By Melanie Battistone, Assistant Head of School and Lower School Head and Melissa Armenta, Assistant Lower School Director
Imagine packing for the most exciting and significant trip of your life. How would you prepare? What would you need to know? What would you take with you? At Waterford, as we prepare our Lower School students for the journey ahead, we ask such questions. What do our students need to know about the world in which they are going to be traveling? What should they bring along? What should they leave behind? What values and principles will guide them in their decision-making along the way? And in the end, will they have experienced the examined and well-lived life? These are lofty questions when we are talking about children ages 3 to 10, and yet, they are the questions that we must ask as we help them build a solid foundation and develop a love of learning in these crucially formative years.
The translation of a liberal arts principles to an elementary school education is at once logical and miraculous. Children eagerly make connections between their developing sense of self and their growing understanding of the world around them. They are brimming with joyful curiosity and critical thinking–what parent hasn’t been exhausted by the endlessly recursive “why?” of a little one? Our youngest students are immediately proud of their growing independence, and school becomes a natural habitat in which they thrive. True to the liberal arts, children are laser-focused on fairness and truth (especially at recess). They are eager to demystify and understand the terms of engagement for friendships and relationships with their teachers. Children are exceptionally creative, and just as they literally can hear the high frequencies that adults no longer can, they vision the myriad of possibilities that adults can no longer see. Children are philosophers at heart, eager to pull up a chair and engage in the Great Conversation. They are indeed buzzing and blooming with potential!
While these innate characteristics of children provide the raw material, more is needed to live a well-lived life, even at this young age. As with any successful journey, a knowledgeable guide can make all the difference. Perceptive, kind, and committed to their students’ success, Waterford teachers prepare students for a journey that they are taking together, choosing routes that encompass pleasure, beauty, and wonder. The path winds through science, theater, math, music, reading, writing, chess, and more. The curriculum (guidebook) provides essential knowledge–the key to navigating unfamiliar territory. With map in hand, teachers shape learning experiences that dazzle and challenge. From alphabet to essay, our students climb higher and higher. Place value? No problem. Medieval Europe? So glad to be alive right now. Solfege? I’ll never sing out of tune again. Five-paragraph essay? I’ve got this! Because of our world-class teachers, Waterford students are educated in an environment of excellence, abundance, and generosity, and they have the tools they need to confidently progress along their academic path.
As our Lower School students solidify their understanding of what the world is, they shift to understanding who they want to be in the world. The expansive backdrop of the Wasatch mountains that surround our campus reminds our students of the promise of all that awaits them. Their experience with the liberal arts slowly deepens their awareness of our full potential as humans. All that they have learned links arms with responsibility, and they begin to understand that they can indeed impact the world through the values of caring and integrity. After all, learning is communal, connected and indebted. Perhaps Plato said it best–what a country honors, it cultivates. At Waterford, we do not take lightly the sacred work that we do in cultivating lives of meaning and purpose. There is no more honorable journey than this one.
Melanie holds a doctorate in School Psychology and a Master of Science in Counseling from the University of Utah. Prior to being the Lower School Head at Waterford, Melanie held several positions at the McGillis School including Associate Head of School and School Psychologist. Melanie and her husband Michael moved to Salt Lake City 28 years ago to pursue their educational goals. In addition to appreciating the natural beauty of the mountains as a place to feed her passion for the outdoors, she and Michael quickly realized that Utah was the perfect place to raise a family. Melanie and Michael are proud Waterford School parents of Benjamin ’17, Nathaniel, ’19 and Carolina ’21.
Melissa Armenta grew up just outside of Washington, DC (Go Redskins!) and graduated with honors from Hood College in Maryland with a degree in Early Childhood Education in 2006. After a couple years of student teaching, her career started at S. Christa McAulliffe Elementary where she taught kindergarten for two years. In the process, Melissa got married and followed her husband to Utah where he was in the midst of finishing his graduate school education. Melissa’s first teaching job in Utah was at the Waterford School and she taught PreK-4 in 2008. After acquiring an ELL certification for the state of Utah, her career path led her to help open a charter school in Park City, where she taught for 6 years. She helped develop and implement the second grade curriculum. Melissa was also the team lead for first and second grade teachers as well as the ELL Director at Weilenmann. For her efforts, Melissa was awarded 2014 Teacher of the Year for the Weilenmann School of Discovery. In 2015, she jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the Waterford School community again. Melissa taught full day Kindergarten at the Waterford School until 2019, sharing her passion for elementary education with students. Outside the classroom, Melissa enjoys shopping, skiing, running, relaxing on the beach and spending time with her family. She and her husband have one boy and a dog named Abby. Melissa feels that every child is an individual of great value, and she has high expectations for each student.
January 2, 2024
July 13, 2023
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