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Faculty Q&A with History Teacher Ian Rusten

Authored by James Vescovi, English Teacher

Growing up in the artsy neighborhood of Soho, it is no surprise that Ian Rusten set his sights on a career in the arts. While he enjoyed subjects such as history and English, “I liked drawing even more,” he says. However, after teaching English in Korea after college, he caught the teaching bug and went on to earn an M.A. in Education and an M.A. in History, both at Hunter College. “It’s funny; teaching as a career just never really occurred to me,” he says. His students are glad that it finally did.   So, you wanted to be a visual artist? Yeah. I loved to draw and was pretty good at it. Plus, growing up in Soho, being around all those galleries was an inspiration. Did you study art in college? I attended LaGuardia High School, which is for kids interested in becoming artists, actors, writers and singers. I’d planned to attend an art college, but when it came time to apply, I asked myself, “What exactly am I going to do with a fine arts degree when I graduate in four years?” So I...read more

Topics: history, Government, art, teaching, teacher, James Vescovi, Ian Rusten

The Art of Culinary Science

Authored by Linli Chin, Science Teacher

One of my favorite places to be is the kitchen, and one of my favorite things to do is cook. I love the sounds and smells of delicious food permeating throughout the home. You might not realize it, but cooking and baking heavily involve mathematics and science. When teaching the laws of thermodynamics and the concepts of heat, temperature, and thermal energy in my science classes, practical examples can be drawn from our everyday life in the kitchen. Adding salt to a pot of boiling pasta not only adds flavor, but also allows it to cook at a higher temperature so that it can achieve the perfect al dente texture faster. With the addition of salt, we increase the boiling temperature of the water mixture, which also allows it to stay in its liquid state longer and avoid evaporating. The types of pots and pans we use in cooking also affect the outcome of the meal. Cooking pots with a thick base allow for heat to transfer evenly throughout the base.  This eliminates “hot spots” which can...read more

Topics: cooking, science, Linli Chin

The End of the GED

Authored by Maren Holmen, Academic Liaison

It happened without a lot of fanfare.  As of January 1, 2014, New York State stopped administering the GED  (General Education Development test).  This well-known acronym was synonymous with High School Equivalency (HSE) for decades, so why the sudden change?  And what does this mean for all of the people who have spent significant time (and money) preparing for it? As the director of The Tutoring School, I am asked to coordinate tutors for a number of standardized tests, including those for high school equivalency.  So when I found out this past December that New York would no longer administer the GED but would replace it with a new test called the TASC, I was left scratching my head.  What’s the TASC?  And, more importantly, what will be on it? Those who had previously prepared for the GED were briefly stumped by this new test, as there were few resources that discussed the content of the TASC.  The first test prep book was published in February 2014, more than a month after the...read more

Topics: GED, TASC, high school, Maren Holmen

"I Hate Homework!" : A Teacher Remembers

Authored by Michelle Koza, English Teacher

When I was in the sixth grade, I wrote a long tirade to my grandmother complaining about my teacher’s terrible penchant for assigning too much homework. Now a teacher myself, I assign homework every day of the week, including weekends. And yet, my twelve-year-old self was on to something. I don’t think my students enjoy homework any more than I did. And seriously, who really wants to do work? Don’t get me wrong--I love my job. I get to talk, play, and learn with kids all day long. It’s a privilege, really. But it doesn’t quite feel that way when I realize my lesson bombed and my students really didn’t learn what I had hoped. Writing formal lesson plans, curriculum maps, scope and sequences, and any of the other administrivia that comes with the territory is no ticker-tape parade, either. I don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn any more than my students want to do their homework, but as an adult I think I can begin to realize that the product of work is internal. Perhaps Joseph...read more

Topics: homework, teaching, work, Michelle Koza

Faculty Q&A with History Teacher Anastasia Georgoulis

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

Even as a child, Anastasia Georgoulis had teaching in her bones. In grammar school, she felt a sense of responsibility towards her classmates, always ready to lend a helping hand with homework or a social problem. “I was the kid to whom classmates went for help,” recalls Anastasia, who grew up in Brooklyn and Manhattan. That attentive, protective spirit intensified during her studies at New York University, where she graduated in 2008 with a B.A. in history and later earned a M.A. at Teacher’s College.   Why did you decide to teach history? My father majored in the subject, and if you wanted to converse at our dinner table, you had to know history and current events. I also relish the subject because in order to understand what position the world is in today, you must have a basis in history. History is not everyone’s cup of tea. What’s your approach to making it accessible to high school students? One of my NYU professors gave me a piece of wisdom that’s always stayed with me. He...read more

