• The Honorees Of The 2014 Blackboard Awards For Teachers

    Fifteen teachers were honored on June 2nd, 2014.

    By New York Family

    On Monday, June 2, the 2014 Blackboard Awards For Teachers honored 15 of the finest educators in the city at a special ceremony at Scholastic’s headquarters in Manhattan.  Dana Points, the Editor-in-Chief of Parents and American Baby magazines, was the emcee, and Manhattan Borough President Gayle Brewer also took part in the celebration. In addition to Scholastic, the sponsors included the United Federation Of Teachers (UFT), the City University of New York (CUNY), Yorkville Youth Athletic Association, The New School, and School Search Solutions, a division of the School Choice Group.

    The longest-running and most prestigious celebration of excellence in local education, the Blackboard Awards honors educators and schools from all sectors (public, private, charter, and parochial) and grade levels (nursery through high school).  The ceremony for schools and principals takes place in early winter.

    Please Note: We welcome and encourage parent nominations all year long; and to nominate a school, principal, teacher, or guidance counselor visit the Blackboardawards.com.

    As the slideshow below will attest, we live in a city blessed with incredible educators and diverse educational options.

    Prepare to be inspired.

    To see a slideshow of the 2014 Blackboard Awards for Teachers ceremony at Scholastic, click here.

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      EILEEN SHOSTACK
      SPECIAL EDUCATION
      PS 75

      My name is Eileen Shostack, and I teach at PS 75 in Manhattan. I felt very honored to receive this special recognition, but I don't really feel more special than any of the other wonderful people I work with. First of all, I believe that children are precious and deserve to have a fulfilling day whenever they are in school. A classroom is a place to develop self-esteem, learn and also to feel wanted. This has been my mission for 44 years. I taught in East New York for three years, Harlem for 29 years, and, at PS 75 on the Upper West Side, for 12 years.

      I am proud of my [Integrated Co-Teaching] class for coming together as a community and developing respect for one another. They have learned to work with many teachers this year for literacy and math in spite of all the changes in testing and education. [At PS 75], we have participated in a program called "Ballroom Dancing." We entered the competition, and one of our students won the silver medal. [I’m also proud that] many of my children are in the chorus and others participate in the numerous clubs we have in the school like rugby and art. Our school has one of the best art programs in the city, and one of my students’ artwork was put on display. 

I truly love my students and try to develop the best in all of them. I see their potential before they do and work with them to achieve their goals. This is my 44th year of teaching, and I have the same feeling about the children that I did when I started. Teaching is my passion and when people ask me why I still continue after all these years in the system, I say: "It still feels right for me."

      Photo by Andrew Schwartz

       

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      DANA KAPLAN
      KINDERGARTEN, GIFTED AND TALENTED
      PS 33--CHELSEA PREP

      Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges of being a teacher.

      Ralph Waldo Emerson shares it best: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” This holds true with my favorite 5- and 6-year-old people. Through practice, our classroom family has learned how to use our voices to foster respect, engage in priceless discussions, and push beyond our personal and collective comfort zones. We challenge each other to be independent thinkers, curious explorers, thoughtful society members, and know that, regardless where our journey takes us, we will always “keep trying and never give up!”

      Please tell us about a special project or initiative you are most proud of this year.

      As a Kindergarten family, we have explored supporting and caring for those less fortunate as well as children with blood cancer. Our initiatives began by visiting our neighborhood soup kitchen where we regularly donate non-perishables and visit the workers to say: “Good morning!” And: “Thank you for helping our community.” The short walks laid a beautiful foundation for my little activists’ next project, to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients. This coincided with our classroom preparing and applying to “Columbia University Kindergarten Medical School.”

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

      As one who struggles highlighting my own strengths, I asked my students for support on this question. With great enthusiasm, my little friends beamed and said: “We are your accomplishments!” For a child to articulate in such a confident voice that they are, in fact, an accomplishment defines my belief that our voice is beyond powerful... Feeling free to make one’s own path is a challenge and an achievement I hope my kindergartners continue to strive towards throughout life’s journey.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?

      Each member of our class family challenges me to be a better communicator, listener, friend, teacher, learner, sister, daughter, and aunt. While only 4 and 5 when school begins and 5 and 6 when dismissed for summer, I am humbled knowing that these fascinating little people invited me into their world for an unknown journey that encompassed a pivotal learning year.

