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Teachers of the Month


















MAY 2005

Outstanding Teachers of the Month — May 2005

Claudia Teti
Principal: Edwin Irizarry
Superintendent: Myrna Rodriguez
Name of School: Community School 150, Bronx
School District/Region: 12/2
Student Progress: Ms. Teti’s students for the most part are in their second year with her. She had the advantage of looping with her class. During her one and a half years of teaching them she has marked noticeable growth with her students. Students who barely came in as readers and writers now follow the daily routine of journaling and reading independently, in groups and with the teacher. Their E-class assessments show marked improvements in fluency, decoding and comprehension skills. With her most challenging students, Ms. Teti provides extensive one-to-one and small group remedial attention. Ms. Teti takes pride in being a highly organized teacher who promotes a disciplined structured environment for her students. The students know how to access all of the resources in their classroom, as everything that is visible serves a useful purpose. The student portfolios are indicative of a teacher who encourages all freethinking and creativity from her students. She doesn’t cover a page in red, but instead will attach a post-it note with questions to further the child’s thinking. Keeping her expectations clear to the students is one of her most valued assets.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: Ms. Teti will devise systems and routines to make her classroom a smooth functioning machine. The students know the “signals” and are rewarded for complying with the classroom rules. Ms. Teti has a particularly challenging child. For this child, she has tried several methods to reach and teach him. In order to teach him to focus on his work, she has bought him a timer and he now toggles between work and free time. Work time has been elongated as weeks have passed. The child has also been given a personal checklist that he puts stickers on to note everything he has accomplished during the day in terms of classroom routines. When the child has been good, she has a reward box just for him to play with during free time and when he deserves it.

Motivating Students: With her class, Ms. Teti motivates her class by having Publishing Parties and classroom themed events. She works hard at creating a nurturing environment that exudes warmth and practical, children-based learning centers. The students write on sentence strips and posters for the classroom environment to be filled with print-rich student work. In order to further motivate the students Ms. Teti has taken the students on trips to stimulate their curiosity and broaden their knowledge base. Right now, while teaching life cycles and animal behaviors, Ms. Teti is raising frogs with her class. The students make their observations each day and are eager to read more on their newly born class pets.

Parent/Community Involvement: Ms. Teti writes letters to her parents to engage them in classroom learning activities. She invites them to partake of classroom events and to contribute to the learning of their children. She calls her parents to inform them of both good and bad. Ms. Teti will send a specially made reward for the students to bring home to let the parents’ celebrate their student’s successes.

Serena Goldberg
Principal: Digna Erstejn
Superintendent: Reyes Irizarry
Name of School: 51st Ave. Academy, Queens
School District/Region: 24/4
Student Progress: Ms. Goldberg’s 5th grade students always show growth academically and socially. The success rate in her class is almost 100% in English Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and Mathematics as per city and state test scores. This is due to the challenges she affords her students every single day. Even during her preparation periods and lunch she manages to teach them chess and urges them to use higher level thinking skills during class discussions. The students demonstrate their knowledge by their products, which improve as the school year moves forward. Though her students are highly competitive, they do manage to work collaboratively when solving problems or when writing scripts for their assembly plays that are based either on Shakespeare or on contemporary issues. All these activities contribute to the achievements of her class.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: Ms. Goldberg integrates all subject areas in reality-based projects with thoughts and ideas that motivate them to think in terms of social needs or issues. Projects this year dealt with the environment, Civil Rights, World War II issues, and proofs of Laws of Gravity and centrifugal theories, etc. Her students become playwrights and lawyers who debate social issues. She instills in them social responsibility by conducting debates in her class and prepares them for their future roles in society. In addition, she is sensitive to students’ individual needs and provides one on one to those who are lagging behind, promoting them from a level 2 (state results) to a level 4. Overall, she exposes the students to rich curriculum that is real, challenging, and makes them aware of future possibilities under a non-threatening environment.

