New York State has many extraordinary teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM subjects.
They are extraordinary because they believe, after years of successfully teaching some of the most challenging STEM courses to diverse students all across the state, that they still have more to learn. They come together on evenings and weekends to learn more about their content area, to design even more engaging lessons, and to develop strategies to involve their students’ families and communities in the classroom because they believe that all students can learn AND succeed at college and in their careers.
I have the honor of working on behalf of over 550 of these teachers as Director of the NYS Master Teacher Program. On Saturday, May 30, 2015, these dedicated educators gathered for the Master Teacher Program’s (MTP) Second Annual Professional Development Conference at SUNY Cortland. The Master Teachers meet annually to advance the program’s goal of sharing best practices and creating a networking of outstanding professionals providing the most innovative STEM education to New York’s students.
President Erik J. Bitterbaum welcomed the Master Teachers to SUNY Cortland, host campus for the 70 Master Teachers from Central New York, and home to the largest teacher preparation program in the State.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher recognized the commitment of the Master Teachers to engage in professional development that goes above and beyond what is required by school districts and the State. She noted that the work of the Master Teachers with pre-service and early career teachers is integral to helping SUNY prepare future teachers to lead their own classrooms. In addition, she discussed the ongoing work of the TeachNY Advisory Council, to which Master Teachers are serving the critical role of providing the perspective of professionals currently in the field.
The conference included multiple opportunities for the Master Teachers to network with peers who teach the same subject and to plant seeds for future collaborations. Master Teachers chose from 30 peer-designed and -facilitated workshops that highlighted work taking place in each of the 10 regions of the MTP. Master Teachers learned about working with their elementary school colleagues to create science kits geared to elementary school students, about technology tools that create more opportunities for student engagement, about how STEM and English teachers are collaborating to teach common vocabulary, and more.
Susan Moore-Palumbo, Master Teacher in the Capital Region, thought the “statewide conference was excellent.” Adding,
“I attended a workshop in which I learned about [a new classroom technology that provides real-time feedback on students’ understanding of concepts]. I was able to set up the program for my class for the Monday immediately following the workshop. The students loved getting the immediate feedback and seeing the graphed data that was collected in real time. In addition, it informed my instruction and allowed me to reflect because I had instant feedback as to what the students understood and what I needed to spend more time on.”
The theme of the conference, “Leading and Learning Together,” underscored the MTP’s emphasis on the value of professional development that is co-created by teachers themselves, grounded in their daily practice and sustained over a period of time. This helps teachers continue to grow and learn—learn more about their content area, learn more about pedagogical strategies to engage their students, and learn more about their student’s families and communities to support their students’ success in the classroom and in their future career.
Keynote speaker, Lucy West, founder of Metamorphosis Learning Communities, shared her extensive experience about content coaching emphasizing her research that indicates that the “quality, content and depth of learning engaged in by adults [in a school community] is reflected in the quality, content and depth of learning engaged in by the students [in that same community].
Derek Pope, Master Teacher in the Long Island region, commented about his experience:
“I really enjoyed the conference and was inspired by the speakers and presenters. We heard so many good ideas that on the way home, two of my colleagues and I spent a good chunk of the five-hour car ride talking about ways that we can improve our teaching and also help mentor new teachers…. I feel very fortunate to be a part of the Master Teacher program and SUNY’s TeachNY Advisory Council, and feel empowered to work effectively with new and pre-service teachers.”
From my point of view as Director, the Annual Conference was simply inspiring. The sense of camaraderie was contagious. Helping successful teachers create and sustain a professional learning community dedicated to sharing what works in classrooms across the state is vital to retaining good teachers, to providing students with the most dynamic and engaging learning experiences and to attracting new teachers to the profession. I am most in awe of how Master Teachers have help to create a model for supporting one of the best resources for education, our teachers, in just two years since Governor Cuomo launched the MTP in partnership with SUNY and Math for America.
If you want to learn more about the extraordinary New York State Master Teachers, take some time to read their brief biographies and learn about the program.
Dr. Josephine Salvador is Director of the New York State Master Teacher Program. Under her leadership, the program brings together the New York State’s highest-performing STEM teachers to share their expertise with peers and attract more students to STEM careers.