2017 – 2018 SKILLS FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM

The Skills Fellowship Program is comprised of innovative teachers, known as Skills Fellows, who desire to enhance their practices by making 21st century skills development more prominent in their instruction, assessment and feedback practices. Each Skills Fellow receives support from an instructional Skills Coach in order to more effectively integrate 21st century skills into their instructional practice.

Hanh Bui

Chemistry Teacher
Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design

My Teaching Philosophy

‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’  by: Lao Tzu  ‘A problem is only unsolvable until a solution is provided.’

Each student has the desire to become a problem solver. However, each student is also faced with the challenge of overcoming his or her lack of knowledge and skills. Working with students I have learned that all students are capable of learning.  However, many of them are not having the proper chance to because they may not have learned the foundational skills that are needed to be a “good” student.  It is my job to teach my kids these skills so that they can reach their full potentials.

Building Block Spotlight: Verbal Communication

I decided to focus on this building block instead of Problem Solving this year because many of my students are unable to vocalize the problems or questions they may have. Thus, I feel that it will be beneficial to my students to learn how to ask good questions. Once they understand the questions, they will therefore be better prepared to start solving the problem. To develop verbal communication skills, students are being given question stems to help develop good questions using the Bloom Taxonomy structures. Students will develop questions and will use these questions to get the other students in the class to help them develop a better understanding of the materials being learned.

What I'm Working on

  • Explicitly teach and create opportunities for my students to develop verbal communication skills.  
  • Giving positive feedback to my students as they practice and develop their verbal communication skills. I have found that I tend to spend more time giving negative feedback than encouraging students with positive feedbacks.  I have find that each time that I remember to give positive feedbacks, the students seem to improve in their skills, behaviors, and performance in class.  As a result, I need to work on incorporating more positive feedbacks during class time.
  • Being more reflective in my craft.  This becomes especially important because I like to implement new strategies in my attempt to create the best learning environment for my kids.  After each implementation, I will reflect on the outcomes and determine what needs to be changed in order to provide my students with the support they need to do better in school.

Nicole Caldwell

History and Economics Teacher
South Brooklyn Community High School

My Teaching Philosophy

Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter; an African proverb by Chinua Achebe encapsulates one aspect of my teaching philosophy. The lions are my students. I am their historian. Not only am I providing diverse narratives allowing my students the opportunity to gain a fuller historical narrative of American history, but I also challenge them on a daily basis to consciously frame their personal histories. Heavily steeped in the pedagogy of bell hooks, my teaching philosophy aims to inspire classrooms centered in freedom. Knowing all students are capable of learning through proper support and structure, I create safe spaces for intellectual exploration. Creating classrooms with multiple entry points for all learners, speaking and listening strategies are used during instruction to promote academic discourse between students.

Building Block Spotlight: Planning for Success

When students are planning for success they are able to identify key features needed for achievement such as daily attendance, proper time management, and organizational skills. Supporting students while planning for success means meaningful teacher-student interactions, accountability trackers, access to tools such as planners, and classroom calendars explicitly stating deadlines for projects.

What I'm Working on

  • Creating a 21st century skills aligned CDOS curriculum and explicitly teach students planning for success skills to help them complete their CDOS portfolio
  • Teaching my students planning for success skills as a means to empower them and to help them become more organized, focused, thoughtful, deliberate, and reflective in their work.
  • Explicitly teaching my students to set SMART goals and create action plans
  • Celebrating  positive demonstration of targeted skills by giving more positive feedback and shoutouts
  • Develop a student reflection routine and intentionally integrate it into the learning process so the students can consistently reflect on how they have grown in the targeted skills and how they can continue to improve

Mark Cheng

Physics Teacher
Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction

My Teaching Philosophy

A majority of the students that I teach are from backgrounds and ethnicities that are minorities within the science community.  These students have a lot to benefit from science, as it will provide them opportunities of a worthwhile career.  Just as they stand to benefit from this union, I believe science would also benefit from their presence as well.  I envision them as individuals who will not only expand the existing body of knowledge, but will also serve as effective communicators of science to the public.  As much as I would like all my students to pursue careers of science and engineering, my primary goal for all students is to realize the importance and the impact that science has on their lives.  I believe my duty as a science educator is to explain “how” a phenomenon works, rather than explain “why.”  Additional individualized attention needs be given to each student so that they can postulate and answer the “why” questions that are important to themselves.  These “why “questions can vary from, “why are the lights in my house wired to this one switch” or “why are these chemicals present in the foods we eat.”  Or even for them to look up at the sky and under the immensity of the stars and universe, ask “why am I here.”

