CATEGORY: Teachers and Leaders

David May 20, 2021

We are thrilled to highlight this year's Distinguished and Master Teachers! Teachers awarded these accolades spent years improving and mastering their craft while demonstrating classroom effectiveness along our Teacher Career Pathway. We launched TCP in 2011 to acknowledge and develop the talented teachers in our network and provide them with increased compensation, recognition, and professional development opportunities. Our teachers are vital to the success of our students, and we believe in rewarding and celebrating their hard work. Do you want to know a little bit more about our Distinguished and Master Teachers? Here’s just a little bit of what makes them who they are.

What do you love most about teaching?

“My favorite part of teaching would be student-led discussions. I love to hear my students have fruitful conversations. I call my math discussions “Law & Order” because every student gets to become a lawyer in my class. Every student gets a chance to defend their answer, and the rest of the students are the jury. My students love math discussions because they get to show off their work, but they also get to show off their discussion skills --skills such as critical thinking (agree, disagree or build on) with their hands.” - Shernice Johnson, Fourth Grade Math, Distinguished Teacher, AF Bushwick Elementary “My favorite part about teaching is that I get to learn every, every day. Whether it’s with my peers, with my students, or just deeper into my content, it’s like I’m at an all-you-can-eat buffet of stories, subjects, and experiences.” - Robin Kimball, Yoga Instructor, Distinguished Teacher, AF University Prep High “I love watching my scholars grow into learners! I start with my kindergarteners at the beginning of the year, and it brings me so much joy to see all of the amazing things they are able to accomplish throughout the school year!” -Heather Martinello, Kindergarten, Distinguished AF Hartford Academy Elementary My favorite part about teaching is when a scholar gets something that they had been struggling with. You see the light bulb go off and the joy they radiate. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.” - Melissa Jaekle, Fourth Grade Special Education, Master Teacher, AF Bushwick Elementary “Being a teacher is much more than teaching kids. It’s about building relationships and giving kids lifelong tools to be successful. I love when my kids reference something that we’ve done in previous lessons. That’s how I truly know learning is happening.” - Melissa Wint, Fourth Grade, Distinguished Teacher, AF Bushwick Elementary “I love when kids take pride in their accomplishments and seeing their confidence grow from there. I love feeling as though I have contributed in a small way to creating a community where kids take risks, support each other, and feel proud of themselves as friends and learners!” – Emma Zanazzi, Fourth Grade, Distinguished Teacher, AF Iluminar Elementary “My favorite part of teaching is creating great relationships with my students! I really enjoy getting to know all my students and their personalities.  They are all so funny and unique in their own way! I like my classroom to feel like a comfortable space where kids can just be themselves” - Morgan Morelli, Third Grade Reading and Math, Distinguished Teacher, AF Endeavor Elementary My favorite part about teaching is building a strong classroom community and meaningful family partnerships throughout the year. This year, we had a huge focus on Social-Emotional Learning in the classroom and it helped scholars and families through one of the most challenging academic years we have ever had. Being a trusted partner in supporting a scholar's growth is something that I cherish more than anything!” - Kaitlin Niedmann, Second Grade, Distinguished Teacher, AF Hartford Academy Elementary

What’s the best teaching advice you’ve ever received? 

“The most valuable piece of teaching advice I have received is 'mistakes help you learn.' Share it with your kids and use it as your mantra. Teaching is a continuous learning process. No cohort of kiddos are ever the same. You will learn something new every single day. Some lessons are harder to learn than others.” - Bry Boucher, Kindergarten, Distinguished Teacher, AF Iluminar Elementary “A professor once told us, 'Build a rapport with the students by knowing their names. It will go a long way and your relationships will start off very strong by doing so.' I took this to heart and within two weeks of every new school, I know every K baby's name on top of the rest of the school.” – Gregory Veteri, Physical Education, Master Teacher, AF Bridgeport Academy Elementary “A parent once shared, ‘When I send my kids to school, I send them in whole, and that is how they should be when they return home.’ As I help scholars meet their academic goals, I constantly consider this parent’s message; it informs the way I interact with scholars each day.” – Raven Connel, Academic Dean, Distinguished Teacher, AF Linden Elementary

Who is the most influential teacher you’ve ever had?

