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Annandale, Virginia
Social Studies teacher with 2 years experience as a substitute, 1 year as a student teacher, and 6 years of volunteer work in various roles. I specialize in differentiated instruction, data driven curriculum, and authentic assessment. A New York State certified teacher, I graduated from Fordham University with an MST degree and high accolades. Finally, I hold membership with Kappa Delta Pi and NCSS as well. It is my intention to grow student confidence and widen content knowledge for students of all backgrounds, cultures and abilities through modeling literacy comprehension, critical thinking and communication skills. I believe each and every student is a valuable asset to the learning community, capable of achieving academic success. I am able to lead these young people to such success. Please click on the links on the right to learn more. You can also email me at I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Personal Note on Questioning in Teaching

Usually in this spot, you might expect to find a social studies relevant article I had cut and pasted into this blog. Typically, I do this action to keep up to date with the world around me and to encourage discussion about the topic at hand. However, something different popped into my head this morning.

While sipping coffee in bed and listening to sound of the rain on my concrete courtyard, I began reflecting on a news story I heard about Facebook and its use. Some of you who frequent my profile page on the social networking site note that I post news stories I find intriguing. Lately, you probably have also noticed that when I post these stories, I also post a list of questions. There are several observations that can be made about this article-and-questioning idea.

First, I pose questions because doing so catches my friends' attention. Seeing a controversial set of questions draws people in - everyone likes controversy. It's a similar phenomenon to our innate need to stare at a car accident on the highway - 'cyber-rubbernecking' if you will. Second, the list of questions invites the reader to click on the link and read. It motivates people to stay current with the important events of the day. Third, the list of questions makes the reader analyze and synthesize his/her own meaning from the information I post. The reader then creates a unique opinion and uses his/her critical thinking skills in doing so. Finally, posting questions with my articles on Facebook creates more interactivity and participation on my profile page - which is something from which I derive a bit of joy. By doing this activity, I am facilitating learning by questioning in my readers.

Using learning by questioning techniques on a social networking site allows me to also hone my questioning skills in the classroom as a practitioner of learning in younger people. Just as questioning gets the gears turning in our adult minds, so it does in the minds of adolescents who's opinions need to be heard. These young people are entering the stage of life where their cognition is transforming from the concrete into the abstract. They want to be heard and should be heard. But as a teacher, I need to give them the skills to make informed opinions about the world and events around them. Using questioning in discussions and written activities is the key to showing these young men and women how to arrive at analytical, informed, and creative ideas.

Questioning is the link to real and lasting learning. If you have young toddlers, you know their favorite question is 'why?'. In all honesty, 'why?' is the question we ask throughout our entire lives - and we never tire of asking it. This three-letter word is the gateway to a lifetime of discovery. So next time you hear a child ask, 'why?' don't ignore them - they are exhibiting a need inherent in all of us that must be fulfilled.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sen. Ted Kennedy's Legacy

August 26, 2009

At times, it seemed Kennedy and his abundant energy would last for years. But last May, he suffered a seizure at his Cape Cod home and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

By August 2009, he was too ill to appear in public and missed the funeral for his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and his being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

Kennedy is credited with several legislative efforts, most notably in the fields of civil rights, welfare and education. He was key to passing Head Start as part of the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act, the centerpiece of the War on Poverty. Kennedy fought for Title IX equal access for women and more student aid for GIs .

He proposed increases in minimum wage, championed the Family and Medical Leave Act, shepherded the No Child Left Behind Act, led the fight for passage of hate crimes legislation and sought protections against discrimination for gays and women.

He supported nuclear reduction treaties, enlisted labor unions and backed unrestricted access to abortion even in late term and for teens crossing state lines. He also stood proud despite some failures, including sponsorship of the Equal Rights Amendment, support for a doomed immigration reform bill and opposition to the Iraq war and several Supreme Court nominees, including current Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

He has spent the better part of his career trying to institute a nationalized health care program though he has been absent this year as Congress debates President Obama's plan, which was largely embraced in a Senate version with Kennedy's name on it.

Despite his inability to sway the daily debate, Kennedy's legacy will live on.

During the Aug. 15 Presidential Medal of Freedom award ceremony, Obama recalled a story the senator frequently told of an old man who throws starfish back into the sea even though each toss made only a small difference in the big picture.

Obama said for 50 years Ted Kennedy has been "making a difference for that soldier fighting for freedom, that refugee looking for a way home, that senior searching for dignity, that worker striving for opportunity, that student aspiring to college, that family reaching for the American Dream. The life of Senator Edward M. Kennedy has made a difference for us all."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Report: North Korea Invites U.S. Envoy For Talks

by Associated Press
WCBS-TV 2 Online
August 25, 2009

Seoul, South Korea (AP) - North Korea has invited top envoys of President Barack Obama to visit the communist nation in what would be the first nuclear negotiations between the two countries under his presidency, a news report said Tuesday.

