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NYCTF Press Kit pmd


									                                                       ABOUT US

  In the spring of 2000, the NYC Teaching Fellows program was launched
   to address the most severe teacher shortage in New York City’s public
 schools in decades. A program of the NYC Department of Education, the
   Fellowship recruits and selects mid-career professionals, recent gradu-
   ates, and retirees from all over the country and then prepares them to
                  raise student achievement in New York City classrooms.

       Drawing over 115,000 applications over the past eight years, the
    Fellowship has provided the nation’s largest school system with over
                                         12,000 talented new teachers.

The Teaching Fellows program has not only helped to address New York’s
         chronic teacher shortage, it has been able to focus on recruiting
individuals specifically to teach high-need subject areas—such as science,
           math, Spanish, special education, and bilingual education—and
     consistently places large numbers of teachers in the hardest-to-staff
      schools across New York City, particularly in the Bronx and Brooklyn.


As an alternate certification program, the NYC Teaching Fellows (NYCTF) program accelerates the process of
bringing new teachers into the classrooms that need them most. The majority of Fellows enter the program with
little or no teaching experience. Rather than completing a traditional teacher education program prior to entering
the classroom, Fellows engage in an intensive pre-service training program and immediately begin teaching
while continuing in a Master’s program.

Pre-service training is a key aspect of the Fellowship. June 2008 Fellows completed an intensive seven-week
pre-service training program that included field work in a New York City school classroom, Master’s degree
coursework, and Student Achievement Framework sessions focused on the practical aspects of teaching. Upon
successful completion of training and the necessary teacher certification exams, Fellows are ready to enter the
classroom in the fall.

Most Teaching Fellows teach in the Bronx and Brooklyn. While the Fellowship helps to facilitate the job
search process, each Fellow is ultimately responsible for securing his/her own position. This allows the
principal and the Fellow to find the best possible match.

While teaching, each Fellow continues to work toward a subsidized Master’s degree that qualifies her/him for
certification in the subject s/he teaches.

Teaching Fellows also benefit from:
         · A regular teacher’s salary and benefits;
         · Ongoing support at the school level; and
         · A network of like-minded professionals committed to raising student achievement for all New York
City’s students.


In its first year, the NYCTF program drew 2,100 applications for 325 available positions. Among that first group
of Fellows were a Viacom vice-president, one of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s speechwriters, a “Dateline NBC”
producer, and a technology executive from Chicago with both a JD and an MBA. The quality of the applicant
pool was so exceptional that the Fellowship has expanded to nearly 2,000 Fellows per year.

Today, the NYC Teaching Fellows program is the largest alternative certification program in the country and
among the most selective.

        ·   Over 8,800 Fellows are currently teaching in New York City’s public schools.
        ·   89 percent of Fellows begin a second year of teaching vs. the national average of 86 percent.
        ·   Only fifteen percent of the over 19,000 applicants to the 2008 program were admitted.
        ·   The average GPA of June 2008 Fellows is 3.34.

In the seventh year of the program, the Fellowship is beginning to see its Fellows move into other school
leadership positions:

        · 72 Principals, assistant principals, and education administrators

Number of Fellows currently teaching in New York City schools                          8,800

Ratio of New York City teachers who are Fellows                                        1 in 10

Percent of New York City’s math teachers who are Fellows                               25%

Percent of New York City’s special education teachers who are                          20%

Percent of New York City’s English teachers who are Fellows                            16%

Percent of teachers in the Bronx who are Fellows                                       16%

Percent of Fellows in their first year teaching in the highest-need 74%
subject areas of math, science, Spanish, special education, and
bilingual education


Average undergraduate GPA of 2008 Fellows                                              3.34

Percent of Fellows who have completed graduate-level degrees 16%

Percent of the over 19,000 applicants to the 2008 program                              15%
who were admitted


Percent of Fellows who return for a second year of teaching VS. 88%
Percent of ALL teachers nationwide who return for a second
year                                                            86%

Sources: NYCTF database (February 2008) and/or NYC Department of Education (2008).

