New York

City honors 11 teachers with Big Apple awards

The city has named the first 11 teachers to receive Big Apple Awards, a new prize designed to reward teachers who make an “exceptional impact” on student achievement.

The city announced the creation of the awards in February, shortly after negotiations between City Hall and the UFT to create a new teacher evaluation system ended spectacularly.

The winners were selected from more than1,500 nominees, of whom 500 were invited to submit essays and 50 were interviewed and observed in the classroom. The UFT, New York City Charter School Center, and other education groups played a role in the final selection, according to the city’s press release. Each winner will get $3,500 to use on classroom supplies — roughly 90 percent more than teachers received from the city last year.

The winners are

  • Silvestre Arcos, a fifth-grade math teacher at KIPP: Washington Heights Middle School in Washington Heights, Manhattan
  • Patrick Berry, a seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher at J.H.S. 057 Whitelaw Reidin Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
  • Erika Bogdany, a high school English Language Arts teacher at Brooklyn Bridge Academy, a transfer school  in Canarsie, Brooklyn
  • Damion Clark, an11th- and 12th-grade English teacher at Democracy Prep Charter High School in Harlem, Manhattan
  • Catherine Downey, a fifth-grade science and social studies teacher at P.S. 128 Bensonhurst in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
  • Kristin Ferrales, an 11th-grade social studies teacher at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice in downtown Brooklyn
  • Marietta Geraldino, a 10th- and 11th-grade math teacher at Frederick Douglass Academy II Secondary School in Harlem, Manhattan
  • Stephen Jackson, a middle school science teacher at P.S./M.S. 278 Paula Hedbavny Schoolin Inwood, Manhattan
  • Deborah Laster, a special education teacher for autistic students (ages 14-21) at P.S.176 in Co-op City, Bronx
  • Kimberly McCorkell, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher who provides academic intervention services at P.S. 222 The Katherine R. Snyder School in Marine Park, Brooklyn; and 
  • Melissa Salguero, a general music teacher at P.S. 48 Joseph R. Drake in the South Bronx.

More details about each winner’s contributions to the classroom, as described in a Department of Education press release, are below.

Silvestre Arcos, 5th grade math teacher at KIPP: Washington Heights Middle School

Culturally relevant pedagogy is the cornerstone of Silvestre Arco’s teaching vision.  The Southern Poverty Law Center awarded him with the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching in 2011.  Silvestre’s diverse teaching experiences – in two urban school districts and in both a district and charter schools – have given him significant experience in this area and made him a model educator.  Before he began his teaching career in New York City, he worked with emergent bilinguals in Los Angeles for three years.  Upon moving to New York, Silvestre led a transitional bilingual classroom and created a dual language program at M.S. 223 in the South Bronx, which resulted in his school receiving the Spanish Embassy’s School of the Year Award.   After spending five years at M.S. 223, he was asked to join the founding staff of a new KIPP Charter middle school in Washington Heights this school year and is already stepping into a new role as grade level chair and math department head.  

Patrick Berry, 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher, Whitelaw Reid Junior High School

“I have never seen a teacher who is so committed to the achievement of his students,” says Principal Celeste Douglas.  Ninety seconds after the first student walks in the door of Patrick Berry’s 8th grade class at Whitelaw Reid Junior High School, all 29 of his students are on task. Patrick’s high expectations for his students translate to a classroom of respect and inquiry where students are asked to question and discuss their own thoughts and those of their peers.  Patrick began his teaching career in the Peace Corps in South Africa and came to New York City through the NYC Teaching Fellows program five years ago. 

Erika Bogdany, English Language Arts High School Teacher, Brooklyn Bridge Academy

Through a partnership with Brooklyn Academy of Music, Erika Bogdany has helped her students learn to write and perform their own poetry.  This is an example of how, as the ELA Department Team Leader, Erika has infused the team with a problem solving mindset. Erika challenges her students to become successful literary academics.   She spent five years at Automotive High School prior to joining the Brooklyn Bridge Academy community, which is a transfer school in Canarsie with over-age and under-credited students who are facing tremendous challenges in their academic careers.  During her two years teaching ELA at Brooklyn Bridge Academy, 85% of Erika’s students have passed the Regents, contributing to a 35% overall improvement in passage rate for the school’s ELA department.

Damion Clark, 11th and 12th grade English Language Arts, Democracy Prep Charter High School

Having previously taught college as an English professor, Damion Clark knows exactly what his Democracy Prep juniors and seniors need to be ready for their freshman literature seminar.  His daily Socratic seminars are genuine exchanges of intellectual discourse – Plato’s The Cave, the cultural legacy of African imperialism, and Ellison’s Invisible Man were just a few of the connections made by his students in a recent class.  This type of rich debate and attention to text pays off: All of his juniors passed the Regents last year (with 60% scoring an 80 or higher), and all are on track this year as seniors to excel on the English AP exam. After only two years at Democracy Prep, Damion’s influence extends beyond the classroom – as a faculty sponsor for the Latino Caucus, as the chair of the school’s literary magazine, and as the English Department Chair.  As his principal notes: “Our teachers rave about how he has transformed their teaching.” 

