Meet Justin Stagner: 4th Grade Teacher and Bucket Man

The first time I encountered Justin Stagner was in Fry Hall on a rain-drenched morning at the beginning of the school year. He was carrying a couple of five-gallon buckets and pulling off a reasonably good rendition of Elton John singing, “Bucket Man…I think it’s gonna be a long, long time…” I still don’t know what was up with the buckets, but he struck me that day as someone who was likely a fun teacher.

Justin Stagner, 4th Grade Teacher

Justin Stagner, 4th Grade Teacher

Justin and his wife have lived in Greensboro for several years. Eight months ago, they welcomed their son, Henry, to the family. Justin grew up near Raleigh, attended Fuquay-Varina High School, then Appalachian State University. For the past seven years, he taught at Oak Ridge Elementary where he and Academic Dean Kevin Brenner were colleagues.

How does Justin describe his teaching? “I’m a pretty active guy and I like to have fun. We move around a lot (including the occasional dance break) and we definitely enjoy ourselves.

“Academically, I’m trying to work on the questions I ask, focusing on higher level thinking. I try to focus on skills that will last throughout their lives. For that reason, we do a lot of collaborating and exploring. I like to give kids a lot of responsibility; it helps them learn about the consequences of not keeping up with their jobs but also the satisfaction of a job well done.”

What have Justin’s students been doing lately? “One student redesigned our city flag and sent a letter to the mayor to explain why it should be changed. Another raised donations for a local animal charity. We even had a student filling backpacks with essentials for low income kiddos in our area. Although I think it is important for kids to be kids, I also think it’s great to give them the opportunity to make a difference in our world and watch them rise to the occasion.”

As the father of a boy, I appreciate that our kids in the lower school have the chance to learn from both men and women. I asked Justin for his take on that. One of the Episcopal values that resonates with me most is not just tolerating differences but embracing differences. I think it is important for students to see diversity in their teachers. This would include different perspectives and teaching styles but also should extend to gender, ethnicity and religious background. You may never know which student really needs a male role model in his/her life or which student needs to feel like they have something in common with their teacher. It can be a very powerful for student to see a teacher as a learner, too, and that teachers were kids at some point, just like them!”

What does he like about teaching at Canterbury? “The freedom to venture out into new territory: a new lesson, a new app, or a new project.” As Ms. Frizzle (from the Magic School Bus) says, ‘Take chances, get messy and make mistakes!’

by David Whitehead

DavidDavid Whitehead is the Distance Education Coordinator at Davidson County Community College and father to a kindergartner. The latter gives him an excuse to play baseball and ride bikes a lot.


Meet Lacy Castellano

PreK Teacher Lacy Castellano

“I knew Canterbury was a place I would love to be!”

Lacy Castellano graduated from UNCG in 2008 with a bachelor of science degree in human development and family studies and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in education at UNCG.

What appeals to her about teaching PreK? “The children are so enthusiastic, passionate, and motivated! I teach for the “ah-ha”moments, the times when it just clicks. They love to explore, collaborate, and create. Every day is different and exciting. I love PreK!”

Lacy is an outdoor enthusiast; she enjoys camping and hiking with her husband and their two dogs, and she loves sharing her affinity for the outdoors with her students. She looks forward to exploring Canterbury’s campus with them (so parents, be prepared for pockets full of acorns, stones, and other treasures!)

So what’s it like being a kid in her class?

“We incorporate math, science, and English language arts into each day. We take turns sharing something: something about our family, what we ate for breakfast, our favorite sport, etc., and we have an interactive learning activity. Children are given ample time for free choice in centers and outside, but we also have regular large and small group activities.  

My teaching style focuses heavily on social emotional development. Research shows that children who are better able to regulate their emotions and respond appropriately to the emotions of others are more likely to complete high school and go on to college.  Ashleah Lester and I work really hard to promote an atmosphere of mutual respect.”

As this dad knows, PreK is a new experience both for parents and kids, so I asked what advice she might have for PreK parents.

“It will be ok! I want to see your child succeed and have an easy transition into the program.  No one ‘technique’ works for all children.  Be positive, proactive, and encouraging.  Keep an upbeat, positive attitude about your child starting school, even though we know it’s hard! Be proactive in communicating with your child’s teacher. If something is going on in your family, let us know! Do anything you can to encourage your child.  That may mean sending your child with a memento from you, setting aside special time with your child outside of school, or reading books that portray school in a positive light.”

Her thoughts on Canterbury after a few months on the job?  

