2015-16 Fellows Host First Ever Teacher-Exclusive Networking Event
The 2015-16 Big Apple Fellows hosted a teacher-exclusive reception and networking event for all Big Apple Award recipients and District Finalists in June 2016. This event represented the launch of the Teacher Excellence Network, as an effort to bring together exceptional educators from across NYC to build connections and engage in a dialogue about teacher excellence.
2014-15 Fellows Reflect on The Big Apple Experience
The 2014-2015 Big Apple Fellows reflected on their experience developing as leaders during their monthly meetings, experiences with the Chancellor, and participating in other tangential events. Each recipient's reflection is provided below.
It was an honor to be a part of a select group of teachers with access to speak with Chancellor Carmen Fariña. We were given the opportunity to be part of a teaching panel, where Chancellor Fariña asked our opinions about policies, how we felt certain initiatives were working etc. Even more special, Chancellor Fariña told us of her missions as Chancellor, and gave us many tools to enrich our own school and teaching practices. Chancellor Fariña also gave us free time to speak with her about issues we were facing in our own teaching careers. Based on her long career in the Department of Education, she was able to give us valuable suggestions on how to troubleshoot problems that we faced. Meeting with Chancellor Farina was an amazing experience, because we were able to see that our leader was caring, knowledgeable, and had a strong and clear vision on how to enhance the educational system in New York. The time and wisdom given to us by Chancellor Fariña was unforgettable and a highlight of our Big Apple experience!
Going to workshops was such an enriching part of the Big Apple Fellowship year. It helped me to grow both personally and professionally. One of the guest presenters that stood out most to me was Brad Heckman of the New York Peace Institute. He offered a workshop on conflict resolution.
The workshop helped us to understand techniques to dealing with conflict as well as understanding the conflict cycle. I learned how to get to the core of a problem, and how to truly listen to other people during conflict. The conflict resolution workshop helped to give me techniques to calm down people who are in who are upset, as well as to facilitate people who are having a conflict. The methods learned can be applied to assist with behavior management in the classroom, dealing with upset parents or co-workers, etc. I feel this workshop; along with all the other workshops during the Big Apple Fellowship have helped me to be a stronger and more confident teacher.
It’s so difficult to believe that one year ago I was interviewed for the Big Apple Award. I remember my trepidation as I entered the interview room where 2 people greeted me warmly. And the questions began. As I waded through the questions that were posed to me, I tried to be as detailed and transparent as I could in sharing my thoughts. I found myself sharing so many stories about my kids. Some of the questions were challenging and open-ended and made me think about my teaching. It was both a humbling and exhilarating experience. Then, lo and behold! About a week later, I was told that 2 people would be coming to observe my classroom. I was excited and quite nervous and went over and over the lesson! They came in for a double period but only stayed for one period. As they were leaving I told them that the class wasn’t over but the gentleman replied, Oh, we’ve seen enough.” I didn’t quite know how to take that and watched them walk out the door. I was notified in June that I was chosen as a Big Apple Award winner.
Now it’s a year later and I had the opportunity, as a Big Apple Fellow, to participate in the interview process from the other side of the table. It was so interesting to see the candidates and listen to their answers and hear their ideas. The emotion the interview evokes can be overwhelming for the candidates as they share their personal teaching experiences. It was with great pride that I participated in the interview process from the other side of the table, hopefully, meeting at least one of the next year’s Big Apple Fellows.
While I've always dreamed of leading a school, the biggest part of what has held me back from using my school leadership masters degree is a lack of confidence in my leadership abilities. Being a Big Apple Fellow has given me the opportunity to learn more about myself as a teacher leader and aspiring school leader. With the fellows, I've learned that my leadership strengths lie predominantly in strategic thinking, and that sometimes the highest leverage moves we can make as leaders are strengthening what we are already highly skilled at and passionate about, while building strong teams to support us in areas where we struggle.
The fellows experience is an exemplary model for adult learning. Through self-assessment, reading, workshops, group support, and reflection, I have been able to harness these strengths to become a more effective teacher leader. We are invested in authentic work that resonates with us personally, while also connecting us to the broader educational movement in our city. Through this program I have grown the confidence and have begun to actively and enthusiastically pursue a transition into a school leader role
As a Big Apple Fellow, I was extremely excited to receive a classroom grant that will enable our students to have access to an online differentiated Math and English Language Arts program, one that will deepen their conceptual understanding of math and help strengthen their reading comprehension and fluency skills.
These programs will benefit my students by offering a variety of skills for my range of gifted learners. Students can review their current skills, while my advanced learners have the opportunity to work at their level and above. I believe these resources will create a motivating environment that will impact student learning, student achievement, and engagement, while building confidence in mathematics and English Language Arts.
