An Inside Look into the Teaching Profession
Ariel Nadelstern: A Teacher Always Looking to Learn
When asked how she chose the teaching profession, Ariel Nadelstern responds, “It actually chose me. I was relocating from Miami when a friend of my mom’s suggested I apply at DeWitt Clinton.”
DeWitt Clinton, near Lehman College in the North Bronx, has a fascinating history. Six New York City schools are named for Clinton graduates: August Martin High School in Queens; P.S. 96 Richard Rodgers and P.S.105 Abraham Bernstein in the Bronx; and P.S. 50 Vito Marcantonio, Murry Bergtraum High School and P.S. 194 Countee Cullen in Manhattan.
To Ariel, Clinton’s most important grad is her father, Eric Nadelstern. “DeWitt Clinton is where he went to high school and where he started teaching.”
Ariel says that initially she and the students were a bit surprised to see one another. “We were staring at each other—I was about three years older than they were.” After her father helped her construct a lesson plan, she and the students finally opened up and “began talking to each other. You have to figure out what you need to do as a teacher. Once you figure that out, the kids will make it happen.” Ariel says she tried various projects. “We created a poetry anthology, and parents contributed as well.” She says that this “good body of work” was great for both the students and for her.
From there, Ariel went to the Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction. “We were looking at using the land around the building and using the city. You need people who understand people and then you can do everything else.” She says she learned from Principal Lawrence Pendergast that “if you commend instead of criticizing you get more results.”
Currently, she is refining her skills, teaching tenth and eleventh grade English and ESL at the Queens High School of Teaching, a school focused on preparing future teachers. Teachers there, as she learned, act as students as well as teachers. “It’s a really good model. The principal did walk-throughs; there were sometimes seven people in my room. They would write up an observation of what they saw and, within days, I would have that in my box. It keeps us aware of what we’re doing.” There are also “Critical friends groups” where teachers present work and get feedback. Having gained confidence and experience, she is currently co-planning a senior year elective horror film unit. “It would be a humanities course looking at themes of fear—in our society what are our monsters, what are we afraid of? The class would involve script writing and reading. The fact that we can do that, that the administration is willing to help us, is great.”
There are three complexes at the Queens High School of Teaching. Ariel teaches in the Emerson complex. “Each school has its own soul, its own personality. Emerson is a growing community, and as we get to shift and change they’re all very different.”
As for regents and standardized testing, she says, “The standards for English are basically reading, writing, speaking, and listening. A well planned out unit intrinsically carries those units. You don’t have to study for the regents explicitly or implicitly. I use a generic rubric. The things that I look at in a student’s work are development, organization, language use and control, so they really have standards that become intrinsic.”
Intrinsic in Ariel’s life is her parents’ influence. “My father is really strong in the world of progressive education.” For her birthday, they sent her on a Habitat for Humanity trip to Romania for three weeks, “where my paternal grandmother used to live. I climbed one of the Carpathian Mountains, visited the college town of Cluj. There were big, gorgeous buildings and also cool younger shops.” The blend of tradition and innovation is her theme.#