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.

Iris Fleming is a Special Education Regents Science teacher at Rensselaer Academy. Iris has worked in the same position and school since joining Questar III BOCES in 2016.

Iris joined the Master Teacher program to further her own education. The appeal of attending conferences, learning contemporary teaching techniques from peers across the country, and then sharing them with her colleagues was a strong driver in her decision to apply.

“One of my team teachers and I spent so much time on Zoom and Facetime during the pandemic,” said Iris. “We were constantly working together to try to figure out this new way of life and teaching. I think that’s what sparked me to want to collaborate more and work with other teachers. I also don’t ever want to be someone who gets stuck in my own ways. I think attending conferences, learning, and collaborating throughout the year will continue to help me grow.”

Besides their colleagues, a great place to pick up new teaching methodologies is at conferences. Iris had the opportunity to attend the AASA Conference in Washington, D.C. over the summer and is already incorporating ideas she picked up in her classroom.

“It was cool to see how different states operate, and how different their grading and student progress measurements were,” Iris said. “We took many of these concepts back to our schools and are already implementing them into our classrooms. The coolest thing I learned about was all the AI. We’re leaving the tech age and entering this new AI age. I will be using ChatGPT and other types of AI in my classroom this year. It’s important to teach students how to navigate these programs because it’s not going anywhere.”

Each Master Teacher has goals they’d like to see come to fruition during their time in the program. Iris’ goals are based on planning and curriculum.

“I’d like to push for curriculum maps to ensure students aren’t doing the same thing over and over each year,” said Iris. “I’d like to see that each grade level has a different set of standards and lessons we’re working on so that education doesn’t become boring or repetitive for students.”

A major component of the Master Teacher program are the Professional Development opportunities, for themselves and their colleagues.

“I’m a Questar cheerleader,” said Iris. “I like to push everyone to get a little outside their comfort zone. And if they need help with something, I try to be as helpful and available as possible. Some of the mandated training and professional development can be looked at as exactly that – mandated. We have to do it. I think this program will bridge a path for us to host professional development on things we’re actually interested in. This will allow teachers to create mini-cohorts and continuously learn new things. Having peer-hosted professional development can be more of an intimate learning experience too, versus being lectured at for 45 minutes. Plus if it’s done with people in my own building… I’m right here! They can pop down and see me if they want to have a further discussion about something I taught them.”

The Master Teacher program has become an opportunity for teachers to learn more about the programs outside of the building they teach at. Iris says just the regular communication between the group has been a catalyst for that. She hopes to add CTE teachers to the program next year.

“Our special education students can go to CTE. I think having them as part of the program next year will only allow us to learn more from one another.”

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