In Emily Caldarelli's fourth-grade classroom at Paul Cuffee Lower School, a charter public school in Providence, students work together calmly and are engaged and clear about their objectives. They regularly provide one another feedback and compliments in daily morning and closing meetings. Caldarelli, called "a master facilitator" by colleagues, offers predictable routines, creates smooth and seamless transitions between activities, and uses non-verbal signals to which all students respond quickly, maximizing the class’s learning time.
Caldarelli uses a variety of instructional strategies to help students take control of their learning. She asks them to verbalize the purpose of each activity, models her thinking out loud, provides sufficient time for students to think and respond, marks student contributions on anchor charts, and encourages students to pursue independent learning opportunities. Caldarelli prioritizes the Common Core State Standards and aligns her lesson design directly to them, including structured classroom talk, reading and writing in-depth about content, and learning how to ask questions that probe higher-order thinking. She integrates assessment into her instruction by asking students to monitor their own understanding through group-authored feedback sheets. Caldarelli also collaborates with specialists for project-based learning. A project on the branches of government, for example, required students to build something, write a research paper, and present their research to the class. The project engaged the whole class; even one extremely shy student became engrossed in her subject (presidential pets) and was excited to share her discoveries with her peers.
A fixture in the Paul Cuffee School community, Caldarelli is the fourth-grade team leader and serves on the School Improvement Team, the Climate and Culture Committee, and the Response to Intervention (RTI) team. She led two exciting initiatives at the school: the implementation of the Guiding Education in Math and Science Network (GEMS-Net) science curriculum, which involves collaboration with scientists and educators at the University of Rhode Island, and the incorporation of the EngageNY math curriculum aligned to the Common Core. Anecdotal results are showing improvement in students' scientific writing, research, and mathematical thinking. A natural collaborator, Caldarelli has led professional development on social and emotional learning as well as sharing strategies for responding to behaviors in the classroom. She is seen as the liaison between teachers and administrators, and takes on the important role of mentoring new teachers.
Caldarelli imparts her communication skills to her students, teaching them to advocate for themselves and voice their opinions. For example, she created the Glasses Club in which students who wear glasses eat lunch together and celebrate looking different. Caldarelli visits students and their families at home, writes parents postcards, emails, and letters, and makes phone calls throughout the year. The class has a non-negotiable homework policy, but if students do not complete their work while at home, Caldarelli makes time for it during the day, stressing responsibility, flexibility and follow-through. One thing she never does, though, is keep kids in at recess—she knows how important wiggle time is for young learners. Her values extend beyond the school walls, too. She took initiative in the school's Empty Bowl fundraiser, a service learning committee project that gathers food for a local food bank.
Caldarelli, who lives in Providence, earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education and psychology from the University of Miami in 2004.
"[Professional development] takes a lot of time and dedication. It's important to plan purposeful lessons, spend time reflecting, and..." (read more)