Nine Local Teachers Earn SUNY Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching
NEW PALTZ -- Nine outstanding teachers from mid-Hudson public schools and the Board of Cooperative Education Services have been selected to receive the 2001 Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
The nine teachers will be honored at a Sept. 20 ceremony to be held at 4:30 p.m. at The Terrace at SUNY New Paltz. As recipients of this award, each of the nine teachers will receive an honorary appointment as an adjunct clinical professor within the university's School of Education. They will also be recognized by the Mid-Hudson School Study Council at a ceremony later this year.
Nominations for outstanding teachers are made by school principals and district superintendents. The awards are given by the Office of the Dean of Education at SUNY New Paltz based on recommendations from a review committee of education professionals. The winners are selected teachers who have demonstrated their commitment to teaching, to excellence and, most importantly, to children and their education.
Recipients of the 2001 awards are David W. Baker of Highland Falls, Bruce Bidwell of Narrowsburg, Michael Brown of Olivebridge, Eileen Candito of Middletown, Marilyn Hoffman of Bloomingburg, Eugene Lebwohl of Ossining, Michael Mostransky of Hopewell Junction, Kirk Reinhardt of Port Ewen, and James Steinmeyer of Garrison.
Robert J. Michael, dean of the School of Education, noted the large number of applicants for this year's award. "It was extremely difficult to select a small number of teachers from a large pool of highly talented and skilled educators. It is our hope that all our teachers in the schools will be recognized for their efforts and dedication."
Specific information about the 2001 award recipients:
David W. Baker is an earth and environmental science teacher at James I. O'Neill High School in the Highland Falls/Fort Montgomery School District whose teaching over the last 31 years has exemplified the philosophy that students learn most effectively when actively engaged in meaningful experiences. For this reason, field studies and independent research on the local environment are integral parts of Baker's courses, and he has created many field-based activities in local forests and wetlands. Through his unique approach emphasizing cooperative field research, nature interpretation, long-term biomonitoring, and technology as an instructional strategy, Baker has allowed students of varying abilities and learning styles to excel.
Baker's strengths are related to his ongoing pursuit of learning and innovation. He is constantly revising curriculum and lab activities and has introduced many new topics to his school's science program, including long-term migration studies and monitoring of a vernal pond. Through these projects his students are actively engaged in their science education and leave his courses with a solid factual and conceptual background as well as the experience and enthusiasm to pursue the sciences at the college level. Baker's expertise stretches beyond the walls of his classroom as he has challenged not only his students, but his peers as well, with his incorporation of technology into the earth science curriculum. He has acted as a mentor and teacher for K-12 educators in integrated activities with specific emphasis on application and science software.
Baker has won numerous awards for his outstanding achievement and excellence, including the Pi Lambda Theta Award for Curricular Innovation, Science Teacher Association of New York State Southeast Section Outstanding Science Teacher award, National Association of Geoscience Teachers Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award, and the Geological Society of America Award for Excellence in Earth Science Teaching.
Bruce Bidwell has been a teacher with the Eldred Central School District for 28 years, working with students to develop their talents and appreciation of art. With his ability to instruct the abstract and make it become reality, Bidwell has guided them to challenge themselves to grow educationally and artistically. He motivates students through generous praise and encouragement along with gentle, constructive criticism. He values the individuality of his students and knows what it takes to get students to understand themselves as they begin to nurture the powers of expression. As a result, more than 200 of Bidwell's students have been winners in the Catskill Arts Society Art Show and the work of several has been displayed at the New York State Legislative Art Show.
Through the years, the art world has changed, and Bidwell has challenged himself to change with it. More than a dozen years ago, he created Eldred's computer graphics program and developed a curriculum for State Education Department approval. In addition to sketching, oil painting, and sculpture, classes in computer graphics are also offered. His classes are constantly filled and in demand.
Michael Brown, a teacher for 10 years, is a high school social studies teacher with Ulster County BOCES at the Tillson Alternative School, a model alternative school program for at-risk students in grades seven through 12. Brown has developed lasting relationships with these students that have resulted in a high percentage of high school graduates. His professionalism and enthusiasm for his work with at-risk students has been a source of inspiration for others in the teaching profession.
Over the years, Brown has received accolades for his work and dedication in developing and refining a curriculum for a global studies variance that addresses the difficulty many of his students have in passing the Regents Competency Test in this subject. A major focus of the project involves students mastering a few turning points in history as well as developing skills in negotiation, communication, organization and research. Past projects have included one in which students studied and prepared arguments concerning essential Supreme Court cases, then traveled to Federal Hall in New York City where they had an opportunity to role-play. Another activity, developed to provide insight into Jewish culture, involved attending a screening of Schindler's List. This, along with explorations in Jewish cooking, dance and art, and the opportunity to meet people who were actually on Schindler's list, gave the entire school community a shared experience upon which to draw as an educational and unifying event.
By providing these types of experiences, Brown is able to engage his students and ultimately bring to them impressive educational gains that were thought unattainable by many of his students. Through his professional excellence and personal dedication, Brown has faced a challenge and has proven to be an excellent teacher who truly cares about the students under his tutelage.
Eileen Candito, a teacher in the Minisink Valley Central School District, has been a teacher for 28 years. She teaches math, science and technology (MSTe) to K-2 children, and is a first- and second-grade academic intervention services teacher at Minisink Elementary School. Additionally, she coordinates all aspects of the MSTe project at the Minisink and Otisville elementary schools. When asked to participate in MSTe training sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Candito graciously accepted the five-year commitment, and now provides staff development opportunities to hundreds of teachers in her region.