Building Block Spotlight: Personal Mindset

I'm teaching personal mindset skills to my students so they develop metacognitive awareness of their own learning. I do not want my students to simply write notes or derive an answer to a question in my classroom. I want them to develop awareness of how to take notes that are useful for themselves and are able to articulate how they arrive to a particular answer.   Some of the ways that I plan to support students in building this particular skill will involve finding ways to encourage students to express their confusion and incorporate more personal reflection throughout the semester.  

What I'm Working on

  • Teaching personal mindset skills to my students.
  • Teaching students to generate (and revise) their own toolkit, routines, and resources that they can use whenever they encounter difficulty with solving problems.
  • Creating more online resources (such as a Google Group) that students will be able to use when they need additional help
  • Having students periodically assess and reflect on their learning and identify what they did well, could do better, and how they can improve.
  • Creating various resources that exist within the classroom that allow students to be more independent and autonomous

Annabel D’Souza

Chemistry Teacher
Secondary School for Journalism

My Teaching Philosophy

I believe that learning is a negotiation of ideas and an exploration of experiences that students engage in with each other and with their community to arrive at a truth about the universe. To facilitate this endeavor teachers should provide opportunities for students to not only learn academic content but also grow in the skills needed to access and assess that content. This requires intentional planning, modeling, scaffolding, practice of skills, and consistent feedback and teachers should provide these opportunities to tap into that potential.

Building Block Spotlight: Personal Mindset

Chemistry is often very challenging to many students but I have found that students are much more successful when they are simultaneously developing Personal Mindset skills. Students exhibit growth mindset when they state, ‘this is hard, but I will try again’ or when students in my chemistry class ask me ‘Can I correct and resubmit this class assignment for a higher grade?’ This shows perseverance and a keen focus on improving.

What I'm Working on

  • Building student reflection routines and protocols into the daily learning.
  • Creating targeted tools to support students and iterating the tools with specific feedback from students.
  • Giving targeted feedback on targeted skills in addition to content skills. For example, I would say I like how you annotated the text and I noticed that you were highly focused in the first 10-minutes because you were able to get through 4 questions already.
  • Developing, discussing, and implementing rubrics to assess students as they are mastering the targeted skills. I found that students did better when they knew what the skill looked like at different levels and worked on personally improving small behaviors to move up a level.
  • Developing model scenarios for expected behaviors of the targeted skills. I learned that some teachers in the Fellowship are effective in modeling the criteria for the behavior and skills with scenarios, role plays and discussions. They have seen higher student engagement and understanding as a result. I would like to learn more about developing this skill.

Valerie Howell

Spanish & CDOS Teacher
Energy Tech High School

My Teaching Philosophy

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style” – Maya Angelou.

Developing individual intellectual and social-emotional capacity beyond taking exams is central to how I approach teaching because our students are not “ours” forever.  They are citizens of the world for the greater part of their lives. During the time that they are with us, it is our responsibility to introduce them to and guide them through acquiring the skills necessary to thrive in our complex society, all the while maintaining a healthy sensibility about who they are as individuals and how their actions and omissions affect others.

Building Block Spotlight: Personal Mindset, Planning for Success

In my classroom this is displayed when students grab a dictionary or ask to use their phones to look up a word, flip through their notes or ask another classmate about a concept that was introduced instead of giving up and saying, “I don’t know” or immediately asking for my help. I reinforce this by clearly defining expectations, acknowledging when I see this positive behavior, scaffolding and creating a space where “figuring it out” and “challenging” are the norm and making mistakes results in an Aha! moment.

What I'm Working on

  • Teaching personal mindset skills and planning for success skills to my students.
  • Creating scaffolds and spaces for students to tinker and figure out problems so they can independently reach that Aha! Moment
  • Providing consistent feedback to students as they practice targeted skills
  • Embedding leadership, accountability and resourcefulness within my students
  • Encouraging and fostering communication among students and between students and adults
  • Locating and accessing proven, appropriate, interesting and realistic applications and activities to introduce and reinforce the targeted 21st century skills
  • Devising lessons and activities that are focused and practical

Vince Joralemon

Biology and Anatomy Teacher
Frank McCourt High School

My Teaching Philosophy

I believe that there needs to be a strong balance between skill acquisition and content knowledge. Content knowledge without practical application in the 21st Century is impractical outside of an academic context, but skills acquisition should take place within the context of the content being discussed in a specific class. As a biology teacher, this presents a specific set of opportunities to bridge what is commonly thought of as a “memorization-based” topic and the real-world applicable skills students will need to succeed in the workforce and in their personal lives.

