Celebrating 10 Years of Dedication, Compassion, and Innovation
At Westminster, we take so much pride in our teaching staff. Every day, our teachers instill a love of learning in the children, inspire new ideas, and cultivate a safe environment where students can grow and thrive. Today, we take a moment to honor one of those model teachers, Jori Sapper, our second grade math and science teacher and the K–2 team leader.
The Call to Teach
Ms. Sapper comes from a long line of teachers—her mother, grandmother, and two aunts were all teachers—and she always knew she wanted to work with children as well. As the oldest of three siblings, she naturally took on the role of caretaker and protector, and she carries that mentality of guardianship into her classroom today.
Working with young children is particularly rewarding for her because she naturally sees the potential and possibility in people and loves helping individuals grow and realize that potential.
An Award-Winning Career
Westminster isn’t the only institution to recognize what a model teacher Ms. Sapper is! She recently won the Virginia Association of Independence Schools (VAIS) Innovation in Education award. Only three teachers throughout Virginia were recipients, and Ms. Sapper was the winner for the lower school category.
“Winning this award was a huge surprise and a big honor,” says Sapper. “Creativity is really a big fueler for me. I’m always trying to think outside the box and find new and different ways to approach a topic. I’m always rewriting lesson plans and trying to find the new and better way, and I think that lends itself to being innovative in the classroom.”
Cross-Collaboration and Project-Based Learning
At the heart of Ms. Sapper’s innovative classroom is her dedication to project-based learning—a principle best represented by her Apple Lab. Ms. Sapper developed this project when she first started teaching, and it continues to grow and to evolve every year. It starts with a field trip to an apple orchard, where the students learn all about apple picking and what it takes to manage an orchard. Apples are then brought back to the classroom for learning on all fronts. Students weigh them, measure them, perform science experiments on them, and even write poems about them and the experience.
“In general, when it comes to project-based learning, I’ve always found that an integrated approach to any sort of lesson is much more likely to stick with the children and make an impact,” says Sapper. “When kids are able to make those real-world connections and see the learning come to life or approach it from many different angles, it makes for such a rich learning experience overall. This lab helps demonstrate that there’s so much learning that can be gained from something as simple as a little apple.”
I-Am-In-Control: Mindfulness in the Classroom
Another hallmark of Ms. Sapper’s classroom is an emphasis on mindfulness, especially as it benefits and relates to very young children.
“Mindfulness, I really see it as the catalyst to everything, in life but especially in teaching,” says Sapper. “It’s like a primer for our minds, and I find it to be such a reliable and effective tool when working with children. I find it especially relevant after recess when everyone’s energy is heightened. It’s the perfect time to employ some breathing techniques to calm the body and mind.”
One favorite of Ms. Sapper and her students are the “finger mantras,” where students place thumbs to pinkies and say “I” and then move to the ring finger and say “am.” Next finger, “in.” Last finger, “control.” I-am-in-control. These kinds of tools help the young students not only calm their minds and bodies but feel more personally accountable for their mind-set.
A Decade of Excellence
This year marked Ms. Sapper’s tenth year with Westminster School. She joined us directly after completing her master’s program and has been a part of our family ever since.
“Westminster felt like a really good fit from the start. It felt like home, and I love the amazing people I work with,” says Sapper. “There’s no doubt that the community, the family feel at Westminster is what makes the place so special. We’ve also all bought into this belief that if you hold people to high expectations and you lovingly guide them and nurture them along the way with encouragement and praise, even the youngest of kids can achieve remarkable things.”
Like most dedicated teachers, Ms. Sapper’s true fueler, however, has always been the students themselves.
“My favorite part about being a teacher is the kids,” says Sapper. “I love watching their insights come to life. I love the enthusiasm they bring.”
Westminster School is so lucky to have Ms. Sapper on our staff, and every child who comes through her classroom benefits from her dedication, compassion, enthusiasm, and innovation. Thank you, Ms. Sapper!
Interested in learning more about the rest of our dedicated staff and our school’s approach to learning? Take a virtual tour and sign up for an open house today!