Meet a Teacher
2nd Grade Alana Purvis
4-5th Grade English Jeniqua Moran
Special Education Matt Piwowarczyk
Alana graduated from the prestigious Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music, followed by six years performing musical theater. Despite success on the stage, Alana found greater joy sharing her passion for the arts with young people as a volunteer music teacher in New York City. She joined Baltimore City Teaching Residency in 2012. Having served as a part-time BCTR coach during Pre-Service Training, Alana is now a second grade teacher at Federal Hill Preparatory School and applies her talents in the classroom every day: “I incorporate singing and dancing all the time. Teaching is a lot like being on stage – your lesson plan is your script.”
PRACTICE DURING TRAINING GAVE ME CONFIDENCE AS A NEW TEACHER
Pre-service training provides you with the teaching essentials you need to know, but it really takes off when you’re in the classroom.
We practiced our teaching techniques all summer. We learned to establish expectations and routines, how to build a culture that minimizes distractions and behavioral issues. That allowed me to develop a teaching style, and I was able to start the year with a solid foundation.
During the year, my coach was determined to make me even better. She gave me clear, specific and concrete steps to take to improve my teaching. She saw that I could be a bit chatty and she helped me figure out how to get to the content more quickly so I didn’t waste time. When she was in my classroom, I could see immediate improvement in my teaching.
MY STUDENTS MADE GREAT STRIDES
In the fall of my first year, 75 percent of students were below grade level; by the spring, only 25 percent were. All of my students gained at least one year of growth and three-quarters of them gained 1.5 years or more.
Of course, it isn’t just about grades or scores. It’s about our journey as a class and building a child’s future. My job is to connect the material to real world experiences my students can relate to and become excited about, so they truly enjoy learning. I am grateful every day for that opportunity.
I’ve always loved working with kids, even when I was performing.
I have no regrets about changing careers. I have a higher purpose now."
Jeniqua joined Baltimore City Teaching Residency in 2008 and currently teaches fourth and fifth grade English at Westport Academy Elementary/Middle School. While continuing to enjoy success with her own students, Jeniqua also works as a Residency Instructor and is helping lead the District’s Institute for new teachers. She relishes the opportunity to help new teachers “develop a love for teaching and this profession so they don’t get bogged down by daily challenges.”
AS A FORMER ATHLETE, I APPRECIATE REAL-TIME FEEDBACK
I’m really proud of my classroom management. For the last four years, I’ve worked in a program serving students with emotional disabilities and behavior challenges, but facilitators constantly say that they can’t tell that from my classroom.
My students come in several grades behind, but among my fourth graders, 8 out of 11 performed at the proficient or advanced level by the spring. Because I had a well-managed class, I was successful with them. It was their behavior that had been holding them back.
I’m grateful to be able to share that classroom expertise with new Residents. Even though I felt prepared as a new teacher, the training has improved since my time – back then coaches mostly provided moral support.
Being a former athlete, I appreciate the specific, real-time feedback that coaches provide today. It’s incredibly helpful that Residents have concrete performance expectations and in-the-moment guidance while they teach.
IN BALTIMORE, TEACHERS ARE RECOGNIZED FOR THEIR SUCCESS
The best thing about Baltimore is that it’s a small city – everyone knows everyone. At the same time, it has the attractions of a big city.
There is also a lot of opportunity for growth in Baltimore City Public Schools. With our evaluation system, it is very clear who is doing a great job. And if you’re producing in the classroom – regardless of age – you can really increase your income and enjoy leadership opportunities such as becoming a model or lead teacher. It’s gratifying to be valued for your contributions.
We were a tightly knit group, even though there was a huge age range.
The workload is rigorous and the expectations are high, but you’re given clear and actionable steps to improve and will be prepared from day one."
Matt teaches seventh through twelfth grade special education at Baltimore Community High School. He earned a degree in English from the University of Chicago and later taught in Korea, but it was his experience volunteering as a special education aide in Chicago’s public schools that helped Matt discover his gifts for working patiently – but persistently – to help students overcome obstacles to learning. Since becoming a Resident in 2011, Matt sees nothing but potential when he walks into his classroom: “High academic achievement cannot take place unless the teacher has high expectations of himself and his students.”
TRAINING IS INTENSE AND FOCUSED ON ACTUAL TEACHING EXPERIENCE
Training is intense, but the most useful thing is getting actual teaching experience and immediate feedback. Everything we learned was connected to real-world teaching.
That first time you have to step in and lead a class – it’s gratifying to see learning happening, even in that clunky way at the beginning. I could tell that I was getting better with each session because I saw students making progress.
The Residency also makes a lot of effort to connect teachers to each other, and as a new teacher that is phenomenally useful. I was surprised by how quickly we bonded; our special education cohort hangs out together all the time. The first year can be stressful, so having people to bounce experiences off of made me realize I wasn’t on my own.
THERE IS AN INCREDIBLE FOCUS ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
It’s great to work in a district where the focus is on student achievement. There are so many opportunities for professional development and hard work is recognized.
I teach in a “second chance” school for students who missed a lot of schooling because of things like incarceration or pregnancy or family issues. There is a lot of inconsistency in their lives, so our students are appreciative of teachers being there for them every day.
During graduation, students were invited to give a rose to a teacher that was formative for them. I got two roses – seeing kids who were at risk to drop out up on that stage was an incredible feeling.
The literacy coursework was especially practical. My students achieved over a year’s growth in reading.
As a third-year teacher, I’m already a literacy coach at my school."