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Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month


















JUNE 2005

Outstanding Teachers of the Month - June 2005

Michele Smyth
Brian O’Connell
Superintendent’s Name:
Dr. Kathy Cashin
Name of School:
Belle Harbor School
Student Progress:
We are nominating Ms. Michele Smyth. Ms. Smyth is a phenomenal teacher, math coach, school leader, and mom. Ms. Smyth has been a significant contributor to the efforts of our school’s improvement specifically in the area of mathematics. During the 2003-2004 year, Ms. Smyth was a leader who helped spearhead an approximate 9% increase in mathematics scores for all tested students across the grades. The student progress is unmistakable.

Ms. Smyth has worked with teachers on a one to one basis, she has worked with our Academic Intervention Team to identify and develop a comprehensive plan for remediation and differentiating instruction. Ms. Smyth has gone above and beyond her role as coach in offering her services to her colleagues on her lunch hour, before, and after schools. This coach/partner relationship has had an incredible impact on student work and progress.

Innovative Teaching Strategies:
Ms. Smyth embraces the workshop model. To this end, she has modeled during professional development periods, coaching sessions and via push in coaching sessions, how to plan for, structure, and implement an ideal math lesson. Ms. Smyth has created many teacher resources linked creating synergy among: the New York State standards (big ideas), Everyday Math Program learning objectives, teaching strategies, portfolios, and test preparation materials. Through the creation and deployment of such materials, Ms. Smyth has made the day-to-day efforts of teachers easier so that they may better service their students. An innovator, Ms. Smyth found avenues of connectivity between our school’s program schedule, academic intervention plan, and coaching plan. Her endeavors have enabled us to change gears with regard to the professional development that we have delivered to our staff. Ms. Smyth’s creativity has created a “thicker” multi-layered professional development plan, coaching plan, academic intervention plan and school program all focused upon our students. With Ms. Smyth, energies of innovation are always directed at our students.

Motivating Students:
In April of 2003, most of the students in PS 114Q sat in rows. Chalk dust piled at the front of the room. many of the teachers taught one lesson on one skill, page by page in the text. I specifically recall frequently seeing the faces of both frustrated and bored students alike. Upon Ms. Smyth’s arrival and implementation of the workshop model as a standard format for the delivery of instruction, teachers began differentiating their instruction more. Students moved around, rows of desks became cooperative working groups, the chalk on the floor vanished and students became engaged in the learning process rather than spectators of it. Now, instruction starts with a big idea. Students get hooked and interested in math. Teachers begin their instruction based upon where their students are. Differentiation takes place every day in every class. Math games, slate boards, computer centers, the ever-loved carpet for sharing and reflecting have all invaded our rooms to our students delight. Ms. Smyth is all about student engagement.

Parent/Community Involvement:
With regard to parent involvement, Ms. Smyth has presented EveryDay Mathematics workshops to parents on every grade both during, after school, and in the evenings to facilitate their appreciation and support of the work that their children do within this program’s approach. During such workshops, Ms. Smyth has presented in our library, auditorium, lunchroom, or classrooms. Most presentations were followed by accompanied visits with parents into the classrooms where the instruction was taken place. For follow up, Ms. Smyth debriefed with each parent group in the library to field questions, make connections, and develop “How can I help?” strategies with the parents. By increasing parent involvement and awareness, Ms. Smyth has improved the quality of homework and class work. Moreover, her efforts have raised the level of parent education and comfort with a new math program. All of Ms. Smyth’s efforts with regard to parent involvement have paid dividends for children and parents alike. Many a kitchen table are now much more calm and much more capable when it comes to math.