The Big Apple Awards Ceremony is an exciting culmination to a long process of applications, essays, recommendations, interviews and classroom visits. Chancellor Carmen Farina personally called the 2014-2015 Fellows to inform us that we were selected from the thousands of applicants and extended an invitation to attend the Awards Ceremony at Gracie Mansion. Each of the Fellows celebrated with a small group of family, their school’s administration, along with over 500 members of the education community. We were greeted with beautiful views of the East River overlooking the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. The grounds were decorated with picnic tables in an array of brightly colored hues with tents guarding the freshly prepared food, drinks and dessert in addition to the stage where the ceremony took place.
We were able to meet the other award recipients for the first time that day and were privileged enough to personally meet and converse with many distinguished guests, including Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, Chancellor Carmen Farina and UFT President Michael Mulgrew. Prior to the ceremony, we took official photographs in the garden next to the mayor’s home and reviewed the commencement procedures. The ceremony was truly inspiring and the speeches offered a sincere recognition of this achievement, which made all of us proud of our honorable profession .Each fellow was called out individually, our accolades were shared with the audience and we received our award, along with the honor as serving as ambassadors for the upcoming school year. Afterwards, we mingled with the remaining guests, were interviewed by reporters as well as by the Committee.
I can remember walking towards Gracie Mansion in June of 2014, about to attend the opening reception. It was a warm evening and I saw a crowd at the check in area. When I gave my name, the eyes of the individuals greeting us opened wide. I was actually a "big deal" I thought. "Oh, you're a recipient" I see, one woman exclaimed. I was a bit taken back and said, "Yes, I believe I am".
Upon entering, I was in complete amazement, staring at the incredible decor that lined Gracie Mansion with the view of the river out back. On the grassy area I could see my wife, mother, and brother. They were all smiles as I proceeded to try to take in this amazing moment.
I began to mingle. I met Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Deputy Chancellor Dorita Gibson. Pictures were snapping, jokes were flying, and the atmosphere was magical. An hour in, I still couldn't believe I was one of the Big Apple Award recipients.
I met the other winners who were all so friendly and vivacious. Each one of the recipients was introduced on stage and received a Big Apple Award in a glass sculpture on a base. I can remember walking up on stage and accepting the award. At this point, I was so appreciative and just totally overwhelmed.
The evening progressed with great food and awesome people surrounding me. It was an evening like no other. I will never forget this tremendous night at Gracie Mansion as I am so blessed to have experienced this ceremony.
To ensure the workshops are meaningful and could be carried over at home, parents received workshop related materials and resources to support learning. For example, in the Read Aloud workshop, parents learned about the importance of having a conversation with their children through accountable talk in which they learned to ask questions that stimulate conversations. Parents received take-home storybooks and teacher-made bookmarks of questions they could use. Based on the exit survey responses, over 95% of parents found the workshops helpful with practical knowledge and strategies they could implement at home.
The notion of parent workshop was conceived after the meeting with Sadye Compoamor, one of the Chancellor's special advisors. From the conversation, I realized in order for our parents to take part in their children’s education, they need to be educated themselves. Educating the parents is equally important as educating the children in order for a learning partnership to form.
As educators, we are well aware of the fact that parental involvement has a direct impact on student success. The most direct way for parents to be engaged is to get involved in their children’s daily school learning activities in the form of homework help or attending school functions. Due to language barrier and lack of understanding of our education system, many of the parents in my school, P.S. 105, feel helpless. To empower parents and encourage involvement at home, monthly theme-based Parent Workshops are developed where our parents can attend to learn concise strategies, skills and academic knowledge that they can use to help their children. Our parents, mostly immigrants, don’t get a lot of opportunity to learn with their children; these workshops provide opportunities for parents and students to work and learn side by side as they take on the role of the learner and facilitator. When I saw the level of parental engagement and the laughter coming from the parents and children, it was the most undeniably heartwarming scene and also validated the workshop implementation.
The Big Apple Fellowship has been a humbling experience. Over the last 10 months there have been so many enriching experiences during the Big Apple Fellowship, but nothing has been more important to me than the development of a professional community of top-notch teachers. The best part about this community was that it didn’t end when the meeting ended. Through our Google community, I had the luxury of having 11 expert teachers at my fingertips for any teaching advice I needed.
The ability to work with colleagues from across the city and bounce ideas and information off of each other has been an absolute pleasure. Throughout our Big Apple Fellowship year, we used protocols to discuss best practices and situations we needed advice on. They have helped me grow as a teacher, but more importantly as a leader. My school has entered its first year as a host school for the Learning Partners Program, and the leadership skills acquired were extremely useful.
