Eastern Middle School is the largest of the three public middle schools in Greenwich, CT. Currently ranked 7th of over 300 public middle schools in CT by Niche. The school has been an academic powerhouse for decades.
While Eastern is an incredibly well-rounded school, it is widely agreed upon that language arts is the department in which it really excels. English being the only subject that gets 2 blocks in the 7-period-a-day schedule at EMS, students feel like they’re able to really lock in the skills they learnt that day and put them into use. It’s common for students to learn a lesson in the form of a lecture, discussion, etc. in the morning, then apply it later in the day in the form of writing, a presentation, a project, etc.
Bridget Suvansri, a language arts (LA) Advanced Learning Program (ALP teacher) as well as 6th grade team leader at Eastern, was named a Distinguished Teacher by the Greenwich Public School district in 2017. The following year, she was selected as the Greenwich Public Schools representative for Connecticut Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Suvansri is deemed “exemplary” by the town of Greenwich and “highly qualified in both language arts and social studies” by the state of Connecticut. And her records as well as her students’ acclamations reflect just that. For 10 of the past 12 years, her students have come in 1st or 2nd place in the Wordmasters Challenge, a national analogy competition testing verbal reasoning that all LA ALP students at Eastern participate in.
Kaitlyn, one of Mrs. Suvansri’s students in her class that tied for first this year, shares her experience. “These words tested in WordMasters aren’t your conventional weekly vocabulary words; they’re very high-level, sophisticated terms. I remember Mrs. Suvansri telling us in the beginning of the year that her class always placed incredibly high nationally, and now I understand why. I’ve never improved this much in any subject in such a short time and felt so rewarded by my progress. She’s one of my absolute favorite teachers and I admire how much you can tell she cares for her students and recognizes what is best for them.”
Kaitlyn continues by sharing her experience with the argumentative essay, one of the biggest projects of the year in that same class. She remarks that it was a fun way to learn some of the most useful skills in the curriculum. As mentioned above, the students at EMS have 2 English blocks a day, so Kaitlyn recalls that typically in her morning class Mrs. Suvansri would teach them a skill, like how to use footnotes or write a bibliography, both of which were concepts the students were first exposed to during this project. Then later in the day they would be able to devote 45 minutes to writing, peer-editing, and getting 1-on-1 help. At the end of the project the students all converted their essays into short speeches and gave the presentations debate-style.
The social studies program is also a definite student-favorite. Isabella, a current 6th grader, shares that this year she’s learning about religion, geography, anthropology, current events, and more. She appreciates that the social studies curriculum at Eastern is incredibly in-depth and that the teachers use a variety of different teaching methods to connect historical events to current ones. One of her favorite projects so far has been demographic studies on places like China and Japan and exploring how trends like population affect aspects of daily life. She loves learning about how geography has shaped diverse cultures and societies throughout history.
When it comes to extracurricular programs, EMS is well-known for their debate team, led by Mr. Johnson. The club meets weekly to plan, practice, and reflect in preparation for monthly tournaments. These district-wide competitions can have up to hundreds of schools participating, and students love the thrill of not knowing what side they’ll be arguing for until it’s time to step on the podium. Not only is it great to practice debating, students currently on the team share that it’s also an extraordinarily inspiring opportunity to observe older, more experienced debaters in action. As mentioned above, debate is also incorporated into other classes since the school places a large emphasis on public speaking.
It’s exceedingly important to allow for students to have a smooth transition between elementary and middle school. Several students in this year’s 6th grade class have expressed their appreciation for Eastern’s unique ability to achieve this. Among other things, the teachers are constantly sending the students emails to remind them of upcoming events or assignments that need to be completed. The students also really appreciate that their teachers started the year off with a relatively light workload and gradually worked their way up to what older students would refer to as an endless load of quizzes and tests. The school’s academic strength paired with the community’s unique ability to function so cohesively is what makes the EMS experience so memorable.