“Canterbury is an amazing place. I have freedom in my classroom: I can restructure my schedule or change my lesson at a moment’s notice.  At the same time, if I need support, I know I have a host of people ready and willing to help!”

by David Whitehead

DavidDavid Whitehead is the Distance Education Coordinator at Davidson County Community College and father to a kindergartner. The latter gives him an excuse to play baseball and ride bikes a lot.

Faculty Profile: Emily Moss

Emily Moss first came to Canterbury from 2006 to 2010. After a five-year hiatus, Emily is back in the position of Lower School Learning Specialist. Back in 2007, I first became curious about Emily when another parent said, “If your child gets to spend time with Emily Moss, just feel grateful.” I did not get that opportunity then, but I was happy to interview Emily this month. Please get to know Emily through this interview and greet her on campus when you see her.

Where are you from originally? I am a native of Asheboro, NC, born in…well, let’s just say I was born before the zoo was built.  My father worked in construction as a brick and stone mason and my mother was a homemaker.  Kindergarten was not provided at my assigned school, so my mother played “school” with me every day during the year before I entered school.  She taught me to read and do elementary math as we played, and I have enjoyed learning ever since.  Looking back, I realize that my entire childhood was blessed with many of life’s simplest pleasures… family picnics, imaginative play with forts and hide-outs, backyard badminton with my younger brother, and celebrating Friday nights with popcorn and Pepsi while all four of us watched Sonny and Cher on a black and white Zenith television.  (Not quite Laura Ingalls, but close.) After completing eighth grade at Farmer Elementary School (‘Middle School’ hadn’t been invented yet), I transitioned to Southwestern Randolph High School, graduating in 1983.

Canterbury Lower School Learning Specialist Emily Moss

Canterbury Lower School Learning Specialist Emily Moss

How about your education—college/university? In August of the year I graduated from high school, I moved to Boone to attend Appalachian State University. ASU was a great institution and I enjoyed my classes there.  In spite of my early college success, I was unable to decide on a career path and I returned home after my freshman year, determined that I would not waste my parents’ hard-earned savings.  Not long after, I began working as a teacher’s assistant in a local elementary school.  Within weeks, I knew that I HAD to go back to college to earn a degree in education because I loved working with children more than anything I had ever done before.  So, with a definite goal in mind, I continued working full-time at my wonderful job while I took college classes at night.  Finally, in May of 1991, I graduated from Greensboro College with a degree in Special Education.  By August, I had accepted  a job with Rockingham County Schools (RCS) to work in one of their middle schools.  A few years later, I transferred from the middle school to McMichael High School, where I taught many of the required academic courses to diploma-seeking students with learning disabilities for the next ten years.  My employment with RCS concluded after two years at an elementary school in Reidsville.  The following August, I began a five-year relationship with Canterbury School.

Tell me about your family—near and far. I am grateful to be able to say that my parents are still living independently in my childhood home.  My kid brother, Jon, lives in Ohio and we all get together about twice a year in Asheboro.  I am married to Samuel Moss, a proud West Virginian and avid cyclist.  Our two “children” are soft and furry with whiskers and four legs… and almost as spoiled as they are loved.

You were on the Canterbury faculty before in the early to mid-2000’s. What years exactly? My first year at Canterbury School was the 2006-07 school year.  For five years, I worked on a part-time basis in Student Support Services, initially serving grades K-8.  During those years, a part-time position devoted to grades 5-8 was created, and my focus narrowed to grades K-4.  Eventually, a full-time position was developed for providing support to the Lower School, but I felt drawn to an opportunity to expand my private practice as a Dyslexia Intervention and Assessment Specialist.  For the past five years, I worked in this area successfully, but Canterbury was always close in my heart and mind.

What drew you back to Canterbury? At my very first interview in 2006, Penny Summers told me that “Canterbury is a very special place.”  Truer words have never been spoken.  Being a part of the Canterbury School community had been an experience that warmed me, inspired me, challenged me, and supported me.  Memories of those feelings and experiences flooded back when Burns Jones first contacted me about the possibility of a Learning Resources position for this year. To be offered an opportunity to rejoin this incredible community was nothing short of a gift.

What is your favorite Canterbury memory or tradition? Selecting a single memory or tradition to be my favorite is just impossible. I could spend hours, and pages, describing the events and relationships that make Canterbury irreplaceable.  Perhaps it will suffice to say that, to me, the “Canterbury Experience” is like a beautiful quilt made with the fabrics of friendship, cooperation, and dedication, and stitched together with the golden threads of Kindness and Inclusivity.

by Canterbury parent Kelly McKee

mckeeKelly McKee is a freelance writer and community volunteer. She has three daughters and a very high golf handicap (these two facts are not unrelated).