Motivating Students: Her teaching methods motivate students to reach their highest potential and become enthusiastic learners. Grateful students return to visit because of her ability to keep them enthralled in learning. Visiting her class, one can see the enthusiasm for learning during the deep discussions on books or particular issues. Students were so involved in this Socratic classroom that, at times, they would miss their bus. You can also find her students engrossed in their reading because Ms. Goldberg has been able to transfer her love for literacy by modeling and sharing her weekend readings with them. Ms. Goldberg’s students produce many projects that become numerous as the year progresses. The 5th grade mathematics curriculum is completed by February and students move on either into 6th grade or 7th grade mathematics. In literature, they start the year with Roald Dahl and by December they are tackling Shakespeare. Students publish essays in September and later in the year they publish books. Their learning culminates in an assembly presentation based on what they have read and is an expression of their creativity and the knowledge acquired. When conversing with Serena’s students in the spring, one realizes that their academic vocabulary is comparable to that of high school students. Ultimately, test scores are clear evidence of their academic achievements.

Parent/Community Involvement: Ms. Goldberg has good relations with parents and teachers. She maintains contact with the parents of her students via letters or phone calls. This communication also contributes to the achievement of her students. She shares with her colleagues her projects and thoughts regarding curriculum and how to teach in a way that this curriculum becomes alive.

Deborah Brandt-Blanc
Principal: Joan Washington
Superintendent: Dr. Susan Erber
Name of School: PS 811, Queens
School District/Region: District 75
Student Progress: The students in Ms. Brandt-Blanc’s class have shown progress in their work as reflected in a variety of assessment measures. The teacher uses authentic assessment to determine the real-life activities that she selects for her high school age students with significant disabilities. For example, if a student shows a weakness/deficit in measuring, the teacher plans cooking lessons for the student. When a student exhibits problems with motor activities, the teacher plans laundry lessons for the student where the student performs the task of folding, sorting, and organizing. All of Ms. Brandt-Blanc’s plans foster independence skills first and foremost for her students.

Innovative Teaching Strategies:
Ms. Brandt-Blanc uses innovative teaching strategies daily to engage her students. First of all, she uses differentiated instruction to make sure she taps every student’s learning style. Ms. Brandt-Blanc adapts each lesson by offering augmentative assistive communication devices (AAC) technology, and listening tools for students with language, hearing and motor problems. The teacher believes and practices Community-Based Instruction as a foundation for vocational and social skills training. She is a model teacher for our Career Education Program, always finding new jobs for her students to perform, while continuing to challenge them with a rigorous curriculum. In school her class organizes the “Lunch to Go Program,” and the Laundry Program they call, “Bright Waters.”  Finding the right balance between the academic and functional, practical skills for our students are clearly one of Ms. Brandt-Blanc’s strengths.

Motivating Students: Ms. Brandt-Blanc has motivated students to be more involved in classroom activities by selecting those that truly interest teenagers! Some examples of activities planned and implemented by her class are the Common Cents Penny Harvest collections for the needy, Waldbaums shopping for families and staff for the vocational program. Take orders, make change, prepare and deliver “Lunch to Go” to staff and school visitors. Ms. Brandt-Blanc’s class won a grant to install garden boxes in front of the school to beautify the landscape. Ms. Brandt-Blanc’s class celebrated Dr. Suess’s Birthday by reading and role playing characters in his books. They organized a Crazy Hat Day for all of the classes in the school. Her class volunteered to be cheerleaders at our intramural basketball and volleyball games at a neighboring high school site. They are making pom poms and distributed tee shirts for the “Marathon Marvels.” As you can see, Ms. Brandt-Blanc motivates her students and teaches them valuable lessons using real-world activities. Nothing is more motivating to a class than to see their teacher get directly involved in the classroom work, participating side by side the students, urging them on and pushing them to succeed. Ms. Brandt-Blanc likes to show the students her silly side, creating and wearing her own crazy hat, digging dirt in the garden, wearing funny outfits to fit the occasion, exercising and cheering with them. Ms. Brandt-Blanc rewards her students frequently for their good work through verbal praise, contacting parents, and prizes.

