Questar III BOCES launched a new Master Teacher Program, an opportunity to create a collaborative effort between the Questar III administration and the Teachers’ Association. The program recognizes the special skills and talents of experienced teachers while enhancing their professional development.

To be selected for a two-year term, a teacher is required to submit an application, two letters of recommendation, a written statement on why they want to become a Master Teacher, their resume, and peer-reviewed lesson plans. Upon selection, the five Master Teachers work together to share their experiences, expertise, and professional development across Questar III BOCES. The second year of their term is dedicated to mentoring the next group of Master Teachers.

Questar III BOCES would like to congratulate this talented group of Master Teachers:

The Master Teachers have already begun their collaboration efforts. They attended conferences over the summer, are working on the Questar III BOCES Portrait of a Graduate, and reviewing alternative grading policies. They will work towards providing professional development opportunities and are eager to learn more about the schools and programs outside the ones they teach.

Heather Silvernail is a Special Education Teacher at the Sackett Educational Center. She has been with Questar III BOCES since 2007, where she began her career at the former Questar III Special Education program at Brittonkill Central School District. In 2011, she moved to George Washington School, and in 2012 to Questar III’s district-based classes at Rensselaer City School District. She remained here until this school year when she moved to Sackett Educational Center. Although this is her first school year at Sackett, she is familiar with the school and some staff after being part of their Extended School Year programs in the past.

In addition to her teaching journey, she also became a Mentor Coordinator for Questar III BOCES in 2014. The Mentor Coordinator oversees the Mentor Program, which is designed for new hires to help them reach success during their first three years of employment. They are provided with resources, professional development, and professional growth opportunities to ensure they are achieving their career goals and meeting student needs.

“I’ve worked with a lot of teachers in the mentor program and it’s something that I’ve really enjoyed,” said Heather. “I’ve liked going out to all the various buildings and getting to know all the programs that we offer, and getting to know all the teachers and the amazing wealth of knowledge that we have within the organization. For a while, we had pockets of knowledge. And I want to break down those pockets and start to really collaborate and coordinate with all the teachers. This Master Teacher program seemed like the perfect opportunity to begin that.”

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 changed all our lives, especially within the classroom. One thing Heather noticed is that the things being prioritized at school were not the same things prioritized by her students. Everyone was facing COVID burnout, and it was time for her to make a change.

“I tailored our PBIS system to be more job-related,” said Heather. “They would come in, clock in and out every day, and get their pay. They would identify themselves as full-time or part-time employees, or if they weren’t showing up to work that day. We gave them meaningful classroom jobs, like a horticulturist for our classroom garden, or a security person who helped make sure the doors were locked and kept us informed in case of emergencies. The students responded very well to it, and it was a great transition period as they head into adulthood.”

Heather considers herself a lifelong learner and joined the Master Teacher program as a way for her to continue growing professionally and to be a better professional and teacher for her students. But that COVID burnout also played a part in her decision to apply.

“I had a vision of education my entire life,” said Heather. “And COVID taught me that what we had been doing, may not have been the best. So I’m looking to get to a better place and preparing myself for the next generation of learning. I want to make sure that every student leaves my classroom and our buildings and is successful in whatever it is they want to do, and that they have a plan. Working together, we can help them develop those plans more efficiently. This program brings value to teachers and the collaboration efforts will highlight the amazing work we’re doing.”

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