On being a "New York State Master Teacher"


Long time readers will vaguely recollect that I applied to be part of the first Long Island Master Teacher cohort this past fall. This process involved me filling out a long-ish application, writing a short-ish personal statement, asking my boss, a colleague, and a former student to write me recommendation letters, taking a rather silly exam for a long-time science teacher, and attending a day of interviews in late February. All of that seems to have had the desired effect, as I received notification today that I have been selected as on of 42 Long Island STEM teachers in the first local cohort of the program.

I’ve written before about how I feel about these types of things. It’s very nice for no other reason than the fact that it reflects the opinion of one’s peers. The credential itself is a silly thing. No one who has been selected to participate in this program should suddenly view what they have been doing as any more or less validated by virtue of their selection to participate. While there will certainly be great opportunities that are made available by participating in the program, I can’t help but think of all the colleagues that I know who easily fit the bill of “master teacher” as well as I do, if not better, but who weren’t selected because they were too busy with the many aspects of their lives to apply (or couldn’t apply by virtue of teaching something other than a STEM subject). Let it never be suggested that the lack of an application or an award makes any of them any less of a “master teacher” than me, or any of the other awesome folks who were recognized today.

I hope that the above does not come across as ungrateful or otherwise spurning of this unique opportunity. I look forward to meeting and working with great STEM teachers from across New York State during the four years of this fellowship, and I am sure that I will learn tremendous things from all of them. But if there’s one thing that I think makes me a good teacher, it’s the fact that I know enough to know that I am not singular in the things that I do in my working life. There are plenty of other “master teachers” working in the school systems of New York, the country at large, and the rest of the world. Whatever recognition I may come in for is as much a function of the ideas that I have stolen from the larger communities I am a part of, as it is any indicator of anything unique to me. It is easy, and often politically convenient to suggest that a “master teacher” is a rare bird. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.

And while I have yet to meet most of them, I imagine that there aren’t too many folks among my “master teacher” cohort that would suggest anything different.