Catherine Downey, 5th grade Science and Social Studies, P.S. 128 Bensonhurst

It’s clear something special is happening in Catherine Downey’s fifth-grade class at P.S. 128 in Bensonhurst when 31 students are able to simulate the Mayan social caste structure using candy – and not one student sheds a tear when their entire collection is lost to the ‘warrior’ caste above them.  Catherine employs a variety of scaffolds and differentiated activities to engage her students, which include a significant number of English Language Learners and newcomers.  A colleague says that she “exhibits the confidence of a seasoned teacher who knows exactly what each individual child needs to succeed.”  After five years at P.S. 128, Catherine remains a constant learner and leader – seeking feedback from peers using the Danielson Framework, participating in after-school and network study groups with other teachers, leading the P.S. 128 School Leadership Team, and organizing a multitude of school community events. 

Kristin Ferrales, 11th grade Social Studies, Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice

 “Students are truly generating the questions and ideas that lead the learning [in her classroom],” says Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice Principal Shannon Curran.  In her nine years of teaching with the NYC DOE, the high-level discussions that Ms. Ferrales’s students have experienced have prepared them for college and to be successful in life.  Her students make significant academic gains, including an 86% pass rate last year on the Global History Regents Exam.  Kristin also creates a classroom where her students feel valued as individuals and respected as learners.  During a particular lesson on historical research, she provided numerous opportunities for all students to be involved and allowed their discussion to move the lesson in different directions.  Kristin has demonstrated the need for peer collaboration to be an excellent teacher, and acknowledges her colleagues and administrators at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice as reasons for her success.  A colleague noted that the emotional and academic support that she gives her students changes their lives forever. 

Marietta Geraldino, 10th and 11th grade Geometry Teacher, Fredrick Douglas Academy II

How does Lincoln Center Institutes’ Striking Sounds relate to Geometry? Ask Marietta Geraldino, a 10th and 11th grade Geometry teacher at Fredrick Douglas Academy II, who designed an entire unit to use this music to teach graphing based on the waves of sounds.   Marietta provides students with the opportunity and expectation that they will master content in order to learn about the world around them and develop the confidence necessary to succeed in life.  As explained by her principal, “[Marietta] is able to deconstruct the most complex mathematical concepts and make them palpable to even the most resistant students.” During her 24 years of teaching, nine within the New York City DOE, she has constantly searched for ways to grow as an educator and seeks out professional development opportunities to improve her practice. 

Stephen Jackson, 7th and 8th grade Science, P.S./ M.S. 278 Paul Hedbavny School

Prior to coming to New York City public schools nine years ago, Stephen Jackson was a teacher in Jamaica.  In his current role, Stephen has created a middle school science classroom in the Washington Heights/Inwood neighborhood where students feel empowered to explore scientific concepts through a variety of creative outlets – T-charts, oral arguments, and audio presentations through digital “avatars,” to just name a few.  And his students are excelling as a result: after his first year at P.S./M.S. 278, there was a 21% increase in eighth grade students scoring a level four on the science exam.  Along with a meticulous dedication to data (he is the Data Specialist at the school), Stephen also knows what it takes to get his students smiling and engaged – whether it’s by playing music, throwing in a joke, or even physically spinning around in class to demonstrate a scientific concept.  As a former colleague notes, Stephen “has consistently inspired students to achieve their best even when the odds dictate otherwise.” 

Deborah Laster, Special Education Teacher for students ages 14-21, P.S.176

“Long before laws protecting students’ rights to an education in the least restrictive environment were enforced, Ms. Deborah Laster was at work improving the lives of students with special needs and their families,” says P.S. 176 Principal Rima Ritholtz.  Born and raised in the Bronx, Deborah is a proud alumna of New York City public schools.  During her 24 years of experience teaching the children of New York City, she has proven herself to be a model educator.   Deborah sets the standard at her school through her assessments, lesson planning, and implementing rigorous instructional activities. She is an active member of the P.S. 176 community, and has served in many diverse capacities including directing her school’s student chorus and creating curriculum maps as a former member of the School Leadership Team. Ms. Laster  has also designed four enterprises, including “It’s a Wrap,” a school business program that prepares personalized candy bars in a step-assembly method and allows students to apply their Common Core learning skills. 

Kimberly McCorkell, 4th and 5th grade Math, P.S. 22 Katherine R. Snyder

Kimberly knew from a young age she wanted to be a teacher.  As a struggling student herself, she felt the difference that teachers made in her own confidence and ability to excel.  She now instills that same confidence and skills in her students every day.   Kimberly always gives her 4th and 5thgrade math students the hardest problems first so they can learn not only the math behind the problem, but also so they can build the confidence to solve anything put in front of them.  She tracks her students closely and measures their day- to-day gains in Common Core aligned math work.  Every one of her students scored a 4 on the 2012 state exam. In addition to her academic success with her students, she measures her own success based on the emotional and social growth of her students over the course of the year. 

Melissa Salguero, General Music Teacher, P.S. 48 Joseph R. Drake

The sound coming from down the hall is the impromptu concert practice for an upcoming student orchestra performance.  As a first year teacher, Melissa Salguero has given the students of P.S. 48 something they have not had in more than 50 years- the gift of music.  She has built the music program from the ground up.  Out of 500 entries into the Glee “Give a Note” Contest, she and her students won the $50,000 grand prize.  With these funds, P.S. 48 was able to purchase all of its music essentials.  She has also built a relationship with The Hunts Point Alliance for Children to create a group called SongCorps, which is designed to reach out to at-risk 4th grade boys through music.  Through music, Melissa teaches life skills such as teamwork, humility, leadership and respect. Her mission is to make students into lifelong music lovers so that they become community members who appreciate music and support the arts. 

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.