Two Auburn teachers accepted into NYS Master Teacher Program
by Jessica Luisi, Public Information Specialist
(November 5, 2018) – In October, New York State accepted 275 master teachers into the New York State Master Teacher Program, and two Auburn teachers, Matthew Drastal and Prin Furst, were among those selected.
The New York State Master Teacher Program (NYSMTP) began in 2013 as a way to identify and support teachers who teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects. Teachers who are chosen to be a part of the program are considered to be innovators and leaders in STEM education.
Drastal is a technology teacher at Auburn Junior High School, and Furst teaches Enriched Regents Chemistry and AP Chemistry at Auburn High School. The two will join several other master teachers in the Auburn school district – Judith Coye and Patrick Crawford who are currently in the program, as well as Master Teacher Emeriti, Kathleen Austin and Janet Scheffler.
As part of the NYSMTP, master teachers receive stipends each year for four years to use toward professional development and peer mentoring. They must participate in a minimum of 50 professional development hours each year.
“I applied to the program to enhance my teaching abilities,” said Furst. “My quest to become a master teacher has increased my effectiveness as a teacher and has enhanced student learning experiences in my classes. I am looking forward to collaborating with the many excellent master teachers in our state, receiving high quality training, and being able to back ideas and methods to share with my Auburn colleagues.”
Drastal shares Furst’s eagerness to collaborate with other master teachers through the program.
“I spent 22 years in corporate life before teaching,” Drastal said. “I have worked locally and internationally and have an idea of how to be successful and competitive in today’s world. Being a master teacher will allow me to share my knowledge, as well as learn new points of view from others who have had different life experiences.”
The Auburn Enlarged City School District is honored to have several of its teachers accepted into such a prestigious program.
“Prin and Matt are true professionals; they are constantly going above and beyond to work with students outside of regular school hours,” said Auburn Enlarged City School District Superintendent, Jeff Pirozzolo. “Their acceptance into the master teacher program is well deserved.”
What made you want to apply to the Master Teacher Program?
Drastal: After a presentation I made to parents and administration, Krista Martin, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, encouraged me to apply.
Furst: I applied to the Master Teacher Program to enhance my teaching abilities. My quest to become a master teacher has increased my effectiveness as a teacher and has enhanced student learning experiences.
What was the hardest part of the application process?
Drastal: I teach technology at Auburn Junior High School, and I had to choose a standardized test to take. There was no Technology Education test, so I took a computer science assessment geared towards a four year graduate of CS. My last formal programming class was in 1976. After a fair amount of studying and watching many YouTube videos, I was able to pass the assessment.
Furst: The hardest part for me was the presentation during the interview process.
What does becoming a master teacher mean to you, and/or what was your reaction when you found out you were accepted into the program?
Drastal: I spent 22 years in corporate life before teaching. I have worked locally and internationally and have an idea of how to be successful and competitive in today’s world. Being a master teacher will allow me to share my knowledge, as well as learn new points of view from others who have had different life experiences.
Furst: My reaction was satisfaction for reaching a goal I had set for myself.
What are you most looking forward to with being a part of the program?
Drastal: I am looking forward to broadening my STEM knowledge through collaboration with other master teachers, as well as forming relationships outside of the district to see how they are engaging students with exciting curriculum.
Furst: I am looking forward to collaborating with the many excellent master teachers in our state, receiving high quality training, and being able to bring back ideas and methods to share with my Auburn colleagues.
What do you feel are some of your best teaching practices? Do you have an example you can share?
Drastal: I try to emphasize problem-solving and teamwork. We tech teachers like to say “Fail often to succeed quickly” and then explain how frustration and perseverance will be typical throughout life and that significant success rarely comes quickly. An example would be when we practice computer coding, as it can be extremely frustrating because strict logic and syntax rules are critical for programs to execute correctly. Those who persevere usually succeed with a great feeling of accomplishment.
I also feel that there is a need for us to direct students on a more global outlook of life and careers. In order for our community to thrive, we need to understand how we successfully fit into the global community by offering our students a strong background in STEM concepts.
Furst: My students enjoy the hands on real life situations within my classes. We recently found the percent composition of water in popcorn, the amount of sugar in gum, and compared elements and compounds to nuts and bolts situations. We make ice cream in the lab to show how salt lowers freezing points and manipulate gases to discover their properties. Students learn best when they are able to play, experience self-discovery, and are in a fun, engaging, and safe environment with a teacher that connects with them.
How do you think being a part of the program will further enhance your teaching techniques in your classroom?
Drastal: Sharing experiences with other teachers to see what effective teaching strategies are being used by others will further enhance my classroom techniques. I continuously look for ways of finding curriculum that is authentic, challenging, and engaging.
Furst: I hope to develop a deeper understanding of chemistry and better techniques to present content. I wish to collaborate with other master teachers in learning best practices in implementing the new NYSSLS, developing engaging lesson plans to captivate students, and enhance learning.
How long have you been a teacher and/or with the Auburn district?
Drastal: I have been teaching 15 years, always within the Auburn Enlarged City School District. I have enjoyed being involved in the yearbook, LEGO Robotics, Drone Club, and other extracurricular STEM activities.
Furst: I have taught in the Auburn Enlarged City School District for the past 14 years; first at West Middle School teaching life science, and now at the High School teaching Enriched Regents Chemistry and AP Chemistry. I am the advisor for the American Chemical Society Auburn High School Chemistry Club, which is a STEM club with over one hundred student members. Our motto is "All the fun of labs without the write up!" We do fun science experiments after school, making products through chemistry like bouncy balls, sugar scrub, floam, and tie-dye shirts. We take trips to museums, science programs in colleges, do volunteer activities for Earth Day, and do science demos at Zoo Boo at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.
Where did you earn your undergraduate and graduate degrees / certificates?
Drastal: I earned my BS in Industrial Distribution from Clarkson University and my MS in Education from SUNY Oswego.
Furst: I earned my Bachelor in Arts from Wells College and then went back to Wells for my certification in Living Environment, Chemistry, and 7-12 general science. I then earned my Masters in Science Education from SUNY Cortland. I have received awards from the Science Teachers of New York State for "Excellence in Teaching," from the Technology Association of Central New York for "Outstanding Teaching, and from Governor Cuomo for "Teacher of Excellence.
I volunteer as the Chemistry Subject Area Representative for the Central Chapter of the Science Teachers Association of New York State, running conferences to train other Chemistry teachers across Central NY; facilitate the Chemistry Professional Learning Community for the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES; and serve as a delegate for the Central New York American Chemical Society, which sponsored the ACS Science Career Fair at Auburn High School.