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Outstanding Teachers of the Month - December 2004

Education Update welcomes our Advisory Board, Dr. Charlotte K. Frank, Senior Vice-President of McGraw-Hill and former Regent of New York State; Dr. Augusta Souza Kappner, President of Bank Street College of Education; Dr. Alfred Posamentier, Dean of School of Education of City College of NY; Dr. Pola Rosen, Publisher, Education Update; Adam Sugerman, Publisher, Palmiche Press; Laurie Tisch Sussman, Chairman, The Center for Arts Education and Honorary Chair, Children's Museum of Manhattan. The Board makes the final decisions on the teachers to be honored each month.

In 2003, Education Update began the tradition of honoring teachers each month for their outstanding work on the “frontiers” of education.We are now continuing the tradition which will culminate in a ceremony in June 2005 with Chancellor Joel Klein in attendance. Superintendents, principals and colleagues may nominate teachers by filling out a form online.  The information has been emailed to all principals in NYC public schools. If you have not received the email please contact ednews1@aol.com. Deadline for Submissions: December 17, 2004.

Teachers are the backbone of our educational system. They richly deserve the recognition that Education Update gives them. Congratulations to this month's Outstanding Teachers of the Month in recognition of the vital role they play in our childrens' lives.

—Dr. Pola Rosen, Publisher


Robert McDuffie

Robert McDuffie
Robert Zweig
Superintendent's Name: Bernard Gassaway
Name of School: Offsite Educational
Services, Jamaica School, Queens
School District/Region: Alternative High Schools and Programs
Student Progress: Robert Mc Duffie has been the flagstaff teacher at Jobs For Youth, an Offsite Educational Services site, for 6 years. During that time, he has mastered the art of instruction with heart for the hundreds of Brooklyn youths who have turned to OES programs as the answer to their educational predicament. These are students who had previously dropped out of school, often for one or two years. Their skills are often undeveloped; their knowledge of standard high school curriculum often limited. He has brought them to an expanded consciousness of themselves, their communities and the world. Consequently, students have shown progress in their motivation and their work.

Evidence of student progress is available from objective data. During the 2004-2005 school year, there were 25 GED diplomas facilitated through Jobs For Youth. Ninety-three percent of students who took the GED passed. Attendance for the same period was 75 percent, which is impressive for students who had previously dropped out of school and very often, still had daunting issues, such as homelessness, with which to deal. A lesson taught by Robert Mc Duffie, a master teacher, is disarming in its simplicity and connections to the current and potential reality of students. As he moves from the aim to the final assessment of student understanding, Mr. Mc Duffie exudes his dramatic and thoughtful development of a topic as facilitator of students who take charge of their own learning. From small group to class projects, his genial presence and guidance is evident. For example, his Mastery Portfolio Project is designed to show proficiency across subject areas. Students are required to submit proposals for the content of portfolio elements, which include short stories, nonfiction essays, urban folk tales (issues impacting society) and one act plays with three scenes. Students are graded on adherence to timelines, scope, attention to detail, thoroughness and effort. Although his class is on the high school level, elements of college courses are infused within curriculum resources and engaging strategies. These projects augment exams given by Mr. Mc Duffie in Language Arts and Social Studies.

His program recently moved to the Medgar Evers College campus and Mr. Mc Duffie has facilitated student use of physical education, library and technological resources to further enhance research and creative projects. Innovative Teaching Strategies: He has guided students through a variety of projects that enrich their educational experience at OES. His innovative teaching strategies, including student exposure to business and government, have resulted in diverse teaching situations. Mr. Mc Duffie has met each challenge by motivating students with his customary interest and enthusiasm, and perhaps most importantly, guiding them to achieve well beyond the scope of their prior experiences.

His strategies are experientially based and project oriented. Students work in teams and are motivated to use standard business practices such as task orientations, teamwork, reporting and adherence to deadlines. These skills will continue to support their future college and work experiences. Through tireless preparation, he has equipped students with the knowledge needed to participate in the Model U.N. for several years. His students have become ambassadors of nations in the annual simulation as they advocated for U.N. action related to peace and justice.

