This year, four NYC Teaching Fellows, including one first-year teacher, were selected from nearly 300 applicants to receive the NYC Teaching Fellows Award for Classroom Excellence (ACE). The awards recognize teachers who were instrumental in raising student achievement and served important leadership roles in their schools.
Here’s some background on each winner:
Eric Dalio (next to Chancellor Klein),
6-12 grade Core Music/Keyboard, Band and Advisory at K546 High School for Public Service; Fellow since 2001: Before beginning his career as a NYC Teaching Fellow, Dalio was a professional musician. During his tenure at the High School for Public Service, Eric independently built the music program, writing the curriculum, acquiring materials, and ensuring all students, regardless of their prior experience, learn to play the piano. Dalio also established the HSPS band which does not require any prior experience with band instruments for participation. He teaches woodwinds, brass and percussion to students of varying abilities and experience. Dalio has also been instrumental in the development of Academic Intervention services.
Malik Ketcham (not pictured), 6-8 grade math at X118 William W. Niles; Fellow since 2008: Originally from the South Bronx, Ketcham received a Bachelor’s degree from Yale University, and a law degree from the Cordozo School of Law. He left his career in law to teach mathematics at William W. Niles Junior High School in the Tremont section of the Bronx. This year, his first year of teaching, Ketcham took on the extraordinary task of becoming the sole mathematics teacher for grades 6-8. He has set high standards for his own and his students’ performance, which has resulted in a significant and steady increase in student achievement.
Jane Viau (left), 9-12 grade math at M499 The Frederick Douglass Academy; Fellow since 2002: Before joining the Fellowship, Viau was a Vice President of Investment Banking at Merill Lynch, having earned a B.A. in Finance from SUNY Binghamton and an MBA from the Stern School of Business at NYU. After a sixteen-year career in finance, she decided to become a high school math teacher as a NYC Teaching Fellow. Viau pioneered the creation of the Advanced Placement Statistics program at the Frederick Douglass Academy, and in 2008, saw 70 percent of the students earn college credit. For the past several years, one or more of her students have been among the handful of African Americans in the entire state of NY to earn a perfect score (5) on the AP Statistics exam. She has brought 80 percent of ninth-graders who were below state standards in mathematics to grade level.
Lisa Yim (right), Special Education Classroom Teacher of 6:1:1 at P141K at 380K, John Wayne Elementary, which is a District 75 school site; Fellow since 2007: Yim grew up in Canarsie, Brooklyn and graduated with a B.A. from Hunter College in 2006. In her second year, she is a classroom teacher for five-to-seven-year old autistic students with significant developmental and cognitive delays and behavior management needs. Students who entered her class with no verbal language are now reciting the alphabet and sounds, communicating needs and wants, and have acquired a growing number of sight words. She has written a generalized curriculum for social studies and science in the 6:1:1 setting, and is a strong advocate for special education students.
What led you to become a teacher?
JV: Shortly after 9/11, after spending 16 years in real estate finance and investment banking and turning 35 years old, I assessed my life and realized that it lacked purpose and social consciousness. I took stock of my skills to ascertain how I could best apply them in some socially meaningful manner. After seeing an advertisement on the subway for the New York City Teaching Fellows program, it all made sense. I could share my love of numbers and their practical applications in business and finance with our next generation. I took a job seven years ago to teach math in Harlem and I have never looked back.
LY: I used to work in special events planning for a private university. I assisted with organizing fundraisers, receptions, and reunions. I tutored students at a learning center on the weekends and found teaching to be much more satisfying than party planning. A friend, who had become a teacher through the NYC Teaching Fellows program, encouraged me to apply.
MK: I always wanted to teach math. Since 10 years old, I had always been the math tutor. Even in college, I made extra money, tutoring after classes. I always felt comfortable talking math and showing it to others. A friend introduced me to the Teaching Fellows program and I saw it as an opportunity to serve three purposes. First, it allowed me to teach math; second, it allowed me to plan and spend time with my family (nice vacation days); and third, it paid me a salary through tough economic times doing something I really enjoy. Before I was a teacher, I ran a solo law practice in real estate law.