Mrs. Turner was the most influential teacher in my school because she was my first African American teacher. She was also a teacher who spoke life into me. Mrs. Turner told me that I was a phenomenal writer, and to this day no one can tell me otherwise. Mrs. Turner was the exact representation I needed in that moment of my life, I knew that because she did, I could.” - Daeja Bailey, Fifth Grade ELA, Distinguished Teacher, AF Hartford Summit Middle “My most influential teacher was Mrs. Ryan, my 6th-8th grade English teacher. She was the epitome of a no-nonsense nurturer. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I vividly remember an essay, I wrote about Animal Farm, that she had me redo about 8 times because she felt it wasn’t my best work. My exasperation shifted to pride when I turned in that 8th draft, she smiled and said 'Shannon, THIS is your best work. Well done.' While she is no longer with us, I hope she looks down on me and smiles while I attempt to do right by our kids and believe in them the way she believed in me.” - Shannon Breslin, Ninth Grade Seminar and 12th Grade AP Literature, Distinguished Teacher, AF East Brooklyn High “My most influential teacher was my first-grade teacher Mrs. Bajaj, an Indian woman who wore the most beautiful saris ever and had her hair in a jet black bun. She was very sweet and despite my daily morning tantrums at home, as soon as I walked into her classroom, I would transform into the most agreeable child. My mom was baffled to say the least.” - Morekwe McElveen, Third Grade, Distinguished Teacher, AF East New York Elementary “My mentor at my first teaching job said to ‘learn and borrow from others early and often.’ Teaching is a craft to be honed over time, and there are so many talented, experienced individuals in the field with a wealth of knowledge and experience ready to share.  Each of my colleagues and co-teachers have shaped me into the teacher I am today.” - Zachary Rosenbloom, Sixth Grade Math, Distinguished Teacher, AF Apollo Middle Congratulations to our Distinguished and Master teachers!

Distinguished Teachers

Abigail Bucknor, Amanda Souza, Amelia Reilly, Analissa Woolford, Antoinette White, Brandee Crabtree, Brian Cerisano, Briana Valentine, Bryana Boucher, Caitlin Baffuto, Codara Bracy, Daeja Bailey, Daria Burgess, Djenane Charles, Elaina Rollins, Emily Myerson, Emily Wassell, Emma Zanazzi, Erica Street, Erika Perez, Eunice Bernard, Gabrielle Luc, Gwendolyn Page, Heather Martinello, Jade Patton, James Walsh, Jamila Francois, Jane Kim, Janki Bhatt, Jasmine Fyffe, Jason Burns, Jayme DePasquale, Jenifer Brelsford, Jenna Bicierro, Jennifer Gomez, Jennifer Kim, Jerrell Hawthorne, Robin Kimball, Joelle Barreau, John Sullivan, Jonathan Hall, Jordan Halpern, Julia Finegan, Kaitlin Niedmann, Kamilah DePass, Katherine Snapp, Kathryn McGee, Kelly Aaronson, Kevin Sharkey, Lakendra Thompson, Laura Tierney, Lauren Henrickson, Lauren Scherf, Lisa-Gail Hinds, Lorna Desroches, Luana Braithwaite, Mackenzie Rogers, Marie Connor, Marisa Edwards, Mark Atkinson, Mary Ng, Medina Hodzic, Melissa Howell, Melissa Wint, Michael Moore, Michael Pedri, Michael Vincent, Michelle Crandley, Michelle Dander, Michelle Shirk Micol Linfield, Milani Lawrence,  Molly Clayton, Monica Leier, Morekwe McElveen, Morgan Morelli, Natalie Mota, Natasha Brown, Nikki Ruane, Porsha Pettaway, Raven Connel, Rivka Rappoport, Sandeep Kaur, Sara-Kay Logan, Sean O'Shaughnessy, Shakira Baboolal, Shane Brown, Shannon Breslin, Shauna-Gaye Thomas, Sherell Coles, Shernice Johnson, Steffi Harford, Stephanie Cruz, Suzanne Lemberg, Sylwia Szumlas, Tamara Simon, Tanecia Vasquez, Tara Donovan, Tasha Sawyer, Timothy Garcia, Valerie Cosgriff, Viridiana Fimbres, Wayne Brown, William Saunders II, Yeoukeo McKay, Zachary Rosenbloom

Master Teachers

Amanda Caggiano, Brendan Callahan, Caitlin Farrell, Caroline Lombardi, Gabriel Felder, Gregory Veteri, Heather Parady, Jessica McDonald, Keba Ambrose, Kimberly Alpert, Kimberly Andrews, Laura Eber, Lindsey Niehoff, Luz Tavarez, Lymarie Rodriguez, Marjorie Purcell, Melissa Jaekle, Michelle Montero, Mirljinda Krivca, Molly Breslin, Nora Krasniqi, Pamela Sackoor, Rita Heredia, Serena Barton, Sonya Casanova, Susie Kim, Tanesha Forman, Tara Reinhardt, Tayo Mann, Zachary Gooch

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