Some of the many projects done by Mr. Duffie's classes have included: Creation of independent student companies that engage in business within their communities; Direct advocacy for youth employment programs with Albany legislators; Participation in Teen Talk Radio productions, including public service announcements; Creation of videos, in conjunction with the OES Media Center, which included one video currently nominated for an Emmy Award and the creation of a video entitled “Habitat” which explained norms and values. Motivating Students: An entrepreneurial person himself, Mr. Mc Duffie has exposed students to the possibilities beyond high school. Upon his invitation, Junior Achievement presented introductory seminars on business start-ups to students during the 2004-2005 school year. Through Mr. Mc Duffie's cultivation, real companies were created with business plans, presentations and the selling of wares at the Fleet Business Fair held at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Through the empowerment of students with youthful creativity and enthusiasm, he made an impact that will inspire students to business careers.

As a community activist, Mr. Mc Duffie has developed student awareness of the communities in which they live through research-based projects about community boards and profiles of community residents. He has visited Borough Hall and City Hall with students, thereby introducing them to the possibilities of public service.

Parent/Community Involvement: Mr. Mc Duffie knows every student and the path of achievement that each can follow. He is always ready to support students; his door is always open for a student who needs to talk. Through communication with parents and students, he facilitates additional support through agency-provided counseling and other community resources that may be needed by students. Parents and the community share all activities as they experience project presentations and celebrations of student achievement.

Mr. Mc Duffie has imparted a sense of the possible through visits to colleges, which he began in 2004. His classes, along with several parents, visited colleges in Farmingdale, Sullivan County and Rockland County to impart a vision of what is possible. Mr. Mc Duffie is an enthusiastic participant at regional meetings for teacher as he shares innovative ideas with more traditional teachers. In addition to sharing exemplary lesson plans, he recently presented a workshop, “Engaging Students Through Political Awareness.”


Angelita Untalan

Angelita Untalan
Principal: Joan M. Indart
Superintendent's Name: Bernard Gassaway
Name of School: Career Education Center, Manhattan
School District/Region: District 79/Region 8A
Student Progress: Career Education Center is a high school program that services at-risk adolescents who have dropped out of traditional high schools. Currently we have 35 sites throughout the five boroughs. The teacher that we are nominating is Ms. Angelita Untalan. She has been a teacher with Career Education Center for 10 years. She works with homeless, single mothers and other residents at one of our shelter locations in Manhattan. Ms. Untalan works individually with students as well as in a group setting. For the past 5 years, 90 percent of Ms. Untalan's students have passed the GED exam. She has created a nurturing environment that is conducive to positive student learning outcomes. Ms. Untalan provides the students with extra curricular activities such as class trips to museums, in-house guest speakers, multicultural conferences and theater trips.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: Ms. Untalan utilizes innovative teaching strategies such as Balanced Literacy and Numeracy. Each student in Ms. Untalan's classroom has their own classroom work folder where all assignments and testing assessments are kept as well as report cards. Having this folder enables each student to follow his or her own progress. These strategies, combined with her unique classroom set-up, set the tone for a student-centered classroom. Ms. Untalan is a founding member of the Asthma Awareness Committee. Soon after being assigned to the shelter, Ms. Untalan realized that many of the absences of her students were asthma related. She then became a valued member of the Asthma Awareness Committee and developed lesson plans that she utilizes in her classroom to educate young adults about asthma and allergies and methods of control. The Asthma Awareness Program also reinforces the reading and mathematics skills of students. Motivating Students: Ms. Untalan motivates and involves her students in class activities by providing them with themes and activities that are of great interest to them. Using the Balanced Literacy philosophy, Ms. Untalan employs the following techniques: Read Aloud; Shared Reading; Independent Reading; Guided Reading; Interactive Writing; Independent Writing and word study. Students at the shelter participate each year in the poetry and theater arts festivals. Ms. Untalan teaches her students how to write poetry, which results in their poetry being published in a magazine published by the school. In addition, her 90 percent pass rate on the GED exam speaks volumes of her students' motivation to succeed.

Parent/Community Involvement: Ms. Untalan has worked closely with the Career Education Center's Parent Coordinator. She has open communication with all parents and employs an open-door policy. Most of Ms. Untalan's students are parents themselves. These single mothers attend parent conferences hosted by the Alternative Superintendence. Ms. Untalan has encouraged her students to work with CEC's college advisor. They have visited many colleges in New York State and have applied and been accepted to college. For students to transition from a homeless shelter to college speaks to the dedication and perseverance of Ms. Untalan. Currently Ms. Untalan recommended five students for the Co-Op Internship Program at Tweed. They have all been accepted and are currently working in various positions at Tweed.


