Education Update’s Outstanding Educators Share Lessons
The Harvard Club was the setting of the tenth annual award ceremony in which Education Update recognizes Outstanding Educators of the Year. Thirty-two teachers and administrators nominated by their supervisors and voted on by Education Update’s Advisory Council, received a standing ovation by their peers, families, sponsors, scientists, union leaders and politicians.
Many teachers emailed the best practices and lessons below to share with our readers.
Education Update deeply appreciates and thanks the sponsors that made the event possible. Jet Blue Airlines provided four tickets to destinations within the US.
Sponsors were: Con Edison, The City University of New York, Ann and Andrew Tisch, The McGraw-Hill Companies, The City College of New York, Child Mind Institute, The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, JetBlue Airways, Joyce Cowin, The Everett Foundation, The New York Times, CUNY School of Law, The Jed Foundation, Kingsborough Community College, Landmark College, Lehman College, The Leonard Family, The New Community College at CUNY, NYU Steinhardt, Sadlier, Sandra Priest Rose, Windward Teacher Training Institute, Teachers College-Columbia University, Touro College, Wagner College and York Prep.
Additional supporters included Dr. Margaret Cuomo Maier and Howard Maier, Deborah Strobin and Ilie Wacs, Mira Van Doren, Mara and Dean Landis, Tina Flaherty, Drs. Carole and Joseph Hankin and the 92 St Y.
Raina Menter, P.S. 50Q, Queens
This year I focused on making my lessons more student-centered and investigative. So with this in mind, I got ready to teach the math concept of using place value to compare and order three-digit numbers.
I had the students work in heterogeneous groups of five or six students because I felt that by listening to each other and being forced to talk about their own thinking, each student would get more out of the activity.
I gave each group a tray with base-10 blocks, paper, pencils, and index cards as tools but explained that they could use all or none of these items. Then I put 10 different three-digit numbers on the Smartboard and gave the students these instructions: “Put these numbers in order from greatest to least, and explain using place value how you know your answer is correct.”
As the groups worked I tried to circulate, observe and listen, without talking to the students. Some groups immediately copied the numbers onto the index cards and started playing around with them. Other groups were less organized and some students in the group were making lists of the numbers on paper, while others took cards, and others talked. One group decided to make the numbers with base-10 blocks but soon realized this wasn’t helping them. After a few minutes I stopped all the groups and pointed out what each group was doing, and then let them work again. Most groups together got the numbers into the correct order but then explaining their thinking was the hard part.
This is where it got very hard for me to not help, but I tried to really listen and it was amazing. In one group a child was explaining how he looked at the number in the 100s place first and put those in order from greatest to least and then went to the 10s place. I leaned in to the group and asked why and the child looked at me stumped. Another child in the same group chimed in that the 100s place is the biggest place so we start there and the rest of the group nodded.
Now there were a few minutes when this activity first started that I got nervous. If you looked at my classroom right then you would have seen what looked like controlled chaos, but I waited it out, and the students got where I wanted them to go. Most importantly they got there together. It is thinking and talking about math like this, using the correct vocabulary, building off each other’s ideas, and coming to these conclusions on their own that has made the greatest impact on my teaching and my student’s learning this year. #
Rina Manjarrez, Principal; Beverly Folkes-Bryant, Superintendent; School District 28
George Kennedy, Stuyvesant High School, Manhattan
I respond to student interests in the classroom with additional information. This involves bringing in research materials about the subject matter. Interesting materials about the lesson involving personalities or human behavior is included. This is especially true of the American History program. I’m always attentive to students that may have additional information about a topic. I try to share my enthusiasm and joy for learning new things.
In the finance class I include as much up-to-date information as possible and include reading for their project assignments from current readings in finance. We frequently use the computer room for students to conduct independent research and use the Wall Street Journal daily. I have included a lesson on preliminary stock research using sectors. #
Stanley Teitel, Principal; Tamika Matheson, Superintendent; School District 9
Jerry France, The Young Women’s Leadership School, Queens
In order to maximize class time with my students I have flipped my math classes. I have created online courses using a Wiki. This allows my students to preview the next day’s lesson at home and work on homework during class. This offers me the opportunity to conference with individual students.
At the beginning of every class I teach a mini-lesson based on the previous night’s lesson. Those students that need extra help follow the mini-lesson while those that understood the lesson are able to move ahead. After the mini-lesson I then conference with individual students to check for understanding and answer any questions. Students become active participants in class by peer tutoring those that are struggling. #
Laura Mitchell, Principal; Juan Mendez, Superintendent; School District 30
Starr Sackstein, World Journalism Preparatory: A College Board School, Queens
Puzzled by the enormity of research, students of all ages and levels are overwhelmed by the idea of it, not understanding that they do it all the time. In my 12th grade English class, I scaffold a final research project that taps into all the skills we work on for the year. The topic is of their choosing, so long as it is based on literature read within the school year. Benchmarks are presented to take the scariness out of the experience. They are: topic selection and planned literature choices as well as a critical theory lens through which to express their research (before trip to college library), annotated bibliography, tentative thesis statement, plan of action, outline, permanent thesis statement, first draft without any cited material, peer conference, teacher conference, second draft with the addition of textual evidence, peer conference, final bibliography, and final research paper with metacognative reflection. Students are given time in class to work/research/write/read/peer review and at least three trips to the college library are planned.