Building Block Spotlight: Verbal Communication

When students are demonstrating effective verbal communication, they are primarily listening to each other with an intention to learn and build their own opinions about the matter, speaking mostly to clarify and shaping their communications styles to their audience and context. To get students to reach their potential in verbal communication, I plan to implement a very slow gradual release of the cascading verbal communication skills, using a great deal of modeling and metacognition so that students can learn the specific language to tag their skills to the framework. The big change from last year in this will be slowing down the gradual release of verbal communication - because the different components build on each other so much, it is critical to have the class master one skill component before moving forward.

What I'm Working on

  • Teaching verbal communication skills to my students
  • Creating scaffolding worksheets to aid in the gradual release and to help students see the skills more concretely.
  • Designing engaging topics that catches the students attention and increase student engagement
  • Getting better at verbalizing the targeted skills, giving feedback to students as they practice these skills, and getting students to discuss their own skills development

Laryssa Kramarchuk

Chemistry Teacher
Frank McCourt High School

My Teaching Philosophy

Teaching is not a one sided profession where the teacher lectures and the students meticulously take notes. I like to think of my classroom as a place where both the teacher and the students  form a community of learners.  My classroom is built on the idea of “noble failures.” I frequently remind my students  that science is an exploratory process based on trial and error. It is our role, as teachers, to provide them with the skills and practices they need to conduct a scientific investigation. Accordingly, if we want students to think scientifically we need to teach them how to ask questions, define problems, and plan and carry out investigations. Many students forget that the content we know today was made possible because other scientists questioned the world around them.

Building Block Spotlight: Problem Solving

At Frank McCourt High School our students learn how to solve real world problems using the project based learning model. Being a school that believes in real world learning we challenge our students to use a multidisciplinary approach to solving problems. In this particular course, Integrated Math and Science 10, our focus is on chemistry and algebra2/trig/geometry. Our ultimate goal is to develop our students’ critical thinking skills and use the knowledge they learn in their classes and apply it to their lives.

What I'm Working on

  • Developing my students’ critical thinking skills 
  • Aligning skills learned in 9th grade and 10th grade to enable  students to build on their previous understanding, rather than re-learning skills
  • creating opportunities for students to problem solve and apply their knowledge to real world problems using the project based learning model
  • Improving students’ ability to ask question, define problems, planout investigations, and execute.
  • Figuring out the best strategies for working with students with varying levels of 21st century skills mastery and creating authentic assessments that shows their progress

Meghan Leston

English and Journalism Teacher
YABC at John Adams High School

My Teaching Philosophy

I believe that students should be given many opportunities to learn. In addition, students should have some choice in their learning. They should be able to learn through contribution to a larger project with the ability to reflect on what was learned throughout the process. While it is important to provide students with content, the ability to develop skills that can carry over to other areas in life is essential. In order for students to get the most out of the educational process, they must be developing skills along with the basic content knowledge. In the John Adams YABC Program we focus on project based learning that allows students to develop skills. Students work to learn how to develop academic skills which will translate to skills that they can utilize in a professional environment.

Building Block Spotlight: Planning for Success

I'm teaching planning for success skills explicitly in my classroom so my students are better able to manage their time to increase productivity

What I'm Working on

  • Teaching planning for success skills.
  • Encourage students to practice their verbal communication skills, specifically being able to give and receive feedback
  • Incorporating skills instruction into daily learning by planning and designing engaging activities that allow students to develop their skills practice
  • Creating a classroom environment where students are more independent and more engaged in the daily learning.

Karen Miller

Computer Aided Drafting & Work Based Learning Teacher
Energy Tech High School

My Teaching Philosophy

Coming from the industry and  having worked as a structural engineer, I aim to bring real-world experience into my classroom as much as possible.  I find many students are afraid of engineering and put it off as scary and too complicated for them to pursue.  Through project based learning, I show students THAT engineering and design can be broken down into small and easy to navigate steps.  I also like to emphasize that it takes many types of personalities and a great team to solve problems.  

Building Block Spotlight: Problem Solving

Problem Solving is the basis of my classroom where students are brainstorming ideas with sketches, piling on ideas as a group, and ranking and evaluating ideas within a decision matrix. I know students are using their problem solving skills effectively when they are coming up with multiple, varying solutions. Students should aim to create the best possible solution, rather than just a solution to complete the project.