Topics: teaching, history, James Vescovi, Anastasia Georgoulis

Teaching Turgenev's Novella "First Love"

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

Like many of us, high school students are often attracted to stories with characters going through similar struggles and life changes. I have found some success teaching Alan Sillitoe's novella The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959), whose 17-year-old protagonist from a working class home, Colin Smith, has been caught burgling and is sent to a reform school. Discovering Smith’s gift for running, school officials enter him in a cross-country competition. His victory would bring the institution much prestige. Smith must decide whether to play by society's rules (and win the race) or rebel against those rules because he rejects society (and throw the race). Another engaging story with a teenage protagonist is Ivan Turgenev's First Love. Though published more than 150 years ago, the novella poignantly describes the intense joy and searing pain experienced by anyone falling in love for the first time. If that isn’t difficult enough, the book’s protagonist, Vladimir, is falling...read more

Topics: literature, English, teaching, love, James Vescovi

Faculty Q&A with Math Teacher Charlie Sitler

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

Ask Charlie Sitler for his favorite mathematician and he’ll be glad to tell you: Georg Cantor (1845-1918). “I crossed paths with his ideas at Fordham College. Cantor proved that there were actually different types of infinity—a veritable hierarchy of infinities, if you will. It was mind-blowing! Encountering Cantor’s theories made me want to teach math even more.  I wanted everybody to know there was so much more to math than y = mx + b.” When did you know you wanted to teach? Practically in the womb. My mother was a New York City public school teacher. I went to a Catholic grammar school, which had a different vacation schedule.  Sometimes, she’d bring me to her class and I’d watch her in action. I told myself, “What she’s doing—that’s what I want to do.” How did you settle on mathematics? I grew up in The Bronx and attended Regis High School and I always excelled in math. I earned a B.A. at Fordham in mathematics. During summers, I put my math skills to use by writing computer...read more

Topics: mathematics, faculty, James Vescovi, Charlie Sitler

Pi for Everyone!

Authored by Linli Chin, Math teacher

Happy π Day!  If you are a numbers geek, you might already know when this day is celebrated. If you don’t, it’s on March 14, which has been designated as National Pi Day (made official by Congress on March 12, 2009).  Pi Day is celebrated all around the world and has a special place at The Beekman School, as well.  I started celebrating it a few years ago, as it was the perfect opportunity to share my love of math, pi, and pie with the students at Beekman.   We have seen π involved in calculating the area and circumference of circles, but what does it really represent?  When was it first introduced?  What kind of number is it? π, which is approximately 3.14159, is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  Any circle of any size will have this ratio of its circumference to its diameter as a constant value.  This value is an irrational number, which means it never ends and never repeats its sequence.  In fact, there are supercomputers that are continuously calculating...read more

Topics: math, pi, teaching, Linli Chin

Mentoring: The Added Benefit of a Small School

Authored by Maren Holmen, Academic Liaison

As a child of educators and as an educator myself, I’ve always had an interest in the topic of education.  Even before I became an administrator, I would read any article or snippet about teaching that caught my eye.  Recently, the subject of teens and mentoring seemed to be popping up everywhere I looked.  From a study done by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health  to a talk sponsored by The Parents’ League of New York to an NBC News commentary, the benefits of mentorships between children and adults are becoming widely recognized. For years, parents have looked for a smaller class sizes in their child’s education in order to address their academic needs.  But let’s look at this issue from a different perspective: teachers as mentors.  Most teachers I know have spoken of themselves as mentors to their students, but, for those in larger schools, they are also aware that the number of students they can truly mentor is limited. For students in smaller classes, the possibility for...read more

Topics: mentoring, teacher, small classes, Maren Holmen

Changes to the SAT: What Does It Mean?

Authored by Maren Holmen, Academic Liaison

If you’re reading this blog, you have probably already heard about the College Board’s changes to the SAT.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the changes, here’s a summary:  Starting in Spring 2016, the SAT will go back to the 1600-point format.  They’re getting rid of vocabulary words that are largely out of use and hard-to-understand math questions, the essay is becoming optional, and the overall focus of the exam will be on decoding the presented information, not in rote memorization.  In addition, students won’t be penalized for guessing and there will be questions tied in more closely to science and social studies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had stressed-out students (and parents) ask me about “the best way” to prepare for the SAT.  They ask about the difference between the various test prep services and our own SAT tutoring; they ask about our approach and our statistics; and they ask for honest advice about what all this testing means for college admissions....read more

Topics: test prep, SAT prep, SAT, Maren Holmen


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