North Korea recently offered the invitation to Stephen Bosworth, special envoy to North Korea, and chief nuclear negotiator Sung Kim, and the U.S. government is strongly considering sending them to the North next month, Seoul's JoongAng Ilbo daily reported.

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul said it had no comment on the report.

The JoongAng report, citing an unidentified high-level diplomatic source in Washington, said the U.S. diplomats might be able to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during the visit, considering Pyongyang's recent conciliatory attitude.

Yonhap news agency also reported that the North has invited the two officials.

Pyongyang has long sought direct negotiations with Washington about its nuclear program and other issues, hoping to boost its international profile. The U.S. has said it is willing to talk bilaterally to Pyongyang, but only within the framework of six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

"We are sticking to our existing position that we will continue faithfully carrying out U.N. resolutions while urging North Korea to return to six-party talks," Seoul's Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young said regarding talks over the weekend between Bosworth and South Korean officials.

Pyongyang has long sought direct negotiations with Washington about its nuclear program and other issues, hoping to boost its international profile. The U.S. has said it is willing to talk bilaterally to Pyongyang, but only within the framework of six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

"We are sticking to our existing position that we will continue faithfully carrying out U.N. resolutions while urging North Korea to return to six-party talks," Seoul's Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young said regarding talks over the weekend between Bosworth and South Korean officials.

Washington has been keeping up pressure on Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear programs, sending a senior official to Asia to seek support for stringent implementation of the U.N. sanctions meant to punish the North for its May 25 nuclear test.

Separately, South Korea launched its first space rocket Tuesday in its quest to become a regional space power, along with China, Japan and India. North Korea has warned it would be "watching closely" for the international response to the launch after its own launch in April - suspected as a disguised test of long-range missile technology - drew a rebuke from the United Nations.

Over the past year, North Korea stoked tensions with nuclear and missile tests while boycotting international nuclear talks. But in recent weeks, the North has become markedly more conciliatory.

The North freed two American journalists following a trip to Pyongyang by former President Bill Clinton earlier this month. It also released a South Korean worker it held for more than four months, agreed to lift restrictions on border crossings with the South, and pledged to resume suspended joint inter-Korean projects and reunions of families separated during the Korean War over five decades ago.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said Tuesday the recently released worker was forced to admit to some false allegations during "coercive" questioning in North Korea.

Also Tuesday, Pyongyang accepted a South Korean offer to hold Red Cross talks from Wednesday to Friday to organize a new round of reunions of separated families, Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said. The North also restored a direct telephone line via the border village of Panmunjom, he said.

North Korea has long balanced stoking tensions with conciliatory overtures to extract concessions and head off sanctions.

(© 2009 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

US wins trade case against China

August 12, 2009

The US has won a ruling at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against China's restrictions on the import of American DVDs and other media products.

The WTO ruled that China's current policy of only allowing the goods to be imported by state-run organisations broke global trade agreements.

However, the WTO upheld China's limits on the distribution of US films, and made no ruling on Chinese censorship.
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk called the ruling a "significant victory".

"These findings are an important step toward ensuring market access for legitimate US products in the Chinese market, as well as ensuring market access for US exporters and distributors of those products," he said.

Chinese officials, who can still appeal the ruling, have yet to comment.

'Landmark ruling'
The WTO also said China was breaking trade rules by preventing US music download firms from offering their services directly to Chinese customers.

Its ruling also covers the export of US books, magazines and computer games to China.

The WTO said it had now instructed the Chinese government to make the required changes.

Tom Allen, chief executive of the Association of American Publishers, called it a "landmark ruling".

"It protects legitimate creators of valuable content and offers them fair access to this extremely important market," he said.

China's current limitations on the import of official US DVDs and other media products has created a large domestic counterfeit industry, much to US annoyance.

Study: Evolution Gains Bigger Foothold in Science Standards

By Mary Ann Zehr
Education Week Online
August 12, 2009

Evolution is being covered more extensively and better in state science standards than was true nearly a decade ago, according to a review of the standards in 50 states and the District of Columbia by the National Center for Science Education. But the reviewers are concerned that at the same time, "creationist jargon" has increasingly been included in science standards. My story on the review was just published at

Some may question if the reviewers are overly sensitive about what they deem to be "creationist jargon." The head of the Texas board of education, who voted for the new Texas science standards, by the way, says the reviewers are dead wrong in concluding that her state's standards contain creationist jargon.

