Three local educators join ‘Master Teachers’

Three more area teachers are being recognized for their outstanding abilities through a new statewide initiative.

The New York State Master Teacher program announced earlier this week that David Doty of Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School, Amy Lauer of Fredonia Central School and Paula Ferneza of Frewsburg Central School – along with 212 others – were included in the program’s second round of teacher selections.

The Master Teachers program was established by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year to identify the best math and science teachers in the state, and to create a way for those teachers to help their colleagues. Eligible teachers must be ranked highly effective under the state evaluation system, have at least four years of experience and teach math or science in sixth through 12th grades.

Doty, Lauer and Ferneza – all science teachers – have joined two other Chautauqua County Master Teachers, who were among the 105 chosen during the first round of selections in October. They are Tim Cook, who teaches 11th-grade Regents chemistry, 12th-grade physics and AP chemistry at Sherman Central School; and Lon Knappenberger, who teaches 12th-grade anatomy; 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade zoology; 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade biotechnology techniques; and animal behavior via distance learning at Westfield Academy and Central School.

“I am honored to join New York state’s Master Teacher team,” said Lauer, who teaches eighth-grade physical science. “I decided to apply for the Master Teacher program at the suggestion of a good friend and colleague. It sounded like an opportunity that would allow me to challenge myself, and to work with other science teachers who are passionate about making science fun and engaging for our students.”

According to Ferneza, who teaches 10th-grade Living Environment and 12th-grade biology through the Jamestown Community College Connections program, the benefits of being selected for the Master Teachers program will extend beyond just the teachers themselves.

“It means a lot (to be selected) because the application process was so grueling,” Ferneza said. “I’m looking forward to working with some really awesome people. It’s a win-win all the way around because it will not only help me as a professional, but also my students; it’s just really exciting.”

Although the duties specific to the Master Teachers are not clear yet, Ferneza said they will be participating in a minimum of 50 hours of Master Teacher-sponsored programming. This includes activities such as taking mini courses, attending cohort meetings and attending or facilitating professional learning teams.

Additionally, she said the Master Teachers are also expected to pass their newfound knowledge on to their colleagues.

“We need to assist others in their professional development to share with them the things we’re learning, so they can go ahead and use the tools that will hopefully better reach the students,” Ferneza said.

Doty, who teaches both Regents and conceptual physics and anatomy and physiology to juniors and seniors, said he is most looking forward to facilitating a learning team composed of fellow physics teachers from several districts.

“I’m really honored to be selected, and I’m pretty excited to help share what I have to offer while pulling some other things in from other teachers,” Doty said. “I am also going to try to get a group of physics teachers from this area to meet a couple of times a year to discuss new ideas, favorite labs and activities and throw ideas out to each other. For most of the schools around here, there is only one physics teacher so we don’t have anyone in the building to bounce ideas off of. So I think it’s nice for teachers from a small community to get together and recognize that we have some great teachers down here.”

Master Teachers receive a $15,000 stipend per year over four years for participation in the program, with total compensation of $60,000 per fellow. Their duties include engaging in peer mentoring and intensive content-oriented professional development opportunities throughout the academic year, working closely with pre-service and early career teachers to foster a supportive environment for the next generation of STEM teachers, attending required regular cohort meetings, participating in and leading several professional development sessions each year and participating in the training of pre-service and early career educators.

The Master Teachers will also work closely with new teachers and those not yet certified, hopefully speeding up the learning curve for those new teachers.