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By Annette McLoughlin

At the end of every school year, teachers, students, parents, and alumni nominate exceptional teachers in the Rye City District whose qualities make her or him stand out among the rest. This year, the Teacher of the Year honor was bestowed on Rye’s own Chrissy Connor, who is a Special Education teacher at Rye High School.

After a brief stint in Miami, Connor returned to her hometown in 1974 and began a long career in the District, earning her Master’s at Manhattanville along the way. Initially a teaching assistant at Milton, she was eventually offered her own class at Osborn. Cutbacks at the time, however, forced her to become a permanent substitute. She persevered and, after 17 years, was hired as a Special Education teacher at the high school, a job she seems to have been born to be.

Special Education includes students who, for a variety of reasons, are developmentally delayed and subsequently vulnerable to falling behind their peers in traditional learning environments. Teachers like Connor work to ensure that these students have the necessary tools and added teaching to give them the same opportunities as the rest of the student body.

“Chrissy is a tireless advocate for students with learning differences, has the patience of a saint, and enriches the lives of those families,” says RHS Guidance counselor Sue Dickson.

Parents of children in the program give Connor much credit for their children’s achievements. One said, “My daughter's confidence as a learner and self-esteem as a person have grown so much because of her. This year she made the honor roll and received three departmental awards, an accomplishment she never thought was possible.” This mother also praised Connor’s devotion, which often extends beyond school hours and job expectations. “Chrissy goes above and beyond what is expected from a teacher. She sends my daughter little messages of support when she is feeling down or frustrated and has come to our home several times when my daughter has been sick, bringing missed work and sitting in our kitchen to go over it with her.”

When asked to comment on her longtime colleague and friend, Assistant Principal Suzanne Short said, “There are only a few people in my life who I can call who will drop everything to help. Chrissy is one of those people. She genuinely cares for everyone she meets and wants nothing more than to make life fulfilling for everyone around her.”

The daughter of a teacher, Connor is the mother of one as well. Her daughter, Katy Ridley, who teaches at Milton School, credits her mother with inspiring her own drive to make a difference as a teacher. “She makes herself available to families year-round. Growing up, my brother and I always knew if our mom didn’t answer her phone that she could be found in the high school well into the evening hours. To this day, I laugh as I drive by late afternoons and see her car still parked in the lot.”

The close relationships she develops with students are a boon for all. “We’ll be driving through town together,” shares Ridley, “and my mom, seeing one of her students, will pull over, and ask, ‘Did you study for Mr. So and So’s test?’ or ‘I just spoke to Ms. So and So and she told me you did well on your exam. Way to go!’ What shocks me most is that, rather than shrink away out of embarrassment, these students are generally happy to stick around and chat by the car.”

So beloved by her students, Connor is often invited to their college graduations, once receiving a young man’s only family ticket for graduation.

A current senior who has been her student for the past three years sums up this gifted teacher perfectly. “Mrs. Connors is loving, patient, and kind. She helps us become the best learners we can be. She makes us feel we belong and that we are more than our learning disabilities. I am very lucky to have her for my teacher. Rye is lucky too.

Chrissy Connor’s classroom walls are covered in inspirational sayings, including one from Goethe, which reads, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you will help them become what they were capable of being.” It is this one that seems to best sum up her approach to a job she was born to do and does so well.

By Peter Jovanovich

While parents and students enjoyed the great summer weather this year, the Rye City School District was engaged in professional learning projects to improve the quality of instruction. As Dr. Eric Byrne said at the September School Board meeting, “We engaged in a tremendous amount of professional development this summer.”

Among the projects that teachers and administrators engaged in, as explained by Sheryl Goffman, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, were Active Con, a one-day seminar that focused on collaboration and exploration, and the Summer Literacy Institute, where over 60 teachers attended and local Rye authors, such as Annabelle Monahan, shared their insights on writing well.

Goffman was particularly enthusiastic about the District’s collaboration with the Writing Revolution, which teaches the Hochman method of writing instruction. In a nutshell, the Hochman method teaches “the carpentry of writing—the ability to craft clear, complete sentences; to build coherent, organized paragraphs; to assemble logical, cohesive essays grounded in relevant evidence from complex texts.” Ms. Hoffman said that this method was particularly effective with students finding difficulty writing.

Finally, Several Rye teachers attended workshops led by author Lucy Calkins on reading and writing.at Teachers College at Columbia University, and others attended the Yale Center for Social Emotional Learning.

Dr. Byrne shared some of what he has learned from over 120 interviews with members of the Rye City School District community. First, it is apparent that teachers and administrators “want us to clearly state the vision of the District, and narrow the goals to fit that vision.” Further, he acknowledged that “we are having difficult conversations” and that the training this summer was useful in making those conversations productive and collaborative.

Seven Rye High School seniors were named to the National Hispanic Recognition Program. The students earned their spots by scoring well on the PSAT/NMSQT test taken in their junior year.

Interestingly, the National Hispanic students include a pair of twin brothers and a set of triplet sisters!