¿Cómo se dice de “la moda”?

My daughter, McKenna (4th-Hoover), came home the week before last, excited about a project that she says has inspired her. She continued to tell me, detail by detail, what she had experienced in Laura Rehman’s Spanish class that day. There was talk of product apparel design, classroom visitors from VF Jeanswear, and the chance to create her own clothing line.

What does apparel design have to do with learning a foreign language?

Laura brings much more to the Canterbury learning experience than foreign language expertise. She is constantly finding creative ways to engage students and increase their Spanish proficiency.


Katie and McKenna work on their designs for the “Create Your Clothing Line” project in which students present their fashions in Spanish.

One example is her “Create Your Clothing Line” project, in which she challenges students to come up with original ideas for apparel designs and present their “line” to a panel of judges by speaking only Spanish. Judges for the March 6 competition will be Assistant Director of Admission Libba LaFave, Middle School Spanish Teacher Janet Mintz, Lower School Director Carolyn Morazan and Administrative Assistant and Verger Betsy Raulerson.

Canterbury parent Aaron Duhaime (Griffin-5th,Hollyn 3rd-) helped Laura kick off the project. Aaron works as a national account executive for VF Jeanswear, a division of the world’s largest apparel manufacturer, VF Corporation.

“Last year, Mr. Duhaime was a member of the panel that judges the 4th grade presentations,” Laura says. “He mentioned the possibility of bringing in a ‘real’ designer to speak to the classes this year.” Georgiana “Georgie” Varzarus, a VF colleague and design specialist for Riders Female Denim/Wrangler, joined him.

The presentation was a hit. “The children loved learning about the process of fashion design,” Laura says. “My students asked great questions and saw that creativity and collaboration are very important in the real world.”

Aaron was impressed by the students’ enthusiasm. “At the end, we were overwhelmed when almost every hand shot up in the air to ask a question. Questions and Answers lasted longer than the presentation. We were thrilled that the students were so eager to learn more.”

Aaron Duhaime and Georgiana Varzarus, from VF Jeanswear, visit Señora Rehman's 4th grade class.

Aaron Duhaime and Georgiana Varzarus, from VF Jeanswear, visit Señora Rehman’s 4th grade class.

Aaron guided the students through the “6 Steps of Fashion Design – Steps in Making Clothing” while Georgie shared how her day-to-day work involves the steps: inspiration, trend forecasting, translating to marketplace, sketching, prototyping, and developing focus groups for validation.

“As a former aspiring designer who has made it into a position in my field, it was a pleasure to come speak at Canterbury about my experiences,” Georgie says.

Aaron and Georgie arrived with plenty of visual aids. Trend boards helped the 4th graders identify different details of various trends. When Georgie showed sketches and prototypes and passed around a sample, she took the students through the complete fashion design process, from start to finish. They also passed around a catalog page used to sell the apparel and, finally, a piece of production that will be in Walmart stores this coming spring.

“We completed the visit by having the students show the designs they had come up with as groups, which I, myself, found inspiring,” Georgie says.

Inspiring, that was McKenna’s takeaway as well. “I like how this project lets us be creative and that we get to do what we want, but we learn Spanish at the same time. I listened to Georgie and I learned what you have to do in fashion – how you have to look at the latest trends, think about what colors would be cool, and brainstorm something that will be unique and your own,” she says.unnamed-3

After the students shared their designs, Aaron and Georgie gave them fabric for finishing their projects as well as advice on how to present their posters to the panel.

“It’s wonderful that Señora Rehman creates time to invite guest speakers into her classroom so her students can clearly see how their projects mirror the professional working world. What they are doing at school is real!” Aaron says.

Laura sees projects like these an expression of her value of education. “I believe that education is at its best when we make our community our learning lab and the members of our community our teachers,” she says.

Georgie felt honored to be a teacher that day. “It is so extraordinary to me that a design project would be merged with typical Spanish curriculum. This not only helps students learn Spanish, but gets their creative juices churning and, in turn, inspires their futures. It is very important for schools to partner with businesses in different fields and allow them to come speak about their professions because it shows students they have endless career possibilities.”

 “As young people start to recognize their strengths, passions, and talents, having local business partners in the classroom can really help connect the dots from what they are learning in school to how it’s used every day.” Canterbury parent and volunteer Aaron Duhaime. 

by Andrea Crossley Spencer

Spencer_2014_073Andrea Crossley Spencer is a Canterbury parent to McKenna (4th-Hoover), a freelance writer, and a creative writing instructor in Canterbury’s After School Fine Arts program. Her favorite Canterbury tradition is Chapel Buddies. She loves hiking, chocolate peanut butter shakes and listening to all kinds of music, from Harry Connick, Jr. to David Gray.

