Lynette Seay (pronounced ‘see’) has taught reading and writing at Strawbridge School for the past six years. A native of Brooklyn, NY – Seay graduated from Notre Dame of Maryland (undergrad) and Loyola University (master’s degree). She previously worked at Children’s Guild, Kennedy Krieger, Baltimore City’s Lyndhurst Elementary school and was a stay-at-home mom before jumping back into her teaching career. Seay lives in Overlea, MD, with her husband and three children.
Q: Unlike public schools, where tenure most often applies, six years is a good stretch of time at a non-public school. What keeps the fire burning for you at Strawbridge?
A: When you are new to any school, it can be daunting not knowing the kids or staff. As I got to know the students and staff, I saw that the school is the best, most therapeutic place for them. Seeing the achievements of our students and building relationships with my coworkers has made the transition to the non-public arena worth it.
In addition, the energy around the school, the campus setting, and the organization itself under Laurie Anne Spagnola’s leadership makes a big difference. While you do sometimes hear teachers talking about not being invigorated or valued within the education industry as a whole, I feel quite the opposite about teaching at Strawbridge.
Q: You said the school invigorates you. What makes Strawbridge different from other schools in public and non-public sectors?
A: We utilize a team concept to every student’s education within our population so we have many different, qualified individuals to lean on. No one teacher carries the entire load. Because we have been in the trenches with each other, we know strengths of every teacher and student.
That is the main reason the school has such an outstanding graduation rate as well as a high retention rate for students and staff. We have kids who travel almost two hours one-way to attend school here – we must be doing something right!
Q: Your role is changing next year – what has you excited about this new position? Does this change your goals as a teacher and for the school?
A: I am joining the staff development team. I will still be in the classrooms, but with a focus of training the teachers more so than the kids.
What excites me about this role is I get to support my peers and ensure consistency within the programs. Chris Sparr, the school’s Director of Professional Development and Curriculum, and I share this excitement about building the school up, building the resources up, and getting the school to be a more dynamic place to learn and teach.
Raising reading and comprehension levels is always a challenge, but over the last six years the school has been compiling data focused on these outcomes. This summer we’re taking this collection a step further and plotting our metrics against those of the research-based curriculums we purchased. This is definitely an exciting direction and a project that excites me as an educator.
Q: Reading and writing sounds like a basic skill, but you see it as so much more. Can you expand on why this is such an important aspect of teaching to you?
A: Texting and social media have really put some challenges in front of teaching reading and composition. Common Core standards say we are supposed to deliver a student who can communicate effectively with the written word.
Being able to apply for a job, respond to professional communications, and have a chance to succeed in adulthood does matter. However, it is more than learning a useful skill. For the student population we serve, reading and writing is joyful. It is a coping skill. It is a way to identify with different aspects of themselves as they seek out who they are and what they want to be.
I have a student dealing with some serious transgender issues, and he is asking for books that might adequately reflect who he is and who he is trying to be. These are real issues; to have the ability to read and write – and use reading and writing as an outlet to express their feelings – is important and therapeutic.
Q: You have some serious sports diversity – and intense rivalries – in your family. That must make Thanksgiving interesting! Tell us about that.
A: I grew up in New York City – my mother once met the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson in the subway – but because I went to school in Maryland and raised my family in Maryland I’ve really become more of a Ravens fan than I ever was a Giants fan. Just to make the rivalry even worse my son has become a fan of the Patriots!
However, in the spring it becomes harmonic in our home because we are all big fans of the Orioles. My New York family does not understand how this happened, but I cannot help it – the Ravens are so scrappy! It seems people either love or hate the Ravens…and I love them!
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Read more from BCC Spotlight: LYNETTE SEAY, Strawbridge Reading Specialist