Friday, August 11, 2017

Welcome Letter


As the saying goes, “Allow me to introduce myself.”  My name is Mark Richner and I will be your child’s teacher for the upcoming school year.  I wanted to take a few minutes to say “hello” and to give you a brief overview of some of the projects that await us. 

I love teaching at Lewis Elementary School!  This is my fourth year at Lewis.  I taught previously in the Madison public schools after receiving my elementary teaching degree at the University of Wisconsin.  I also taught at the University of Florida in the elementary teacher preparation program while my wife, Evie, and I were in graduate school.  So I have taught students from age five through 23!

Evie and I have two daughters who are now two years-old named Norah Lee and Twyla.  They are the loves of our lives and keep us busy these days by running around our backyard (where they have an imaginary ice cream stand that mostly serves chocolate chip), going on neighborhood bike rides, swinging at the park, and making us laugh.  This summer we took time to visit with friends and family, including my parents and Evie’s parents, Evie’s sister and brother-in-law here in Portland, and my brother who lives in Seattle.  We made it out into the woods, to the beach, and took care of a few projects around the home.  I worked on some projects connecting to the classroom curriculum and read a number of fantastic books.  I’m excited for this new school year!

While projects and activities will vary over the year, the main emphasis of the room will be on helping the kids become strategic learners.  You will hear the word “strategy” and “system” often over the year.  It is my goal as a teacher to not only help kids understand and master the prescribed curriculum, but I want them to be independent, curious learners as well.  One way to achieve this is to help them initiate, plan, and carry out projects, paying attention to the strategies they use along the way. 

We will have many classroom projects this year.  We will participate in Lewis’s Outdoor Classroom.  The garden will be a springboard into several studies of our local, natural world.  We will also attend a number of field trips, have weekly art activities, coordinate the school’s food drive, meet up with our first grade buddies, and create and perform an original classroom play.  So, as you can see, we already have several major projects and events planned.

I am thrilled to be teaching a 4th/5th multiage class this year.  Ten years ago, I completed my student teaching internship in a multiage classroom at a school where every classroom was multiage (K/1, 2/3, 4/5).  In fact, in the Madison public schools where I began my career, multiage schools were quite common.  As teacher, I am using the word “multiage,” rather than “combination” or “split,” very intentionally because pedagogically these arrangements can be quite different.  For example, as a fifth grader, I was in a 4th/5th “split” classroom.  This meant that the fourth graders sat on one side of the classroom and went about their daily assignments while the fifth graders sat on the opposite side going about theirs.  We were a class divided.  This is not how our room will be.  On the first day, as we sit together in our opening circle, I will acknowledge the range of ages present in our room.  I will acknowledge that there will be rare moments where the fourth graders do this or the fifth graders do that.  However, day in and day out, we will be together as a single team, and to someone looking in they will just see kids going about their activities together.  Age will be a benefit of our classroom’s diversity and will create more opportunities for learning, leadership, and community.

It’s going to be an exciting school year.  I look forward to seeing “old friends,” as well as meeting all the new members of our community.  Be sure to follow us on Twitter @LewisRoom20 for daily photos and look for regular updates at, including our weekly newsletter called Classroom Notes.  Please consider signing up for Remind, which allows me to share messages with classroom families.  I look forward to seeing everyone soon.  See you on the 30th!


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