In working with my fellow Big Apple Award recipients, I have had the opportunity to learn new things about the practice of teaching from professionals who have dedicated their lives to the children of our wonderful city.
Welcome to highlights from my personal journey as a Big Apple Fellow. It began in August 2014, with an honor I could never fathom. I was asked to prepare a brief introduction to a prekindergarten summer institute in which I would speak to Mayor DeBlassio’s Pre-K For All initiative, welcome prekindergarten educators, and introduce our forward thinking Chancellor, Carmen Fariña. What a way to begin! Then in December, the New Teacher Project division of the DOE visited my class for a morning. It was so fulfilling to showcase prekindergarten and have an early childhood voice validated and respected. The interview is on the http://teachnyc.net/ website.
Monthly meetings were a highlight where the fellows met with respected professionals. At one such meeting we met with Senior Deputy Chancellor Gibson and Deputy Chancellor Weinberg. To be part of a forum where the policies and projected visions of the DOE are shared is overwhelming. Deputy Chancellor Weinberg spoke to the challenges of being a principal after a career as a teacher. He touched upon his reality of dealing with teaching curriculum for the children and teaching curriculum for a test. The honesty shared at these meetings makes you realize you and your colleagues achieved these seats at the table through great practices in your schools and communities.
Before the Big Apple Awards, I could say I was a fairly good communicator but after the fellowship year, I confidently say that I’m a lot better and I am still working to be the best communicator that I could be.
Being an international teacher uprooted from the Philippines and brought to work in NYCDOE in 2003, I felt inadequate with my communication skills as my “Filipino” English has a distinct accent and difference with my American colleagues. Also, since English is my second language, the process from thinking to verbalizing the words takes a pause in my brain, as I have to search and decide for the correct vocabulary to use and the proper way to say it. But as the years went by, I slowly learned through my experiences as I transformed into a more confident communicator especially after the Big Apple Fellows experience.
What made this possible? It was the professional development that the fellows got from Jezra Kaye (http://speakupforsuccess.com/897/public-speaking-and-personality-temperaments/) who shared her expertise on public speaking. Her simple and direct tips were easily learned and used. You leave the session with confidence knowing that you could be the most effective speaker that you could be. Yes, the “Rambo” communicator emerged in me.
There are three major evidences of my success from Jezra’s session.
1.First, I was able to talk to the Chancellor regarding improving trust in public schools by citing my point and supporting it with 3 major evidences. I remembered that the Chancellor was really listening to me and taking down notes about what I said.
2.Next, I use the strategies as I facilitate meetings with my middle school and math teachers during our periodic meetings. Meetings are now shorter and more direct to the point.
3. Lastly, I was invited to be an inspirational speaker to a group of about 200 Filipino-American school teachers as I spoke about my experience as a Big Apple Awardee. It was my first major speaking engagement and I nailed it. I received numerous accolades about the impact of my speech and how the teachers agreed with my ideas and how they enjoyed the way I delivered the speech. (An excerpt from my bilingual speech: https://youtu.be/gyyaNpsYeWk )
Indeed, this Apple now speaks with pride and confidence.
The telephone rings.
Hello. This is the New York City Department of Education. Please hold for the chancellor.
My mouth drops open and heart begins to race.
Hi, Nekesha. This is Carmen Fariña. Congratulations you have been selected as a recipient of the Big Apple Awards.
So begins the exciting and surreal experience as a Big Apple Ambassador. On June 19, 2014, I joined 11 other teachers at Gracie mansion to be celebrated and recognized as Big Apple Award recipients. Guests milled around, enjoyed drinks and grilled food as they waited for the ceremony to begin. The nervous butterflies filled my stomach as we took pictures, shook hands, and chatted with each other. Finally, the ceremony began and the teachers and I waited for our turn to take the stage and accept the award. As each of our names was called, we walked across the stage to shake hands with the Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, Chancellor Carmen Farina and UFT president Michael Mulgrew. A small statement was read to the audience about our achievements and why we deserved this honor. The ceremony soon came to an end. Family, friends and attendees hugged, kissed and congratulated us.
As I returned home holding my glass apple, I thought about all the teachers across the city who work diligently and tirelessly. Those who stay late and come in early. Grade papers, create rubrics and plan lessons on Saturdays. I accept this award on behalf of all of us.
The 2013-14 Big Apple Fellows put their collaboration into action by creating a series of "Ed Talk" videos for their colleagues across the City. To sample these videos and learn more about how our Fellows have achieved success in their classrooms, click the image below.
2013-14 Big Apple Fellows come together at the NYCDOE's Tweed Courthouse building