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Teacher of the Day

Name: Kerry Jones-Golembeski

School:  Hebrew Academy of Nassau County

Subject:  English 9, 10, Writing

State:  New York

What or who inspired you to become a teacher?

I was the first person to go to college in my family, and having an education not only gave me more opportunities, but it changed me. I exercised parts of my brain that had previously been dormant. I solved problems and puzzles and discussed aspects of politics and literature I would never have had a chance to read or consider. Therefore, education changed my view of the world and the people in it. When I read literature, I understood how others examined the world in which they lived. From this, I connected to the lives of others, and I gained compassion and understanding. Because I felt education had such an influence on my life, I thought becoming a teacher would be the best way for me to do my part to improve the world and help others see what I saw, that education makes us better people.

How are things different for you now, compared to when you first started teaching?

In some ways, things haven’t really changed since I began teaching 7 years ago. I still feel nervous on the first day of school, I still want my students to be excited about what we are learning, and I still want to have students look at the world of literature as a world that connects cultures and ideas. I think what has changed is my effectiveness. I think I spent way too much time creating lessons that were “fun,” and did not get the point across clearly and concisely enough. I spend a lot more time considering the following: What most important aspects of this unit do these students need to know? Why do they need to know this at this time? This keeps me focused and gives students specific skills they can take with them to the next level of learning.

What advice would you give to a new or struggling teacher?

The most important advice I would give a new teacher is that when lesson planning, you need to ask yourself: Why am I teaching this lesson, why to these students, and why at this moment? If you're not sure, then you might want to scrap the lesson and go with something else. Another piece of advice I would give new teachers is about classroom management: While students should have some choice, they do not want to be at the helm. They want to know that you are in charge and know what you are doing. Finally, I would say, even if you think they are not learning, they are.

My best day in the classroom was when…

I asked students to break up into groups and perform one scene from a play we were reading. Every student in the room, which was about 25 students, was working on his/her assigned scene, assigned roles and rehearsing the material. Hearing noises coming from my room, the principal entered and didn’t notice me at first walking around and talking with the groups. He seemed a little alarmed, then noticed me and asked me what I was doing. I explained the activity, and he looked around and pointed to a few students, who were known in the school for their lack of motivation. He said, “Even he is working.” To another, he said, “And him.” I nodded, and he left, very pleased. I was satisfied knowing that all of the students were engaged and involved, even those who typically don’t get involved in anything.

The best compliment I ever received was...

...during parent-teacher conferences. A parent said his daughter never liked reading and never read anything in middle school. His wife even bought her celebrity magazines to encourage her to read. Since she had been in my class she began to love reading and discussed complex literature, such as Orwell’s 1984, at the dinner table.

The best compliment I ever received from a student was when she felt she really understood how to write an essay after being in my class. She also said she actually laughed in class, and not just a “fake laugh” to be polite.

What's your favorite part of the school year?

The best part of the year is the beginning because it is filled with so much potential, and time to complete all of the material.

What is your one must-have item for the classroom?


What do you eat for breakfast on school days?

Yogurt, bananas and cereal. Too much?

What movie or TV show do you secretly love?

"Breaking Bad," "The Twilight Zone"


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