      Photo by Tashween Ali

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      BAYARD FAITHFULL 

      GRADES 9 AND 12

      SOCIAL STUDIES
      
THE BEACON SCHOOL

      Tell us about some of your special joys and challenges of being a teacher.



      As a teacher of social studies, I enjoy broadening horizons--connecting kids with different parts of the globe and different time periods—and making connections back to students’ lives. The core of my classroom, though, is inquiry and decision-making.

      Please tell us about a special project or initiative you are most proud of this year.


      This year has been filled with many positives, but there are two that stand out. I teach a senior elective called Global Environmental Politics. One of the central units is on climate change. The project that students completed at the end of the unit was a “Carbon Proposal.” [It was] an 8-10 page memo to the director of the Environmental Protection Agency. The students did sophisticated work proposing ways to cut 80 percent of our nation’s carbon emissions by 2050, with research on technology, political policy, and economics... Another special experience came from coaching the boys’ tennis team. Our team has had great success locally, winning the city championship in each of the last seven years. This year was special because we went to California to play in the national championship for high school teams, and we won... It’s the first time that a team outside of California has won the national championship, and certainly the first time that an urban public school from New York City has ever won.

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments? 
      

I am most proud of having had a part in creating the Beacon School, helping to make a concept into a fine progressive public school. The school started as an experiment with only 100 students, and now has turned into a living community with superb teachers and engaged students.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work? 


      My generation is leaving huge problems for the next generation to solve, among them poverty, global warming, and violent conflicts. It is my belief, my hope, that our students will be part of repairing the fabric of the world. Through discussion and study, I hope that we can avoid easy answers and instead make decisions that recognize complexity

      Photo by Andrew Schwartz

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      HEATHER MEISNER
      
GRADE 1, GIFTED AND TALENTED
      
PS 198

      Tell us about some of your special joys and challenges of being a teacher.

      First grade is really fun! Students are so excited to be in school and learn. It’s also an extremely rewarding grade to teach as it’s the year that students really begin to read and write. It’s amazing when a student comes into the year writing three-sentence stories and leaves writing elaborate six-page stories.

      Please tell us about a special project or initiative you are most proud of this year.

      This fall I made a contact at Jansport, the backpack company. I was able to have them generously donate 25 brand-new backpacks for kids in need at my school. If a child didn’t have a backpack, had one in poor condition, or one that didn’t hold what they needed, teachers sent the child to me. Letting a child in need choose a new backpack, to come to school properly prepared, was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had this year.

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

      I think finding a balance between, teaching, managing a large group of children, enjoying it, and having them enjoy it as well. It has taken me eight years to get to a place where I feel and think: “Yeah, I’ve got this!”

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?

      My students and their families keep me motivated. The smiles, hugs, notes, and little thank-you emails really turn a difficult day upside down. During teacher appreciation week, I received an email from a parent telling me how grateful she felt that her daughter had me in her life. That was an amazing feeling… To me, teaching is a partnership with parents, in not only educating, but raising children to be high-functioning members of society. I form strong bonds with my students and their families. Many of whom, I am in contact with when the child is no longer in my class. My students know that even though they may no longer be in my classroom, I’m still their teacher and I’ll be checking in.

      Photo by Andrew Schwartz

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      EVAN BURNS

      GRADE 9

      WRITING

      DEMOCRACY PREP CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL

      Tell us about some of your special joys and challenges of being a teacher. 



      The joy is, and always has been, in building meaningful, personal relationships with young people. Knowing students as individuals has emphasized the importance of my role as a mentor, which has been the role that has brought me as much—if not more—fulfillment than my role as a teacher of writing content. Unfortunately, building a close relationship with a student doesn’t equate to their success in school. The challenge of being a teacher has been trying to find the right mix of ingredients needed to support each individual student, as their needs are all different emotionally, behaviorally, and academically.

      Please tell us about a special project or initiative you are most proud of this year. 



      The introduction of the Common Core has required me to rethink and revise the grade 9 writing curriculum at Democracy Prep. I’ve been developing it over the past four years, and in aligning it further with the Common Core, students are reading more rigorous texts and thinking more critically about their own writing.