What I'm Working on

  • Teaching problem solving skills to my students
  • Working  with industry partners to align curriculum with the required technical skills and the targeted 21st century skills
  • Creating more of a maker space mentality in my classroom
  • Exposing students to different jobs and workplaces
  • Fostering creativity and encouraging students to think outside the box

David Morris

Physics and Fabrication Teacher
Energy Tech High School

My Teaching Philosophy

I believe that regardless of what you teach, it needs to connect to the bigger picture of life. This definitely means that teachers should constantly be connecting the content they are delivering to the life experiences of their students. But I also think this means that teachers need to be teaching students the skills the world expects them to have when they step out of the classroom. Educators should be integrating problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and teamwork into everything we do so that our students are ready for the demands of whatever they choose to do next.

Building Block Spotlight: Problem Solving

Successful problem solvers define the problem they are facing, generate potential solutions, evaluate these solutions using a defined criteria, and then implement the best option. When students are successful at problem solving, you see them follow these steps on their way to developing new and creative solutions to the problem.

What I'm Working on

  • Teaching my students to be successful problem solvers.
  • Creating a classroom where my students work together in collaborative teams to build robots and problem solve.
  • Creating a logical and coherent plan of instruction for addressing the targeted skills building blocks of problem solving, personal mindset, and collaboration.
  • Establishing a “flipped” classroom.

Jackie Newton

English Teacher
Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design

My Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is that every child deserves a quality education.  It is the belief that all children can learn and succeed.  All may not learn at the same pace, but they can all learn and be successful.  Learning should be fun and exciting.  As a teacher, I aim to create an atmosphere that encourages curiosity and determination.  My classroom should be a place of joy where students feel important, respected, cared for, and believed in.  In my classroom, I try to infuse skills that my students not only use in school but beyond. I want my students to work collaboratively, so they find the confidence to ask questions and actively engage in learning. This  would enable them to deepen their understanding and move towards strengthening their critical thinking and problem solving skills.  These are the skills my students need for college and beyond.  Maria Montessori once said, “the greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say the children are now working as if I did not exist.”  That is what I am striving to attain in my classroom – autonomy.

Building Block Spotlight: Personal Mindset

The Skill Building Block that I chose is Personal Mindset. I believe when students can maintain focus on a task despite external distractions, they will be demonstrating Personal Mindset. How I plan on supporting students to develop full potential:
(a) Explaining explicitly what students need to do, what the end result should look like, what I expect of them, and by providing all necessary and essential resources.
(b) This is a change from my first year, because I think beginning with Personal Mindset is an important skill to develop at an early stage of the students’ high school experience because Personal Mindset sets the tone for the rest of their educational development as well as their college and career endeavors.

What I'm Working on

  • Teaching personal mindset skills to my students 
  • Incorporating 21st century skills learning into my daily lesson plan and 21st century skills vocabulary into my daily language so my students are consistently practicing the targeted skills and see a connection between their learning and skills development
  • Creating projects and activities that give my students ample opportunities to practice their collaboration skills so they can truly work together as oppose to working individually in groups.

Nereida Rama

French Teacher
Secondary School for Journalism

My Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy has evolved over a number of years first as a graduate student then as an educator. It is grounded on the belief that teaching should provide a strong foundation for lifelong learning and that the classroom is a living and thriving community where everybody has something unique to contribute. I believe that teaching is a twofold process: it teaches content but also addresses student learning. To that end my instruction tries to answer two questions: What knowledge and skills do I want the students to acquire and how do the knowledge and skills benefit the students and the society?

Building Block Spotlight: Verbal Communication

Verbal Communication is a skill is that is central to language learning. Students are engaged in conversations or correspondence in French with the aim of providing and obtaining information, expressing feelings and emotions and exchanging opinions on a variety of topics. I provide students with listening, speaking and writing activities where they experience the language by producing written/spoken conversations, writing notes or role - play activities. In addition they discover the uniqueness of many cultures from the francophone countries through the use of technology and authentic materials such as magazines, newspapers and books.

What I'm Working on

  • Teaching verbal communication skills to my students
  • Building a classroom where my students have many opportunities to practice verbal communication skills and collaboration skills so they can problem solve together as they are exposed to a new language and new culture
  • Helping students  develop ownership and responsibility for the learning process through inquiry with emphasis on hands-on discovery and interdisciplinary project-based learning
  • Supporting my students as they learn to navigate different social situations

Marc Sole

Biology Teacher
East Side Community High School

My Teaching Philosophy

Any time you can teach something that is rigorous, fun, and makes sense in the scope of the outside world you are on the right track. Being able to take content that fits those categories and layer on technological skills that the students will be needing as they leave high school and go on to college and their careers is something that I strive to do with each project.

