Sydney Banner's Homecoming
A student from Kindergarten to Room 5, Ms. Banner has fond memories of her alma mater, which is now her workplace. She sat down to talk with us about her experiences — both then and now — and how even though Mirman has gone through a lot of changes, it's all been in the service of the same mission. It turns out you can go home again.
What made your parents look at Mirman for your elementary education?
I remember I went to a preschool where they didn't quite know what to do with me. I was reading by two. But my biggest gift, I think, was empathy. I remember taking the IQ test and seeing a bunny pictured on a card and wanting to talk to the psychologist about the bunny's emotional state — I was worried that it was sad. Coming back as a teacher and doing professional development through our in-service periods, it's been so cool for me to learn about the science behind giftedness. When you're here at Mirman, you're just a regular kid. You're surrounded by kids who engage in wonderful conversations. Learning more about why gifted children are the way they are has been really interesting.
Why did you become interested in teaching as a profession?
Jocelyn Balaban (a former long-standing Mirman educator and administrator) made me want to be a teacher. I collected Betty Boop, which was also Ms. B's thing. My collection started when my Dad went on a business trip to New York and he came back with a little airport snow globe depicting Betty Boop in New York City. I was obsessed with it. Every time something special happened in my life, we'd go to this souvenir store, and I'd buy a Betty Boop.
I don't know why I liked Betty Boop so much. I think because my Dad was from New York, and he brought me the souvenir from New York, and that's why I loved it — because he gave it to me.
When I walked into Ms. Balaban’s room for the first time, her desk was covered in Betty Boop. I freaked out. I went home and told my parents about it. “She collects Betty Boop!” They didn’t believe me at first. I think it was just such a serendipitous beautiful thing to be at a school that’s for such a special kind of population of children and to find a teacher who can connect with you on such a personal level. I remember everything about her. I kept in touch with her after I left Mirman, and I always wanted to make her proud. We just always stayed in touch. My relationship with her showed me what a student-teacher relationship could look like and I knew I wanted to be an impact on a student like that.
When did you reconnect with Mirman?
I started teaching during Camp Mirman and then eventually subbed and helped with the Winter Program. When I graduated from my teaching program in May, the first place I wanted to go work was Mirman. It’s a wonderful community and the kids are so interesting. Someone does something incredible every day. Their minds work so differently than mine and it’s beautiful to see, especially at the Kindergarten level because they learn so fast and they are absorbing things so quickly. They all have such interesting talents and quirks about them. I’m just so happy I can be a part of it.
What is it like being in some of the same rooms where you were as an elementary school student, but now as a teacher?
It’s very strange. Katy Carroll’s room was my Kindergarten room. We were cleaning out our classroom and there was stuff from when my Kindergarten teacher was here! I’m taking out these certificates and calendars from the back of the closet and recognizing them! It’s nostalgic and emotional and overwhelming but exciting. And there are teachers here who were teaching when I was here. I used to drive Mr. Coleman crazy because I didn’t like running. Ms. Kelly hasn’t aged a day, and she’s just as kind as she was back then. It’s cool to see what she does behind the scenes.
Do you still feel like it’s the same place at heart?
We didn’t have the Core Values (RIDER) when I was here — it’s great to see them up on the wall now, because they actually always were here, even if we didn't have them formalized. We always talked about character, about integrity, kindness, empathy, all of these things. It’s cool now to see it up in the classroom. It’s ingrained in our curriculum, it’s ingrained in everything we do — in the way we signal our students, in the way we say good morning. I think empathy is our most important Core Value because Mirman Students are so smart and so talented, but they’re still kids! They still need help learning and growing. I love that we’re on a mission to teach them how to be good people. That’s why I want to teach — I want to teach kids how to be better people.