She is a gifted and creative teacher who has made a lasting impact on the community, the school district, and the students she teaches. She has sponsored an international luncheon where parents and guests shared their heritage with the students, and she organized and facilitated the first parent volunteer program in the district. She was one of the district's first Odyssey of the Mind Coaches, and during the 2000-2001 school year, the intermediate school team of students she co-coached took first place in both the county competition and the state competition.
Candito is a member of the Early Intervention Team at Minisink Valley and a member of the District Math Task Force. Through her active participation and generous contributions of time and expertise, she has had a great impact on the lives and learning of her students and the overall school environment at Minisink Valley.
Marilyn Hoffman, who has completed 33 years of service, is common branch teacher at Park Avenue Elementary School in the Warwick Valley School District. During her tenure in the district, Hoffman has taught grades one, two, three and six, and for the past 17 years, has taught in the district's transitional program, which she was instrumental in developing. In this program, Hoffman takes students who lack learning skills and/or maturity and gives them the foundation and motivation to become successful learners and achievers. As a highly dedicated, child-centered educator she is cognizant of the fact that transition children need a variety of approaches to insure success, and she strives to provide as many multi-sensory activities, materials and strategies as possible. She has had a profound influence on her students and instills in them a love for reading and an appreciation for books, an excitement about school, and a sense of pride in their accomplishments.
Hoffman has been actively involved as a representative on district and building level teams, including teacher interview teams, administrator recruitment teams, and numerous curriculum and instruction committees. She was awarded the Outstanding Young Educator Award by the Warwick Jaycees in 1977 and was bestowed an honorary lifetime membership for "distinguished service to the children of the Kings Elementary School and the Warwick community" by the King's PTA.
Eugene Lebwohl is a 25-year veteran of education who works for Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES. He is the lead teacher and co-founder of the Walkabout program, an alternative high school experience for 12th-grade students in the Putnam/Westchester region. This full-year program which has been in existence for 24 years was designed to build students' confidence, provide them with a sense of direction, and teach the youngsters valuable life skills that can be applied to college and their futures.
As an educator, Lebwohl is a superior environmental science teacher who brings his rich scientific background into his classroom. His experience as a staff ecologist in a scientific research project in Africa, as well as his time as an ethnobotanist on several Native American reservations, allows him to provide his students with a real world perspective of what it means to be a scientist.
Lebwohl has also devoted time to the Candreva Foundation, a regional environmental foundation of which he is president. He is an educational advisor to Copen Family Fund, a not-for-them profit international education foundation, and he is an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, Fairfield, Conn.
Michael Mostransky has tirelessly dedicated himself to the pursuit of science and education for 30 years. As a teacher of earth science and research science at Brewster High School, Mostransky created a vision for the entire science department of the Brewster Central School District in order that all students, regardless of ability, have an opportunity to find success. His involvement of students, faculty and staff in this vision has given him a reputation for enabling those around him to achieve levels of success they may never have dreamed possible. His efforts have resulted in dramatic program changes that have benefited students of all abilities at the high school, middle school and intermediate school levels. He has expressed that his satisfaction lies in the knowledge that he is able to make a difference each day with his ability to shape the minds of the young people he encounters.
Kirk Reinhardt teaches physics and science research to 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders at New Paltz High School. He has been a teacher for 11 years, and a science teacher in the district for six years, teaching both Regents level and advanced level physics. For the past four years he has also taught a science research course in which students participate in a three-year project with scientists. Projects are submitted to the Intel (formerly Westinghouse) competition, and students may receive college credit for their work. The Junior Engineers and Technical Society team he coached placed first in New York state and won an honorable mention at the national competition. Additionally, he has been a participant in Marist College's Science on the Move Program, which provides students an opportunity to work with laboratory equipment not usually available to high school students, and he has led an effort, with science teachers in the region, to develop curriculum to meet the new standards and assessments in physics.
The academic arena is only one in which Reinhardt has contributed to his school and community. As the varsity football coach, he rebuilt an ailing team by setting high standards for his athletes on the field while working tirelessly to see that the same high standards are maintained in the classroom. He can often be found counseling students and athletes in his office, providing both extra help and encouragement. In all of his efforts, he has demonstrated his commitment to creating a community of learners in which all students' talents are valued.
James Steinmeyer, a 30-year veteran who teaches English at Roy C. Ketcham High School in the Wappingers Central School District, is being recognized for his dedication as a teacher, a coach, a mentor, and above all a compassionate human being who treats his students with dignity and respect. He sets himself apart from other teachers by expecting the best from each student and receiving the extraordinary every time. With Steinmeyer, a student does not feel pressured to love the subject of English, but is allowed, instead, to immerse himself into whatever it is that excites him, using English as a tool to express his interests. Michael DeFillipo, principal of RCK Senior High School stated that, "Mr. Steinmeyer has that tangible quality that draws students to him, and once in contact with him they continually want to be in his classes or a part of an activity in which he is involved." While working with students from a cross-section of the school population, Steinmeyer has never lowered his standards. Instead, he has provided the initiative and support for new programs that encourage students to excel in English and in school in general. He is a dynamic personality in the classroom and goes the extra mile to work with his students to help them achieve their best. A tribute to his excellence in teaching is the fact that he was selected by the Roy C. Ketcham National Honor Society to be their Teacher of the Year in 2000. With his extensive background in theater and as the director of numerous productions at Ketcham, Steinmeyer is again giving his time, energy and enthusiasm by leading an effort to refurbish the auditorium, stage and drama equipment of the school.
The Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching was instituted 18 years ago to honor outstanding area teachers. For more information on these awards, please call the office of the dean of the School of Education at SUNY New Paltz at (845) 257-2800.
Note to editors: Media are invited to cover the Sept. 20 ceremony to be held at 4:30 p.m. at The Terrace at SUNY New Paltz. Please contact the Public Affairs Office at (845) 257-3245 to make arrangements.
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