We are so excited to announce our first teacher for the new BASIS Independent Silicon Valley Lower Campus! Ms. Taylor Small, a current BASIS Independent Silicon Valley Subject Expert Math Teacher, will be joining the teaching faculty for our new Lower School Campus for the 2022 - 2023 school year.
Ms. Small has a long history of math and science teaching experience within our BASIS Curriculum Schools and we are so proud to be having her join our new school this fall.
Our Head of School, Ms. Brooklynn Titus, had a chance to sit down with Ms. Small and ask all the questions that we know our new families are excited to have answered!
How does it feel to be a founding teacher? Are you ready for this adventure?!
I love new adventures! I've been waiting, like many of our families, for a Lower School to open in the South Bay for years. Teaching younger students really has been my personal passion since I first began teaching and, though I have greatly enjoyed teaching at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley Upper School for the past few years, I am so excited about my move to our new Lower School Campus.
I was also a part of the founding faculty at BASIS Independent Fremont Lower when it opened in 2016 and it was such a great experience getting to meet a new bunch of students and work with the faculty to set up classrooms, procedures, and traditions.
Give us a little of your background so our families can get more acquainted with you.
Sure! I grew up in the UK and did all my schooling there too. I have a Bachelor's of Science degree in Physics from the University of Bristol and a Master's of Science in Space Physiology from King's College in London, but after graduation, and having a taste of teaching, I knew that's what I wanted to do.
I've spent the last 10 years teaching math and science to kids ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 6 all over the globe. I joined BASIS Independent Schools in 2016 when I moved to America and it's been my home ever since.
Your own personal background is rooted in international education. Where around the globe has your teaching career taken you?
I started off teaching in rural Japan, and then worked at an international school in Frankfurt, Germany, before moving to San Jose. When my family was looking to leave Europe and return to America, I was searching for a school that was full of students who were passionate about learning, and where teachers could share their specialty with those students. I didn't have to look far to find BASIS Independent Schools!
The internationally based curriculum, the focus on subject expertise for teachers, and the goal of mastery for all our students were exactly what I was looking for. I wanted my own personal passion for math and science to be appreciated and encouraged in the classroom setting, and I can honestly say it's been exactly what I was hoping for all these years.
You mention your personal passion for math and science, how does BASIS Independent allow you to share that passion with your students?
My students would get a giggle out of this question! They would say I adore every single lesson, and will tell them as such! I think they enjoy having a teacher who finds every single thing about math and science enjoyable. Enjoyment and curiosity are contagious! Loving math and science myself helps me to instill that love of those subjects in the students, and choose projects which my students will enjoy and be successful at.
Having been a part of BASIS Independent Schools since 2016, you are already so well versed in our math and science program. How would you explain it to our new families?
Our curriculum starts with discovery and foundation. The courses in our Early Learning Program, which I like to call our littlest learners, are even called Discovery and Foundation! These courses are designed to help students discover and then build upon foundational skills from the previous years. It's a simple concept, but one that is repeated all the way to our High School Program.
Our math curriculum spirals, allowing students to gain knowledge and familiarity with certain skills before expecting to be challenged with new topics. It encourages students to reinforce what they already know - sometimes they don't even notice their skills are getting built up through practice!
Our science curriculum slots into our math curriculum perfectly, allowing kids to use the skills they have from math and put them into action. I especially enjoy that in Grades 1 - 3 math and science are taught together in the same block. The courses are integrated and students will discuss relevant connections between these two subjects.
You will be a Subject Expert Teacher (SET) working with a Learning Expert Teacher (LET); a position you've had before. What have your past experiences been like with this teaching model?
I am very fortunate to have worked with brilliant LETs over the years. LETs are teachers who advocate for their students and support them throughout their learning and day.
I've had some LET partnerships where we split the class and do differentiated learning when needed, some where the LET can work one on one with just a few students, and even LETs who are capable of teaching a section of science that they are particularly passionate and well-versed in.
The consistency and continuity in support and classroom expectations by the LET and SET is a great partnership and one I am so excited to get back to with the new Lower School.
What are some tools you like to use in the classroom?
Math manipulatives are an amazing tool for young learners. We're trying to bridge the gap between concrete learning and move towards abstract and mental math, and that can be a challenge. They also allow students with different learning styles to focus on a problem in a different style.
How will you differentiate in the classroom?
Differentiation can look very different for differing age levels. In my experience, some of our younger students prefer small group work, but our older students love having a choice of activities. Another way I try and keep my lessons differentiated is by making sure they're accessible to students who like to learn visually or aurally - but some students just thrive with hands-on learning.
Differentiation is also more easily achieved with the two-teacher model in the classroom of the LET and SET.
What is your goal for each of your students?
I want them to know that they can be successful in math. Success is different for everyone. It might not be perfection, or 100% every time, but growth in math and opportunities for success are important. Ideally, I'd love for all my students to adore math as I do. But if that's not possible, then I hope they can appreciate and tackle the challenge of a subject they do not love head-on.
Any exciting math and science projects or classroom traditions we can expect at the new Lower School?
My FAVORITE project, hands down, is the one where we research famous mathematicians. It doesn't just have to be someone who has since passed or perhaps lived 200 years ago. We're so lucky in the Bay Area to have great mathematicians working right in our neighborhood! I want them to be able to make a real-life connection to their subjects, and this project always helps us do just that.
If you have any questions, please reach out to the Admissions Team at (408) 291-0907 or email us at email@example.com.
BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is a TK - Grade 12 private school, providing students an internationally benchmarked liberal arts and sciences curriculum, with advanced STEM offerings. Considering joining the Bobcat community? Join our interest list by clicking here to receive admissions updates for fall 2022 and more.