South Orangetown Central School District

Congratulations to Tappan Zee High School science teacher Steve Cohn and computer science/maker space teacher Karen Connell, who were selected for the highly-competitive New York State Master Teacher Program (NYSMTP)!

“The Master Teacher Program offers teachers an opportunity to embark on a journey of rigorous professional development and to become part of a network of excellent teachers who are interested in growing as educators,” noted TZHS Principal Rudy Arietta. “Having two teachers chosen for the program is not only an honor for Tappan Zee High School, but also a huge advantage for our students, as they will benefit from the program as much as their teachers will.”

The NYSMTP is an expert community of outstanding teachers across for their dedication to innovative STEM education, commitment to ongoing professional growth and development, and enthusiasm for sharing best practices with peers. Master Teachers receive $15,000 stipends annually for four years and must complete a minimum of 50 hours of NYSMTP-sponsored professional development, in addition to school district and state requirements. Cohn and Connell will work with other Master Teachers from across the Mid-Hudson region at SUNY New Paltz.

To be considered for NYSMTP, teachers must complete an extensive application process, which includes testing in their subject area; earning an “effective” or “highly effective” rating in their most recent Annual Professional Performance Review; securing recommendations from an administrator, a colleague and a student; and, providing a personal writing sample, resume and transcripts for all college and post-graduate coursework. Finalists selected from the pool of applicants are invited to an “interview day” in June during which they are required to deliver a 10-minute presentation to a small, subject area cohort, observe peer presentations, engage in professional discussions, complete a 30-minute writing exercise, participate in an individual panel interviews and are evaluated according to three domains: knowledge of STEM content, knowledge of pedagogy and knowledge of students, families and community. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the incoming class of Master Teachers on September 27.

“I’m excited about the new experiences and opportunities that we’ll be exposed to through NYSMTP and being able to bring those back to the classroom,” said Cohn, who has taught Earth Science in SOCSD for the past 14 years and chose the Palisades Sill as his presentation topic. “I’m always looking for ways to improve and grow.”

Connell joined the TZHS Math Department 15 years ago, after teaching for 10 years in the Nanuet Union Free School District. In her presentation, Connell spoke about infusing robotics and learning to write code using sensors for autonomous programs. “I love learning and hearing what other teachers are doing to figure out new ways to motivate and inspire my students and provide them with more opportunities,” she explained. “We learn from colleagues in our own school district, but NYSMTP will enable us to connect with peers across the state.”

Superintendent Dr. Robert R. Pritchard expressed pride in both teachers’ selection. “Teachers who have distinguished themselves by completing the New York State Master Teacher Program are stellar examples of how each of us can take on leadership roles towards promoting the instructional core. I am proud of Dr. Cohn and Ms. Connell for their commitments towards developing their professional competencies in the areas of pedagogy and meaningful content with an understanding of the learning needs and interests of our students,” he said.

Tappan Zee High School's NYS Master Teachers Steve Cohn and Karen Connell, smiling in front of TV with NYSMTP logo