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

      While so many deserve credit for serving in the classroom longer than I have, it is no small feat to still be in the classroom after nearly six years. Most of my teacher friends with whom I began my first year have since left the classroom or moved on to school leadership. Many have left the education field altogether. My greatest accomplishment is that I have not—that I still wake up everyday committed to the 115 kids I see in my grade 9 writing class.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?

      Young people, of course. Why else would anyone teach?

      Photo by Marcus Photography

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      KAREY BOALS

      HIGH SCHOOL
      
DIRECTOR OF COLLEGE GUIDANCE
      
THE CHAPIN SCHOOL

      Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges of being a counselor.



      I get to work alongside students as they dream about their futures and open their minds to new possibilities. I feel privileged to guide students and their families through this significant transition in their lives. Applying to college and going off to college evoke many feelings in students and their families. Students are moving on to their next academic environment, and parents are launching their children into adulthood. Providing support during this time brings me great satisfaction. Being a college counselor also enables me to work with different constituencies, which I really enjoy. I get to work with kids, parents and teachers in the school environment, and also with college admissions professionals.

      Please tell us about a special project or initiative you are most proud of this year?

      

As a college counselor with a master’s degree in counseling psychology, I view the college process as a time of great introspection. At Chapin, we focus on preparing our students not only academically for college, but also mentally and emotionally. This year, we have had an even stronger focus on educating our students and parents about factors that promote success when transitioning to college life. We have, for example, partnered with the JED Foundation, which is an organization that offers a wealth of resources on how to find colleges that offer quality mental health centers and dedicates an entire section of their website to making this transition a smooth one.

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

      

I have counseled roughly 700 girls through the college application process. Watching students as they are accepted to college and then hearing later about the rich academic experiences they have once there gives me a great feeling of accomplishment.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?



      I stay motivated because every year brings a new set of students and families with new sets of dreams. Additionally, colleges are always changing and there is always a new college to investigate.

      Photo by Samara Antolini

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      WILLIE DEVARGAS
      NURSERY
      MUSIC
      LITTLE MISSIONARY’S DAY NURSERY

      What are some of your special joys of being a teacher?

      One of the special joys of coming in to work everyday would have to be the smiles I get from the children, and the parents, and also from my colleagues. It makes me feel appreciated and wanted, and therefore I continue working hard at what I do, because I see the outcome of it and it makes me happy.

      Are there any specific moments or accomplishments from your career as a music teacher that stand out?

      A couple years ago we had a Christmas party and we rented out a hall and had the whole school there, with parents and all. I was doing the entertainment and I remember I was doing a song called “Somewhere Out There,” and the children were on stage with me singing. It felt so good to hear their voices, and at the end I had the parents participate as well. It was just so nice to hear the parents and the children singing a song that [I] made up and see that they were so happy singing it and enjoying it.

      Please tell us about a special projects going on at your school this year.

      Right now, I am the music teacher for the whole school. There are three classrooms now, but we are expanding next year and getting three extra classrooms—which is wonderful. This means I get to play more music.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?

      
What drives me and keeps me motivated to continue my work is the smiles and love that I get from children and parents and from my wonderful colleagues that I have learned so much from… [During] my first year as a teacher and I wasn’t sure if it was something I was going to do for the long-haul or if it was something temporary and one of my first students, when he came into the classroom on the first day, he walked straight to me and held my hand. I remember that I was a little bit nervous, being that it was my first day, and as soon as he held my hand, I felt this sense of calmness and comfort… And now, each day, I try to have that with each and every student.

      Photo by Tashween Ali

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      SARAH LIOGYS
      LOWER SCHOOL COUNSELOR
      NEST+m

      Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges of being a school counselor.

      The thing I enjoy the most about my job is interacting with the students. I get so much joy when I can help a crying child feel better with a few kind words of encouragement, an ear to listen and a high five. I love helping my students understand themselves and the world around them better and helping them understand that there is always someone in school to make a rough day a bit brighter. School can be so challenging for kids, not just academically but also socially, and I’m really grateful that through my job I can help kids feel a bit better about their school day.

      Please tell us about a special project or initiative you are most proud of this year.

