New Faces at J-DHS
By Elizabeth Burnam and Cara Gannon
Photo by Sally Zheng
There are several new faces among the faculty at Jamesville-DeWitt High School.
Patrick Ferrick will teach physics this year at J-DHS. Though he has been teaching for 18 years, this is his first year at J-DHS.
"I'm a really old-school, hardcore nerd," says Mr. Ferrickon his teaching style. "And I really like to explain things "“ not that I'm good at it, I just like to explain things. Put those two together and it makes a really good physics teacher," he says.
He says that his teaching style went through a radical change in the last few weeks. For 17 years, he taught at the Town of Web School in Old Forge. Mr. Ferrick says it was very different there because it was "insanely small" compared to J-DHS. With only 250 students in grades K-12, Mr. Ferrick knew them all. "It occurs to me that there are hundreds of kids here that I will never meet," says Mr. Ferrick.
Since he's used to having about five kids in a class, he is accustomed to being able to sit in a circle in the middle of his class. Now that he has about 30 kids in a class, he can't do that anymore. He describes his teaching style as "very informal." He likes to try to have his students doing as many things as possible. "I don't like the term "˜hands-on,' but that's basically what I'm saying." Mr. Ferrick says. He also likes to tie physics into as many outside things as he can.
Mr. Ferrick says his teaching style was sort of influenced by his own high school teachers, though he didn't decide to become a teacher until he was 30. He did many different jobs before he became a teacher. Mr. Ferrick says he even ran a Chinese restaurant for a little while and did everything from waiting tables to bartending. "One summer I was an MC at a comedy club "“ you know, the people that introduce the acts and try to be funny in between," he says.
Mr. Ferrick is very impressed by J-DHS so far; "As different as it is, and as freaked out as I am by all of the people "“ minus that, I'm very impressed."
Dan Blumenthal is the elementary band director at Tecumseh, Moses-DeWitt and Jamesville Elementary Schools and also the orchestra director at J-DHS.
Mr. Blumenthal's goal as a teacher is to give his students the tools they need to teach themselves when he is not there. "To that end, I try to ask lots of guiding questions to show thought processes so that students arrive at the answers themselves as opposed to simply telling them the answers. I like to break things down to as basic and simple level as I can and then build from there, layering levels of complexity until we arrive at the finished, desired product," he says.
Mr. Blumenthal believes that one can never stop improving as a teacher by watching those around you and taking something away from it. He thinks he brings some part of every teacher he's worked with to his style. "Every student responds better individually to certain teaching styles and methods, so the bigger your 'bag of tricks,' the greater the chance you have of finding something that will click with a given student," he says.
He thinks that the best part about teaching is being able to look back at his students and remembering where the class was and seeing how far they've come. He says that specifically with the orchestra, it's very fun for him to look back on even the first couple of weeks and hear the sound that they're getting now compared to when they walked in the door.
Mr. Blumenthal says his parents, both music teachers, were a big influence on his decision to become a teacher. "I wouldn't say I've always wanted to be a teacher... I had different phases when I was younger, at one point, I wanted to be an airplane when I grew up, but ever since I started having more serious thoughts about what I wanted to do, teaching has been in the mix. Both my parents are music teachers, so I grew up listening to them talk and going to their concerts. Their influence, experiences I've had teaching at summer camps and great teachers I've had along the way have all been a part of why I am a teacher now," he says.
He has loved his first three weeks at J-DHS so far. He says, "My colleagues have been extremely helpful and welcoming, my orchestra kids are the greatest group of students ever, and I've only been asked for a hall pass once!"
Jared Tabone started his second year of teaching this year at J-DHS. He teaches regents geometry and regents algebra.
He says he loves it at J-DHS so far. "The kids are well-behaved, good-mannered and there's lots of interesting kids, lots of diversity," he says.
Mr. Tabone says he decided to become a teacher because he enjoys teaching with kids, he has an interest in math and he likes to convey that interest to others. "And you can't argue with summer vacation," he says.
Mr. Tabone describes his teaching style as very laid-back, engaging and interactive. His style was positively influenced by some of his teachers from school. He says that he was fortunate enough to have many terrific teachers. "A teacher that always had his door open for you - I appreciate that, just being available and being there for whatever," he says.