                                                                                     FELLOW PROFILE

                                                    AKILAH ROBINSON
                                                    special education teacher since 2006

Akilah Robinson was born and raised in working-class Atlanta, Georgia. Her mother instilled a
strong work ethic in her children—a work ethic that took Akilah successfully through college while
working 40-hour weeks to Wall Street. After graduating from Spelman College, she joined the
Equities division at Goldman Sachs as a financial analyst. For over a year, Akilah represented a full
roster of fifteen hedge fund clients, before she determined that the financial world wasn’t really
where she belonged.

In her second year at Goldman Sachs, having succeeded in every respect in the eyes of the rest of the
world, Akilah decided to define success on her own terms. “Education was the driving force that
gave me the ability to grow beyond the environment I was raised in,” she says, “and it has given me
the chance to choose my own path and create my own opportunities. I felt amazingly energized at
the idea of giving children this exact gift. I believed that the Teaching Fellows program would be the
perfect avenue to help me instill hope in the minds of young people.”

Now in her first year in the classroom, Akilah spends her days with twelve first and second grade
special education students in a “bridge” class. The setting and the span of ability levels requires a lot
of lesson differentiation, and Akilah admits to struggling with this strategy: “As a newcomer to the
world of differentiation, I often feel overwhelmed and spread too thin. I wish there were three of me
to be able to cater to each group of students.” She has learned the importance of patience,
organization, and practice. Although she still stumbles, she knows that each small success creates
powerful learning opportunities for her students.

Akilah looks forward to many more years of instilling confidence in students who are nervous and
sometimes embarrassed about being labeled special needs. She aims to make them aware of their
intelligence and empower them: “I want to inspire my students to believe that there is a world of
endless possibilities, and, even at the age of six, they are not too young to dream big dreams.”

                                                                                    FELLOW PROFILE

                                                   EVAN WEINBERG
                                                   mathematics teacher since 2003

Evan Weinberg starts his day discussing how to apply the principles of torque, force, and speed to
robotics designs and mechanics. Though it sounds like he’s an engineer working for NASA, Evan is
actually a sixth-year Fellow teaching at Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx.

A few years ago, Evan created a Principles of Engineering course with Lehman High School’s
robotics team in mind. “This course introduces students to the mathematics, principles, and design
processes engineers use in their work. My students use LEGO brick technology and a great deal of
creativity to develop designs for class projects,” Evan said. They collaboratively designed a robot last
year for the multinational FIRST robotics competition and were rewarded for their ingenuity. Under
Evan’s guidance, the robotics team made it all the way to the nationals.

The range of his teaching abilities really marks Evan as a jack-of-all-trades. In addition to
engineering, he teaches advanced placement physics and math to incoming freshmen who haven’t
passed the Mathematics A Regents exam. “I really enjoy working with these students, laying the
groundwork for their future success in mathematics,” he says. Evan has already had the pleasure of
seeing the results of his dedication to both his students and the robotics team. “Many have gone on to
technical and engineering programs at various colleges and universities.”

Evan has also developed a mentoring program that allows his high school students to help middle
school students prepare for a robotics competition, giving older students the rewards and
responsibility of being mentors. In the spring of 2008, Evan was named one of five recipients of the
NYC Teaching Fellows Award for Classroom Excellence, which recognized his dramatic impact on
student achievement.

                                                                                     FELLOW PROFILE

                                                       MARCIA CACACI
                                                       special education teacher since 2003

Marcia Cacaci had a successful career in advertising and public relations. For fifteen years, she acted as
the director of public relations for Maidenform Inc., meeting celebrities and living a life of expense
accounts and free travel. Though her position teaching technology and professional development to
special education students at PS 811K may seem less glamorous, Marcia has no regrets about her career

She said, “People often ask me how I could have given up such a lucrative career after having worked so
hard to attain it. My response is that I’ve given up nothing, and I’ve gained everything. I love working
with special needs students, and I really think I can make a difference.”

Changing careers in your late fifties may seem daunting, but Marcia found that the NYC Teaching
Fellows program provided her with the foundation necessary to thrive in the classroom.

“The NYC Teaching Fellows has not only helped me to achieve my dream of becoming a teacher but
provided me with a strong foundation and continuing support. When I first became a teacher, there was
only one other Fellow in my school. Since that time, because of the remarkable strides we’ve made, the
administration has hired an additional eight Teaching Fellows.”

