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Royal 7 Teachers Bring Range of Experience

Almost all of the Royal 7 teachers came to teaching as a second career, in their search for work that was challenging and rewarding. The Royal 7 teachers shared information about their backgrounds, goals, and feelings about Bennet. Included: Insight into the Royal 7 teachers.

The six Royal 7 teachers bring backgrounds to their jobs almost as diverse as the students they teach at Bennet Middle School. All but two did not start out as teachers; others worked as salesmen, a foreign correspondent for television, and an environmental educator before turning to teaching.

Four entered the field through Connecticut's Alternate Route to Teacher Certification program, which allows people with degrees in other fields to complete coursework and student teaching over an eight-week period. One is a Teach for America alumna.

The Royal 7 teachers, from left to right: Gary Tracey, Jack Crockwell, David Sutherland, Jenna Brohinsky, Taryn Kutniewski, and Brandon Kienle.

So learn about the Royal 7 teachers -- from their own words.

Jenna Brohinsky, team leader, language arts:
Ms. Brohinsky has been teaching at Bennet Middle School for four years. She taught eighth grade English for a year, but for the past three years, has taught reading and language arts on the Royal 7 team. She also has been the team leader for the past two years, and also is the advisor to the school's chapter of the Junior National Honor Society.

Ms. Brohinsky graduated from the College of William and Mary with a B.A. in history and a minor in Spanish. After graduation, she entered the Teach for America program, and was assigned to the East Palo Alto (California) Public Schools, where she taught a fourth grade bilingual class the first year and a fifth grade class the second year.

After fulfilling her two-year commitment to Teach for America, she returned to her native Connecticut where she taught fifth grade at the Amistad Academy charter school in New Haven, Connecticut.

She earned her teaching certificate through Connecticut's Alternate Route to Certification program and obtained cross-certification in social studies and language arts.

Jack Crockwell, special education:
"Teaching is a second career for me -- I was in the hotel and food distribution business for 17 years. I have a B.S. in marketing from Central Connecticut State University, as well as a certificate in special education, and I am currently finishing my master's degree in special education at Central." Mr. Crockwell and his wife have three daughters.

"My wife, Barbara, who is a social work supervisor, sparked my interest in teaching while she was running a substance abuse awareness program for middle school students. I became a mentor for youths who were trying to help raise awareness of the problems of substance abuse among adults.

"My first teaching job was at the Cady School at Long Lane, a juvenile detention center. I have been teaching here at Bennet for the last five years, four of which were spent running a self-contained classroom for children identified as emotionally disturbed.

"This is my first year on a team and I am really enjoying it. Having other professionals to run your ideas past and learn from is a great experience. My long term goal is to attain an administrator's certificate and become either a vice principal or special education coordinator."

Brandon Kienle, language arts:
Mr. Kienle also is a graduate of Connecticut's Accelerated Route to Certification program, completing the program in the summer of 2003. His position at Bennet is his first teaching job.

He graduated from Marist College in 1995, and worked as a general assignment reporter and foreign correspondent for WRNN-TV for five years. His assignments included covering the presidential summit in Hyde Park, N.Y. between President Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, the first president of Russia. He also has interviewed former vice president Al Gore, New York Governor Al Pataki, actress Cindy Crawford and talk show host Regis Philbin.

Mr. Kienle also spent two months filming a documentary in Africa, covered the deployment of NATO troops in Macedonia, during the conflict in Kosovo, and reported on Hurricane Mitch in Honduras in 1998.

Between 2000-2002, Mr. Kienle had a "boring corporate job" as a headhunter.

Taryn Kutniewski, mathematics:
"It has been a long road to my first teaching opportunity, and I am glad to finally be here. In 2001 I earned my B.S. from Central Connecticut State University and my Connecticut teaching certification in elementary education with a focus on mathematics.

After months of substitute teaching and no strong leads in the K-6 market, I happily accepted a position with Advantage Human Resourcing as a senior account representative. I molded my desire to teach into a desire to help people find jobs, re-construct resumes, interview candidates, and train people in interview techniques and computer skills.

"After two years, I decided that my heart was in teaching and I needed to get into a classroom. I began to study for cross-endorsement in middle school mathematics and received instant interest from several school districts. Bennet Middle School was a place that made an instant impression, and I was glad to accept the position of seventh grade math teacher in May 2004. My experience here at Bennet with staff and administration has been wonderful and I feel that I am truly part of a learning community."

David Sutherland, science:
Mr. Sutherland has a B.S. in environmental science and a minor in environmental education from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He worked in various county parks in New York as an environmental educator as well as in parks in Vermont.

Deciding he wanted a more stable career than seasonal work could offer, he earned an M.S. in science teaching from Antioch/New England Graduate School in Keene, New Hampshire. He was hired by the Manchester school district in 1993, and taught ninth and tenth grade science for three years, before transferring to Bennet.

"I had always wanted to teach middle school, so when a science teaching position became open at Bennet, I accepted the position and have been teaching here ever since! This is my 11th year teaching and my eighth year at Bennet and I have truly enjoyed the challenges, the energy level, the camaraderie, and just about everything involved in educating adolescents."

Gary Owen Tracey, social studies:
Mr. Tracey earned a degree in history from the University of Connecticut, and then worked as a wine and spirits distributor for three years, and helped run a miniature golf course for a year. Then he was offered the chance to fill in for a teacher who was going on maternity leave, and worked as a substitute teacher for the balance of that year. After that, he served as a special education tutor for a year. "From the first day in the classroom, I knew I was meant to be a middle school teacher." After working in the middle school for those two years, he was accepted into Connecticut's Alternate Route to Certification program, completed classes and student teaching over a summer, and offered a job at Bennet.

Education World Goes Back to School

Education World news editor Ellen R. Delisio is spending several days a month this school year with the Royal 7's, a seventh grade team at Bennet Middle School, a grade 6 to 8 school in Manchester, Connecticut. She is observing and participating in students' learning, and talking with staff about their strategies and perspectives on improving student performance. She is a graduate of W. Tresper Clarke Junior-Senior High School in Westbury, N.Y.

(Editor's Note: All students' names have been changed) 

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
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