Canterbury Middle School: Meeting Students Where They Are

My 4th grade student was pretty excited to be invited to lunch with Head of School Burns Jones and Middle School Director David Skeen. She didn’t realize that it was more than a lunch; it was her first orientation to middle school. Over the past few weeks, students have attended these lunch sessions in small groups, in which they were invited to ask questions, hear more about middle school, and get to know their new division director.

During the winter and spring trimester, 4th grade students and parents are gaining an introduction to middle school, which at Canterbury begins with 5th grade. Recently, David Skeen, middle school faculty members, and the Admission Office hosted an evening Meet the Middle School session for 4th grade parents.

Several administrators and teachers share interesting in and out of classroom learning experiences on their Twitter feeds. Follow along!

Many administrators and teachers share interesting Tweets about hands-on learning inside and outside of the classroom. Follow along!

“At Canterbury, we know the students well. We meet them where they are,” Mr. Skeen emphasized during his presentation.

Where are middle school students anyway? From age 10 to 15, they are in a stage of rapid brain development. Until about 10 years ago, teachers and parents believed most of a child’s brain development was finished by middle school. The job was to fill the brain with knowledge…like a little vessel. Through the use of brain imaging, neurologists found the brain actually grows a lot during the middle school years. The only other comparable stage is birth to age three.

So this is not our version of middle school (junior high, anyone?) because educators are meeting children at this newly discovered place of brain growth. And with brain changes come significant social, emotional, physical, and intellectual growth.

In terms of academic support, the middle school has created layers of contact with the students.

Mr. Skeen also explained that the job of the middle school is to provide “structure and relationships to help (students) accomplish their goals in safe and healthy ways.”

One example of the Canterbury structure is the Social Contract. Students in 5th through 8th grade meet to represent their grade levels and decide what the rules for middle school students should be. Once they agree upon these rules, the Social Contract is drafted, signed, framed and hung in Armfield Hall as a reminder of their agreement with each other and the faculty. The contract is one way Canterbury sets high expectations for every member of the community.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.05.11 PMTwenty-first century skills of scholarship, leadership, and service are also a focus. When I first heard the phrase “21st century skills,” my mind went to technology and the tablet learning program, but I had so much to learn. These skills are also developed through understanding others. The program “In My Neighbor’s Shoes” is a three day service learning project in which students explore how other people in our community live. Each middle school grade visits various areas of Greensboro to learn more about the realities of others, and they must articulate their experience to the rest of the student body.

In terms of academic support, the middle school has created layers of contact with the students. Each child is assigned to an advisory, similar to a home room but with much more character development. These advisory teachers are the first and last teachers students see, and they continue the “morning meeting” type of activity that the middle school students first experienced in lower school. In addition to the instruction students gain from teachers throughout the day, faculty members offer optional after-school tutorial sessions – much like a professor’s office hours – for students who want extra help. Students also have the benefit of an additional team of faculty members who help guide them: Judy Cram, Middle School Student Support Services; Kat Wolfson, Middle School Counselor; The Rev. Nathan Finnin, Chaplain; and Kathy Durham, Director of Student Life.

“I like the message that the after-school tutorials sends to the kids,” Andrea Spencer observed. Her daughter will enter middle school next year. “That message is: ‘The work is challenging, but we are here for you; take the responsibility to come to us.’”

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.08.47 PM

All 5th grade students will attend a study skills class for the first part of the year to provide a solid foundation for academic success. They will also get an opportunity to sample foreign language offerings before choosing one language to study for the duration of their time at Canterbury.

Fourth grade students will begin to visit the middle school in small groups, and they will each have a big sister or big brother who will help answer questions and show them the ropes. Probably the most exciting part of orientation is early adoption of the middle school dress code for 4th grade students in the spring trimester.

One orientation or one blog post can only scratch the surface of the spirit of the middle school at Canterbury. I would encourage parents to subscribe to the Twitter feed for Dave Skeen and other faculty members to get a snapshot of middle school activities. From following our amazing faculty, I learn something new every day.

by Kelly McKee

mckee Kelly McKee is a freelance writer and community volunteer. She has three daughters and a very high golf handicap (these two facts are not unrelated). Follow her on Twitter: @narrowprovince

Renovated Science and Technology Center Wows

Wow. “Wow” was the word used most often by parents touring the renovated Ketner Center for the first time Friday morning. After a ribbon (actually a DNA strand) cutting and a blessing from Father Finnin, parents were invited to tour the newly renovated, state-of-the-art science, technology, engineering, and math facility.