As a new teacher, Marcia channeled her business expertise into grant writing and amazed her school and
the community with the results. She wrote a Title VII grant that won her school a reward of $1,000,000.
And if that weren’t enough, Marcia procured $100,000 in funding for a multimedia computer center for
PS 811K and an additional $45,000 for a mobile computer lab. Nonetheless, she is actually proudest of
her in-class achievements.

Marcia is reminded each day of why she became a teacher but remembers a specific incident that makes
her especially proud. A student’s mother once called her in tears because, with Marcia’s help, the
woman’s sixteen year-old son had begun reading full paragraphs for the first time.

                                                                                    FELLOW PROFILE

                                                JOHN FRIAS
                                                 elementary education teacher since 2006

John Frias was a Marine who originally wanted a career in the FBI. While studying criminal justice,
he worked with inmates who were released into transitional programs and realized that, instead of
working with people after they were trouble with the law, he wanted to be in a position to create
change in a preventive way. Today, he is a teacher and positive role model for third and fifth graders at
Ryer Avenue Elementary School in the Bronx.

Making the transition from the Marine Corps to the classroom was a challenge for John, but Marines
like a challenge, so he felt right at home in some ways. “I understood what it meant to take orders, I
knew what it meant to wake up extremely early and go to bed late, I fully got the concept of fatigue,
and I had in my heart of hearts the term ‘motivation,’” he said. But he had to get used to “a world
where I had freedom of thought, where people didn’t necessarily work together, and where respect for
authority wasn’t a given.”

He draws encouragement from the thought that, one day, one of his students might remember
something Mr. Frias told him while weighing a tough decision and make the right choice. “Knowing
that model citizens and positive individuals will be molded from my classroom inspires me to teach,”
says John.

 John continues to push his students to achieve. Most of the students in his first fifth-grade class were
performing far below grade-level when he started with them. Through hard work on their part and
inspired instruction, all of John’s students finished the year either at or above grade level. “This was a
great accomplishment for them,” John says. And for him as well.

In the coming years, he will continue making a difference in the lives of his students: “I want to have a
classroom of students who step outside of expectations and work beyond them,” he says. “As a
Fellow, I also want to inspire others to work harder for their students.” tations and work beyond
them,” he says. “As a Fellow, I also want to inspire others to work harder for their students.”

                                                                              FELLOW PROFILE

                                                 GEORGINA SMITH
                                                 elementary education teacher since 2002

Georgina Smith has experience in everything from botany—in which she earned a Master’s
degree—to business. She has succeeded in several corporate positions and was formerly the director
of strategic sourcing for USA Networks, Inc., the fifteen billion dollar entertainment corporation.
Although one might assume that the skills and tactics she learned in the corporate world would be of
little benefit in the classroom, Georgina, a fourth-year science teacher at PS 159 in the East New
York section of Brooklyn, has used her business savvy to launch and grow a very successful literacy
initiative—Wash and Learn™—in two other low-income Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Wash and Learn™ offers free tutoring to kids in Clean Rite Laundromats in Crown Heights and
Sunset Park. “It provides a relaxed and fun reading experience for children of all grade levels,”
Georgina said. “I feel confident that our kids go back into the classroom after a night at the Wash
and Learn™ tables a bit more enthusiastic and confident about reading and learning.”

Even as Georgina works tirelessly writing grant request letters and contacting literacy funding
programs for financial support for Wash and Learn,™ she offers her students at PS 159 her all
everyday. She has been instrumental in setting the standard for science classrooms within Region 5
and loves teaching science to her K-5 students, a much tougher crowd than her former corporate

                                                                                       FELLOW PROFILE

                                                  DAPHNA GUTMAN
                                                  elementary education teacher since 2001

When Daphna Gutman changed careers from financial corporate sales associate to educator, she
carried her high standards for success into the classroom. “I believe that teachers are professionals.
Sometimes we forget this, and our teaching suffers. Whenever our teaching suffers, our students
suffer,” she said. These may seem like the words of a seasoned teacher at the end of a long career, but
Daphna has been teaching for only four years. She added, “I have been determined to always act as a
professional and to aid my colleagues in doing so whenever possible.”