Before working at J-DHS, Mr. Tabone was a long-term substitute at Solvay. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Rochester and his master's at Syracuse University.
Joyce Hansen teaches English 9 and Contemporary Literature at J-DHS.
So far, Ms. Hansen loves working at J-DHS. "I went to a JV [Junior Varsity] girl's soccer game last week and I was very proud of the girls who were in my class and I went to the football game and I was excited to see the cheerleaders. I love the school spirit here."
Ms. Hansen was a reporter at Construction Data Company before she decided to become a teacher. Although Ms. Hansen enjoyed the writing part of being a reporter and talking with her sources for information, she also liked working with other genres. She wanted to expand her literature besides nonfiction and news and thought that she would like to work in an academic setting. She went back to college to become a teacher because she wanted to become a writer and loved reading. She thought she'd like to work in a larger group in a classroom so she went back to school for teaching. She says that she still loves reporting, but she wanted to work with more variety. "In my news office I was working alone, which was fine but I found that I was more of a social person and in a classroom you can work together in a group on an idea or a thought that you have been having," she says.
Ms. Hansen's favorite part of teaching is the technology and using it in the classroom. She loves to work with students using technology and talking about big ideas.
When she was in school, there was not as much group work as she would have preferred. The work was mostly individual. "I found that I learned more when working with other people, so I try to incorporate that into my teaching as much as I can."
She attended Binghamton University and Suny Cortland College before student teaching, and then substitute taught for a year and a half.
Kevin Sommer started his ninth year of teaching at J-DHS. He teaches Earth Science and Biology. Mr. Sommer's first eight years of teaching were spent at Tully High School and Fayetteville-Manlius High School. Mr. Sommer says he made the switch to J-DHS because it was a better district.
He says his favorite subject to teach is environmental science. "Its fun for me and the topics in it spark my interest."
Mr. Sommer is not quite sure why he became a teacher. "I don't know, I just kind of fell into it," he says he is very animated while he teaches, and that his teaching style was influenced by some of his high school experiences. "You forget everything you learn but you never forget how your teachers make you feel. I'd like to be a positive influence. I like to be one of those teachers that make you feel good."
Dana Reid started teaching English as a Second Language two years ago at the Syracuse Academy of Science, and moved to J-DHS this year.
Mr. Reid says one of the reasons he decided to become a teacher was because he had many great teachers in the past and like Mr. Sommer, he likes to be a positive influence on the youth. "And I'm just a life-long learner," he says.
As an ESL teacher, Mr. Reid gets to meet and work with many students from around the world, which, he says, is exactly what he signed up for. " I love that I look out on my classroom and I see the world." He has a "sizeable Russian and Cuban population" in his class, and also people from Vietnam, China, Ethiopia, and several other countries.
"I like to make the content in my curriculum accessible for different learning styles, to be a culturally relevant teacher, to meet the needs for my students from around the world," he says. Mr. Reid's style is very much influenced by a number of great teachers he had in high school. One has even become a great friend and mentor to Mr. Reid, his band teacher. They even meet for coffee once in a while. "I really like the way he related to students," he says.
So far, Mr. Reid thinks teaching at J-DHS is "wonderful. The morale of the staff and students is through the roof. It's a joy. The people here are very welcoming, very warm."
Allison Cohen teaches geometry and pre-calculus honors at J-DHS. This is her first year teaching.
Ms. Cohen, who graduated at J-DHS, thinks that returning to her high school as a teacher is great. "I'm back on my stomping grounds. It's different being a teacher at my high school, but it has been fun."
Ms. Cohen says "I like to have a lot of active participation in my class and active learning. The kids in my class know that I like to have them just shout answers at me." She likes having high energy in her classroom. She tries to do some of the activities she liked when she was in school like group work and projects.
Ms. Cohen attended LeMoyne College. In college she really liked her math classes. She originally was a business major but she liked her math classes much better, so she decided to take more math classes and started tutoring. Then, she decided that she was going to be a teacher. After college she student-taught at East Syracuse Minoa High School and also at Chittenango Middle School.