Congratulations to, from left: Andrew Gomez, Dylan Urbanzyck, Pablo Mazuera, Becca Daniels, Shoshi Daniels, Ari Daniels, and Gabriel Mazura with Rye High School Principal Patricia Taylor

Spotlight on

Cathie Bischoff, 

Who Sees Value in Full STEAM Ahead

By Mitch Silver

 

There’s been a lot of talk about — and emphasis on — the importance of STEM in today’s high school curriculum. The mastery of STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, is being looked to nationally as way to keep America at the forefront of innovation in the years to come.

 

For decades, though, most math and science departments might as well have had a sign on their doors reading, “Girls Need Not Apply.” Cathie Bischoff, a biologist and longtime head of the Science Department at Rye Country Day School, is leading an effort to change all that.

 

Bischoff and Rye Country Day have added an A (for Arts) to STEM. “Music, dance, and the visual arts shouldn’t be over there while science and math are over here. If the sound of wind instruments can teach our students about wave mechanics, let’s do it.” She added, “The world no longer exists in silos. Interdisciplinary understanding is vital for today’s students to be successful in the 21st century. 

 

Another passion of Bischoff’s is promoting diversity in the STEAM fields in terms of race, gender, and socio-economics. “Having majored in science and taken computer science classes back in late 80s and 90s, I know all too well why it is so hard for female students to pursue science, given the attitudes of some people. I remember one teacher in college asking if I was only pursuing an MRS. degree.”

 

She continued, “While we are starting to see changes in biomedical science, we have a long way toward equity in the science and engineering fields as a whole. I have worked with our Women in Science Club to create a program for middle school girls. Our lower school STEM Fest has its focus on changing young girls attitudes about science.  

“Role models are key to encouraging students. ‘Hidden Figures’ was one of my favorite books. I saw the movie three times, including taking my own 11-year-old daughters on opening weekend. The story of these brilliant women whose work has been vital to rocket science and NASA is so inspirational to many young students...girls of color in particular.” 

 

Bischoff grew up a country girl in Saugerties, New York. “My childhood gave me a deep appreciation for nature and the environment. On my own, I would study frogs by collecting, counting, and observing their development from egg to adults. Then, in college, I studied both animal behavior — the breeding behavior in Eastern Kingbirds — and the genetics of trout. And now I want to bring that curiosity about the way the world works to my students. William Butler Yeats wrote, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’ It is that fire that I find in teaching so satisfying as I try to help ignite it for my students.”

 

As a department chair, Bischoff looks for a passion for the subject matter and dynamic teaching in the classroom from the members of the Science Department. “When I see that spark in a teacher, I try to nurture its spread by way of new ideas and excitement to other members of the school and department organically.” 

 

One of her greatest joys is when former students come back and tell her they are pursuing a career in science.  

“Working at a private school like Rye Country Day has allowed me to teach a range of ages. And I get to have my older students work with and teach younger kids within classes and during special events such as our STEM Fest.”

She paused, and then added, “Now that I think of it, we should call it our STEAM Fest.”

 

 

 

SCHOLARS ALL AROUND

Seven Rye Country Day School seniors have been named Semifinalists in this year’s National Merit Scholarship Competition. These students scored in the top 1 percent nationally on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship qualifying test, taken each year by about 1.6 million high school students.

Congratulations to (pictured from left): <<Diogo Schaffa, Zachary Spilo, Clayton Bass, Jenna Cohn, Jason Sheppard, David Jensen>>, and <<Kyle Christophe.>>

Five Rye High School seniors were named National Merit Scholar Semifinalists. The students will receive Rye Recognition of Excellence awards at a Board of Education meeting in October.

Congratulations to (from left): Pablo Mazuera, Gillian Leung, Esther Yu, Nora Murphy, and Edward Collins, pictured with RHS Principal Patricia Taylor.

Rye Neck High School seniors <<Olivia Dunne, Allie Liebmann, John Masciopinto>>, and <<Bennett Taylor,>> have qualified as Semifinalists in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship competition.

They are among approximately 16,000 high school students nationwide who were awarded the distinction. They represent the top 1 percent of students from across the country with the highest scores on the qualifying Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

“Being recognized as a National Merit semifinalist is a tremendous honor reserved for the top performers nationwide,” noted Rye Neck High School Principal Tina Wilson. “We congratulate Olivia, Allie, John, and Bennett and wish them luck as they continue in the process.”

National Merit Scholarship finalists will be announced in February, and scholarship winners will be announced in the spring.

 

Caption:

Seniors Allie Liebmann, Olivia Dunne, John Masciopinto, and Bennett Taylor, flanked by Guidance Department members and counselors, from left, Corinne Ryan, Frank Gizzo, and Sue Hannon, and Amanda Mahncke and Dr. Valerie Feit, at right.

 

 

As much as children look forward to going back to school, parents look forward to the “Heard in Rye” Conversations in Parenting workshops.

The speaker series kicks off Monday, September 18 at 7:30 in the Rye High School Performing Arts Center with psychologist Christopher Willard, a Harvard Medical School faculty member. Willard will explore how mindfulness practices can bring more attention, openness, and wisdom to time with your children. He’ll share ideas for strengthening family relationships, increasing everyone’s well-being.