Staff Spotlight

Staff Spotlight: Ms. Sarah Cohen

 Sara Cohen and two members of the Student Council

Interview conducted by members of Student Council

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My mom is my biggest inspiration for many reasons. I remember being a little girl and watching my mom, who is also a teacher as she prepared each day for her students. I enjoyed listening to her talk about her students and the impact she had on them. As I grew up, I realized that I wanted to be just like my mom. She encouraged me to achieve my goals and was always my biggest cheerleader.

When did you realize you wanted to become a teacher?

I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in middle school. I always babysat and worked at day camps. This made me realize I have a special connection with kids and wanted to make a difference and an impact in their lives.

How do you define success?

I think success is creating goals for yourself, working hard to achieve them, being flexible with changing and tweaking them as you go, and accomplishing anything you set your mind to.

When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?

Reading is my passion and I’m part of a book club. I’ve always had an interest in physical fitness, and love workout classes. I spend my weekends with friends and family. My fiance and I also love trying out different restaurants in the city. (We’re big foodies!)

What is your must-have classroom item?

Can we say items… Felt Tip pens in every color and Mr. Sketch Smelly markers. I also love my classroom BINGO BOARD and 100% jar! I can’t live without my classroom timer.

Staff Spotlight: Mr. Ravi Vyas

 Mr. Ravi Vyas and two members of the Student Council

Interview conducted by members of Student Council

What has been the most rewarding part of teaching?

I would have to say, watching students learn. I definitely like watching and helping students to learn and I like creating an environment where students feel comfortable and challenge themselves so that they are ready to tackle life.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My parents, because I watched how hard they work to provide the best for me and my brother. They worked hard to set a good example in life for me. Now in addition to my parents, my other biggest inspiration is my wife and kids. I want to do the right thing to provide for my family.

How do you build relationships with your students?

I think being a good teacher involves providing the best environment for the kids and I want them to feel like they can learn something new every day. In addition, I think without actually building a relationship, I build a place to challenge my students. Like I said before I build an environment for my students to feel encouraged and engaged. Being a good teacher leads to this relationship that naturally occurs.

Tell me about your most memorable day in the classroom.

My most memorable day in the classroom is the first day of school since everyone is excited and nervous at the same time. As a teacher since I don’t really know anything about the students, I too am excited to get to know them and get excited about establishing procedures and routines with the kids. Other than the first day of school, we have great events that I look forward to. I really like to participate in the staff basketball and soccer games, career day, and read aloud day. I remember all these special event days because the kids have a great and memorable time.

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?

I would like to tell myself a few things. One thing I would say is that when you are young especially in your teenage years it is hard to see your impact and attitude during those years, if you work really hard for 10 years and make sacrifices for your life, I think the rest of your life becomes easier. I would really like to tell my 13-year old self to not take things too seriously because we all move on with life. It will be hard to see life ahead of you but if you make sacrifices it will be a lot easier to work in the future. Everything changes so you shouldn’t take everything seriously. 

Staff Spotlight: Mr. Anthony Summo

 Mr. Anthony Summo and two members of the Student Council

Interview conducted by members of Student Council

What inspired you to become an ELA teacher?

A mix between my 12th grade English teacher, Mr. Calabrese, and my love of writing. My original goal was to be a newspaper reporter and while I did that in college I realized I didn’t want to live on a strict deadline. I also had been told that only girls taught ELA, and secondly, getting kids to read and write was super challenging.

Does being a parent influence the way you teach? How?

Being a parent hasn’t helped me be a better teacher but being a teacher has helped me be a better parent. I had found that I was more patient with my students rather than my own children. So the ways in which I get my students to learn new skills I’ve started to incorporate at home.

Aside from teaching, what other school activities are you involved in?

I am doing the set design for the Bayview Players and the Garden Club. This year I will be running my 4th marathon- 26.2 miles.

When you aren’t teaching, what do you enjoy doing on your own time?

This many seem pretty obvious to the people who know me personally but one of my many hobbies is carpentry, I love to build things with wood in my free time.

What is your favorite current Netflix film?

My favorite Netflix movie is Birdbox because even with a blindfold it still is good. In addition to that, I learned the valuable lesson on how you do not just need to rely on one sense. We often live our lives blindfolded and we should start to live our lives with a little less distractions. 