Left to right, Canterbury students and future scientists Jackson Love, Jack Britts, Sophie Kelly, and Avery Love cut a DNA ribbon to officially open the building.

Left to right, Canterbury students and future scientists Jackson Love, Jack Britts, Sophie Kelly, and Avery Love cut a DNA ribbon to officially open the building.

After years of chaperoning school dances and attending basketball and volleyball games and auctions in the old Ketner space (some of us old-time parents even attended chapel, Stone Soup and graduation in Ketner!), parents toured a transformed building. The front doors open to a conference and collaboration space, or digital “Commons,” which features a state-of-the-art desktop Mac lab. From there, students can walk directly into Mr. Brenner’s lower school science classroom. Even though Mr. Brenner’s classroom does not have any outside walls, the space is full of natural light from the many new windows as well as an open vista to the commons behind Ketner.

“It’s great; we can see all the way through the building in both directions,” Mr. Brenner pointed out to a group of parents walking through his class.

The middle school science classrooms are also bright, with high ceilings — perhaps the only hint that the building was once a gymnasium. Hanging in a commons area is the dinosaur fossil that was displayed in Fry Hall last year. Eventually, it will preside over sofas and tables where students can study, meet and socialize during the day.

Built as a gym and all-purpose building in 1997, the re-imagined Ketner building also boasts a makers’ room where students have tools and space to complete projects. In addition, lower school, middle school, and co-curricular (such as art and music) classrooms are equipped with either a SMARTBoard or interactive projection technology so that students can actively collaborate with digital media.

Even though students had been utilizing the building for classes since before the official opening on Friday, faculty, staff and students were excited to show off the newest campus addition to parents, trustees and community members who were on hand to see the beautiful transformation.

The excited crowd gathers around young Canterbury scientists and Father Finnin.

The excited crowd gathers around young Canterbury scientists and Father Finnin.

by Kelly McKee

mckee Kelly McKee is a freelance writer and community volunteer. She has three daughters and a very high golf handicap (these two facts are not unrelated).

Meet Roanne Ornelles: Canterbury’s Lower School Learning Specialist

Learning Specialist Roanne Ornellis

Learning Specialist Roanne Ornellis

If you have a child with a learning difficulty, Roanne Ornelles wants you to know that your child is in good company! Some very famous people struggled with Attention Deficit Disorder or dyslexia and learned to overcome their disability and highlight their talents. The list includes Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Jim Carrey, Michael Phelps, and Agatha Christie.

Roanne explains that children with learning difficulties are often bright with above average intelligence. Once they can discover and acknowledge their pocket of giftedness, frustration diminishes and success follows. Canterbury is happy to welcome Roanne as its new Lower School Learning Specialist.

Roanne is from Hawaii,  and her husband, David, was also born in there. They both left to attend graduate school in Boston. While this is Roanne’s first year working in Greensboro, she and her family have been living in Winston-Salem since 1993. David is a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine. Their grown daughter now lives in Spain, and they have a son who is a senior in high school. While Roanne loves the four seasons of North Carolina, she misses the climate in Hawaii enough that her family goes back twice a year.

An early career as a teacher led Roanne to become a learning specialist when she noticed kids struggling in the classroom. She saw what a difference new learning approaches and extra help made in their lives. Roanne loves to help demystify learning disabilities for her students. Helping them understand how their brains work and emphasizing each child’s strength opens up new worlds for them. She sees her students’ self-esteem flourish after being taught new approaches to academics.

“With all the pressure to be good at everything these days, its hard for kids to focus on things they are good at and things they love!”

unnamed-2 A typical day at Canterbury for Roanne is spent working with small groups of two to six K-4 students for 30 minute periods, usually meeting two or three times per week. She focuses on multi-sensory approaches to presenting material: auditory, visual and tactile. Her favorite aha moment with a student is when a child having difficulty reading finally “cracks the code” and falls in love with books as a result. Head to Roanne’s Haiku page for more links, helpful tips and videos.

Roanne thinks Canterbury is a special place because of its close-knit staff and the warm, community feeling around the school. She is happy working with students, but she also enjoys communicating with teachers and parents and answering questions about students across the learning spectrum.

Say hello to Roanne next time you see her on campus!

Canterbury would like to express its sincere sympathy to Roanne and her family following the recent loss of her mother.

By Katie Hu hu

Katie Hu is the parent of Brady (4th-Hoover), Maggie (2nd-McIlwain) and Mason (2025). Her favorite part of Canterbury is the chapel and the teachers. She loves a quiet walk in the woods, yoga, and a tall glass of kale afterwards.