the topics that they study, so that they don’t just memorize and forget, but take them to heart.
“I also want them to love school, have a passion for learning, and of course develop the social skills to make bonds with other students.”
And finally, Danielle hopes to build a strong relationship with the families of her students.
“It’s a community, so I want the parents to be involved as much as possible. I invite them to be a part of the classroom experience and education through special activities, events, field trips, etc. I also have a parent open door policy, I encourage them to call me, email me or just come in to chat any time about their children, the class or even themselves.”
Danielle, originally Canadian took the long road around…back to her Jewish educational roots. Her path began in Canada, then onto California, New York, and back to the South Bay. But when Danielle met Director Sara Mintz, they both realized instantly that her personality, inspirational spirit and passion for education perfectly aligned with the needs and vision of The Growing Garden Academy.
Danielle is not only a seasoned teacher, she’s also spent many years on the administrative side, helping to develop after school programs for elementary and middle-school aged children. So in search of some sunshine, a change of pace from New York City, and a desire to get back into the classroom, Danielle headed for the West Coast.
“I flew out here to meet everyone and it all just came together,” says Danielle. “It’s such a great opportunity to be a part of something that is being built from the ground up.”
Danielle’s career began in Toronto, Canada, where she worked in the classroom as a teacher. And she began her administrative role as an after-school director when she moved to New York City. Working for a company called Youth in Tribeca, the program she built was for a new school in Manhattan, which began with 40 students daily and grew to nearly 400 students daily six years later.
Wearing all sorts of hats, Danielle also taught special education, tutored and coached throughout her tenure in the Bronx and Williamsburg. While working for Ramapo for Children, Danielle supported struggling teachers by helping them build relationships with their students, behavior management and create engaging lessons. She even spent some time as director of operations for a start-up company known as mini-Preneur, a program that guides students through the exciting and ‘real-life’ process of creating, developing, building, funding and ultimately launching a business.
Throughout her tenure, Danielle continued to substitute teach.
“Education has progressed so much. So as an administrator, I knew it was critical to get into a classroom as much as possible and see the students,” she says.
And now Danielle could not be more excited to be a part of building the new Academy and its progressive approach to education.
“A holistic approach to education is so important,” she says. “What I did see in public schools is this pressure for teachers to teach to a test since their evaluations are based on student test scores. It’s unfair. While we need guidelines and standards to be met, we also need to be creative and engaging.”
In the end, landing at The Growing Garden Academy is like coming home for Danielle, who spent her childhood elementary school years at a Jewish day school in London, Ontario. She remembers how important and rewarding it is to be a part of a school system and community where the Jewish values are ingrained in both the culture and the curriculum.
“Sara has done such a wonderful job of building a community and I look forward to learning from them.”