Berwick's Kindergarten Teachers

Jennifer Hedges

Teacher Profile:
My name is Jennifer Hedges and I teach Kindergarten at Berwick Academy.  My husband Todd and I are originally from Rochester, New York.  After I graduated with my Masters degree in Elementary Education, we moved to Saratoga Springs, NY for a brief period of time before settling in Marblehead, MA.  My first teaching position was in Chelsea, MA in a bilingual kindergarten classroom as a part of the Boston University/Chelsea Public Schools Early Childhood Partnership Program.  After teaching kindergarten and second grade in Chelsea, I was hired to teach first grade in Marblehead, MA.  I took a break from teaching to raise my two children, Lilly and Spencer.  When our family relocated to New Hampshire, I began substitute teaching at various schools in the Seacoast area.  Berwick stood out as not only a place I wanted my children to go, but the place I wanted to teach.  Our family feels so fortunate to live on the Seacoast and we take advantage of all it has to offer.  In the winter you will find my family on the slopes or snowshoeing.  In the summer, we are at the beach or enjoying time in the Adirondacks.  In between, we try to maintain balance and enjoy school, work, and time with family and friends!  
What is your favorite lesson to teach?
It would be hard to pinpoint one specific lesson that is my favorite.  I particularly love the beginning of the day when we all gather for Morning Meeting.  It is often the time where incidental learning takes place, and allows us the time to set the tone and build community.  The social and emotional growth of our children is as important as skills such as reading and math, and this morning time is key to fostering a positive classroom environment.

Why are you excited to teach Kindergarten?
Kindergarteners love school.  Their energy and joy is helping to keep me young!  It is exciting to work with our youngest learners during these formative years where good teaching can make a profound impact on their development as learners.  

How do you define great teaching?
I honestly believe that there are many, many good elementary teachers working with our children.  I think what separates a good teacher from a great teacher is that a great teacher is constantly self-reflective and works hard to determine what each individual child needs in order for learning to take place.  Children come to us knowing a great deal.  It is the job of a skilled teacher to allow the children to build upon that foundation and encourage additional understandings.  Great teachers must be good listeners and incredibly patient.  Children learn differently, and a great teacher is respectful of that and allows the children to help drive the curriculum pace and outcomes.  I think great teachers are also full of energy and have an incredible work ethic by nature.

What is your classroom motto or theme?
Perfect is boring!

What is your favorite thing about the Lower School?
I love the ebb and flow of watching the children grow over time.  The air in September practically hums, and the excitement to start a new year is palpable.  The teachers are just as nervous as the children on the first day, but this is simply due to the anticipation of what is to come.  I love being a part of the traditions and celebrations that are unique to Berwick.  Watching the children participate in assemblies, share a thought in community meeting, chat with a teacher during lunch~ these are all small parts of our day that, when put together, create a loving and nurturing environment for all of us.

Meghan O’Leary

Teacher Profile:
I grew up in Higganum, CT before enrolling at the University of New Hampshire where I studied English literature.  I then went on to obtain my master’s degree in elementary education.  I spent an internship year teaching in a first grade classroom while researching literacy instruction at the primary level.  After moving to Kittery in 2013, I began working as a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at a nature preschool program called Eyes of the World Discovery Center which adopted the Waldorf and Montessori philosophies to create full and comforting academic and social experiences for preschool students.  For a few years, I was a teacher’s assistant in the Pre-K and second grade classrooms at Shore Country Day School in Beverly, MA.  I am excited for my second year here at Berwick. During my free time, I enjoy exploring the outdoor environments of New Hampshire and Maine. I love finding walking trails with my dog, eating at local restaurants and gardening in my backyard. I am so fortunate to live and teach on the seacoast!

Why do you love teaching your specific age?
I love everything about early childhood education! In Kindergarten, students are so excited to learn, play and explore. The spirit of a Kindergartener is contagious.  I enjoy watching how much my students grow over the course of the school year. They become readers, writers and caring members of our school community.

What defines a great teacher?
A great teacher is someone who is thoughtful, creative, passionate, observant, a good listener and dedicated to learning what makes each one of their students special!

What is your favorite lesson to teach?
I have really enjoyed teaching science and experiencing the outdoors with my students. Nature education is very important and we have so many resources right at our fingertips! I also love our Morning Meeting times. It is a special moment during our day when each student’s voice is heard and appreciated.

What is your classroom motto?
“Practice makes progress!”
What is your favorite thing about teaching in the Berwick Lower School?
I love Berwick Academy’s Lowers School for so many reasons! It is a unique place where I feel like I can grow as an educator and learner. My colleagues motivate me to think outside of the box and foster a safe place for me to share my ideas. The students and their families are kind and fun. The Lower School is a very special community. It is my home away from home!
Berwick Academy, situated on an 80-acre campus just over one hour north of Boston, serves 600 students, Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12, from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Deeply committed to its mission of promoting virtue and useful knowledge, Berwick Academy empowers students to be creative and bold. Berwick strives to graduate alumni who shape their own learning, take risks, ask thoughtful questions, and come to understand and celebrate their authentic selves. Founded in 1791 and rooted in a tradition of college preparation, our culture of innovation prepares students for a complex and dynamic world.