Middle division students work and learn in centers


Ariella Frommer, Staff Writer

Writing Center

“[The Writing Center] provides a space to learn how to be creative with your writing in addition to just a space to work,” Anna Kim (8) said. Since Middle Division (MD) English teacher Morgan Yarosh established the MD Writing Center in the fall of 2019, it has been a place for students to work on writing assignments and enrichment. “One leg is supporting writing in school, and the enrichment leg includes the HM Post and contests kids want to enter,” she said.

As the MD was transitioning from one Head of MD to another, Yarosh saw a need for the Center and proposed it to Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly, who was working as a temporary Head of MD at that time, she said. “I started it because I saw a need for kids to have help writing, and Dr. Kelly was really supportive of it.”

The Writing Center is an essential space in the MD for students to experiment with writing, Yarosh said. “To have kids have a space to come in and tap into this desire, or talent, or inclination, is something we should be offering.”

Students can also do homework in the Center, Yarosh said. “Because students are allowed to talk quietly and there are laptops in the center, it’s become a place where people come to either work on group projects or just do homework, but of course people also come in to work specifically on writing.”

The Writing Center allows for more collaboration than other centers in the MD, Kim said. “You can brainstorm ideas with other students and Ms. Yarosh or ask for help.”

Similarly, when Julia Lourenco (8) was in sixth grade, she went to the Center twice a week, she said. “Ms. Yarosh would help me through every step of my papers, but even now, she’s always really helpful with narrowing down ideas and editing my work.”

Additionally, the Writing Center is home to the MD publication, The HM Post. It usually releases an issue semi-annually and students can write about anything they want, Kim said. While Kim occasionally does homework in the writing center, she mostly goes there to work on HM Post articles, she said.

The reasons why students come to the center vary, Yarosh said. When students are writing papers for their history or science classes, Yarosh works with those teachers to learn about the project and gets materials from them about what they are looking for with the assignment, she said. 

Seeing students improve is the most rewarding part of running the Center, Yarosh said. “A lot of times, it seems like writing is very big and mysterious, and it is, but it can also be broken down,” she said. “I can break down the writing processes to help kids understand where things go and why they go there, and how to say what they want to say in their own voice.”

Yarosh became the Chair of the MD English Department in January while running the Center, but the department is still in the process of figuring out what the Writing Center will look like in the near future, Yarosh said. “I hope the Writing Center becomes a more central place for students in the Middle Division and that it continues to offer opportunities for both academic and non-academic enrichment.”


Academic Center

“[The Academic Center] is a great resource that is always available if I am looking to catch up on any work, and I know that if there is anything that I need, from extra sheets of paper to printing out my projects, it will be [there],” Penelope Hayes (7) said. 

After moving locations following the remodeling of Pforzheimer Hall in the fall of 2019, the Academic Center remains a place for students to do their homework during the school day and after school. Academic Center Coordinator Temi Aurelia was hired to run the center ten years ago, Aurelia said. The Center is open from Monday through Thursday, at the start of the school day to 5:45 pm and until 3:15 pm on Friday, Aurelia said. 

Whether students come from the school’s Lower Division or another school, students have to start working differently in the MD, Aurelia said. “This is a tough age, and students are learning how to be a student at Horace Mann, and we are here to help support them.”

To improve their study skills or organization, Aurelia shows students a variety of options to better organize their schoolwork and structure their time, she said. “For some of them, really figuring out, ‘How long is it going to take me to do this assignment? Which assignment should I start first?’ is the hardest part of adjusting to middle school.” 

In addition to nightly homework, Aurelia helps students with long-term projects, she said. “This is the first time they are getting long-term projects, but this does not mean that you should start it the night before it’s due if the teacher gave you two weeks to do it.” 

Students can make appointments or drop in if they want homework help from Aurelia or Academic Support Service teacher Louise Parms, Aurelia said. Occasionally, the support Aurelia provides to students includes her collaborating with their teachers, and staying after school to work with students in groups or one-on-one, she said. 

Furthermore, the Academic Center provides supplies that are useful for projects or homework, Bishop Ibrahim (8) said. “There are all the necessary materials such as computers, paper, staplers, and pencil sharpeners, which I can’t exactly access at many other places at any given time.”

Julia Lourenco (8) feels that she is most productive when she works in the Academic Center, she said. “If I’m studying outside of the center in the Atrium, it’s harder for me to concentrate because there are people passing by and talking.”

Students can collaborate in the center as long as they are not disturbing anyone, Ibrahim said. Because of this, he does work with and helps out his friends, he said. 

Hayes is also more efficient in getting her work done with access to the Academic Center, she said. “If I know that I am busy after school, and it would be easier if I did my homework there, I go there.” Hayes goes to the center during most of her free periods and at the end of lunch, she said. 