Building Block Spotlight: Planning for Success

When students are really working well within the planning for success building block, they are able to identify the discrete components of their experiments, research and papers and break them down into actionable pieces that don't look so intimidating. When I give them a due date, they can break down their work into little goals that result in their work being complete by the actual due date. These little goals also serve as momentum builders for students who find the whole project too great, with each one completed, they can feel successful and that they are one step closer to completing their PBAT. I'd like to further integrate tools such as google classroom and calendar and teach students how to use those effectively to make their own timelines.

What I'm Working on

  • Develop a student reflection routine and intentionally integrate it into the learning process so the students can consistently reflect on how they have grown in the targeted skills and how they can continue to improve
  • Give students real time, specific, and actionable feedback on the skills they are practicing
  • Hone in on 4 targeted skills (not building blocks) so there is more depth than breadth

Ellie Williamson

Living Environment Teacher
Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction

My Teaching Philosophy

I have always loved science and I really enjoy teaching science to my students. I was fortunate to have had strong and exceptional science teachers when I was in high school. Their love for science was inspiring. They fostered a desire in me to want to learn more and to study science in a collegiate setting. The experiences that they created in their class have influenced the way that I view and teach science to my students. It is important to me that my students:

  • experience science in a hands-on approach as often as possible, so that they can see and make connections between the theory of the concept and the application of the concept.
  • are given many opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of scientific concepts through reading and writing.
  • feel safe, confident, and comfortable to speak with each other about science related issues.

Building Block Spotlight: Planning for Success

Planning for success is a skill set that is of great interest to me because students will be more focused, thoughtful, deliberate and reflective in their work. I can help my students as they learn this skill set through using google applications where they can document their plans, include timelines for completion of tasks and record comments where they will receive peer and teacher feedback.

What I'm Working on

  • Teaching my students planning for success skills as a means to empower them.
  • Using peers, classroom resources, and technology to foster student independence.
  • Increasing my students’ critical science literacy through explicit teaching of the verbal communication skills.
  • Creating projects and activities that requires my students to share their ideas, discuss solutions, and create presentations in collaborative groups.

Kelley Wolcott

English Teacher and Service Learning Coordinator
South Brooklyn Community High School

My Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is most strongly guided by the work of Paolo Freire. I strongly believe that all teachers are students first and that education is not relevant if teachers don’t consistently build their practice in partnership with colleagues and students. I make every effort to design learning experiences that are engaging, real world, and collaborative that simultaneously build “hard” and “soft” skills while empowering students to take ownership of their learning and the world around them. My primary focus for the past three years at South Brooklyn Community High School has been to work on building a culture of service through the creation of a Service Learning program that embeds service into curriculum as well as a project based course.

Building Block Spotlight: Problem Solving

Our focus will be on the Problem Solving Block, which is a critical skill that touches on every part of our lives academic, personal, and professional; we hope to see students succeed in addressing a real world problem that they care about through service learning projects that they design based on in depth research they have done using the MISO Method.

What I'm Working on

  • Teaching problem solving skills to my students
  • Merging  21st century skills targets and CDOS standards into the Service Learning curriculum so that we can offer the CDOS 4+1 option
  • helping students internalize the five stages of Service Learning (investigation, planning and preparation, action, reflection, and demonstration) as a way of learning problem solving skills.
  • teaching the MISO Method (Media, Interview, Survey, and Observation) so students intricately understand the topic that they are researching.
  • helping students develop verbal communication skills so they can seek volunteering opportunities and internships
  • working with community partners such as the Beam Center to expand the type of projects we can do.

Yenmin Young

Physics and Sustainability Engineering Teacher
East Side Community High School

My Teaching Philosophy

My classroom involves a lot of hands-on activities and connections to real world issues. When it is hands-on, the content becomes more accessible to more students and every student has some experience to refer to. Framing the material with real world problems gives authentic meaning and purpose to the students’ education.

Building Block Spotlight: Problem Solving

Students have an opportunity to be creative, to think outside the box while looking for solutions and to critically assess issues as they arise while developing their solution. I plan to help them be creative by doing activities that help them think outside the box and challenge them to think differently than what they are used to.

What I'm Working on

  • Teach problem solving skills to my students  
  • Developing protocols and routines that support student reflection so students are tracking and evaluating their 21st century skills development
  • Creating an authentic rubric with 21st century skills integration so I can assess my students fairly and accurately