      I have been lucky enough to work with a special group of administrators, teachers, and parents—especially our PTA Whole Child Committee, who have been the driving force behind implementing two new evidence-based social, emotional, and behavior programs here at NEST+m. The first is Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies, or PATHS—a social-emotional learning curriculum that all of our lower school classes are participating in. The second is Teacher Child Interaction Therapy, or TCIT—an evidence-based behavior program aimed at creating classrooms that use labeled praise, rewards, and incentives to support positive classroom behavior.

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

      I am proud to be a founding faculty member of NEST+m. During our inaugural years, I was able to develop the school counseling program and am thrilled that in our 13th year, the counseling department has grown to include three more dedicated and brilliant counselors.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?

      When I get discouraged and exhausted there is always a child who comes to me with a joke or a beautiful picture to put up in my office. Also, my colleagues—especially my principal, Dr. Olga Livanis and assistant principals, Nicholas Patrello and Justin Mackey—boost my spirits and offer me encouragement on my most difficult days.

      Photo by Andrew Schwartz

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      DENNIS SULLIVAN
      
GRADES 5-8
      
LATIN

      SAINT IGNATIUS LOYOLA

      Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges of being a teacher.

      

I have been very blessed to work in a wonderful school like Saint Ignatius for my entire career, thus far. The two things that bring me the most joy are teaching and coaching. The fact that I’m able to do both with such wonderful students and families on a daily basis is extremely gratifying. Teaching various grade levels simultaneously, the challenge is to reach and have a positive impact on all my students. They all have different personalities and abilities within and between grades, so it’s important to constantly keep the lessons fresh and innovative from year to year.

      Please tell us about a special project you are proud of this year.

      

I am a firm believer that you have to have fun while you are teaching—in spite of that old saying, "Latin is a dead language." Over the years, I created what my students and I call the "Latin Wheel.” It’s a game we play at the end of each class to review many of the topics covered. Honestly, when the students think “Latin,” they immediately think of the "Latin Wheel."

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments? 

      

I am very proud of the Latin program I’ve implemented over the past 20 years at Saint Ignatius Loyola. It’s so meaningful to have parents tell me how much their children enjoy learning Latin. To be able to foster that love of learning a language within a student is something I view as a significant accomplishment. As acting athletic director, I am also proud of the sports programs I’ve created with the help of administration and my colleagues. We now have competitive teams for both girls and boys in soccer, basketball, and track. My involvement in athletics led to the inception of the eponymous “Sullivan Cup,” a Catholic School Week event now in its 14th year that was initiated by the student government to promote school spirit, and which the students were kind enough to name after me.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?

      

Without question, it’s the students. Having the opportunity to teach and coach them and maintain relationships with so many of them as they move on to high school, college, and beyond is something I cherish immensely.

       Photo by Andrew Schwartz

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      DR. KATARINA H. KLAF
      
GRADES 1-5
      
SCIENCE AND MATH

      PS 77—NYC LOWER LAB SCHOOL

      Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges of being a teacher. 

      

I take pride in teaching students science and math. I try to create an environment in which all students can learn. There is no greater joy than watching a student grow their knowledge base and develop transferable skills. Perhaps my biggest joy is when my former students visit my classroom and/or write notes of gratitude, that’s when I truly know that I have reached a student and impacted their life.

      Please tell us about a special project or initiative you are most proud of this year.



      As a coach of a math team for grades 4-5, I am very proud of the accomplishments of my students at the Math Olympiads. Additionally, my grade 4 students are this year’s National Winners of the Science League Competition.

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments? 



      One of my greatest accomplishments is organizing an annual school-wide Science Fair, now in its 22nd year. Over the years, I have mentored countless students as they turn into budding scientists—engaging in inquiry-based learning, posing scientific questions, visually, and orally presenting their work to the entire school community, all while they take pride in their accomplishments. Although a Science Fair is a lot of work, it’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the work of our students.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?

      

The students are what drive me! They inspire me to continue doing what I am doing. The students energize me with their curiosity and the enthusiasm they bring to the hands-on experiments and problem sets we work on.

      Photo by Andrew Schwartz

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      NICOLE DEVAULT

      GRADES K-5
      ART, FRENCH AND EVERYDAY ETHICS
      ALEXANDER ROBERTSON SCHOOL

      Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges of being a teacher.
       