One example of creationist jargon in the Texas standards, the report says, is that students are asked to "analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the complexity of the cell."

But Anton Mates, a co-author of the 50-state review of how evolution is included in state science standards, contends that he and the other co-author are not reading too much into things.

"Creationists have become more sophisticated in their language," he said. "We're looking for language that allows teachers to bring in materials that attack evolution."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Recovery School District to lay off dozens of teachers today

By Sarah Carr, The New Orleans Times-Picayune
Monday August 03, 2009, 7:15 AM

Two years ago, New Orleans school officials in desperate need of teachers scoured job fairs across the country, advertised online, partnered with nonprofits and offered recruits hefty relocation bonuses -- all in an effort to ensure that the city had enough teachers in its classrooms when school opened.

Then last year, the district found itself in nearly the opposite posture: awash in resumes, with 24 applicants vying for every spot in teachNOLA, a teacher training and recruiting program.

With intense competition the new norm, even at some of the city's historically hard-to-staff schools, the Recovery School District, which opens most of its schools this week, has arrived at a crossroads that would have been unimaginable two years ago: District officials are poised to lay off dozens of teachers today -- many of them veterans.

Predictably, the situation drew howls from several educators facing the prospect of unemployment.

"There's room for the young and enthusiastic, God bless them, but not at the expense of the people who have been here for many years and understand the culture, " said Maryjane Potts, who taught art at the RSD's Sylvanie Williams Elementary School last year but has not yet found a teaching position for this year.

Recovery District Superintendent Paul Vallas called any implication that the district favored hiring new, young teachers false, and said hiring authority lies with principals.

"They make the decision to hire: lock, stock and barrel, " he said. "We don't guarantee any teacher, veteran or (new), a job."

Last spring, district officials put Potts in a "surplus" teacher pool when they consolidated Sylvanie Williams and Laurel elementary schools. Many of the 187 surplus teachers were victims of school consolidations or the transfer of portions of some RSD schools to charter school operators.

Surplus teachers did not lose their positions because of poor performance.

District officials encouraged these teachers to seek out new positions with the Recovery District or dozens of independent charter schools in the city. About 80 of those teachers had no luck -- at least with the RSD -- and received letters last week informing them that their jobs would be terminated today. Another 30 staff members, including clerical workers and teacher's aides, also received the notices.

"If you are going to do a reduction in force, why not just say that's what it is, " Potts said, adding that Sylvanie Williams teachers were told they would have positions at the consolidated school. "Don't come in and blindside everyone the last week in July."

Vallas said the surplus teachers were never guaranteed jobs but that more than 100 of them found new positions in the Recovery District, including most Sylvanie Williams teachers. He added that many of the district's principals prefer veteran teachers, noting that more than two-thirds of the new teachers hired by RSD principals have teaching experience.

The principals' hiring "reflects their desire to have more mixed staff in terms of experience, " he said.

Principals have power

New Orleans public schools now feature completely decentralized hiring: Seniority guarantees nothing, collective bargaining does not exist, and teachers keep their jobs only at the discretion of their principals.

For many officials, including Vallas and several principals, the new system rightfully puts the power in the hands of the people who know their staffs and their campus needs best.

"I think hiring this year has been really great in the sense that principals are having really candid conversations about what their expectation is for the school, why a teacher may or may not be a good fit, and what the year will look like, " said Kira Orange Jones, the executive director of Teach For America's operations in the Greater New Orleans region. The program places elite college graduates in disadvantaged school communities for at least two years.

But to Daphanne Poole, a surplus teacher who has yet to find a job, the hiring process seemed unfair from the start. Poole, a longtime New Orleans educator who taught at Frederick Douglass High School for the second half of the last school year, said the number of job applicants dwarfed the number of openings at the job fairs and networking events she attended. Some schools did not even send representatives, she added.

Through professional contacts, Poole had leads on two possible positions in the Recovery School District. But, in both cases, school leaders told her before formal interviews that the district's central office had sent someone else over to take the job, she said, a concern echoed by other surplus teachers.

Last month, Poole missed one of the final local job fairs because of a medical procedure. Though she had wanted to attend the fair, Poole kept her appointment, fearing she soon would be without health insurance coverage, she said. Now, she's applying to districts as far away as Alaska.

Vallas denied that the district ever asked principals to choose some teachers over others. He said Recovery District officials suggested that principals first look at the list of surplus teachers when filling vacancies. The district also provided resumes of surplus teachers upon request to principals trying to staff hard-to-fill vacancies, Vallas said.

