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New master and model teachers share experiences at Conversation Café
New York Teacher
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Ready to work together are (from left) model teachers Gabrielle DiLorenzo and Wynne Hydo, both of PS 94, Manhattan, and Principal Ken Zapata and model teacher Lauren Fisher, both of PS 75 on Staten Island.

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Model teachers (from left) Nadine Pearson of New Dorp HS and Laura Hokanson and Julie Jay of PS 249 in Flatbush meet before discussing their experiences.

Newly named model and master teachers met at the Teacher Leadership Academy’s Conversation Café on Jan. 21 at union headquarters to share strategies and discuss the impact they are having in their schools.

The new teacher leadership positions were created under the new UFT contract to give innovative and effective teachers the opportunity to be instructional leaders in their schools. One hundred and fifty schools had the chance to create the positions during the first year.

Master teachers, relieved of a daily teaching period, plan activities to develop greater instructional capacity and receive $20,000 annual compensation.

Model teachers use their classrooms as laboratories to demonstrate lessons and explore emerging educational practices and receive $7,500 a year in additional compensation.

At the Conversation Café facilitated by the UFT Teacher Center, model teacher Laura Hokanson, a 3rd-grade ESL teacher at PS 249 in Flatbush, Brooklyn, talked about the improved the accountability at her school that results from pre-class meetings of observers about what the focus of the model lesson will be, followed by a debriefing session.

“It helps us keep track of what we are doing and how it’s affecting practice,” she explained.

Across the room at another table, 5th-grade English-as-a-second-language model teacher Maureen Stehle of PS 71 in Ridgewood, Queens, a veteran of 16 years in the classroom, was telling Department of Education teacher team leader Michael Abbey that because they are keeping a sharper eye on practice, teachers are noticing “that student discussions are at a higher level now.”

Daniela Mazzella, a 12-year veteran 3rd-grade teacher also at PS 71, said of the improvement: “We’re taking what we learn in professional development right back to the classroom. Now there’s a real connection.”

There are three model teachers at Brooklyn’s PS 249, but Julie Jay, a model teacher of a self-contained kindergarten class there, said that there is merit to having a model teacher on each grade level. “It’s a nice feeling to be recognized for what you do above and beyond,” she said.

Nadine Pearson is the lone model teacher at New Dorp HS on Staten Island, but hopes her work will help new teachers and expand to other departments.

UFT Vice President for Middle Schools Richard Mantell urged the Café participants to “push us all to keep building this, because it can make such a difference in all city schools.”

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Rita Danis, the co-director of the UFT Teacher Center, welcomes the new teacher leaders to the Conversation Café.