It’s ironic, when students are told in September they will be writing a 12- to 15-page research paper, they dread it all year. What they don’t realize is that every assignment they work on in class all year leads up to the big one. We start out small: a two- to three-page poetry analysis paper, then a three- to five-page literary analysis paper, then a five-page paper that can either be academic or creative, then an eight- to 10-page one-act play. There are other projects assigned that address a variety of skills needed to meet the common core standards, but each assignment builds stamina that mentally prepares them for the last research paper. Ultimately, this project is the one that current and former students say prepared them for college most, despite their initial resistance to it.
Research is the most essential tool we can teach students, particularly in today’s age of so much information being accessible so readily. Students need to learn to be avid consumers of that information. They need to know how to sift through it and find reliable sources while trying to support their own critical thoughts. As teachers, we must demystify research, engaging students in a dialogue with their own learning. Giving them these tools will not only prepare them for college, but for life. #
Cynthia Schneider, Principal; Juan Mendez, Superintendent; School District 25
Rashid Ferrod Davis, Principal, Pathways in Technology Early College High School, Brooklyn
I am the founding principal of Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). Every student needs to feel as if he or she belongs in school and the school culture has to be one that reinforces the belief that success is possible for all. The success is possible when teachers and principals meet students where they are and help them to move forward. P-TECH is a new grade 9-14 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) early college school in New York City. The school is in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York, New York City College of Technology and IBM. The students will simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in either Computer Information Systems or Electromechanical Engineering Technology. After the students earn the AAS degree, they will be first in line for a job at IBM. Every student has a mentor from IBM. The school is open admissions: they are not academically screened and they do not need to pass a test to gain admission. We opened our doors in September 2011 with 102 students and what has worked well is how we use time.
Our 102 students have 20,000 more minutes in their school year than a traditional high school. Additionally, the students attend a six-week summer program for an additional 6,400 minutes. The first instructional period begins at 8:35 a.m. and the 10th period ends at 4:06 p.m. The students have 90-minute classes and they have the opportunity to spend more time on task. The more time on task has yielded some tremendous results in year one: 98 percent of students were promoted from grade 9 to 10 and 75 percent have passed the state Regents in both English and integrated algebra. In addition, 15 percent of the students took the college-level course Logic and Problem Solving and received grades of C or better this summer. Finally, the public/private partnerships with our school are instrumental in helping prepare students to be both college and career ready. #
Buffie Simmons, Acting Superintendent; School District 17
Adam Chadwick, Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & Technology, Bronx
My philosophy on teaching is rooted in motivating student growth, however minute or intangible that growth may initially seem to be. In order for sustained growth to occur, students must be praised for their accomplishments, but immediately challenged by something new. I am a firm believer in never being completely satisfied and, while always celebrating student success, relentlessly pushing students further through rigorous leadership and instruction.
I try to complement the rigor in my classroom with an authentically passionate and animated temperament. If students can feel the energy and excitement I exude about the material being taught, that genuine enthusiasm will be absorbed by the students as well. I believe that to inspire students, they must know that I am fighting for them and that my sole purpose in the classroom is to make them stronger. If it is abundantly evident that we are fighting together, then we can grow together and enact major changes in the students’ social and academic lives. #
Maria Herrera, Principal; Carron Staple, Superintendent; School District 8
Dr. Octavia Anne Melian, Manhattan Theatre Lab School, Manhattan
In order to assist my students with the acquisition of skills that facilitate the comprehension of content-based materials, I employ a method known as cue identification and cue association supported by the employment of the 5Ws and the historical analysis lens. During an interactive lecture or “directed reading thinking activity,” the students must identify the relevant cues (i.e., lexicon), and the association of these cues in a cue flow diagram. The cues are sequenced in a structure that provides an understanding of the relevant historical events and the social, economic, and political factors that relate to the event or historical theme. The cue flow provides a visual understanding of the topic and sequence of events, supports critical thinking, logical-analytical skills, and a focus on the domain-specific lexicon to increase comprehension.
The student analyzes the cue flows and is able to predict, question the author and summarize that which they have read and how it is represented in a cue flow. The cue flow is a most efficacious skills-building exercise for many of my students who enter high school with one and two reading levels. The cue flow technique fosters deep processing of the textual reading and analysis by allowing the student to transform and compartmentalize the text to gain a deeper and substantive understanding. It is one of many literacy-based acquisition skills employed in my curriculum modification and adaptation process. The following is an example of a cue flow:
Civil War 1861-1865 Slavery States Rights Powers of the Legislative Branch Preservation of the Union Abraham Lincoln (Political Lens) Southern Economy Plantation System (Economic Lens) Preservation of Democratic Principles Abolitionist Forces Moral Imperative (Social Lens) #
Evelyn Collins, Principal; Tamika Matheson, Superintendent; School District 3