Math teacher helps Gillispie sixth graders look toward future

Gillispie graduates and sisters, Naomi and Olivia Wagner, with Susan Adams. Photo: Annette Bradbury
Gillispie graduates and sisters, Naomi and Olivia Wagner, with Susan Adams. Photo: Annette Bradbury

By Jeanie Scott

Special to the Light

The Gillispie School’s grade 6 math specialist and middle school admissions coordinator, Susan Adams, often uses interactive tools — pop culture facts and board games — to help her students learn math.

Eleven years ago, she developed another interactive program to help her students imagine the future. Prior to the end of each school year, Adams sits down with the sixth graders and asks them to write a letter to themselves. The completed letters are sealed, held by Adams for five years, and mailed back to the students during the summer prior to their senior year of high school.

To outline the assignment, Adams asks the students to predict what their lives will be like as a high school senior. While some write about cars, clothes and friends, others write about academic goals and college dreams.

To frame the second half of the letter, she encourages the youngsteres to capture important memories from their time at Gillispie y answering questions such as: Who are your friends? What are your proudest accomplishments? What are your favorite things to do? The students are free to add their own special touches to the letters by asking their peers to write a small comment or including small personal mementos.

For many students, these letters become treasured keepsakes of their years at Gillispie. This has been especially true for sisters Naomi and Olivia Wagner. Older sister Naomi graduated from Grade 6 in 2003 after spending nine years in the school’s early childhood and elementary programs. In the fall of 2003, the Wagner home was destroyed by a wildfire and all of the girls’ possessions were lost.

Five years later, Naomi was set to enter her senior year at The Bishop’s School when the Grade 6 letter arrived. While almost nothing tangible remained from her Gillispie years, the letter helped her recall her hopes, friends and goals.

She said she remembered the day Adams assigned the letter-writing project. The letter also reminded her that Adams had gone to great lengths following the fire to help the Wagner family gather photos of the girls’ days at Gillispie after the fire. Naomi has since graduated from Bishop’s and will begin her junior year at Pomona College next fall.

Younger sister Olivia graduated from Gillispie in 2010 and looks forward to receiving her letter in the summer of 2015. The girls agree that Susan Adams not only effectively prepared them for the challenges of middle school math, but pushed them to think about the young adults they would become.



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