A place of belonging: A Closer Look at 6th Grade

February 14, 2024 / Christine Coddington

As the school year reaches its midpoint, 6th-grade students at Eastern Mennonite School find themselves immersed in a community that goes beyond academics. EMS 6th grade is a stepping stone guided by the dynamic teaching duo of Mr. Martin and Ms. Huyard. This grade serves as a nurturing space, offering a sense of belonging and support during the pivotal transition from elementary to middle school – one that many adults don’t reflect on fondly!

The shift is not just about moving from one grade to another; Mr. Martin notes, “middle school signifies a blend of newfound freedoms and increased personal responsibility. While there’s an increase in the number of students per grade, classroom size stays the same.” Anticipating what can be growing pains, Ms. Huyard reflects on how she and Mr. Martin offer support during what can be growing pains, “our goal is to guide the students through their initial days and months in middle school with comfort and understanding, rooted in our own experiences as alumni.” 

Building community

Both Ms. Huyard ‘17 and Mr. Martin ‘76 bring not only years of teaching expertise but a personal connection to the students, community, and the school’s mission. They view their students as their own, fostering a familial atmosphere within the classroom. Charlotte Wright, 6th grade student, praises Mr. Martin and Ms. Huyard for their hands-on teaching methods, including their interactive labs.  All the students speak highly of this dynamic teaching duo, expressing gratitude for the invaluable support during this transitional period.

The dedication of our 6th grade teaching team extends beyond traditional teaching roles. Ms. Huyard’s involvement in the theater department enhances the creative experiences of the students, while Mr. Martin’s passion for raising boxer puppies adds an occasional unique dimension to the classroom, creating memorable moments for the students when the puppies visit for some puppy therapy.

Bridging connections

5th graders get a chance to spend all day with a paired current 6th grader to have a first hand experience of what 6th grade will be like. 5th graders look forward to this day every year for a glimpse into what awaits them next year. In the words of Pace Harman, current 6th grader, “The change of scenery and increased class size from elementary school is great! Having new students to socially interact with is great, but more freedom comes with more homework.”

Half of the class are newcomers to EMS and the other half are returning students from our elementary school. To foster a sense of community, class parent representatives usually organize a summer gathering where all students, both new and current, come together to mingle and make connections. The cohesion among students almost feels seamless. 

Programs like our bigs and littles pair 6th grade students with a junior or senior student.  Throughout the year there are “bigs and littles” events during lunch to help build connections and community within our school.  It gives the new student a sense of belonging and our juniors and seniors look forward to the activities and relationship building.

Through the unwavering support of teachers like Mr. Martin and Ms. Huyard, students not only navigate this critical transition but thrive.


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