250 new arrivals

In interviews, four surplus teachers said they felt that Teach For America candidates were given preference over veterans in the RSD's hiring process, something Vallas and Teach for America's Orange Jones strongly deny.

"I went to the job fair and stood for hours in line. I called all the places they said were going to need people. I went through the whole process, and I got nothing, " said one surplus teacher who did not want her name used for fear it would make it harder to get a job.

The teacher said she checks the job-vacancy list every day, but whenever "you call the principals they say, 'Oh, we've already filled the position.' "

Orange Jones said her program's teachers are in the same straits as veteran educators, and are not guaranteed jobs by the RSD. She added that many of the Teach For America applicants have been turned away by multiple schools, and that some also ended up in the surplus pool.

The Recovery School District has hired about 20 new Teach For America teachers for this school year so far and has a contract to hire as many as 30 teachers through the program, though Orange Jones and Vallas say the contract does not mandate that the district hire that many.

In all, about 250 new Teach For America instructors arrived in the New Orleans region this summer to work in the Recovery District; New Orleans charters; and the schools in St. Bernard, Jefferson and St. John the Baptist parishes.

Dozens of those teachers don't yet have jobs, though Orange Jones said her organization is "used to teachers getting hired right up until the first days of school, " she said.

Brian Thevenot contributed to this report.

Sarah Carr can be reached at or 504.826.3497.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Social Skills Training Gives Urban Children a Brighter Future

By Crystal Phend, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Published: December 01, 2008
Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

SEATTLE, Dec. 1 -- Early attention to social development of children from high-crime urban areas may yield long-term benefits for mental and sexual health and educational and economic achievement.

So found J. David Hawkins, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Washington here when they followed children taught impulse control, nonaggressive ways of getting what they want, and other life skills in elementary school.

After 15 years of follow-up in the study, the extended intervention group had significantly fewer lifetime sexually transmitted diseases and psychiatric symptoms as adults as well as higher income (P<0.05), the researchers reported in the December issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Although these young adults also tended to achieve higher levels of education and have more responsibility at work and in the community, the training did not reduce substance use or criminal behavior.

"Public schools, available to all children in the U.S. beginning at age five or six years, are a potentially powerful setting for preventive intervention," they wrote.

The researchers had previously reported benefits of the intervention in their Seattle Social Development Project in childhood and adolescence.

These findings -- for follow-up at age 27 -- were encouraging because the mid-20s are important years, when individuals adopt adult roles through education and employment, the researchers said.

In their nonrandomized controlled trial, children at 15 Seattle public elementary schools were exposed to a full intervention from first through sixth grade, late intervention in grades five and six only, or no intervention.

The participants were diverse (26% African-American, 22% Asian heritage, and 6% Native American) and frequently from low-income families (56%).

All children in the full-intervention group were from high-crime neighborhoods.

In addition to instruction for the children, their teachers received extra training in instructional methods and in teaching cognitive and social skills.

Their parents were also offered courses on child behavior management skills, supporting their child academically, and reducing risks for problem behaviors, which a minority of parents attended.

For the 598 participants followed through to adulthood, the full intervention significantly improved the composite score on all eight outcome measures at ages 24 and 27 compared with controls (P=0.014).

For the individual outcomes, children given social development training throughout the primary school years had the following effects at age 27 compared with no intervention:

More frequently at or above the median in socioeconomic status (93% versus 84%, P=0.021)
A trend for more responsibility on the job (P=0.088)
Marginally more likely to have more than a high school education (34% versus 22% associate degree, P<0.06, and 20% versus 14% bachelor's degree, P=0.311)
A trend for a higher degree of civic engagement measured by involvement with community groups and volunteerism (P=0.072)
Fewer symptoms of mental health disorders on the disorder criterion index (P=0.008)
Lower prevalence of meeting diagnostic criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders (P=0.027)
Lower likelihood of ever being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (23% versus 35%, P=0.026)
No difference in substance abuse or dependence (P=0.739)
An unexpected trend for higher prevalence of prior-year criminal activity (P=0.081), primarily minor theft (9% versus 4%) and drug selling (8% versus 3%)
These effects were most significant among males and those with a background of childhood poverty.

Most outcomes were consistent with a "dose" effect, the researchers said. The late treatment group fell between the full treatment and control groups for most outcomes, but it did not improve the overall composite measure of social achievement by young adulthood compared with no intervention (P=0.808 to P=0.737).

The researchers noted that the study was limited by its "quasi-experimental" design, geographically limited scope, and heavy reliance on self-reported data from participants.

Primary source: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
Source reference:
Hawkins JD, et al "Effects of social development intervention in childhood fifteen years later" Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2008; 162: 1133-1141.