Two new teachers join Shore’s Lower School faculty for the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Erik Swanson will serve as the Grades 3-5 science teacher, and Jess Karis will join Mary Kinahan as a lead teacher in first grade.
Swanson spent the past two years teaching middle school science at BB&N, and twelve years prior to that teaching fifth grade at Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey, where he organized and led many environmental and sustainability practices. He is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a Masters degree in Ecological Teaching & Learning from Lesley University. Of his training and experiences as a science teacher, Swanson says, “Science is a way of understanding the world around us, and getting students outside into the environment where they live offers us a great resource. Encouraging kids to be aware of what’s around them in a thoughtful and detailed way nurtures one of the core skills in science—observation.”
“There’s so much to learn,” Swanson continues, “but I believe it’s vital for students to realize they already have what they need to be successful as scientists. Kids this age have a natural curiosity that fits perfectly into the science classroom. It’s all about observation and making thoughtful conclusions.”
Swanson also emphasizes the role of social-emotional learning in the science classroom. “When you teach, it’s not just about teaching science or math; it’s about how we interact with each other, the relationships we form. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing you’re left with. This is one of the reasons I was really drawn to Shore—the goals in the Community Code, and especially the advice to be kind, are what we all share in the classroom. I always tell students that it’s a partnership, and that we’re all on the same team.”
Bringing team spirit to the classroom comes naturally to Swanson, who points out that he loves magic, “cheesy” claps, yo-yo-ing, and bad science jokes. He is also an advocate of sustainability in all its forms. “I always tell my students that they’re our future leaders. And the more we can educate them about taking care of the world around them, the more they can make positive choices and be the agents of change. They’re the ones who will have the power to make the world a better place.”
Jess Karis comes to Shore with teaching experience that spans many grade levels. A first grade teacher at The Bement School, a fifth grade teacher at Swift River School, and most recently a middle school science teacher at Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, MA, she is excited to return to first grade, where she has a particular passion for developing “a climate of safety, love, enthusiasm for learning, and celebration of differences” alongside children.
A graduate of Colgate University with a Masters degree from Lesley University in Elementary Education, Karis says, “First grade is my favorite age to teach. They’re lovable and fun to be around. They buy into activities easily. At the same time, first graders are old enough that they are starting to think about things a little bit more, look at the world with a more critical eye. It’s a really important age: if you can spark the right ideas and plant the right seeds, it can change their trajectory as learners, as friends, as community members.”
Building community is one of the areas in which Karis places special emphasis in her classroom. “I love teaching about equity, diversity, and inclusion. I like to expose the kids to different forms of diversity through literature and conversations. I try my best to foster a classroom environment where kids celebrate diversity and want to seek it out.”
A sense of community was one of the attributes that attracted Karis herself to Shore. “I was lucky enough to work with Summer Shore last year, and I heard so many teachers raving about the school and the Shore community. Now that I’m here to stay, I’ve felt incredibly welcomed and supported. That environment is really unique to Shore.”