      To have a career as a teacher is already a joy. Teaching subjects that I am strongly connected to and then sharing that passion with students, while getting them excited and interested, is what delights me. The challenge is how to present subjects to students in a way that arouses and keeps their interest. It’s my job as an educator to present interesting lessons that are inspiring, memorable, and motivating.
       
      Please tell us about a special project or initiative you are most proud of this year.
       
      This year in Everyday Ethics I introduced my students to the Jacaranda School for Orphans in Malawi, Africa. The school was founded by a dear friend, CNN Hero Marie Da Silva. We are pen-pals with many of the students in the school and had a fundraiser to raise money for their educational and everyday needs. The highlight of this lesson was the opportunity to introduce a real honest-to-goodness hero to my students… My students connected to the humanity of the Jacaranda [School’s] story on a very deep level. This is a lesson that will impact my students forever.
       
      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?
       
      At this point in my career, I cannot think of one of my greatest accomplishments but of the small day-to-day accomplishments, which could be as simple as having an orderly desk and a successful lesson plan to boosting the confidence of a child and seeing them smile for the first time in weeks. These small accomplishments are the most meaningful and often the ones that pop up at unexpected moments.
       
      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?
       
      I love what I’m doing and am surrounded by others who love what they’re doing. Teaching is being part of a creative and dedicated staff. The Alexander Robertson School is blessed with a hardworking and gifted group of educators supported by an administration that values us. The parent part of our PTA this year gave us such a memorable week of gratitude for being their children’s teachers. Being appreciated is a validation of hard work but I know that educators are people on a mission to help and care for others.

      Photo by Andrew Schwartz

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      LISA SCHALK

      NURSERY
      CHELSEA DAY SCHOOL

      Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges of being a teacher.

      Working with young children is like living in poetry. They express and reflect the essence of what life offers. I am fascinated to continually see and experience the world—freshly, purely, and passionately—through their eyes. My challenge as a teacher is to find enough hours in the day to do all I want to do with my students.

      Please tell us about a special project you are most proud of this year.

      One project we took on this year, that was very powerful for my students, involved an exploration of their emotional intelligence. My teaching assistants and I hung a large piece of butcher paper low on a wall next to a full-length mirror in our classroom. We wrote across the top: “How do you feel?” We left a bench underneath with pens, squares of paper, and tape. We invited children to draw pictures of their faces that represented how they were feeling—or how they had felt at another time—and then identify their feelings using words. We teachers wrote down their words and attached them to their drawings. Children then hung their pictures up with tape… We brought these pictures and feelings to daily meeting. We acknowledged and received each feeling we discussed. We spoke about the language of facial expression the drawings represented; we helped each child to develop a vocabulary for their feelings, and we brainstormed for solutions to unwanted feelings.

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

      One of my greatest accomplishments was to say goodbye to advertising—I was a copywriter for years—and begin teaching. I went to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in early childhood education when I was 48. Over the course of the following five years, I enjoyed the privilege of an incredible education that became the foundation of my practice.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?

      What drives me and keeps me motivated is the deep respect I have for children and my love of teaching. For me, teaching young children is so much more about respect than patience. It’s about seeing them for who they are, developmentally, emotionally, cognitively—and helping them grow in ways that are meaningful, exciting, and intrinsically rewarding to them.

      Photo by Tashween Ali 

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      FRAN VOGEL
      GRADES 6-8
      BAND DIRECTOR AND MUSIC DEPARTMENT CHAIRPERSON
      ROBERT F. WAGNER MIDDLE SCHOOL

      Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges of being a teacher.

      
When a struggling student finally masters that note they could never get out of their instrument, or figures out how to play a difficult rhythm correctly, the smile that lights up their face, showing the pride they feel in their accomplishment, gives me tremendous joy as well. My biggest challenge has always been with students who have not experienced academic or life success. Trying to get them to believe in themselves and their innate talent and reprogramming them to view obstacles as challenges to get better, rather than continued evidence of failure, is difficult. When I’m able to reach this type of student, the rewards are limitless.
          
      Please tell us about a special project or initiative you are most proud of this year.



