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Teachers of the Month


















APRIL 2003

Teachers of the Month - April 2003

Joseph LeRea
Principal: Elizabeth Brodsky
Superintendent: Dr. Stan Mims
Name of School: Community Elementary School 170, Bronx
School District/Region: District 9

What are the significant events in the life of a college student that contribute to causing a change in major from Sports Announcing and Management to one as an Elementary School Teacher? For Joseph LeRea this epiphany came after he saw the differences he could make in the lives of summer campers who he coached in basketball clinics. “If I can cause these fundamental changes in the way these kids approach teamwork, discipline, and skill development in eight weeks, imagine what I can do with impressionable children over the course of a year.” As simple as that might sound, it led to a change in major studies from Sports Management to Elementary Education.

The results, six years later, are nothing short of remarkable! Joseph LeRea is an accomplished second grade teacher who demonstrates limitless patience for the inquisitive seven year olds who see him as a giant (he’s well over six feet), caring and committed teacher. The parents defer to his judgment and actively ‘plot’ to get their other children in his class. His graduates, (Community Elementary School 170 is a K-2 School) repeatedly return to show off their CTB and ELA results long after they have left his class. He enjoys the respect and admiration of his colleagues and continuously seeks out new challenges for himself.

When you ask Mr. LeRea what are the significant ingredients in his classroom, he answers methodically but precisely: “I spend entire weekends planning for individual needs of my students; print rich environments don’t just happen, they are created. There is no better or more fulfilling way to establish this type of class setting than with the original and edited works of his students; the writing and publishing that students create are critical to their own sense of achievement and accomplishment.” Consistent with the school’s theme, Mr. LeRea’s class “Celebrates Success” on a daily basis. Routines and rules are established immediately and the focus on writing and reading for enjoyment begins on the first day of school.

What happened to the career in Sports Announcing? Mr. LeRea still brings his enthusiasm for organized sports to the classroom and his reading groups often bear the names of NBA, NHL, and MLB teams. So if you pass by his room, you’re more than likely to hear Mr. LeRea’s students encouraging each other with plaintive cheers of” Let’s Go Yankees. Lets’ Go Mets. Let’s Go Rangers!


Penny Frank
Principal: Kim Bruno
Superintendent: Tony Sawyer
Name of School: LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

Penny Frank has been a dance instructor at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts for 35 years. She is a demanding teacher who receives the requisite response from her students since they see in her what they might become. Ms. Frank is warm and caring. She is one of our most effective teachers, one who never stops until the job is done, always going above and beyond—a total professional. She devotes herself unselfishly to her young dancers.

In addition, Ms. Frank spends hundreds of hours beyond the school day and during holiday breaks, working with the students on their performance projects. I refer specifically to the Arts Recognition and Talent Search candidates. In fact, Ms. Frank has coached more finalists in this Presidential Scholar program than any other dance instructor in the country and this year we have six finalists and seven honorable mentions.

Students and teachers alike continue to be inspired by her example.


Lillian Philips
Principal: Paul J. Choset
Superintendent: Christy Cugini
School District/Region: District 31
Name of Shool: William Leng School P.S. 54, Staten Island

I have been fortunate to know Mrs. Lillian Philips professionally and personally for eight years in my capacity as principal of PS 54 in District 31, Staten Island, NY.

During these past eight years Mrs. Philips has done substitute teaching in our early childhood grades. Each class she takes over is done with a love for children and teaching. Her passion for children as well as her responsibility to the curriculum is second to none!

Her kindness, sensitivity and building self-esteem are her trademarks!

Whenever a teacher is absent and Mrs. Philips steps in, I have great peace of mind that the children will receive great instruction and be treated extremely well!

P.S. 54 is truly lucky to have Mrs. Lillian Philips by our side as an integral part of the P.S. 54 family. Kudos for a job extremely well done!


Barbara Tetenbaum
Principal: Joan Washington
Superintendent: Dr. Susan Erber
Name of School: Marathon School P 811, Queens
School District/Region: District 75

Barbara Tetenbaum has been a music teacher at P811Q, a school for students with severe disabilities since 1975. Barbara’s talents are varied and her giving never ends. Her work can be described as magical, as she adapts her lessons to children with autism, behavior disorders, and physical and cognitive delays. Barbara always finds a way to reach the most “unreachable” child. Her outstanding sense of humor, patience and expertise never fail. Barbara uses the piano keyboard, adapted musical toys, instruments, and total communication techniques to get all of her students to respond and move to the music. She composes songs and writes lyrics when she cannot find appropriate publications for certain occasions.

There are so many ways that Barbara contributes to our school, too many to mention in one short article. Barbara is also a registered nurse and works weekend shifts at a local hospital. At the end of her shift she collects helium gift balloons left behind and brings them to school on Mondays to be used by the Adapted Physical Education department in “Volley balloon” games.

Barbara’s Special Events committee ensures that no holiday goes unnoticed. She is sensitive toward the diverse cultures in our school and finds ways to have everyone feel included. Barbara inspires others to participate so that the school gets decorated with student and staff work for every event. Whether it is the Haunted Gym, Tree Planting Ceremonies, Holiday Gifts for every child, Valentine Photo Hearts, or the Field Day and Picnic, you know Barbara is behind the scenes, and in front and center getting the festivities underway, and getting things done!

The amazing thing is she makes it seem so effortless. Hence, the “Magic” of Barbara.#




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