Parent/Community Involvement: In order to increase parent and community involvement, Ms. Brandt-Blanc developed and implemented several initiatives for our school. Parents as Reading Partners (PARP) encouraged parents to read to their children every evening for three weeks. The class worked together on creating a graph of the books they read at home with their parents. This worthwhile activity helps families make a habit out of reading together. Ms. Brandt-Blanc never misses a contest or a project to sign up her class. They designed a quilt square to incorporate into District 75’s quilt titled, “Individuals Who Made a Difference,” depicting Henry Viscardi as a pioneer for people with disabilities. The quilt is on display for the public’s viewing at the district office. Ms. Brandt-Blanc’s class has also created a bulletin board for display at the superintendent’s office. Ms. Brandt-Blanc implements Community Based Instruction to promote every day skills and appropriate behaviors. Her students this year are high school age, therefore these are very important skills for them to acquire. Some examples: Waldbaums and BJ’s for shopping, Bowling and Outback Restaurant for leisure, Intramurals to other schools for physical fitness. Her class has made animal biscuits for an animal shelter. Ms. Brandt-Blanc continues each year to coordinate the Common Cents Penny Harvest Campaign. The funds are contributed to a worthy case and the students are rewarded with a mini grant to use for their school. Ms. Brandt-Blanc’s class decided to purchase garden boxes to beautify the front of our school! All of these activities encourage community involvement and pride in their work.

Cynthia Cashman
Principal: Martha G. Vazquez
Superintendent: Samona J. Tait
Name of School: P.S. 69, Queens
School District/Region: 30/4
Student Progress: Over the span of 39 years at P.S. 69, Ms. Cashman has consistently worked to meet the individual needs of all her students. She has substantially improved the test scores of the pupils in her classes. Students scored sufficiently high on formal assessments to meet the grade standards. Last year approximately 15 students moved from a level 2 to level 3. Students gained necessary confidence to participate more in class. Students who had not been doing homework are now doing it.

Innovative Teaching Strategies:
She embraces acquiring instructional techniques to inform/staff develop teachers as well as students in order to maintain up to date skills\strategies for all students. She utilizes brain research techniques in order to raise the participation and learning level of all students. Students improved in their math skills because she always works with them individually and in small groups. She evaluates each student’s strength and weaknesses and works with them to improve in the areas in which they were deficient. She uses concrete math manipulatives to help students understand concepts. She establishes rapport with them so that they look forward to working with her. She motivates them to participate in class and to do their homework.

Motivating Students: Supervisors observe children working in groups. It is obvious that the children are actively participating in discussions and group projects. Supervisors observe that she asks all students to participate in covert and overt activities by using the phrase “each one of you.” This technique has shown to increase the rate and degree of learning as well as demonstrating to students that each one is expected to participate. At the end of each lesson during the sharing activity the children are verbally drawing conclusions, making inferences and solving complicated problems. Students contribute with alternative strategies in problem solving.

Parent/Community Involvement: For many years, Ms. Cashman organized workshops for parents where they learned about the curriculum and how to help their children be better students. Workshops concentrate on math, reading, test taking, computer and geography. The workshops take place after school and childcare is provided. Because for many parents English as a second language workshops are aimed at helping parents become more proficient in English. Also, the workshops provide parents with methods of communicating with the school. In order to acquaint parents with the cultural sites around the city, she arranges bus trips for them and their children to visit these sites. Guided trips, each with a theme, are taken on Saturdays and are very well attended. Parents are enthusiastic and look forward to participate with their children in attending workshops and trips planned by Ms. Cashman.

