2019 Blackboard Award Honoree: Principal Karen Ditolla

Mark Twain IS 239 for the Gifted and Talented
Principal Karen Ditolla
Grades 6-8
2401 Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn

Award: Outstanding Principal

Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.

We envision our school as a community of life-long learners where all members, students, staff, and parents are actively engaged in the educational process. Staff and parents are focused on empowering all students with the academic skills and rich civic, social, and arts experiences that will enable them to further their educational goals and become active, responsible, and positively contributing members of society. Students will develop important decision-making, critical thinking, and technological skills, and the ability to communicate effectively.

Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.

Twain sets itself apart from others with its dual mission. Students are immersed in an environment of academic rigor blended with a full visual art and performing arts experience, in a supportive environment. ​Twain is organized into clusters, or mini-schools, with a team of teachers assigned to each. Clusters are scheduled for conference periods to collaborate and facilitate interdisciplinary planning, engage in data analysis to support student outcomes and communicate regularly with parents to discuss student progress.

What’s new?

Educators are charged with the responsibility of preparing young people for the future. School has been the place where the young acquire the knowledge and skill sets they will need to be productive leaders, citizens, caretakers and overall, successful humans. In this ever-changing world, this mission has become more challenging. The demands of the workforce have changed dramatically and the clear paths that existed from school to work are simply far and few nowadays. Mark Twain is committed to taking on these challenges by changing the way we “do” school. Simply put, we are hoping to design experiences for students that are relevant and meaningful for their journey into adulthood.

What do you love about your school?

Twain is a place with tremendous spirit and energy! I can honestly say that every member of our community truly wants to be here and learn! I love walking the hallways hearing and seeing students singing, playing music, dancing or engaged in a Socratic Seminar! I often say, that I have never met an alum who has not referred to their years at Twain as the most memorable. Even surpassing their high school years! There is a magic at Twain that continues to inspire both young and mature. Simply put, I would not want to be anywhere else. I am humbled to be part of such a community.