Yolonda Cartagena
Joyce Woda
Superintendent’s Name:
Kathleen Cashin
Name of School:
P.S. 214K
School District/Region:
Dist. 19
Student Progress:
Ms. Cartagena has been a teacher in P.S. 214K for the past eight years and has worked in the New York City Public School System for the last twenty years. Her creative talent and instructional expertise has earned her the label of “Master Teacher”. Ms. Cartagena has created an environment in her classroom that is nurturing, child-centered and enjoyable. One can only see from the look on the students’ faces that they are completely engaged in whatever concept is being taught. As a Kindergarten Bilingual teacher, Ms. Cartagena teaches her students how to become lifelong readers and learners through her interdisciplinary approach to teaching. She utilizes a thematic approach, emphasizing both English and Spanish while incorporating both Bilingual and ESL strategies. By the end of their Kindergarten year, Ms. Cartagena’s students have become emergent readers and writers in both of those languages. Ms. Cartagena is a wonderful asset to P.S. 214K.

Innovative Teaching Strategies:
Ms. Cartagena displays her creativity and resourcefulness through her innovative teaching style. By utilizing a thematic approach in an age appropriate way, Ms. Cartagena incorporates her innovative ideas throughout her daily instructional day. She motivates her students when introducing a new theme or concept with an exciting picture, song or poem. From here, she springboards into a wealth of creative activities. One only has to visit Ms. Cartagena’s classroom to see how much learning is taking place!

Motivating Students:
As was mentioned earlier, Ms. Cartagena utilizes a thematic and interdisciplinary approach to teaching. Her students are extremely motivated learners and are always engaged in classroom activities. In a unit on Africa, Ms. Cartagena motivated her students by completely immersing them in the subject matter. The classroom was transformed into an African-like jungle. The children created pictures of African animals and ate African food. They read literature reflecting African culture, from African folktales to nonfiction African books. The students played games reflective of the African way of life. Another fun activity for the students consisted of creating a book about the Principal of P.S. 214K, Ms. Woda. Ms. Cartagena had the class create an invitation to invite Ms. Woda for a class visit so they could conduct an interview. After formulating interview questions with the class and interviewing Ms. Woda, Ms. Cartagena then proceeded to create a class book about the Principal. The children are always excited to read the book they created from their own classroom library. Ms. Cartagena also has her class help her develop and her bulletin boards. On this one occasion, they read aloud WHOEVER YOU ARE by Mem Fox and they recreated the cover of the book, which is a picture of the world with multicultural children surrounding it, with an accompanying writing assignment. This was truly a masterpiece. Ms. Cartagena provides a strong academic foundation for her Bilingual students.

Parent/Community Involvement:
Besides being an excellent Early Childhood teacher, Ms. Cartagena also devotes time to teaching ELL parents learn the basics of the English language. She has been doing this for the past few years and has a devoted population of parents because of her excellent instruction and pleasant demeanor. Her classroom has an open door policy, which enables parents to come and participate in classroom activities, thus building a bridge between home and the school.

