A coeducational day school serving students JK-12

Middle School

The years from fifth grade through eighth grade are an important time for self-discovery. They are a time when students develop their interests, learn new talents, and face challenges that are unique to their age group. At Latin, middle school students are introduced to a world of new concepts and ideas.

Our middle school curriculum covers all the traditional core subject areas—math, science, English and language arts, social studies and language—but we use a range of innovative, creative ways to present the material. Middle school students learn best when they are engaged with the subject matter through concrete experiences like role playing, simulations, lab work or exploration outside the classroom. Dynamic discussions and interactive lectures are designed to relate to issues and ideas we know middle school-aged kids are thinking about.

I think Latin has one of the most challenging curricula out there, and one that helps my child reach her full potential as an academic and a person.

-- middle school parent

Around the Middle School

Richard Dickinson

Get to know Dr. Richard C. Dickinson, Middle School Dean of Students and Wellness Teacher. He is currently in his sixth year at Latin.


Education

I attended Latin School for 14 years before attending Kenyon College in Ohio. Subsequently, I attended law school for two and a half years before having a change in vision. I then enrolled in a master's program for counseling. After graduating with a degree in counseling, I completed my doctorate degree in the field of counselor education.  
 

Favorite Quote

"The war of my life had begun; and though one of God’s most powerless creatures, I resolved never to be conquered." –Harriet Jacobs, author of "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl"
 

What are the best parts of your job?

The best part of my job is knowing that I play a role in ensuring that children feel seen and valued as unique and worthy of the opportunities that Latin affords. I am also grateful to have the opportunity to help shape and shift young mindsets in the direction of kindness and inclusivity, which helps create a community that is safe and welcoming. The ability to feel safe is essential with regard to students feeling like they can be open, authentic and available to learn. 


Why did you decide that you wanted to work at a school?

Children are the key to securing a safe and productive future for all of us. My goal is to assist children with developing a positive concept of self that is based in integrity and empathy. The ability to love and appreciate one’s self in a holistic way allows for that appreciation and love to extend to broader communities. 


What is your philosophy on wellness in middle school?

I believe in a holistic approach to wellness as it relates to our students. This includes students having the supports and structures in place to address their mental and emotional well-being. We are very fortunate to have access to Mrs. Buchanan Miller, our dynamic school counselor, as well as a host of other professionals who are steadfast in their efforts to attend to the social and emotional needs of our students. Additionally, the middle school is well-resourced in terms of outlets and opportunities to address the physical health and well-being of our students. For example, it brings me great joy to see our students engaged in the practice of yoga as a component of our physical education curriculum. Students have the opportunity to practice being present and mindful at the direction of our phenomenal P.E. instructor Nicole Collias who guides our students through their yoga practice. Nicole is an expert in the practice of yoga and we are fortunate to have her working with our students. Finally, we have the great privilege of working with Nurse Jill Yacu and her colleagues. Not only is Nurse Yacu one of the hardest working people that I have encountered, she has the ability to make authentic connections with our students as they navigate all of the health concerns associated with being a middle school student while learning during a pandemic. 


What was the last good book you read?

The last great book that I read was Alex Hailey’s “Roots.”  The last good book that I read in terms of professional development was Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt’s “Biased.” The last good book that I read for a brain break was John Grisham’s “The Guardians.” 


What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?

The best advice I ever received was from my father. I was in a difficult place mentally and emotionally after leaving law school. I told my father that I felt like I could not catch a break. He looked at me and said, “Son, that is part of the problem. You do not catch breaks. You make them.” I will never forget that advice.

Our Voices 

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Hand-drawn illustrations by Jeff Newmark

What started as a small initiative to incorporate mindfulness into the classroom has become a tradition for students in longtime Middle School Math Teacher Jeff Newmark’s math class over the past 10 years. Newmark starts each math class with a “Mindful Moment” that typically begins with “Rest your eyes…” 

In the early years, he rotated through a series of about 10-15 “Mindful Moments” in which he asked the students to imagine something, listen to a poem, sounds or music, or feel a specific feeling. “Mindful Moments” allow students to focus on their breathing, take a brain break and concentrate on something other than school work as a way to be more present and relieve stress. The idea is for students to take these skills and utilize them in other classes and in life.