Evelyn Fortis
Principal: Eva Garcia
Superintendent: Laura Rodriguez
School: P.S.75, Bronx
School District/Region: 8/2
Student Progress: To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.” [Bell Hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom.] It is indeed a pleasure to nominate Evelyn Fortis as educator of the month. Ms Fortis brings a dynamic to the classroom, which includes professionalism as well as a commitment and concern for her students and colleagues. She has created a warm spirit of community with her classroom. Thus, each student is programmed to learn. They reach extraordinary levels of competency across the curriculum. As a veteran teacher of 15 years Ms Fortis’ dedication to the students and school is mirrored in the enthusiasm she infuses in each task undertaken. Whether in the classroom, Reading Lab, or Academic Intervention Program, the fact remains, Ms Fortis is a master teacher who “respects and cares for the souls of student.” There are no insurmountable obstacles because her exceptions for all students are high. Incalculable hours are provided in the preparation of each lesson. In addition to the aforementioned, Ms Fortis provides assistance to all teachers in the first grade. As indicated by Mrs. Starr, a colleague, “Ms Fortis has given up preparation periods to mentor newer teachers. She has counseled teachers and modeled lessons for them. Fortis lends her classroom to teachers as a second home. In that way teachers can plan collaboratively. Ms Fortis will research new ideas and share all that she has obtained.” Thus, Ms Fortis’ exemplary manner of teaching transcends her life as a teacher Ms Fortis’ classroom routines are carefully planned for her students. Once the students internalize the routines, the students can navigate through the structured centers and print-rich classroom environment to learn, study and explore. It is a pleasure to see first graders getting ready for their “day” at school in a business-like manner. This seriousness of purpose translates into students who are on or above grade level in academic areas. They are programmed for success. And Ms Fortis constantly tells them that they CAN do it, and that they WILL all go to college. Hence, their dream and the dream of their parents are her dreams.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: Ms Fortis’ training as a Reading Recovery Teacher has proven to be beneficial to all students. The strategies she amassed at New York University are used one-one-one and also in small reading groups. In addition to these strategies, the Kagan structures, which Fortis developed over years of study, are also employed in her classroom. Ms Fortis has described these strategies as fun and instructive. Fortis also utilizes the lessons prepared and exchanged by the first grade teachers in her study group. These lessons are carefully discussed for their value in skill building and enrichment. Ms Fortis’ resourcefulness led her to apply and to receive a grant from Donors Choose. This culminated in an infusion of Scholastic Magazines, which has enhanced the Social Studies and Science curriculum. These articles of high interest supplement the existing study of social studies and science. It also provides for lessons that are on grade level, current, and highly beneficial to her first graders.

Motivating Students: Ms Fortis provides opportunities for leadership among her students. Her young student-leaders are encouraged to take turns reading books to the entire class and to think critically i.e. “show the evidence.” Student collaboration is fostered as the students work cooperatively in groups, help each other spelling words, work out problems, and support initiatives. Rubrics have become an integral part of the daily routines. All work is carefully reviewed. Written responses accompany all work. And the Author’s Chair provides the young author’s with opportunities to share their writing with a very positive audience of their peers.

Parent/Community Involvement:
Through the years Ms Fortis has formed a partnership with parents, which is fostered in many ways. First, parents are always welcome on class excursions as an example of the learning experiences, which take place outside the parameters of the classroom. Second, parents are apprised of the progress of students with regard to any change of schedule, student achievement, and/or student behavior. Third, Ms Fortis provides feedback to parents on the progress of the school’s 100 Book Challenge. Finally, during Parent/Teacher Conferences, Ms Fortis serves as an interpreter for non-Spanish speaking teachers. Ms Fortis’ commitment to students, parents and teachers is indeed worthy of much praise. She is a jewel in the crown of Education. A teacher or teachers: And the personification of the word, Educator.

Marlene DaSilva-Hinds
Principal: Bridget Carrington
Superintendent: Bernard Gassaway
Name of School: Bedford Stuyvesant Preparatory High School, Brooklyn
School District/Region: 79/8

Student Progress: The students of Mrs. DaSilva-Hinds show continuous progress. She is a dedicated educator and her students have shown exemplary results on the US History and Government Regents and Global Studies Regents. She is always in search of various testing taking strategies to increase achievement. She has incorporated the “Five Step Method” within her lessons, which provides a guided strategy for answer a multiple choice question as well as extracting appropriate information for an essay question. This technique demonstrated by Ms. DaSilva provides the students with a comfortable level for approaching any multiple choice or essay base question. The students’ portfolios demonstrate the continuous progress and are used as an assessment tool for regents preparation. The teacher designed test and the implementation of the Kaplan component prepares the students for the regents and provides noted achievement and a mastery passing rate of 90 percent.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: The use of innovative teaching strategies can always be found in the lesson plans of Ms. DaSilva-Hinds. The students are motivated and able to verbally express their views and ideas about the related topics presented in the class. The projects completed by the students demonstrate the innovative teaching strategies that are constantly incorporated within her classroom. Mrs. DaSilva-Hinds uses letter writing, timelines, mini-books, diary entries, creative writing, etc. as tools to express the various topics of Global History. Students are able to freely express their thoughts of the topics presented to them and create extraordinary displays that indicate a thorough understanding of the topic. Ms. DaSilva-Hinds is dedicated to education thereby producing students of high academic achievement.

