The New York State Master Teacher Program is designed to be a collaborative network of K-12 STEM educators across the state. It brings together an amazing array of talented people doing unique and interesting work in science, mathematics, engineering, and computer science. The program is built around three foundational domains that focus on mastery of content, knowledge of pedagogy, and understanding of students, their families, and the greater community. I, along with four others (Kim Lennon, Amanda Kavner, Zoe Chiam, and Mitchel Troise) were honored to join current MT Brian Strack in the 2019 class.
There is a rigorous application process that is broken into two major stages. In the initial phase, applicants submit educational CVs along with recommendations from colleagues, administrators, and students. They must also complete a content-specific Praxis exam. Perhaps the most important component of this first phase is the personal statement in which teachers are asked to reflect upon the program’s three domains and how their current practices and participation in the program would promote growth in those areas. It is important to note that Master Teachers not only demonstrate commitment to their craft, but an eagerness to remain life-long learners.
If applicants are accepted into the interview phase, they must complete three final steps during a full-day evaluation. A ten minute presentation related to a STEM-related passion project is delivered to a panel of evaluators as well as a small circle of other applicants. They will engage in collegial discussion before taking part in an individual panel interview with the evaluators. Finally, a writing sample is submitted to answer a prompt related to the three domains of the NYSMTP. From start to finish, the application process spans roughly nine months.
Daunting as the process may appear, it offers the opportunity to take part in a four year journey in which your growth as a STEM educator is unparalleled. My motivation for applying to the program came from a belief that all students deserve an educational experience that can make them future-ready problem solvers while creatively accessing their unique skill sets. I hoped to continue to evolve my own passion projects by cultivating relationships within a strong community of motivated STEM educators. Collaborating with others that are threading superior knowledge of content and educational technology into their curriculum is essential to keeping me on the cutting edge of best practices.
I have only been a part of the program for a little over three months. In that time, I feel more energized than I have in the last three years. The bulk of my time has been spent with the engineering PLT (Professional Learning Team). We are currently working with CAD software to laser cut structures that will house microcontrollers coded to control a decorative LED based on sensor data. These skill sets can be directly applied to teaching engineering practices with students in our home districts. I have had the opportunity to share my classroom with the team which has opened collaborative partnerships with schools on Long Island spanning from Bridgehampton to Syosset. This will ultimately result in our students sharing their experiences with one another to further bolster the 21st century skills we all seek to instill in our students.