Significant progress in raising student achievement has been made in New York City in the last eleven years, and Fellows have played an instrumental role in closing the achievement gap. By recognizing the hard work and dedication of several exceptional NYC Teaching Fellows, the Award for Classroom Excellence serves to celebrate all NYC Teaching Fellows who dramatically increase student achievement and consistently realize excellence in their classrooms.
The Fifth Annual Award for Classroom Excellence
We received a tremendous response to our call for nominees and applicants in this fourth year of the Award for Classroom Excellence. It was inspiring to hear from principals, assistant principals, teachers, mentors, and students about the incredible impact individual Fellows are having in the classroom.
With support from generous funders and the Fund for Public Schools, we were able to formally recognize the achievements of ten outstanding Fellows at a ceremony at Borough Hall on June 5, 2012. The 2012 ACE recipients received $2,000 and a $500 classroom grant. Our finalists received $250.
2012 Award for Classroom Excellence Recipients
Charan Morris, English teacher at Julia Richman Educational Campus: Vanguard High School (M449); Fellow since 2004
Ms. Morris grew up in inner-city Chicago and became a Teaching Fellow in 2004 to ensure that students have a better educational experience than she did growing up. As an English teacher, she preserves to see that all students advance in reading and writing and holds high expectations for all. By developing individual learning plans for every student she encounters and using formative assessments to check for student understanding, she has developed a system to capture student literacy growth over time. As a result, this year’s fall-semester students achieved a 94% pass rate on the January 2012 ELA Regents exam. Ms. Morris also actively invests and engages in the school community by fostering relationships with parents and families, organizing a weekly Mirror Speaker Series to expose students to professionals of color, and founding a partnership with NY Sports Club for students to maintain physical health.
Carl Anthony Finney, Science teacher at Flushing International High School (Q263); Fellow since 2005
Carl Anthony Finney left a corporate career in 2005 to teach in a high-need school where he could make a significant difference in the lives of his students. Working in a Title I school comprised of English Language Learners from every part of the world, Mr. Finney creates student groups to spur the development of language acquisition through project-based models both in and out of the classroom. As a result, students have earned a 65% Regents pass rate with strong graduation rates for the population. In addition, two students won a science competition, beating teams sponsored by Harvard and MIT, and presented their results in Budapest, Hungary. This year, Mr. Finney has successfully organized the first inter-school science fair to provide a space for students’ knowledge sharing. Constantly developing as a professional, Mr. Finney has worked with Columbia University faculty to enhance his practice and skills, and has secured grant funding and donations to provide additional resources to his students and colleagues. Mr. Finney also plays the vital advisor role to students participating in the school’s “College Now” program, helping them successfully navigate their first college experience as high school students taking college courses.
Amy Matthusen, English teacher at The Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters (X551); Fellow since 2004
Ms. Matthusen left a successful career in publishing to become a Teaching Fellow in the South Bronx in 2004. Now teaching English at the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters, Amy pairs each of her units with an outside partnership with esteemed authors and members of the community to make learning relevant and engaging for all of her students. As a result, students have earned the highest marks on record for the school in A.P. Composition for the 2010-2011 school year, with some even scoring the highest mark of a 5 for the first time in school history. Under her leadership as the English department chair, teachers are examining their practice from new perspectives and assessing student work with an eye to enhance each teacher’s ability to look beyond the day-to-day and understand the larger objectives.
Tierney Stromberg, special education Fellow at P.S. 138 (M138); First-year Teaching Fellow (District 75)
The majority of Ms. Stromberg’s students are non-ambulatory and non-verbal. Because of these significant impairments, the students need an intensive multi-sensory instructional program in order to process and retain information. Ms. Stromberg, who earned a B.A. in Communicative Disorders last May, has worked to cultivate a learning environment that accommodates students’ highly individualized and intensive learning needs through dialogue with classroom staff, the establishment of routines and management strategies, and the introduction of a yoga program. Daily data-tracking and anecdotal evidence show that these instructional strategies are impacting students positively. Ms. Stromberg has taken one of the most challenging classes in her school and transformed it into a richly effective therapeutic environment in which real learning and positive student outcomes are happening every day.