The transition from the private sector to the classroom has, however, brought challenges that Daphna
hadn’t anticipated. In her second year, she was assigned to a third-grade class in which the majority of
the students did not have the reading and math skills necessary to move up to the next grade.
Undeterred, Daphna focused on making sure each individual student’s needs were met and spent
significant time arranging educational evaluation for their placement in proper educational settings.
Many of these students had learning disabilities and required speech and pull-out services, and she
made sure they received this help. By the end of last year, more than 90% of her students either met
or exceeded grade level.

Daphna said, “When I started as a first-year Fellow, I had no idea how to create an environment
conducive to learning and creative exploration. My students have been incredibly patient teachers to
me, and, though I am always learning how to be a better teacher, they have helped me grow confident
in my craft.”

In her seven years at her school, Daphna has served for three years on the school leadership team. She
is also the lead teacher for the fifth grade, and she leads professional development sessions to assist her
colleagues. She recruits her former students to tutor her current students, promoting a sense of self-
worth that accompanies mentorship in the students who participate. Each year, she has her students
create storybooks to read to children in lower grades. For four consecutive years she has secured
funding for her school to participate in the New York City Opera Education is Elementary Program.
She is also working on an after-school soccer program that should benefit at least 100 children at the
Patrolman Robert Bolden School.

                                                                                     FELLOW PROFILE

                                                         WALTER MORRISON III
                                                        special education teacher since 2004

Walter Morrison III discovered his passion for the culinary arts more than fifteen years ago. He
excelled in the hotel and restaurant industry and worked his way up to positions such as executive
chef and restaurant manager. Two tragic events reshaped his life though, forcing him to reevaluate his
priorities. The gravity of the September 11 attacks combined with the trauma of a car accident
prompted Walt to pursue a more meaningful career.

“After thinking long and hard about it, I decided to be a teacher,” Walter said. “I applied to the
program because I felt I could do the most good for these students.”

He has done a lot of good for the seventh and eighth grade students he teaches at the Mickey Mantle
School P811M in Manhattan. Walt has taken the concepts of Project Power, a positive behavioral
incentive program, and implemented them through having the students run a diner during lunch hour.
From a kitchen in total disrepair, Walt rebuilt the diner with an authentic antique 1940s interior.

“I was given total control over program design from day one. That was my biggest initial challenge,
although I have had many challenges along the way,” Walter said.
In Project Power, students incrementally prove their dependability and good behavior. Many of
Walter’s students have special educational and emotional challenges. Everyone working for the diner
starts out with a white chef ’s coat, washing dishes and tidying the kitchen. The next level is the red
coat; these students act as “runners” taking food orders throughout the building, delivering orders,
and receiving payment. Black coat is the highest level. These positions are reserved for the students
who have proven themselves most trustworthy. If students get fired for misbehaving, they then have to
start again from the white coat level.

Walt has seen a number of success stories come out of his innovative culinary program. He has had
more than a dozen students go on to culinary high school environments, including the High School for
Food and Finance. He has also observed many students improve their reading and math skills, through
functional use in the culinary arts.

“One of the things that make me most proud is helping troubled students turn into good citizens,” he


                            ILISA SULNER,
                            Local Instructional Superintendent in District 75 and Former Principal
“As a school principal, I had many experiences in hiring teachers, including open hiring halls, teachers
recruited from other countries, teachers who were licensed simply because they held a Bachelor’s degree, and
teachers who were recruited by private agencies and programs. The results were always mixed, but, in
general, over the past twenty years, I would have to say it was more disappointing than not and certainly
frustrating. My experience with the Teaching Fellows was the exact opposite.

These new teachers represent everything that is good in teaching and most of what we had lost over the past
two decades. They transformed my school, became friends with one another, and broke down barriers
between themselves and senior teachers in ways both gentle but insistent.

They brought a new sense of fun, spirit, and passion for the art and science of teaching. They readily adapt
instruction and accept student differences with gracious understanding. They were a joy to supervise, and it
was delightful to watch them grow and mature.

