Getting Started with Structure and Style

Jan 01, 2022 | Posted by IEW

by Sharyn Staggers

Every year, IEW has chosen an outstanding teacher who has implemented IEW in his or her classroom with enthusiasm and fidelity. Join us this year as we put the spotlight on an administrator whose school is using IEW’s Structure and Style for Students for the first time. Helen Suhr is the Assistant Headmaster of Orange County Classical Academy located in Orange, California. Orange County Classical Academy is supported by the Barney Charter School Initiative and is Orange County’s only tuition-free, K-12 Classical Education charter school.

What is the mission and history of Orange County Classical Academy (OCCA)?
The mission of OCCA is to develop students in mind and character through a classical, content-rich liberal arts and sciences curriculum that emphasizes the principles of scholarship, moral character, and civic virtue. Our school, which is quite new, opened its doors in 2020 during the pandemic. Instruction began online through distance learning but quickly transitioned to in-person instruction in September of 2020. We have been greatly supported by the Barney Charter School Initiative, which provides us with a curriculum program guide and training for our teachers, administrators, and school board each year.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your position as Assistant Headmaster at Orange County Classical, especially regarding curriculum decisions and teacher training.
I have ten years of experience teaching third grade. Five of the years I taught were in secular private schools. My most recent teaching experience was in a Christian classical school, where I was awarded the title of Master Teacher. I became the Assistant Headmaster of OCCA in April 2020 and was a founding member of the school. As the Assistant Headmaster I am responsible for supporting teachers as they strive to teach the curriculum with fidelity. I provide training for teachers on classical pedagogy and classroom management as well as organize training opportunities on curriculum in each subject. I am also the SST, 504, and ELD Coordinator, so I have many opportunities to support teachers and students with individual needs. My door is always open to meet with teachers who have questions, concerns, or a need to brainstorm ideas.

What are your goals for the writing/language arts program at Orange County Classical Academy?
We believe that literacy and writing are foundational in our students’ ability to learn and grow in all subject areas. Our goal is to provide students with a structured curriculum that has been created with the students’ understanding and implementation in mind.

How did you first learn about IEW?
I had heard about IEW before I started working at this school through different classical education circles. You are using Structure and Style for the Student for the first time this year. 

What led you to making a change in your writing curriculum?
The decision to use IEW came through guidance from the Barney Charter School Initiative. The BCSI coach that was supporting our school highly recommended IEW, and because of IEW’s great reputation, we decided to move forward with implementing it in all of our third through sixth grade classes. 

What did you see in IEW’s methodology that would help you meet your goals for the language arts program at OCCA?
Our overall goal for our language arts program at OCCA is to teach students how to be clear, effective, and eloquent communicators. We have been using IEW for a couple of months now, and the teachers have reported how practical and focused the curriculum is. Writing is not an easy subject to teach well, but IEW provides simple and easy-to-use strategies that support the teacher in her instruction. Before students realize it, they are writing!


This article first appeared in the 2022 Arts of Language Magalog for Schools

© 2022, Institute for Excellence in Writing, L.L.C.
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