Ben Sherman
Martha Polin
Superintendent’s Name:
Doreen Cokley
Name of School:
Lower East Side Preparatory HS<
School District/Region:
Alternative Schools
Student Progress:
I have known and worked with Ben Sherman for almost three years now. Ben has been a strong supporter of the principal and the administration, a powerful instructional leader and has helped bring money, technology and change to the forefront at Lower East Side Preparatory High School. Mr. Sherman was the chief architect and writer of the $100,000 Beaumont Grant that we received for the 2003-04 school year. Not only was he instrumental in our receiving the $100,000 grant, but he also made sure that students and faculty made the most of the technology that was awarded to our school. Through our program, “Write on Reading,” we have witnessed huge gains in the numbers of students taking and passing the English Language Arts Regents. Mr. Sherman implemented the technology (PDAs) that has been strongly imbedded in the curriculum. Mr. Sherman has helped me to be a leader of change. His assistance in bringing technology to the forefront as well as help me raise awareness about our school, its mission and its cutting edge instruction has provided our students with higher level skills in literacy, math, science and technology. He has helped to develop an effective staff team dedicated to providing students with a world-class education. He has shared and demonstrated his strong instructional practice with many other teachers on staff. He has been given a compensatory time position as a technology coach this year to train teachers to integrate the appropriate level of technology into their classroom for school-wide literacy projects. PDA’s are used for increased writing, reading activities and Internet research in the content areas. Our ESL students record their English on PDA’s and send these recordings to the teachers’ network folder. He has helped teachers explore the higher-level potential of Microsoft software with the goal of creating paperless classrooms. Rubrics, writing folders and portfolio assessment are integral to his classroom. Mr. Sherman recently won first prize in the SAMSUNG Hope For Education Contest. This brought an additional $10,000.00 worth of technology into LESP. He then facilitated our receiving one jump drive for every member of the faculty. Ben Sherman was also instrumental in implementing a student MOUSE Squad at LESP to assist our technology department in keeping every computer, PDA and laptop running. Mr. Sherman understands that education is a life long learning and growth process for everyone in the school community. As the leader learns and grows so must he/she encourage all teachers to become learners. He is a fine teacher who understands how to reach students and get them to be their best “selves.” He is compassionate and creative, acting as a mentor, a guide on the side, friend and big brother. He delivers carefully crafted and structured lessons using all of the available resources we have. His classroom is filled with current student work and a fully stocked classroom library. The joy of the students learning is apparent. Ben has been a willing participant implementing changes, taking risks and experimenting with strategies. He has learned to adjust his style to meet the needs of the students and staff. He embodies the spirit I look for in a teacher leader.

Parent/Community Involvement:
Mr. Sherman started Parent computer classes. PDA lending program administered by Mr. Sherman brought parents, who otherwise might never have come, to school. Ben has taken students to the NYC Marathon and has done the Bike NY 40 mile ride with students twice. Ben was instrumental in bringing the organization “Ken’s Kids” to LESP along with I-mentor.

Laura Bertolotti
Mrs. Eva Garcia
Superintendent’s Name:
Ms Laura Rodriquez
Name of School:
School District/Region:
District 8/Region2
Student Progress:
It is indeed a pleasure to nominate Laura Bertolotti as an Outstanding Teacher of the Month. Ms Bertolotti is a model of excellence in the field of education. Her preparation for the role of educator began at Manhattan College over 15 years ago. Education was her career choice. Thus, Ms Bertolotti’s investment of time and energy in perfecting her craft, in this noble profession, has been an extraordinary journey, which is worthy of much praise and emulation by her peers. According to Steve Gordon: “preceding everything else in teaching is the core belief in students and a fundamental belief in the lives and minds of students.” And certainly Laura Bertolotti’s ability to program her students for mastery in all facets of the curricula is well known. This measurable progress is also well documented and therefore worthy of merit and acknowledgement. As indicated by Ms Elena Garcia, a colleague, “Ms. Bertolotti, has worked with my students over the years in the Academic Intervention Services Program. All of the students assigned to her program for remediation have shown progress. The students love her. Ms. Bertolotti wants the children to be successful and it comes through. She addresses the needs of each student. And she has designed a program that works with them. Ms. Bertolotti is always ready to roll into action. She is highly skilled and well prepared to meet all challenges.”

Innovative Teaching Strategies:
For Ms. Bertolotti, individualizing instruction is key. As a specialist in Reading and Special Education, designing a modified Individualized Education Plan with long and short-term objectives is only one facet of her action plan for each student. Informal assessment batteries in Reading and Language Arts must also be crafted; behavior modification plans must be developed; Brigance assessments are needed in Reading and Mathematics; and last but not least, a final report incorporating specific instructional recommendations is required. In addition to the aforementioned, Ms. Bertolotti has served effectively in the Academic Intervention Skills Program. The program provides test preparation for students in reading and math in Grades 3 and 4. The students also receive help in developing effective reading and math strategies. Tests are administered. Grade conferences are held to review and organize test preparation materials. Ms. Bertolotti has modeled these dynamics at Grade Conferences and Professional Development Workshops. This has been of incalculable benefit to the teachers of our staff.