STAFF SPOTLIGHT: Ms. Vanessa Wyckoff

 Ms. Vanessa Wyckoff

Staff spotlight interview with Ms.Wyckoff by Maria Cruz and Shreya Gannaram 

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Seeing the growth that my students make.

Did anyone inspire you to become a first grade teacher?

No, I’ve always loved kids and working with them. I was always babysitting and helping kids with homework and seeing them succeed.

Would you recommend your career to others?

Yes, if you like kids. It’s very rewarding.

What other jobs did you have before coming to this school?

I worked at a charter school, and that’s where I learned a lot of great skills.

What is your goal as a teacher? Do you think you already achieved it?

My goal is for my students to be on grade level and ready to succeed in the next grade level. At this point of the year, 80% or my kids are at grade level. We are on the path to achieve it.

What is the most difficult and easiest part of your job?

Seeing students struggle, and there is nothing easy about being a teacher. It takes a lot of planning and time. It’s really hard thinking about misconceptions kids might have.

What have your experiences with children been like?

I’ve always been with kids. I worked at day camps, children’s clothing stores, and daycare. My experiences have always been positive and kids always trust me.

What personality traits does your career require you to have?

You have to be organized, trustworthy, hardworking, and patient.

What is your favorite food?

I love Greek food. Chicken gyro salad with tzatziki on the side is my favorite!

Staff Spotlight: Ms. Keen Lee

This issue of Staff Spotlight features one of my favorite people: Ms. Keen! Thank you Nahian for the write up and Frances for the photo.

Why did you become a paraprofessional?

When I was in Malaysia, I was an education counselor. I was responsible for placing the Malaysian scholarship students in American universities in other countries. When I migrated to this country I could not find a job, so I applied to private schools to become an assistant teacher in pre-k. I became an assistant teacher for 13 years and in those 13 years I prepared myself to become a paraprofessional because I wanted to work in a public school. So I took action and got nominated by the principal and did all the tests that were required by the DOE, and I passed all the tests and I was qualified.

Did anyone inspire you to do this job?

In Malaysia we had a yearbook every year and when I was in the second grade in 1963, my teacher asked me what my dreams were. I said I was going to be a teacher. I was inspired by my second grade teacher and her name was Mrs. Ali. I like the way she dressed and used the blackboard and the ways she held the chalk in her hand and asked us questions and just the style that she taught us in. Mrs. Ali always loved us, and was really soft spoken.

Who supported you throughout your schooling years? Did they have an impact on the person that you are today?

I would say my family, they encouraged me a lot and my husband would say, “Go take those tests.” When they called me to say that I was going to be a paraprofessional, my husband and my younger daughter emotionally helped me and supported me. I had in my mind to be in the educational field because my plan when all my kids finish school is to retire and be with my family more.

What is the most exciting thing about your job?

The most exciting part of my job is I work with children and I teach them. Whenever I teach my students something I repeat it to them over and over again to see if they truly understand. The next day, I ask them the same question that was told to them the day before, and when they understand -I get so happy. It is the best thing and it is such a sigh of relief. When I spell the words they say over again, it is the sweetest thing and I always expect something new and it makes me happy.

If you had to choose one other job, what would it be?

I like to cook, so a chef. I love cooking and I like to share it with my family and my co-workers and that impresses me. I enjoy it when they like the food, and have a good impression.

Staff Spotlight: Ms. Vega

 Ms. Vega with Brianna Lee of class 8-413

Brianna Lee of class 8-413 interviewed Ms. Vega 

Brianna: Why did you want to become a teacher?

Ms. Vega: Ever since I was about 7 I knew I wanted to be a teacher which is really funny because everyone goes through the ” I want to be an artist… I want to be a lawyer… I want to be a doctor…” stage but I guess for some reason it was partially from my first grade teacher. I just really loved teaching and learning. I was an only child but I really loved helping other kids. My family used to joke that I was the mother hen because of all my younger cousins. I would like to help them, want to read books with them- and I felt that I liked helping and being around kids and so I just felt like teaching was perfect.

Brianna: So your first grade teacher influenced you?

Ms. Vega: Yes. Her name was Ms.Tambakis. I dedicated my first classroom to her. She was kind of like my influence -she was there for me even when I was in high school and I would go back and visit her. She was passionate about her job. You could tell she really loved her job and she did it for all the right reasons and she actually wanted to help the kids. She was such a positive influence.

