The Hornet’s Hive: Where Teachers are Made

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Ms. Susan Katzoff (left) and Ms. Krisna Alvarez (right) look forward to teaching together.

By Yumna Ahmed ’17

  Determined to help chemistry students be in their element, Ms. Khrisna Alvarez, a new student teacher, is ready for the challenge.

As a temporary addition to the science department, Ms. Alvarez focuses on enriching students by offering her help and aiding Ms. Katzoff with chemistry experiments. She was previously a lab instructor at the University of the Philippines and a teaching assistant at the University of Connecticut. Her hobbies include rocking climbing and cycling, along with playing volleyball in her younger years.

After wanting a change in scenery, Ms. Alvarez arrived to New York City in 2002 using a student visa in order to continue with her studies.

“I was a student teacher and a researcher. Between the two, I found teaching more fulfilling. However, I realized New York City had a lot of requirements for you to become a teacher,” she said.

Before she arrived to Midwood, Ms. Alvarez taught at MS 88, a middle school in Park Slope. Her first impression of Midwood was positive, as she stated the school was big and that she saw many diverse students who looked like they genuinely wanted to learn.

“Everything has been a pleasurable and fulfulling experience here so far,” she said. “My previous students liked my approach when it came to teaching, so I hope my methods can also help the kids here.”

Ms. Alvarez explained the large difference between the education system here and in the Philippines, comparing eastern and western philosophy in schools.

“The education system is student centered here and teacher directed there,” she said. “Here, teachers plan on how to accommodate students and their needs, but the teachers there are strict and don’t care if you fail. They don’t interact with students at all. Either you sink or swim.”

Ms. Alvarez has a Master’s degree in chemistry, but she is currently in her second year of working for her Master’s degree in teaching. In order to get a her teaching license, she must take the Teacher Performance Assessment, otherwise known as edTPA, a variety of assessments that test a person’s capability in learning and effective teaching.

“You need to take four exams, make five unit lesson plans and record yourself along with giving commentary,”

Ms. Alvarez said.

According to Ms. Katzoff, Ms. Alvarez has the capability to become a wonderful teacher since she is open to constructive criticism and implements new strategies each time she teaches. Ms. Katzoff believes combining ideas and viewpoints can create innovative activities and new learning experiences for everyone.

“Ms. Alvarez has already developed a rapport with her students and has shown significant improvement in her teaching within a matter of two weeks,” Ms. Katzoff said. “However, it’s not always true that a student teacher will only learn from the experienced teacher. Learning goes both ways.”

According to Ms. Alvarez, Ms. Katzoff has many teaching styles that she has learned from along with having a rich experience in real world applications, especially chemistry.

“She is not boring at all,” she said. “She knows how to engage students, she knows her content and she knows how to deal with students’ misconceptions in a lot of content areas.”

Charles Kambourakis ’18, a student in Ms. Katzoff’s chemistry class, believes Ms. Alvarez is a helpful presence, especially when the students don’t understand certain topics in the curriculum.

“I think she helps out a lot because sometimes Ms. Katzoff says things that are confusing to students since they learn differently depending on the person,” he said. “Ms. Alvarez puts it in a different context, which helps those students learn the same information in another way.”

Jade Stephen ’17, stated Ms. Alvarez consistently helps her one-on-one with her classwork and showed her appreciation for her undivided attention.

“Ms. Alvarez is a very sweet and hard working person,” Stephen said. “I have a lot of trouble in chemistry and I’m grateful that she helps me out or else I would probably fail.”

Ms. Alvarez has a long journey ahead of her, but she stated with enthusiasm that she would love to work at Midwood in the future.

“I’m excited for what I want to do in the future,” she said. “I’m going to eventually apply for teaching. It’s a long process, but once I finish my edTPA and send in some portfolios, I can finish my Master’s and get my license to teach.”

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