Ward Melville Educator Named a New York State Master Teacher

Corey Emery, Features Editor

After completing a lengthy and rigorous application process, Ward Melville AP Statistics teacher Ms. Pam O’Brien was named one of 237 master teachers in New York State, and one of only 28 selected from the Long Island area. Here is Kaleidoscope’s interview with Ms. O’Brien on winning this outstanding achievement:


Kscope: What prompted you to apply for the Master Teacher Program?

Ms. O’Brien: I applied for the Master Teacher Program because I thought it would be fun to meet other teachers from other districts who I could collaborate with.

Kscope: What did you have to do as part of the application process?

Ms. O’Brien: To apply I had to fill out a lengthy application, supply letters of recommendation from administrators and a student (the student recommendation was optional, but I did that), supply transcripts of all college work (even if it was from almost 30 years ago!), score well on a standardized specialty test in math called the Praxis exam, present a demo lesson on a topic that is “above the level that I currently teach,” submit a writing sample for a given prompt that I did not know of until I arrived, and participate in an interview.

Kscope: How long did the application process last?

Ms. O’Brien: I started the application process last July and did not get final notification that I had been accepted until late January.

Kscope: What aspect of this program most interested you?

Ms. O’Brien: There are so many aspects that interest me. As I stated, I love the idea that I will be able to collaborate with other teachers on projects, and I am enjoying the mini-courses that they offer us. I am currently participating in a mini-course at SUNY Stony Brook taught by Dr. Hearther Lynch who is a professor of Ecology and Evolution. The course is actually a statistics mini-course but she has a completely different perspective from her field work which is quite interesting. I love that there exists this cohort of “master teachers” who are willing to share their ideas and classroom activities or work together to create new activities and to just in general keep learning.

Kscope: Do you believe that this program is important in teacher career development, and how so?

Ms. O’Brien: I know that this course will be important to my career development but I can’t speak for all teachers. I do know that I wish all teachers were given this opportunity!  There are only 70 teachers in each cohort, meaning that there are 70 math and science teachers with this designation on Long Island. There are other regions across New York State.

Kscope: What are the next steps for you within the Master Teacher Program?

Ms. O’Brien: The next steps are to become an active member! I am already participating in many great activities that will benefit my students.  Two weeks ago, I attended an excellent session on small group cooperative games which was taught by a master teacher who happens to teach at Murphy.  Eventually, I hope to share my expertise by perhaps volunteering in a Methods class for future teachers at Stony Brook University or maybe teaching a mini-course.

Kscope: How has teaching at Ward Melville influenced your career?

Ms. O’Brien: I came to Ward Melville because I wanted to give back to the community where I grew up and presently live. I also was excited to work with a such a great department. My department is the best! They are a group of people who are dedicated, enthusiastic, and truly care about all of their students. Ward Melville influenced my career because I was given the gift of working with such exceptional teachers who were willing to always support my crazy ideas whether it was for a lab like “Bungee Barbie” or creating field trips like “Mall Math” or the “Three Village Trail.” I also want to comment that the administration at Ward Melville has always supported my goals. Each year they allow me to participate in the AP Statistics reading which enables me to meet and collaborate with teachers from all over the country. For example, the AP Stats Lazerland field trip grew off of an idea that I heard at a Best Practices session at the AP grading session two years ago!

Kscope: What has been the highlight of your teaching career?

Ms. O’Brien: There have been many highlights so I can’t really name one or even two!  I love hearing back from past students and hearing that they have ended up pursuing a career in either math or statistics!