Motivating Students:
Ms. Bertolotti’s ability to program students for success is evident to parents as well as teachers. Her belief that all students can learn is mirrored in the seriousness of purpose of the work at hand. Every student is held accountable for the work prescribed. Work in the classroom as well as the homework is carefully monitored. Parent conferences are an integral part of every step of the child’s education.  The rewards are intrinsic as well as extrinsic. The ultimate goal is for the child to learn at every turn.  Bertolotti’s students were delighted to have received rewards for two science fair presentations: “Seashells” and “The Five Senses.” Literacy is a daily happening in her room. Through the balanced literacy model, students are engaged in various approaches i.e. read alouds, guided and independent reading, and the writing process. Her Reading Recovery training at NYU has been beneficial. These strategies are incorporated in her lessons. Hence, each year Ms Bertolotti’s students’ academic advancement is significant. No child goes unnoticed. No child is left behind.

Parent/Community Involvement:
Educators know that parental and community involvement is important in the child’s education. Ms Bertolotti has fostered a permanent alliance with the parents and members of the Hunts Point community in several ways. First, Ms Bertolotti has developed behavior modification plans in conjunction with the parent of each of her students. Next, she provides for ongoing articulation with the parents throughout the school year. Then, Ms Bertolotti has participated in the Staff Development Retreats, the Curriculum Team Meetings, Learning Walks, and Comprehensive Educational Plan Forums with members of the P.S.75X Family. And if it takes an entire village to raise a child, surely the goal of the school must be to include parents in the planning and decision making for its children. Therefore, we are fortunate to have Ms. Laura Bertolotti as a highly skilled professional in our midst. She is one educator who will enable the youth of tomorrow to read, to study, and explore because their future is in her hands. Adalante! Adalante! Adalante!

Teresa Kutza
Deirdre A. DeAngelis
Superintendent’s Name:
Michelle Fratti
Name of School:
New Dorp High School
School District/Region:
Region 7
Student Progress:
Mrs. Kutza is the teacher of Living Environment (Biology-ninth grade course), and Anatomy and Physiology (College Level Course.) Her students have shown progress in the following ways: student test scores on the Regents have increased; test scores on departmental exams have shown significant improvement; application of information to new situations. Student apply their creative skills to create projects which demonstrate physiological processes, using different media such as, sculptors, models, poems, video’s and CD’S. Students celebrate the information they learn by creating and displaying varied curricular topics on bulletin boards. They participate in contests and competitions. Selected students from the Anatomy and Physiology class represented our school at the citywide annual Brain Bee competition. A 4th place winner in this competition has been our best placement. Another student from the Anatomy and Physiology was selected to represent Region 7 in the Nobel Laureate Essay contest in Medicine. This contest is open to students from all high schools in New York City.

Innovative Teaching Strategies:
Among the innovative teaching strategies incorporated in the quality instruction provided by Mrs. Kutza are: Varied Cooperative Learning structures, such as Jigsaw and Think Pair Share. She uses the media of drama and theatre, and the strategy of role-playing; students in the class demonstrated the structure and function of the DNA molecule in the biological process of Replication, as well as the negative feedback mechanism of hormonal control. Using every day materials such as Gum Drops (candy) and pipe cleaners, students construct the Double Helix model of the DNA molecule and the sarcomeres of skeletal muscle, and cardiac muscle. She provides opportunity for students to create products that facilitate the understanding of specific biological processes. Examples of such products include: foldables, that demonstrate the flow of energy in the ecosystem; flip books that are used to tell the story of protein synthesis; models that are created using pipe cleaners that demonstrate the process of mitosis; and the cooperative learning strategy jigsaw that enables a group of students working cooperatively to learn large chunks of information from current science journal articles. She uses popular games such as Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy in review lessons. She incorporates the use of current scientific information into the curriculum, via audiovisual technology, and Internet instruction, using the NIH (National Institute Of Health) curriculum series, The Brain. She also incorporates writing in the content area is accomplished through the use of Double Entry Journals, Critical squares, and Word wall creations that incorporate the specific science vocabulary.# 




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