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April 28, 2012

Katie Ferguson: New York State Teacher of the Year

Source: RA 2012
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Katie Ferguson
Schenectady Federation of Teachers

Katie Ferguson, the 42nd New York State Teacher of the Year, is a second-grade teacher at Jessie T. Zoller Elementary School in the City of Schenectady School District - a high needs district. She is a member of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers, which is led by Juliet Benaquisto. Katie is a master teacher who credits the numerous literacy development workshops she has taken as key in creating her own literacy program. She is certified in special education, which she calls an important component in providing individualized instruction for the students in her integrated classroom. She holds her students up to the highest standards, helping each to achieve his or her fullest potential with a vast array of educational tools and strategies.

Katie works with "an amazing team" of professionals in her classroom who ensure successful outcomes for her students, a special education teacher and two paraprofessional. Her classroom environment is calm, nurturing and highly productive, following the classroom motto, "we work the whole time." Katie wants her students to know the American Dream is within reach.

As a third-degree black belt and certified instructor in tae kwon do, the aspects of martial arts that Katie brings into the classroom are self-reliance, perseverance and an indomitable spirit. "These are things I like to teach the children, in terms of their own lives so they can raise themselves up as students and little people."

Generous with her professionalism, Katie enjoys informally mentoring new teachers and has welcomed several student teachers into her classroom. "I love to talk about teaching and sharing what I'm doing. You have to give back to your profession." She calls having a student teacher in the classroom an excellent opportunity for reciprocal growth.

Katie encourages teachers to "Decree your degree." In today's harsh political climate, having the master's degree - which is required of New York state teachers - hanging in the classroom sends an important visual reminder about the level of professionalism required of teachers. "Doctors do it, so why shouldn't we?"

Finalists for the 2012 New York State Teacher of the Year were: Danielle Commander, a special education teacher of grades K through 2 at Countrywood Primary School in Huntington Station; Patricia Manchisi, a high school Spanish teacher at Briarcliff High School in Briarcliff; Suzanne Neske, an English teacher of grades 10 through 12 at Connetquot High School in Bohemia; and Therese O'Loughlin, a grades 1 through 8 teacher at Michael F. Stokes Elementary School in Levittown.