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New York City
June 2003

Outstanding Teachers of the Month - June 2003

Roberta Guaspari Tzavaras

East River Elementary School
Sid Massey, Principal
Evelyn Castro, Superintendent

District 4

As a first-grade student of Roberta Guaspari Tzavaras, I never quite knew what it was about her that made her seem so magical to me. I knew only that I revered her and that I would do anything to please her. She was tough and uncompromising, but the most caring teacher I have ever had. As an adult and a violin teacher myself, with 75 ninth graders in the South Bronx, I recently spent a day in Roberta’s classroom trying to figure this out more objectively. I watched as students who had behaved poorly in other classrooms became enthralled in trying to get their C sharps high enough. I concluded that it is Roberta’s dedication to making good musicians, and her ability to communicate this goal to her students, that makes her so effective. She persuades her students to believe that for that 60-minute period, there is nothing more important in their lives, or in hers, than playing the violin—and playing it well.

In addition, Roberta is an incredible role model and an abundant resource for me. She always takes time from her hectic schedule to discuss with me such mundane things as, “How far before the spring concert should I stop introducing new songs?” And, “How do you make your students play in tune?” She is always humble, though I think she knows how much I take her opinion as fact.

Roberta is the teacher whom all students remember and whom all teachers aspire to emulate. She transcends the classroom; she changes lives. I know, because that first day of violin class certainly changed mine. Now, I teach violin because Roberta taught me that the lessons learned from playing such a difficult instrument skillfully go beyond application in the classroom. Through Roberta’s faith and perseverance, students learn that they have the resilience and strength to overcome incredible obstacles through discipline and dedication. The larger lessons that Roberta espoused are what make Roberta’s instruction so complete, and what inspired me to teach the instrument myself. Each day I attempt to employ the same methods and practices in my own classroom that Roberta uses. My dream is to one day be able to provide my students with the type of instruction that Roberta gave to me. Her presence in my life was a gift too great to keep to myself.#

Raemon Matthews
Samuel Gompers Vocational & Technical HS, Bronx
Mary Ann Hawthorne, Principal
Joseph N. DeJesus, Superintendent
Division of High Schools

Mr. Matthews was praised by U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige during his visit to the school on September 25, 2002. As a result, Mr. Matthews was invited to Washington, D.C. as one of the facilitators representing C-SPAN and cablevision where he demonstrated the use of multimedia in the classroom.

Through his involvement with the Teaching Interdisciplinary Problem Solving Through Educational Technology Program (TIPS) Mr. Matthews has initiated and implemented extremely creative interdisciplinary lessons and projects.

Mr. Matthews teaches global studies to honors students and special education students. He has achieved 100% passing rates in all of his classes for both levels of students.#

Carol Eisenstein

Louis Pasteur Middle School 67Q, Little Neck
Mae Q. Fong, Principal
Ms. Claire McIntee, Superintendent
District 26

Ms. Eisenstein has been the Student Organization Faculty Advisor for the past 12 years (since my appointment as Principal of MS 67Q). With a firm belief that excellence in education can only be achieved by involving the children for whom we dedicate our lives, our school vision of the S.O. has evolved in the following manner.

During September and October students are encouraged to ‘campaign’ for student officer positions in the S.O. These positions include: Class representative, Grade representative, Student Store Manager, Recording Secretary, Vice President and President. During grade assemblies, all candidates present their innovative ideas on how to make Louis Pasteur Middle School 67Q a better place. The traditional ideas of more student dances, better menus in the cafeteria, prettier bathrooms and more choices in the S.O. store prevail. Sometimes, a candidate comes up with an idea that captures the imagination and really does take hard work to accomplish.

These ideas are presented to students during Town Hall Meetings. All students have the chance to ask their representatives questions. A productive exchange is encouraged. During the most memorable years, the S.O. under the supportive leadership of Carol Eisenstein have written and adopted a Bill of Rights (duly passed and signed and then blessed by a parent, Supreme Court Judge Buckner), an articulation dance with incoming 5th graders, installation of a microwave oven in the store so that children can prepare popcorn and this year, the S.O. led the modification of the MS 67 Q Homework Policy. This was a magnificent process ... from student petitions to presentations to the faculty, PTA and School Leadership Team. Their commitment to making teachers aware of the need to reduce projects and other assignments over vacations so that they can spend quality time with family and friends was admirable.