Brianna: Who else influenced you to become a teacher?

Ms. Vega: When I graduated from undergraduate school I was working at the YMCA and there were a few teachers that really helped push me and they were like my mentors. Mr. Combs was a 5th and 6th grade teacher. Ms. Martinez was actually a self-contained teacher and a SETSS teacher so they helped push me to see what it was like. In college we read a lot from books about what being in a classroom was like but it’s the real life experiences that really help you grow as a teacher. They would let me observe in their classrooms and I would help out and unofficially co-teach. I would stand in the room and help out but it wasn’t for school credit or anything. It was a really big help with personal growth for me. They said that I was way too comfortable at the Y and they really pushed me to put myself out there. I was worried about going to graduate school but they said, “you better graduate and we don’t want see you back here in this building.” They really wanted me out there with my own classroom. It was funny because when we did our first picture day, I had made a deal with one of the other teachers- that once I graduated I had exactly a year to (from when I left the Y) to find a job. I always told them “I won’t be back here” so when we completed a school picture I sent it to him and he said he was so proud of me. They really showed me that they believed in me. In my meltdown moments they always listened and explained that all teachers have them.

Brianna: What is the difference between the teaching that takes place in your room and the teaching in other classrooms?

My classroom is a self contained room so it’s a smaller group. I have 9 students. I feel like the only real difference between here and other classrooms is that these students need a little extra more support, or maybe they don’t work as well in a bigger classroom setting. They just need more one on one. It’s easy for them to get the extra support they need. If you think about it, I have 9 students and in 2 class periods you figure it’s about 10 minutes with each student. But with 30 kids in a class you have 3 minutes if you want to get to every student. As teachers, we know that realistically when a student needs help it’s not like they’re going to get it in about 3 minutes. Sometimes they need that extra time. So its good to have that flexibility of knowing you are in a smaller setting if you need to get around to everyone. They get that extra help they need to succeed because in the end it’s about getting them to that level where they can be in the general education class where they can work well without needing that one on one. So really it’s like a stepping-stone to helping them now so that way when they get older they can be able to work independently so they don’t need that support.

Staff Spotlight: Ms. Zwillick

 Ms. Zwillick

Staff Spotlight is a column written by our students to allow the 102 community to better know our staff. Our first ever Staff Spotlight features Mrs. Zwillick and is written by Laura Umana of class 8-409. Enjoy!

(Photo by Samantha Torres)

Laura- “ What is SETTS, and how does SETSS benefit students?”

Ms. Zwillick- “Setss is a federal service provided to students who have a disability. It is a mandated service that is put onto their IEP: Individual Education Plan. Basically what we do is help students succeed in their general-ed classroom.”

Laura- “What does SETSS provide for students?”

Ms. Zwillick- “What is provided? With this program I work closely with the teacher to find out what they are teaching in the classroom, and then I will differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the students that I teach. When you talk about differentiate, I will provide them with an easier read, I will break down the task more. We might do an essay in steps, instead of in the classroom where they just have to write the essay in one period. We’ll break down math word problems so it helps the student understand the info in the classroom better.”

Laura- “What can parents do to support their children at home?”

Ms.Zwillick- “Read out loud to them read, and with them. Have the students describe what their reading. In terms of math, provide them with the support and work out the problem with them…also giving them positive encouragement. ”

Laura- “Describe your teaching style in 5 adjectives.

Ms. Zwillick-

  1. “Respectful- Honestly, I think in order to gain respect respect in the world you have to be respectful, it’s a golden rule to treat others how you want to be treated, that’s a big thing.”
  2. “Creative- This is taking what the teachers are doing and modifying it to fit the needs of my students, whether it be the visuals or something that is hands on. ”
  3. “Encouraging- A lot of my students think they can’t do something or they are unable to do something, so I always try to give them positive words and reinforcement to tell them they can do it. I want to make it positive, instead of negative for them.”
  4. “Realistic- This is to connect what being taught in class with real life experiences in the future.”
  5. “Modifying: This is breaking down steps of assignments to help the student become more successful. ”

Thank you Laura and Ms. Zwillick! Students: If you are interested in interviewing and writing about your wonderful teacher(s) or any of our staff, please contact me or your assistant principals and we can assist you further.