Ms. Della Furiano

Ms. Della Furiano
Principal: Stephen Callari
Superintendent's Name: Dr. Kathleen Cashin
Name of School: Middle School 210, Queens
School District/Region: 27/5
Student Progress: Ms. Della Furiano is a Speech Teacher and one of the best in the field. Many times these teachers are the “unsung heroes.” There are no formal tests in her class, yet the skills taught by Ms. Furiano are carried into all areas and classes. Ms. Furiano works with General Education students, as well as Special Education students. These Special Education students have a wide variety of handicapping conditions: severely retarded, emotionally disturbed, learning disabled and speech impaired. What great progress to hear a student who is non-verbal, call out the word, “Della.” How about listening to a girl with Down Syndrome read a story to a General Education student. The scores of these students on the English Language Arts exam have gone up, showing progress. Through formal assessments and teacher assessments, Ms. Furiano has been responsible for beginning the process to decertify a number of students from speech services.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: Ms. Furiano has set up a buddy system where the advanced students will assist the mentally retarded students. They will also share lunch with each other. The mentally retarded students are thereby teaching the advanced students about differences and similarities in people.

Motivating Students: Ms. Furiano has students who volunteer to give up their lunch periods so that they can be peer tutors.

Parent/Community Involvement: Every year, Ms. Furiano holds a fall festival in which parents come to school to witness the remarkable work created by the students. For the past two years, Ms. Furiano has organized a Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome. Parents, community members, staff and students participate. Ms. Furiano has elicited the assistance of many local vendors to assist in the Buddy Walk. Local merchants donated water awards and small trinkets for the “walkers.”

Ms. Furiano has had her students participate in the Very Special Arts Festival at St. John's University. Last year, under the direction of Ms. Furiano, the students created a “Box of Dreams.” This box received such recognition that it was displayed at Teachers College, The Smithsonian Institute.


Sharon Davis
Principal: Yvette Beasley
Superintendent's Name: Althea Serrant
Name of School: IS 129, Bronx
School District/Region: 12/2
Student Progress: Ms. Davis is a grade-8 math teacher who also teaches Home and Career Skills to all of the grade-7 students. Along with teaching Home and Career Skills, she is “sizing up” the students for her “exclusive “ class 800 for the following year. She takes students under her wing in her homeroom class, class 800, who she teaches math to. She nurtures the students, builds up their self-esteem and watches them succeed on their statewide math assessment exam to levels beyond their dreams. She tutors students on her lunch hour, after school and on Saturdays. Last year, every one of her students in both her homeroom and other grade-8 math class moved up one level as well.  In class 800- 93 percent of her students performed at or above grade level in math, including one special education student who was mainstreamed into her class for math. Out of her 31-homeroom students who began the class at various levels including level 1, 28 scored at or above grade level. Her homeroom class wins our monthly school wide competitions for highest attendance and best-behaved class.

Our students, under Ms. Davis and Mr. Clarke's direction, won a math competition on the NYC level, competing against parochial and private schools in math and went onto the statewide level.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: What Ms. Davis provides for her students is a firm, strict but loving learning atmosphere. She builds up their self-esteem by proving that they can succeed. She works closely with all of her students' subject teachers and troubleshoots if any of her students have any academic problems. She is available to tutor her students after school, during her lunch hour and she works with her class on Saturdays in both literacy and Math. She takes pride in her profession and it shows by her students' test performance. Motivating Students: The evidence that Ms. Davis has motivated her students to be more involved in classroom activities is clearly demonstrated by how well her classes perform on the grade-8 standardized math test. In her homeroom, 93 percent of her students performed at or above grade level. Ninety three percent of her students did not enter her class in grade-8 on grade level. Ms. Davis worked very hard to get them there. Her motivation and competitive nature boost her students' academic performances from average to above average in a single school year. Her class attendance averages 90 percent or better and because her students want to come to school, want to learn and do not want to miss out on any work.

Parent/Community Involvement: The students in Ms. Davis' homeroom class apply and are accepted as graduation committee members. These students assist with planning school social events, are school spokespeople and promote school unity. They also apply to become and are accepted as tutors for elementary school students in the Read Program, which is connected to the Hayden Foundation. The students tutor, help elementary school students with their schoolwork 2-3 times per week. The students receive training through the Read Program and if they are successful and continue working with the Read Program, they are able to seek summer employment as a tutor, with a “high” paying summer job through Read.  