Great things happen because great educators care and nourish the imagination of children. Carol Eisenstein is that special teacher at Louis Pasteur Middle School 67Q. The children adore her. In addition to her work as S.O. Faculty Advisor, Carol was on the parent teacher transition committee when JHS 67Q was changed into MS 67 Q in 1991. Carol has also served on the School Leadership Team as a teacher member. She is also chairperson of the School Based Option Personnel Committee.

Harvard professor Roland Barth believes that it is the culture of a school first and foremost that determines the success of a school. Carol Eisenstein is the core of the spirit of giving and caring that characterizes the faculty of Louis Pasteur Middle School 67Q. It is with great honor that I strongly recommend Carol Eisenstein for the well-deserved recognition of Teacher of the Month.#

Eileen Sonnenberg Alba
The New Vision School, P.S. 69, Bronx
Maria Custodio-Guzman, Principal
Dr. Betty A. Rosa, Superintendent
District 8

I take great pleasure in nominating Eileen Sonnenberg Alba as outstanding teacher of the month. For the past 36 years, Eileen has devoted all her energy, time and devotion to teaching children and training teachers. For the past 6 years, she has been the glue that held P.S. 69 together during turbulent times. As the new Principal at P.S. 69 in 2002-2003, she welcomed me, and worked collaboratively with me to move the school forward, as evidenced by the positive school climate and increased student achievement. As a classroom teacher, Literacy Coach, UFT Chapter Leader and Chairperson of the School Leadership Team, she has clearly demonstrated her commitment to the school and community through her skillful leadership and her passion for children. She teaches, she shares and she cares! Eileen’s focus has always been to motivate, guide and teach children as well as teachers to be successful in their personal and educational growth. Eileen is retiring this July, and should be recognized for her year in, year out, month after month contributions to P.S. 69.#

Jeanne Cirone

P.S. 276, Brooklyn
Diane Weiss, Principal
Paula LeCompte Speed, Superintendent
District 18

Jeanne Cirone is a 3rd grade teacher at PS 276 in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. For the past several years she has participated in the Theatre for a New Audience World Theatre Project which introduces young people to the works of William Shakespeare. Learning the language of Shakespeare is a daunting task for 6th grade students (the grade level the program is focused for) let alone 3rd grade students. But because Ms. Cirone is so dedicated to the project and such a great teacher her students excel in this program. Walking into Ms. Cirone’s classroom, one can tell this is a fun place to be and conducive to learning. Children’s art work and writing hangs from every imaginable space and the children are always actively engaged in the learning process. They will, on request, recite the speeches of Mark Antony and Brutus, characters from the play as well. The children are excited to be in the classroom and clearly having a good time learning. In addition to her usual duties, Ms. Cirone wrote for and received a Parents as Arts Partners grant from the Center for Arts Education. With this grant, parents were able to participate in a Shakespeare workshop with their children after school. It was an exciting learning experience for all those involved. For these reasons she is our choice for Teacher of the Month.#

Evelyn Knight
PS 5, Manhattan
Wanda Soto, Principal
Jorge Irizarry, Superintendent
District 6

Evelyn Knight has been teaching the second grade at Public School 5 in Washington Heights for the past five years. Prior to that she was a kindergarten teacher. A visit to Evelyn’s class will see enthusiastic students in an orderly environment, but the air is electric with all the learning that is taking place. It is evident that the children feel secure, but that they are also accomplishing a great deal in this classroom. Ms. Knight was trained in an Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading, writing and spelling in 1999 by Reading Reform Foundation, and she has used this phonetic, multisensory way of teaching reading ever since. She combines this structured approach to accurate spelling and reading with exciting applications in various themes of study with the children, such as animals or folk tales. Ms. Knight claims her first and foremost hobby is, appropriately enough, reading, but she also enjoys traveling. She brings back her experiences to her students to enrich their lives in yet another way.#

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