      This spring, I conducted the Manhattan Borough Wide Band at Carnegie Hall. Many in the Band were my students. It was wonderful to be at that world renowned venue with my students and to see their families in the audience. Also, my afterschool Jazz Band has been a wonderful experience. All the kids were super-involved and enthusiastic, and open to try any idea or activity I suggested, which gave me the opportunity to get out of my “box” and experiment with new ways of teaching.

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments? 

      As a teacher, I don’t always know what kind of impact I have on the students during their time in my classroom. Sometimes when I’m just walking around town I’ll see a former student who approaches me to say: “Thank you—everything I am today I owe to you and what you taught me.” It’s those types of unexpected moments that touch me the most deeply.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?


      Musicians are lifetime learners. I tell my students that, like them, I am also a student, but I just know a little more than them. I believe that artists have a responsibility to pass their knowledge on to the next generation, to nurture and encourage their talent. Doing this keeps the arts vibrant and alive in society. I also have a passion for music, for teaching, and I love kids—which makes it easy to keep going and be true to my beliefs.

      Photo by Andrew Schwartz

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      LAURA RESNICK
      GRADE 4
      PS 87—WILLIAM T. SHERMAN SCHOOL

      Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges of being a teacher.

      Firstly, I find joy everyday in the classroom. Joy is when my students understand a difficult concept that they struggled with, or when they participated in a classroom discussion and learned something new, or when I simply get a morning smile from a student showing me that they’re excited and ready for the day to begin. I even find joy when I crack a joke in the middle of a math lesson and the kids actually get my joke!

      Please tell us about a special project or initiative you are most proud of this year.

      This year I was given the opportunity to move from grade 3 to grade 4. Not only was I excited for the challenge, but I also had the privilege to collaborate with my friend and colleague, Eunji Gioia, whom I admire for her creativity, knowledge, and strength as an educator. Being new to the grade, I had to learn the curriculum, figure out how to teach in a fun and engaging way, while finding my passion in the new curriculum. The first successful project of the year entailed guiding students in the filming of a documentary on the history of New York State Native Americans.

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

      I've felt accomplished by being able to explore my creativity while finding my voice in teaching. I've learned that when my passion comes through my lessons and classroom projects, not only are they more interesting, but my students too find passion in their work. The classroom comes alive with discussion and engagement, and the learning becomes less of a chore and more of a lifestyle.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?

      First, I believe that the skills students learn in elementary school create the foundation for their future education. I want them to learn the importance of hard work, determination, and the value of their education. Second, it’s rewarding to play a role in the growth of my students—academically, socially, and emotionally. Finally, I love seeing students become excited about learning. This drives me to continuously push myself to create new and exciting lessons and activities.

      Photo by Andrew Schwartz

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      KRISTEN SMITH
      GRADES 6-8
      SCIENCE
      MS 245—THE COMPUTER SCHOOL

      Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges of being a teacher.

      I take great joy in teaching science to grades 6-8. Because I teach all three grades, I have the unique opportunity to help students for more than just one school year. The middle school years are so challenging, and I am able to observe my students grow to be independent thinkers... It’s truly rewarding to participate in the growth that takes place from the beginning of grade 6 to the end of grade 8. The biggest challenge I face as a teacher is to design a curriculum that meets the needs of all of my students. I try to delicately balance each class by trying to help my struggling students yet also challenge my advanced students.

      Please tell us about a special project or initiative you are most proud of this year.

      I am very proud of the life science curriculum that a colleague and I developed. It has taken several years to evolve, but each unit of study brings the outside world into the classroom. Students have been challenged with conducting population studies in Central Park, calculating the biodiversity of trees on the Upper West Side, writing a children’s book about an endangered animal, and, to end the year, with reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I am proud of the conversations I have with my students and their questions about the world around them.

      Over the course of your career, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

      I was born and raised in Indiana and began my teaching career not far from where I grew up. After seven years of teaching in Indiana, I decided to move to New York, which I consider to be my biggest accomplishment… I wanted to teach in a diverse, urban environment, and I have never regretted that decision. I am the teacher I am today, because of that decision.

      What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work?

      I absolutely love teaching, and I’m very fortunate to work with some truly amazing colleagues. We focus on learning and building an environment that is safe for all students. What keeps me motivated are my kids—I call them “my kids” because after three years together they have a special place in my heart.

      Photo by Andrew Schwartz