Motivating Students: The displays of the students taught by Ms. DaSilva-Hinds are phenomenal. She motivates the students to produce quality work and nothing less. The creation of mini-books, diary entries, and letter writings to the past and future, indicate the innovative strategies implemented within the classroom. The students produce quality work and are able to verbally express their work to any audience. The use of technology is incorporated in every lesson, which enhances learning and creates student motivation. A dedicated educator, Ms. DaSilva-Hinds, has no problem motivating her students and producing exemplary quality work.

Parent/Community Involvement: The displays of the Global History class brighten the first floor Bedford Stuyvesant Preparatory High School. The amount of time which is displayed within the projects is noted in the comments of the students, parents, neighboring schools and the community. The students of Ms. DaSilva-Hinds’ class are proud to hear the positive feedback regarding the displays of the Global History classes. The students are in the process of partnering with neighboring elementary and junior high schools to encourage the study of Global History. Having the support of Ms. DaSilva-Hinds and her creativity, many other students will have the opportunity to explore the world of Global History.

Myrtha Borges
Principal: Betty Gonzalez-Soto
Superintendent: Laura Rodriguez
Name of School: CS 211 The Bilingual School, Bronx
School District/Region: 12/2
Student Progress: Ms. Borges has been a member of the CS 211 family for 20 years. She possesses that invaluable quality, consistency, which is so very critical to the success of any school. In her capacity as kindergarten teacher, Ms. Borges contributes to the very foundation of our educational program. Before using the ECLAS or any type of formal inventory to assess student performance, Ms. Borges spends time modeling clear expectations for both her students and the parents of her students. The first and most important assessment is the child’s ability to follow directions and adhere to the routines and rituals of the classroom. Ms. Borges uses the quiet, soft sell method for her brand of discipline; there is no yelling. There is a set routine which helps develop a sense of security in both students and parents: punctuality and attendance are primordial, toileting is scheduled unless there is an emergency, hands - on activities are essential to demonstrate understanding of the lessons taught, the classroom design is user-friendly, and everyone gets their homework signed on a daily basis.

Innovative Teaching Strategies: Ms. Borges’ years of experience give her incredible insight into the “how to” of teaching concepts to the early child. Through the years, she has taken the initiative of mentoring many newcomers. Her ability to teach her colleagues has never been labeled professional development; she just shares what she does and how she does it. This very natural way of imparting knowledge is evident when you see her teaching her children. Her contributions include the effective use of the literacy block, thematic - based curriculum mapping, centers- based classroom, leveled library, and the integration of technology into the curriculum. Although everything Ms. Borges does seems to flow so naturally, it is a testament to her ability to scaffold the learning process. Nothing is taught in isolation so that children have a handle or reference to associate with their lessons.

Motivating Students: Whenever you visit Ms. Borges’ class, you see students engaged in the process of learning: reading in the rug area, working on their computers, painting, conferencing about a class project and at other times just relaxing as they listen to soothing music. Visits always leave you with a sense of satisfaction. You want to turn back the hands of time and become that child of yesteryear, once again! To Ms. Borges’ credit many former students do return to pay tribute to this beautiful woman. Some come to ask if they can complete their college assignments through her intervention (i.e. interviews, class observations, etc.) Most of the time, former students come to visit in hopes that a son or daughter will be accepted into the upcoming September class. I am one of her many satisfied customers. She taught my son. To this day, I still remember the first book my son read in his kindergarten year: A Fly Went By by Dr. Seuss.

Parent/Community Involvement:
Ms. Borges is very smart in her teaching: she trains parents to become responsible learning partners. In the spring before your child enters her class, you receive a letter with supply list, important dates, and dress code. In September, there is an orientation to outline procedures and discuss curriculum. You want your child in her class because she exudes a sense of competence and organization. Most importantly, is Ms. Borges’ level of patience with students and family members? She makes herself available for daily contact at dismissal. No one leaves her room or picks up a child without seeing her and signing her daily log. That is who she is: professional!



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