It was wonderful to be the principal of a school in which almost 50% of the teachers are Fellows. I highly
recommend this program to other principals; I have and will continue to be vocal about the success I have

Principal of the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice
“Roughly three-fourths of our teachers at our school are Fellows. Without exception, each Fellow is
hardworking, eager to learn, and committed to education as a career. In fact, I have nominated a Teaching
Fellow to be an outstanding teacher of the year.”

Principal of Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx
“As you know, we have over fifty Teaching Fellows currently employed at Truman High School. Their dedication
has been one of the reasons for our success. We will continue to count on the NYC Teaching Fellows program to fill
our vacancies. Without a doubt, you have the most qualified teaching candidates available. I am so excited to see
that your office employs individuals who truly understand the needs of New York City schools, respect principals’
opinions, and address our needs.”

                                                                                             NYCTF PRESS

A Learning Curve
By Rob Medich March 12, 2007

Drifting through the Annie Leibovitz photo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, Lynn Bernstein is almost giddy.

“Wow, wow, wow - Philip Johnson in his Glass House,” she says, gaping at a portrait of the architect in the
iconic New Canaan structure he designed.

Bernstein, 51, is here on a balmy midwinter Saturday scouting the exhibit for a field trip she’s planning for the
firstgraders she teaches at PS 316, just a few blocks away. If she sounds strikingly photo- and celebrity-savvy
for a public elementary school teacher, it’s because this moment is the perfect meeting of her lives, former and

Five years ago, Bernstein was a photo editor at The New Yorker - this after more than a decade of similar
positions at top glossies such as People, Time, Newsweek and Town & Country. “I loved it,” she recalls. “I
loved being a part of what was happening in the world. There was cachet, there was glamour. And it was
altogether fulfilling.”

Well, for a long while, anyway.

“It started getting kind of routine,” admits Bernstein, who lives several blocks from the school with her
husband and 16-year-old son. “How many portraits of famous people can you dig up? And it was a lot of

Sept. 11 wound up being the turning point for her, a time of self-reflection.

“I finally decided that all the effort I put into every issue and every photograph was not making any difference
really in anybody’s life. And I just needed to do something else.”

With the ground fertile for career change, all Bernstein needed were the seeds. It came when she met with the
headmaster of her son’s private school to pitch a comprehensive makeover of the school’s art program. Sold,
the headmaster asked her, “Why aren’t you teaching?”

Soon, her attention turned to NYC Teaching Fellows, an organization that takes those with no teaching
experience, helps train them, subsidizes their master’s degrees in education, and ultimately places them in a
New York City public school.

Now, five years into her new vocation, the teacher gives her career change a solid A. “I’m more centered,
more relaxed, more focused,” she says. “Really feeling good about what I’m doing. And it’s fun. It’s
intellectually and emotionally challenging working with these kids, developing relationships with them and
helping them facilitate relationships with each other.”

And while Bernstein no longer has the glamour career, she unexpectedly cultivated a new cool-factor. Says she,
“There became this cachet like, ‘Wow, who is this chick who left this fancy job to do something like teach?’”

                                                                                          NYCTF PRESS

December 22, 2004

What Mr. Rogers needed came from a project called Wash and Learn, started by a 51-year-old student-teacher
who drove home from Public School 159 every night, passing the wide window of the 10,000-square-foot
Clean Rite Center. She caught sight, over many nights, of children running around the 200 coin-operated
washers and dryers, children who, under more ideal circumstances, would have been home studying.

‘’It was always children running around or doing nothing,’’ Mr. Rogers said. ‘’The parents just don’t have the
time here, they are so busy with loads of laundry.’’

The student-teacher, Georgina Smith, saw opportunity in the nighttime chaos she spotted through the window.
A former forest ranger, she had been a vice president of Cablevision until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 led her
to get a master’s degree in teaching at Brooklyn College.

If she stationed some teachers and books in the midst of the laundry, she decided, the video game players and
others could prove a captive audience for ‘’Cat in the Hat’’ and ‘’Caps for Sale,’’ not to mention homework
help. On a recent night, Amony Rogers sat in her school uniform with a book bag at her feet, getting help from
Marisa Donadelle, an accredited teacher at P.S. 159, in answering science questions on different forms of

Khalid Taylor, a 9-year-old with a wide smile and dreadlocks, came to the tables, too. He is one of Mrs. Smith’s
star pupils and likes to spend part of his night reading with her. So his parents, even if they have no laundry to
do, make a point of dropping him off.