Seeing students’ confidence in themselves when doing homework when they previously didn’t understand their assignment is Aurelia’s favorite part of her job, she said. “I try to explain to students that their understanding goes beyond the grade. No matter what I do, you are not always going to get the top grade, but you can feel good that you understand what you are doing.”


Math Center

“I usually go to the Math Center soon before a quiz to really understand the given topics, and they’re really helpful,” Aaron Soroken (8) said. Former MD Math teacher and Dean Lynne Hirschhorn created the Math Center in the 2018-2019 school year as a space for students to receive help in math, MD Department Chair Quentin Brooks said. Since Hirschhorn retired after the 2020-2021 school year, there has been no formal leader of the Math Center, so the MD math and science teachers take turns running it during D and E periods. 

“The Math Center is a place where students can go to meet with either their teacher or another math teacher in the Middle Division for extra help outside of their math classes,” Brooks said. 

While students can go to the center for math enrichment, most students go for extra support, Brooks said. “Majority of the time, students come into the Math Center to review for an [upcoming] assessment or go over [a previous] assessment.”

For the most part, the Math Center is a “question and answer session,” Brooks said. “But, if you’re meeting with your math teacher, they might have extra practice problems to give to you to work on.”

Jack Rosenberg (7) goes to the Math Center a few times per month, he said. He usually goes to prepare for assessments or to review past assessments, he said. “When I was doing corrections after a test, they helped me understand what I should have done.”

Having the Math Center allows students to get the support they need in a more casual environment than a one-on-one meeting with their teacher, Brooks said. “Math has always been one of those subjects where people either love it or hate it,” he said, “So having the Math Center encourages students to seek extra help without having the fear of feeling like they are the only ones that do not understand a concept or problem.” In addition, each teacher has their own teaching style, so students might understand a concept more when they hear it being explained in another way by different teachers, Brooks said. 

The Math Center is a useful tool for MD students to enhance their math skills, Rosenberg said. “My favorite part of going there is the teachers that help me a lot.”

Brooks’ favorite memory in the center is when a group of eighth graders were interested in learning math at a more rapid pace, so he met with them to teach them new ideas, Brooks said. “The fact that they came to see me to enhance their math skills on their own without prodding was nothing short of impressive.” 


Reading Room

Books, friends, and productivity come from the Middle Division (MD) Reading Room, Lilia Scola (8) said. “People are always willing to talk about books with you or share book recommendations, which is a really nice thing.”

The Reading Room is in the Middle Division (MD) Library. MD students are still allowed to use Katz Library, but the Reading Room is specifically designed for them, MD Library Department Chair Rachel Ricker said. “Our non-fiction collection is geared towards the research projects that take place in the middle school, and we also have laptops, iPads, and textbooks for middle school students.”

The Katz Library used to serve both Middle and Upper Divisions, but when the school decided that the MD needed their own space in 2012, Ricker created the Reading Room and has led it ever since, Ricker said. “It was clear that there was a need for the Reading Room because we rarely saw middle school students [in the Katz Library] because the space was really built for high school students.”

In the fall of 2019, the Reading Room moved from 220 Tillinghast to  Pforzheimer, and more students go there now, Ricker said. “Because we are more centrally located, kids can more easily just stop by before school, in between classes, or during lunch,” she said. As a result, students check out and read more books, she said. “If you bring books to students, they will read. If you were to take a look at our circulation numbers, it becomes clear that there is a real need for a library where students are located.” 

Ricker’s job is to develop the book collection of the Reading Room, order new books, and help with student research, she said. She also helps students with research projects learn how to search the databases and use Noodletools, she said. The Reading Room is also home to the Reader’s Forum, the MD’s book club. 

Ricker’s favorite part of running the Reading Room is helping students find their next book, she said. “I do this by reading a lot [myself], reading journals filled with book reviews, and I’m always listening to what kids are reading about,” she said. 

Scola enjoys getting book suggestions from Ricker, she said. “Ms. Ricker always has new book recommendations for me to try,” she said. Scola also likes how welcoming the Center is. “It has a very cozy and chill vibe,” she said. 

When Scola first came to the Reading Room, Ricker introduced her to her current favorite book series, Scola said. “I was a bit nervous because I was in sixth grade, but Ms. Ricker gave me this book series, ‘Keeper of the Lost Cities,’ that I ended up loving.” Two years later, Scola developed a friendship with a sixth grader by introducing the same series to them, she said. 

The Reading Room is more calm than the other centers in the MD, Julia Lourenco (8) said. “It’s a bit more quiet, so if I want to do some reading, check out a book, or just talk to Ms. Ricker, that is usually where I go.”