Marcia Arcentales
Principal: Jeanette Sosa
Superintendent's Name: Reyes Irizarry
Name of School: PS 151K, Brooklyn
School District/Region: District 32 / Region 4
Student Progress: Ms. Marcia Arcentales is a very accomplished teacher who has taught at PS 151K for her entire career - twenty-one years! During these years, she has taught a variety of gradesÐ2-3-4-5-6Ðand for the past four years has been in charge of the Math Lab, and is largely responsible for delivering Professional Development in Math to our staff. This year, Ms. Arcentales can be especially proud, as we have recently been informed that seventy-five percent of our students scored Levels 3 and 4 on last spring's standardized tests. That is a great accomplishment!

Ms. Arcentales gives students individualized instruction, using the Everyday Math Program, supplemented by her own teacher-made materials. She teaches them test-taking techniques, giving her students the necessary tools to pass upcoming standardized tests. She uses a wide variety of techniques to assess each student's progressÐportfolios, informal assessments and standardized tests.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: Ms. Arcentales is a master of innovative teaching strategies in the Math Lab. Much of her motivation for students comes from food and eatingÐa real pizza box with a cardboard pizza inside for work in fractions really gets the students' attention; how about an apple? How much do you estimate it to weigh? How many bites will it take for you to finish eating that apple? How many times will you chew each mouthful before you can swallow?

Motivating Students: Ms. Arcentales excites her students to makes them think about math in their everyday experiences. They see math everywhereÐhow many angles can they count in their home? How far is the distance between home and school? Estimate firstÐthen measure and prove. Her students bring in beautiful projects for the schools Annual Math Fair. Math Lab students always look forward to participating in the grade level Math Bee that Ms. Arcentales runs in our auditorium each year.

Parent/Community Involvement: Ms. Arcentales is very popular with our parent community. Her “Family Math” workshops are always very well attended, so well in fact, that she must have daytime and evening sessions. This is where she teaches parents to do math activities with their children in a fun way! She sends home a monthly math calendar with math activities to be done, parent and child working together, explaining their work, then signed by the parent and returned at the end of the month. She recruits volunteers from the community to be presenters at her annual Math Career Day. Presenters tell about their careers- and how math is utilized in that career. Everyone gets involved with Ms. Arcentales' 100th Day of School, even kindergarteners (with their parents.) Last but not least is Pi DayÐ(3.17) celebrated on March 17th.  


Judith Caputo
Principal: Robert Zweig
Superintendent's Name: Bernard Gassaway
Name of School: Offsite Educational Services, Queens
School District/Region: District 7
Student Progress: The students in Ms. Caputo's classes are both HS teachers and HS students. Ms. Caputo's interesting and unusual job description includes being an itinerant teacher trainer, English teacher, workshop presenter (for both the school and district), co-editor of our school newsletter “Bridges,” and producer of our school's annual poetry slam.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: Ms. Caputo dedicates herself to keeping current in her classroom materials and techniques.

She is the one person in our program who reads all the new teen novels and suggested HS reading. The teachers in our program depend on her to give ideas and suggestions for their NYSTL orders. Her workshops, offered on our staff development days, are always over-crowded. Ms. Caputo keeps current on both pop and rap lyrics, which she uses as both a classroom management tool and motivation for English lessons. She can play a rap CD, use a poem to compare themes and then have the class read a scene from Shakespeare that they are now prepared to interpret as the result of the first two activities.

Computer savvy, Ms. Caputo has followed up student activities where she took digital pictures with “smart board” presentations of the pictures for students and parents to enjoy. Motivating Students: For the past four years Ms. Caputo has participated in the Model United Nations. Through her work with students from several different sites she prepares students both academically and emotionally for the task of working with and competing against the brightest high school students that travel from all over the world to come to NYC to participate in the Model UN.

Parent/Community Involvement: Ms. Caputo is actively involved in the Consultative Council, Safety Committee, and UFT. She works closely with our parent coordinator to develop parent workshops, trips and activities to encourage parent participation. Her poetry slam has been one of our largest activities with parents. Ms. Caputo has also been one of the major organizers of our college fair. This college fair attracts parents, students, OES teachers, as well as teachers from other alternative programs in our district. This year she is also working with our parent coordinator and our science teacher to develop a “Health Fair” with representatives from eye clinics and health centers for screening and information. Parents are the target population for this activity, along with students, teachers and community members.



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