‘’I want to read a chapter book or a scary book with her tonight,’’ Khalid said, settling in next to Mrs. Smith.

Michele Blankney, 36, a mother of two, said that with children now so productively engaged, doing laundry
had become a moment of repose.

Mrs. Smith and the other teachers take only brief breaks from the children to do outreach in the large laundry
room, which smells of suds.

                                                                                           NYCTF PRESS

June 18, 2002

Lawyers, bankers, physicians and salesmen were there, choosing a new career in midlife. Retirees with
grandchildren in public schools and expectant parents attended, wishing to improve the public schools. Some
graduated from college in the 1960’s and some just two years ago.

They were among the 2,000 newest recruits of the New York City Teaching Fellows program who gathered
yesterday in a ballroom near Herald Square for an initiation rite of sorts, followed by the beginning of a crash
course in how to teach.

The group is the biggest since Harold O. Levy, the schools chancellor, started the program as a means of addressing
a severe teacher shortage by recruiting nontraditional candidates. This year’s group will make up one-fifth of the
10,000 new teachers hired for the school year starting in September. Last summer, the city recruited 1,150 new
teachers through the program, and the year before just 320.

They will receive seven weeks of boot-camp-style training before the school year begins. The training will include
observing classroom instruction, taking graduate courses in educational psychology and child development, and
teaching occasional summer classes. In September, they will plunge courses in educational psychology and child
development, and teaching occasional summer classes. In September, they will plunge into the whirlwind of
teaching and classroom management.

Chosen from close to 16,000 applicants, all of this year’s recruits will attend master’s degree programs paid for by
the Board of Education, and most will be assigned to hard-to-staff and often low-performing districts in the Bronx
and central Brooklyn.

                                                                                           NYCTF PRESS

                                          A Novice’s Hard Lesson:
                                          Bringing Order to a Class
                                          (Part of a series about one NYC Teaching Fellow )

                                          By ABBY GOODNOUGH
                                          September 28, 2000

On her fourth day as a teacher, Donna Moffett would not — could not — stop smiling.

Never mind that only 8 of her 21 first graders had shown up on time to follow her, ducklinglike, from the
schoolyard to her muggy second-floor classroom at Public School 92 in Brooklyn. Or that one little boy,
with rumpled curls and a sullen gaze, rolled his eyes and disparaged her every move.

Ms. Moffett, 45, peppy and crisp in a navy dress, forced herself to keep smiling, even when the 6-year-olds
booed her choice of a second story to read out loud. Even when, as the children lined up for lunch, one of
the more impulsive students dropped to the ground, attached herself to Ms. Moffett’s ankles and shrieked.

‘’We will be polite, show respect and use our inside voices,’’ she said, reciting her newly minted class rules.
‘’We will work hard and come to class prepared.’’

Ms. Moffett, who entered teaching on Sept. 7 with hardly any preparation at all, has a bumpy ride ahead. In
July, she abandoned her comfortable longtime job as a legal secretary near Wall Street to be one of 320
‘’teaching fellows’’ — people with little or no teaching experience, hired by Schools Chancellor Harold O.
Levy to fill chronic vacancies in New York City’s most troubled public schools. In August, the fellows took
a crash course in teaching and eight hours of certification exams.

In these first weeks of school, Ms. Moffett is learning that teaching is only part of her job description — for
now, an achingly small part. She is already grappling with tardiness and discipline problems, often spending
far more time on ‘’classroom management,’’ as veteran teachers call it, than lessons. She is constantly
imagining her students’ lives outside the classroom and the myriad factors that may affect their academic
performance, their energy levels, their moods. After school, sitting alone at her desk, she searches for clues
in the snapshots she took of them and their parents on the first day.

Turning to teaching was a bold move for Ms. Moffett, a sensitive and meticulous woman who has spent
most of her adult life performing administrative tasks in orderly offices. She is used to a 9-to-5 schedule, a
comfortable salary and a quiet, childless existence. More than a little perfectionist, she is used to fast and
predictable results. So why take this frightening leap?