2011 Award for Classroom Excellence Finalists
Victoria Yang, ESL teacher at Emma Lazarus High School (M394); Fellow since 2005
Ms. Yang joined the Fellowship in 2005 after completing two years of graduate study and teaching ESL in China. As a teacher in a transfer high school that serves new immigrants, Ms. Yang works with a student population that is often older and faces a wealth of challenges outside of the classroom. She works tirelessly to maximize instructional time and design lessons that both serve and engage students while also addressing language acquisition and post-secondary skills development. Data show that students enter Ms. Yang’s classes below their targeted level and leave on level or above. By attending conferences and collaborating with colleagues about the skills necessary for this distinct population’s success, she is able to empower her students so that they leave her classes ready to handle the challenges of the next life stage with a sense of confidence and pride.
Desmond Rudder, Special Education teacher at P.S. 067 Charles A. Dorsey (K067); Fellow since 2006
Ms. Rudder began a career in corporate banking and transitioned to the Fellowship in June of 2006. She has built a strong community of learning in her classroom by connecting class work to students’ lives, creating engaging lessons, and exposing students to the world around them through technology, field trips, and hands-on activities. Because of cognitive delays, most students could not form basic sentences at the beginning of the school year. Through the use of music, art, incentive programs, and explorations that engage the senses, these students are now beginning to communicate in complete sentences. Ms. Rudder serves as a member of the School Leadership and Inquiry Teams, as well as the Curriculum Mapping Committee, and consistently shares ideas and findings with colleagues, parents and the community that aide in moving the school forward.
Lauren Shookhoff, Math teacher at Bushwick Educational Campus: Bushwick School for Social Justice (K549); Fellow since 2007
After tutoring at a high-need school in Rochester, NY, Ms. Shookhoff decided to join the NYC Teaching Fellows program to make a real difference in the lives of NYC students. In order to teach students higher-level math despite the need for extensive remediation, Ms. Shookhoff uses a multifaceted approach that includes extensive use of technology, focus on mastery of specific Common Core-based learning objectives, and intensive academic interventions. She has created a no-excuses culture in her classroom, ensuring that all students demonstrate understanding. As a result, her students’ pass rate for the June 2011 Geometry Regents doubled compared to the previous year’s. A member of the Math for America Fellowship and a published author in the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Ms. Shookhoff continually seeks out different approaches to mathematics education.
Kim Nogay, Science teacher at Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service (K616); Fellow since 2010
Ms. Nogay left a career in music advertising to become a Science Fellow in 2010. She currently teaches at a transfer school in Brooklyn that services over-aged, under-credited students. By synthesizing science curriculum with the development of essential literacy skills, students have demonstrated a high rate of success. Ms. Nogay has seen 100% of her students pass the 2012 Living Environment Regents exam, a noteworthy success for a school that struggles with the inherent challenge of consistent student attendance. By using non-traditional teaching tactics, such as dressing up in trash bags to demonstrate the effect of variation on an organism in a trash-bag environment, Ms. Nogay is able to fully engage her students and create an interactive and fun learning environment.
Cassi Breaux, Science teacher at P.S. M094 (M094); First-year Teaching Fellow
Prior to joining the Fellowship in 2011, Ms. Breaux ran a residential facility for teenagers with developmental disabilities. She is a Science teacher in a District 75 setting where classes are varied and based on student conditions. As a result, Ms. Breaux uses group and pairing work to compliment student abilities and expand socio-emotional learning. Because she implements hands-on components to each of her lessons, students are able to access topics in a way that is engaging and informative. As a first year teacher, Ms. Breaux has attended several District 75 Professional Development Workshops and was published in the North American Journal of Psychology last August.
Erica Weiner, Special Education teacher at P.S. 138 (M138); First-year Teaching Fellow (District 75)
Ms. Weiner joined the Fellowship in June of 2011 after six years in the advertising industry, and currently serves as a Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS) teacher with six students who spend the majority of instructional time in a community school classroom. Ms. Weiner coordinates with General Education teachers to modify teaching materials to meet students’ individual goals and creates a schedule that maximizes classroom time as effectively as possible. In addition, she also engages both students and parents to encourage student independence and socio-emotional development, thus taking a holistic approach to their success.
Interested in learning more about past Award for Classroom Excellence recipients? Click here to learn more about previous ACE recipients and finalists.