ED: I have always loved teaching, jumping at every opportunity to work with students and share the joys of performing and listening to music. Before I was a teacher, I was a full time musician that went to bed at about the same time that I get up now.
What kind of student were you?
ED: Thanks to the encouragement and support of my parents, I have always been a very hard working, disciplined student. However, I always try to balance that with being relaxed and having fun.
MK: I was a very good student all through high school. Then the freedom college consumed me and it was reflected in my grades. I also have a law degree- I did fairly well in law school.
JV: I was the student who always asked “why” and “when will be ever use this?” I needed to understand things, not just memorize them. I love math because it makes sense. And, I was always interested in the practical, real-life applications of what we were learning.
What is your favorite teaching moment?
LY: One day in April, my class was finishing up our Morning Meeting and we segue into a literacy lesson by singing the alphabet song while pointing to the alphabet printed on their desk nameplates. Ms. Migdalia Colon-Lopez, a paraprofessional, noticed that “Sally” (pseudonym), who is non-verbal student, was making utterances, while pointing to each letter. As the student pointed to each letter, she made a tremendous effort to repeat after us as we named the letters. She could only imitate a /b/ and /k/ sound, but she understood that one sound was meant for each letter as she pointed at the alphabet sequence. We nearly cried because Sally was a very difficult student when she came to us in September. She had frequent outbursts of loud clapping and explosive tantrums. Through the course of the year, with the help of her very dedicated speech therapist, Sally has been learning to utilize a Picture Exchange Communication System to “talk” to us by giving us photos or picture icons of objects she wants or needs. The fact that Sally was trying to imitate speech sounds gives us hope that she will one day learn to speak.
JV: I love it when a student comes into class and announces that during the course of their daily life they thought about some concept that we learned in class. For example, a student announced that she saw New York One report the results of a survey on television; she then proceeded to critique their sampling technique (and mentioned the potential biases in their sample) and inference procedures (noting that the program had neglected to mention a margin of error). Sometimes students bring in misleading graphics cut out from newspapers or magazines. It is times like these that I feel that I’ve made an impact and developed a critical thinker.
MK: My favorite teaching moment is when I was watching and grading student computer presentations. My eighth-graders are English Language Learners and they traditionally have been average students. After one presentation, three students broke out two large poster boards on which they had prepared a review of four weeks of work on angle relationships. They wanted to share what they had learned even though we were on to another topic, inequalities. They were proud of their knowledge acquisition and I was proud of them.
ED: Seeing a student get excited about music; whether it is overcoming an obstacle on their instrument, understanding a challenging concept, or hearing something new in a piece of music. Anything that helps to bring a light to their eye, creates a hunger for more, and most importantly, builds a sense of confidence that they can achieve.
What is your favorite book?
ED: “Forever,” by Pete Hamill, a fascinating work of historical fiction centered around NYC.
MK: The Great Gatsby
JV: “Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences,” by John Allen Paulos and “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J. D. Salinger.
LY: My favorite book is, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee.
What is your favorite lesson?
JV: To demonstrate the concept of Chi-Square Goodness of Fit test, we sample bags of M&Ms and test whether our sample matches the company claim about the proportions of various colors. We also run a Chi-Square Test of Independence to see whether the type of M&Ms (plain or peanut) effect the color distribution. In another test, we test whether a typical bag of Chips Ahoy cookies really include over 1,000 chips as the company claims. These are delicious lessons!
LY: It would have to be the arts lesson I gave on making clay. My students enjoyed measuring out ingredients, stirring the bowl, and molding it into clay. There were hardly any behavioral issues since they were so engrossed in what we were doing. They cooperated beautifully with each other; pointed to the different steps on the recipe and had fun while learning.
MK: Geometry: 1. Angle Relationships, and 2. Deriving the Formula for Finding the Measures of the Interior Angles of Any Polygon.
ED: I strive to make sure my lessons are constantly evolving and exploring new concepts and ideas, but I frequently teach a lesson about sound that asks students to really break down the science of sound and ideally “see with their ears” a little better.
Tell us a few words about your own favorite teacher.