‘’I was leading a pleasant life with very little risk,’’ Ms. Moffett, a petite woman with curly brown hair, said
last week. ‘’This school and these children, they may take everything I have. But there’s a really deep well in
me, and it’s time to draw on it.’’

She said she agreed to let a reporter observe her during this uncomfortable first year because she believes so
strongly in the importance of teaching, and in the potential of the teaching fellows program.

                                                                                    NYCTF PRESS

Teacher Turns Laundromat into Learning Center
November 27, 2004b

It used to bug Georgina Smith every time she drove by the Clean Rite Center laundromat in one of
Brooklyn’s tougher neighborhoods. She’d look inside and see children — lots of them — sitting
around, playing video games or watching TV.

Not once did Smith ever see one of them with a book.
“I thought there’s got to be something better for these kids to do,” Smith said, recalling those drives.

So the science teacher decided she would get them to read. What she came up with is an innovative
program at the laundry fittingly called “Wash and Learn.”

It started out as Smith’s master’s thesis at Brooklyn College’s School of Education, and picked up
speed last spring when she managed to get Clean Rite officials to donate $12,000 for books, supplies
and general expenses.

In the early going, it was Smith reading to the children. Then, they began reading to each other.
Before long, they were asking for help with their homework. Their parents noticed — and cared.

“No matter where you teach, whether it’s New York or Des Moines, if you can engage the kids they
will respond,” Smith said.

And the kids keep coming. Smith has expanded the program to a second Clean Rite, also in
Brooklyn, and persuaded the college to let other students help out for credit.

“I like to read with all these people,” 7-year-old Brandon Bacchus said during a brief time-out from
“Mummies in the Morning.” “It’s not like school, it’s more fun and you’re not doing stuff because
the teacher tells you to.”

Brandon’s mother, Martha Bacchus, said she doesn’t mind driving nearly 10 miles so her son and 9-
year-old daughter, Mycah, can read with other children while she does laundry.

“It really lets these kids do something productive and it allows parents to get their kids the tutoring
they might need even if they can’t afford it,” Bacchus said.

“You know how busy our lives are and you always have to do chores,” said Clean Rite’s John
Hayes. “That we can help create an atmosphere where parents can get that done and their kids can
learn something is a perfect fit for us.”

                                                                                           NYCTF PRESS

A New School of Thought; PS 255Q Uses One-on-one
Approach to Teach Autistic Kids
December 4, 2005

It’s late morning at PS 255Q in Elmhurst, and teacher Alexis Straat is making blueberry muffins with the
six students in her class. It’s a process, she tells them. First, you mix the ingredients, then you bake them,
and what do you get? Muffins. (Then you get to share them with your classmates.)

It’s not home economics class. For Straat and her two assistants, it’s one of the everyday lessons for the
autistic children in their classroom. The lesson today is this: If you do the work, you get a reward, in this
case, hot, delicious muffins.

At PS 255Q, lessons in daily living are an important part of the curriculum. All 320 children enrolled at
the school have been diagnosed as autistic, part of a growing number here and elsewhere who have a form
of the neurological disorder. The city’s public schools have a total of 4,585 autistic children, among the
fastest growing populations of special education youngsters.

Children who suffer from autism often have a broad range of symptoms, including difficulty
communicating and an inability to interact socially. Also, autism is characterized by restrictive and
repetitive actions such as twirling around repeatedly.

Principal Richard Marowitz and his staff aren’t just doing the teaching - they’re also constantly learning the
latest ways to educate autistic students.

”We’ve implemented [the] best practices for children with autism, things that have been proven effective in
improving student outcomes,” Marowitz said. What has proved effective is plenty of hands-on, structured
teaching, where students get far more one-on-one attention than in most classrooms.

At PS 255Q, the students, from ages 5 to 17, are divided into 54 classes, each with no more than six

”Our main objective is to have our kids achieve their independence,” Marowitz said. “We’re providing a
world where they can navigate.”

                                MEDIA CONTACT

                                LINDSEY REU
                             Communications Manager

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