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Teachers of the Month



















Outstanding Teachers of the Month
November 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: November 15, 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

Outstanding Teachers of the Month - November 2004

Robinson Ortiz
Principal: Mrs. Jeanette Sosa
Superintendent’s Name: Mr. Reyes Irizarry
PS 151K/ Lyndon B. Johnson, Brooklyn
School District/Region: 32/4

Student Progress: Mr. Robinson Ortiz is a veteran teacher of our school and has taught here for the past eleven years. He has taught third, fourth and fifth grade and is consistently popular with the students.

Mr. Ortiz uses portfolio assessment to keep track of his students’ progress. Informal assessment as well as formal tests round out the methods of evaluation he uses to closely monitor the progress of the students in his class. The standardized tests administered always show that some progress has indeed been made.

His students seem to take more interest in school and exhibit a love of school, and reading in particular. Their writing is often better, and they are clearly better organized.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: His love of computers is transferred to the students, as he helps them to become more sophisticated in the use of technology in everyday learning.

One of his trademarks is teaching the multiplication tables through song.  A painless way to be sure that all quickly know those facts! Mr. Ortiz firmly believes in the benefit of collaborative learning.

Motivating Students: Mr. Ortiz’ interaction with students is what provides the biggest  motivation for them to be consistently involved in all classroom activities. His pleasant attitude  does not affect his wonderful classroom control. Students always get that “second or third chance.” They know that they can approach their teacher with problems and concerns and he will  demonstrate his care and concern for them.

Parent/Community Involvement: Mr. Ortiz enjoys the respect and admiration of the parents of his school.  They find him to be someone who gives tirelessly of his time to them and to their children. Some of the activities that Mr. Ortiz provides for the students are: the Stock Market Game (where his students won lap-top computers), the Boy Scout troop, Junior Achievement and a wide variety of curriculum based trips with many accompanying parent chaperones. Mr. Ortiz is a wonderful asset to this school, and he is deserving as Education Update’s Outstanding Teacher of the Month!

Maria Barry
Principal: Lisa Esposito
Superintendent’s Name: Nancy Ramos
Public School 8, Staten Island
School District/Region: 31/7

Student Progress: The students in Mrs. Barry’s class consistently demonstrate fine academic progress throughout the school year, as evidenced by Portfolio Assessment, classroom progress reports and formal evaluations. Last year, 75 percent of her students achieved a Performance Level 3 or 4 on the N.Y.S. Grade 4 ELA. On the N.Y.S. Grade 4 Math examination, 93 percent of her students met or exceeded the Performance Standard. Mrs. Barry pioneered the Balanced Literacy philosophy through District 31’s Project Read Program.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: On a daily basis, Mrs. Barry combines traditional teaching methods with the Balanced Literacy philosophy to enhance learning. She uses the following innovative teaching strategies: Looking at student work to assess individual needs; Interdisciplinary, Team Teaching with Grade 4 colleagues; Facilitating group learning; 

Organizing and facilitating mathematics explorations; Developing critical thinking skills. Motivating Students: The students in Mrs. Barry’s class have become more involved in classroom and schoolwide activities: PACT Program (Dance and Theatre), 2004; Poetry Reading, 2004; “Family Literacy Night,” 2004; Dressing up as swans on Halloween (2003) while reading the novel The Trumpet of the Swans in class; Class production of “The 13 Colonies,” 2003.  (This presentation was  a culmination of the thematic unit, “New York State of Mind”)

Parent/Community Involvement: Mrs. Barry participates in holiday concerts, choral concerts and other presentations.

Shantay Danzy
Principal: Rhonda Taylor
Superintendent’s Name: Gloria Buckery
Middle School 61, Brooklyn
School District/Region: 17/6

Student Progress: Ms. Danzy’s students are highly motivated because of her creativity. Ninety percent of her students moved up one and two levels in their ELA performance on the spring ELA test in the 2003-2004 school year. Most students in her class function on level 3 or 4 because of Ms. Danzy’s intense planning and conferencing with students. Students consistently maintain a writing folder and journal. Weekly informal tests are administered by her and the results are then used to plan instruction.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: Ms. Danzy is innovative, very creative and extends “Best Practices” in ELA to make students think on a higher level. Students are given opportunities to discover learning on their own, and work in groups to research and complete quality literary projects.

This teacher embodies the concept of teachers being life-long learners. Her motivation and participation in professional development workshops is phenomenal. In fact, M.S. 61 honored Ms. Danzy as “Outstanding Workshop Leader” for the 2003-2004 school year.

Motivating Students: Ms. Danzy immediately establishes a safe, communal atmosphere in the classroom. Students feel comfortable discussing topics, critically questioning and mentally challenging each other.

Students are also motivated by this teacher’s high expectations. Ms. Danzy has taught both accelerated and standard classes, yet she makes no distinction regarding her focus on academic rigor. Students relish the supportive, fair and consistent tone she maintains.  Students are inspired because this teacher is a firm believer of public recognition and positive reinforcement.

Parent/Community Involvement: Ms. Danzy’s outreach to our parents begins with calling homes at the beginning of the school year just to say, “Hello.” While parents know that her “door is always open,” subsequent calls, emails, and a classroom webpage affords them a daily window into her classroom. Additionally, Ms. Danzy has arranged authors visits and Career Day volunteers for our students.

Daniel Vernikov
Principal: Sharon Meyers Izzo
Superintendent’s Name: Dr. Susan Erber
P771@ PS236, Brooklyn
School District/Region: 75/6

Student Progress:  P771K is a district 75 school that services severely emotionally disturbed children as well as mentally retarded and autistic children ages 5 through 11. Mr. Vernikov is a music teacher who has the ability to reach even the most difficult and challenging students.