Newmark took “Mindful Moments” to the next level when he spent his sabbatical year writing and illustrating 50 “Mindful Moments,” which were recently self-published in a book The benefits that students receive during "Mindful Moments" are worth the couple of minutes it takes at the beginning of class.
Jeff Newmark, Middle School Math
titled “Mindful Milly” available on Etsy or by contacting Jeff directly at jnewmark@latinschool.org. Six of the 50 “Mindful Moments” in the book were submitted to Newmark by his students.

“The benefits that students receive during "Mindful Moments" are worth the couple of minutes it takes at the beginning of class,” said Newmark. 

Academics

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DEI logo

There is an inherent connection between diversity, equity, inclusion and wellness. Children and adults benefit from cultivating a strong sense of identity within themselves and through relationships with others. This strong sense of self and connection to others creates feelings of belonging, which is essential for students to bring their authentic selves to school.
In order for students to engage in our anti-bias identity work, they need to feel the security and support that comes with knowing they are included. In order for students to engage in our anti-bias identity work, they need to feel the security and support that comes with knowing they are included. Conversations that foreground belonging are paramount in creating a community that values wellness. 

A recommendation from Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Eleannor Maajid and Latin's DEI team, this interview with Jessica Ulrich, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Alaska Anchorage, discusses the importance as well as the benefits to the well-being of a child to be connected to community, family, land, earth, etc. 

At Latin conversations around these topics take place in many different forms and spaces, including morning meetings and roundtable discussions in the lower school, affective education and homerooms in the middle school and affective education and advisories in the upper school. 

Our Voices

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Grid method in action

The Grid Method is a way of teaching that has proven successful in many classrooms at Latin across the middle school.

The Grid Method is an instructional framework for standards-based, mastery learning that is used in several science classes, language arts classes and language classes. Working from recognized standards, teachers create a grid of assignments and assessments for students to work through at their own pace. These assignments increase in complexity, from basic vocabulary up to higher-level thinking.

Grid method in action

A middle school science classroom has students working on a variety of activities according to the grid: some students are reading from the textbook to give them background information on viruses; some students are researching viruses to plan a model they will build; Some students are on the building stage because they had their plan approved; and some students are moving on to learn about the lytic cycle of a virus.

Listen to Clara D. '26 describe her experience with a science project following the Grid Method. Along each step of the way, students need to show competency or mastery before moving up to the next level. This method allows students to work at their own pace and get individualized attention from the teacher when they need it. Students who master concepts quickly are able to forge ahead and do independent advanced work, whereas students who need more time are able to take it, within reason. Perhaps surprisingly, this method allows for a lot of personalized learning and one-on-one time with the teacher during class time, in small bursts right when the student is ready for it. Teachers monitor student progress for interventions and provide real-time feedback. It's an engaging way to meet the needs of all the learners in the classroom.

NOTE: The photos and video were taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Academics

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How We Approach Teaching and Learning

Middle School Director Deb Sampey talks about our energizing and demanding curriculum and how it prepares students for the rigor and challenges that lie ahead in high school.

Middle School Virtual Tour

middle school students with Syrian Refugee project

When learning resonates with the students' own values and beliefs, the content is seen as relevant and tied to real-world concerns and projects.

Scratching beneath the surface of the syrian refugee crisis

Seventh grade students in the Global Perspectives course researched the lives of individual Syrian refugees and told their stories using a programming language called Scratch. The project takes users on the journey of a real-life Syrian refugee, the choices they face, as well as the realities of the refugee experience.


 

Students are well versed in the "power of yet" and the value in continuing to grow, defying expectations or limitations.

- Latin parent

Latin should never change how comfortable it makes us feel. Which means that we aren't afraid to make mistakes.

- Middle school student

I understood the value of this education first hand when I went off to college. My persistence and strong desire to learn and connect with my professors was a reflection of the close relationships I made with my teachers at Latin.

- Alum

FAQ


Do you have questions? We would love to hear from you.

Richard Dickinson

Richard Dickinson

Titles: Middle School Dean of Students
Degrees: B.A. Kenyon College
M.A. Argosy University
Armenta Porter

Armenta Porter

Titles: Middle School Assistant
Max Rouse

Max Rouse

Titles: Assistant Middle School Director
Degrees: B.A. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
MEd University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Debra Sampey

Debra Sampey

Titles: Middle School Director
Degrees: B.S. George Williams College
M.S. University of Wisconsin

middle school

Engaged and Empathetic Learners

middle school students engaged in experiential learning