JV: I will never forget my AP Calculus teacher in high school. He derived every formula and concept; there was no rote memorization in his class. Every procedure had a reason behind it. Even though I studied business in college and didn’t need calculus, he instilled such a love of the topic in me that I took Calc II and III as electives in college.
MK: My favorite teacher was my fourth grade teacher, Ms. MacNamara. I remember her to be warm, supportive, and very interested in pushing me forward academically. I remember chasing after the bus she was on, on the last day of school. She was retiring at that time.
ED: I was lucky enough to have many through the years, but if I had to narrow it down to four I would say, Mr. Garcia (seventh grade – pre-algebra) for his organization and detailed explanations, Al Wuth (HS-AP biology) for his energy and sense of humor, Bill Kohut (HS – band) for giving me many opportunities to lead, and Art Bouton (college – saxophone) for his patient approach to exploring all the parameters of a problem and for being a life-long mentor.
What is your favorite school trip?
JV: This year, after the AP exam, I took my Advanced Placement class on four field trips. On one of them, we went to the Skyscraper Museum in downtown Manhattan. One of my former bosses funded the trip and came as a chaperone. We were both able to share our knowledge of real estate with the class; my boss was very impressed with my students which made me extremely proud . On the way there, I took the class to see Federal Hall, the NYSE, and the charging bull statue; I was also able to point out several office buildings that I used to manage and one that I had an office in. Afterwards, we took a scenic ride on the Staten Island Ferry. It was a memorable day.
Three years ago, I went on a pilgrimage to Ghana in West Africa with the principal of our school, and several other teachers along with several students and parents. The trip was headed by three of our teachers who are from Ghana; consequently, we were able to visit many areas that were “off the beaten path”. The main purpose of this trip was to establish a partnership with a sister school there from which one of our teachers had graduated. This trip was eye opening and humbling. It left a permanent mark on my life.
MK: Field Days in the park: Usually Macombs Park in the Bronx.
ED: Anything that exposes students to something new, especially the ninth grade honor roll trip to the Metropolitan Opera and the eleventh grade overnight college tour (SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Binghamton and Cornell).
What is your favorite tradition at your school?
JV: Every year before the holidays, our school puts on a “Festival of Lights” performance and invites alumni who are home from college for their winter break. It is a great opportunity to catch up with former students. Many alumni arrive to the school during the school day; I invite them into my classes to discuss the realities of college life with the high school students.
ED: Community service days, where students either come in to school and help clean-up, paint, and plant gardens or they go out into the community to volunteer at nursing homes, park clean-ups, elementary schools, soup kitchens and animal shelters just to name a few.
LY: Pajama Day is my favorite tradition. Students and staff changed into pajamas and spent the school day in nightclothes. We read, “Goodnight Moon” and created bedroom scenes. We loved all the different patterns and types of clothing people wore from Spiderman suits to monkey slippers.
Name the school supply you can’t live without.
JV: I use green ballpoint pens exclusively to grade homework, exams and projects as well as writing passes and any other written work. I have become known for my obsessive use of green. I initially started using green after reading that red is an aggressive color and can upset students. Now, the green pen has become a tradition and taken of a life of its own.
LY: I cannot live without band-aids. Some of my students have aggressive behaviors and sometimes they manage to scratch us, so we always need band-aids and alcohol wipes.
MK: The Computer Connection to the Projector!
What is the best quotation you’ve heard from a student?
LY: “I want juice,” spoken by a student who used to speak in monosyllables but is now trying to make requests using complete sentences.
JV: “I thought this was going to be easy, but it turns out we ‘gotta’ think.” - 11th grader in my statistics class this year. And, “I am glad I took this class because of all the classes I’ve taken in my high school career, this was the one I’ve felt had the most relevance to my life. The situations are real, and the logic is applicable to many facets of reality. Mrs. Viau prepares us ridiculously well for the exam, and in the end, I’m very glad I decided to take it.” – 12th grader in my AP Statistics class made this statement at a recruiting meeting for next year’s students
MK: Mr. Ketcham is like in his 50's. He likes music from the 90's.
ED: This quote came in an e-mail from a former student, and in many ways sums up my whole philosophy of teaching, “You taught me to never give up.”