In the short time that Mr. Vernikov has been with us, students have learned how to read music, play musical instruments such as trumpets, clarinets, tubas, saxophones, baritone and percussion instruments, have learned to follow directions, assumed the responsibility to care for their instruments and get along with peers as a team. In addition, a significant number of students who in the past were not able to pass the city and state standardized test, passed both the reading and math exams. This is due to the increased self-esteem and confidence that the students have gained by succeeding in music.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: Mr. Vernikov uses innovative teaching strategies, and he is flexible and creative in his teaching methods. The students learned to play Revel’s Bolero on huge buckets because at the time there were no funds to purchase real drums.

Even though we have very limited space, Mr. Vernikov always finds a corner or an empty supply closet to teach his lesson. He rewards his students by taking them on trips to Lincoln Center to see professional musicians performances an expand their experiences.

Motivating Students: One of the biggest motivators is becoming a member of the PS771K Elementary Band. This is the only District 75 elementary band in Brooklyn. Being a band member has boosted students’ confidence and self esteem. This has carried over in all subjects areas improving academic performance.

Parent/Community Involvement: Because of the band performances, attendance by parents at the monthly Assembly Programs has increased. The band has performed at St. Bernard Church for a Christmas party, Autism awareness month at PS 236, PS 225, PS 329, PS 369 graduation ceremony, the very special art festival at Columbia University and the Brooklyn Bridge for the passing of the Olympic Torch.

Dawn Haskin
Principal: Mrs. Jeanette Sosa
Superintendent’s Name: Mr. Reyes Irizarry
PS 151K/ Lyndon B. Johnson
School District/Region: 32/4

Student Progress: Ms. Haskin is a very gifted and dedicated teacher of 3rd grade.  She has been an exemplary member of our staff for 19 years. Her students consistently perform very well on standardized tests. Ms. Haskin uses a variety of assessment tools to monitor their progress.

Continuous assessment provides her with data showing each student’s strengths and weaknesses. She utilizes a wide variety of assessment tools like student interest surveys and self-evaluation checklists to monitor the progress of each student. Ms. Haskin truly believes that a positive attitude is key to a student’s progress.

Each week, the teacher observes each student, records his/her performance, then conferences with that student. Ms. Haskin utilizes the strategy of peer tutoring for the often needed additional assistance.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: Ms. Haskin is a master teacher who is well versed in and always implements the most up to date strategies in her everyday instruction. Ms. Haskin engages her students in interactive learning as they participate in “responding to literature” and sharing book talks with peers. Students learn to compare and contrast themes and concepts in a wide variety of books and other reading material. They are individually responsible for keeping all of this work in their writing journal. In the Writing Workshop, students learn to understand that they are authors. Ms. Haskin utilizes mentor texts to teach the many skills involved in writing. Students are encouraged to create their own books and take their work through to final publication. In math, Ms. Haskin’s students are always involved in working with manipulatives, solving story problems and using learning logs to explain their work. Team work is always encouraged.

Motivating Students: Ms. Haskin’s goal is to make her students responsible for their own learning. Each student must work hard to teach others in the class. Learning centers with resources, manipulatives and checkists are prominently displayed and utilized in her classroom. Students fully participate in the lesson by doing the writing on charts and board.

Parent/Community Involvement: Ms. Haskin is always willing to conduct parent workshops in a wide variety of subject areas. These workshops are well attended and most informative to the parents.  Ms. Haskin is very cooperative when asked to particiate in community activities. She has worked with Reading Partners, UNICEF, The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens’ school planting program as well as Junior Achievement.

Julisa Cunulata
Principal: Barbara Elk Duncan
Assistant Principal: Arlene Prager
Superintendent’s Name: Dr. Kathleen Cashin
William H. Maxwell Career & Technical Education High School

Julisa Cunalata has been a member of the English Department for ten years. Each passing day allows us to get a closer glimpse at her intellectual depth and creative spirit. She has been asked by representatives of the Chancellor of the City of New York to deliver workshops at his headquarters and has given workshops at the office of the Brooklyn Superintendency. She has served as a “buddy” to teachers new to the system and/or the school.

Her students, all of whom entered Maxwell academically burdened and challenged, perform admirably. Her ESL children both at the intermediate and the advanced level pass the English Regents. In fact, of the forty or so students she prepared for the state exit exam, only four failed. The students participate in oratory competitions by creating, writing and performing their entries.

Innovative strategies: She does this by incorporating music into the lessons and studying lyric, form, message and literary devices of current/modern music.  She uses photography, walks and trips around our East New York neighborhood to frame a montage of life, a setting for each student’s visual autobiography. She uses special computer programs to help students weave tales and adapt classics and simplify versions of Othello, Macbeth, The Catcher in the Rye, and Romeo and Juliet for the ESL classroom. She has created class literary magazines and poetry collections with her students. She introduces films to supplement themes in texts (Flatliners with Frankenstein, II Postino poetry units, Mi Vida Loca with House on Mango Street). Her students become playwrights as they add scenes to texts and explore the word of the actor and screenwriter.

Parent and community involvement: She has interviewed family members for autobiographies and biographies; requested that her students read class texts to their parents or at least share “the really great” stories with their immigrant and non-immigrant parents; encouraged students to use book club order forms to ensure parents realize the importance of reading—in English as well as in native language—for all children; performed an original composition at the Black Cat Café in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with several members of the English/ELL Department; called all parents of ELL students and wrote letters in their native tongue, encouraging parent contact and involvement; modeled, in spirit and deed, the importance of connecting to one’s native land/familial birthplace and its importance in the fabric of the United States of America.#



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