September 2016 Issue
September 29, 2016

For Teacher of the Year teaching is a family affair

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
Amy Hysick, center, the 2017 New York State Teacher of the Year, is flanked by her parents, Judy and Jim Sonich, both retired North Syracuse teachers. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.
Caption: Amy Hysick, center, the 2017 New York State Teacher of the Year, is flanked by her parents, Judy and Jim Sonich, both retired North Syracuse teachers. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Amy Hysick, a North Syracuse science teacher who followed her educator parents into the "family business," has been named 2017 New York State Teacher of the Year.

Hysick, who teaches Regents Living Environment in the high school she attended, shared the honor with her parents, Jim and Judy Sonich, who have a combined 68 years of teaching and are now retired.

"Most teachers' stories start with an influential teacher from their own experience," Hysick told the Regents Board as she accepted the award. "I'm doubly blessed to have two." Her mom and dad started their careers in the North Syracuse School District in 1967 and always exemplified the immense positive influence so many teachers have on their students.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia praised Hysick's dedication to engaging students in a hands-on way, continuing her own learning and sharing best practices with her colleagues. She noted Hysick houses the school's reptile collection in her classroom and uses her sewing skills to create "over the top" costumes to support school Spirit Week and other events to help build a positive school culture. She hosts community chemistry classes and participates in a variety of professional learning communities, including an international online forum where science educators share resources and instructional strategies.

"Amy is adventuresome in setting goals for herself and designing creative lessons for her students," said NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino. "She takes risks in her classroom and is fearless in blazing unconventional paths in order to reach all of her students."

Hysick emphasizes that students are not defined by grades or scores. "Grades in my class are feedback," she said, explaining that students are able to retake and correct tests and assignments until they get it right. "This shift in mindset has helped me create a class environment where there's always a hope for success ... and I have found this new mindset has increased levels of engagement, reduced test anxiety, increased confidence and higher success overall."

Hysick, a 12-year teaching veteran, earned a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in secondary education from SUNY Binghamton. In the coming year, she will serve as an ambassador for teachers throughout the state and be the state's nominee for National Teacher of the Year.

Finalists for the 2017 New York State Teacher of the Year included:

●Carolyn Dorritie, a high school math teacher and Port Jervis TA member;
● Nicole Malone, a middle school English teacher and Kings Park Classroom TA member;
●Natasha Murray, a math educator at Copiague Middle School; and
●Lauren Bakian-Aaker, a fourth grade teacher at P.S. 110 in Manhattan and United Federation of Teachers member.

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