“I grew up three blocks from the school. As a child I swam in the creek, sledded on the hills, ran through the trees and petted the horses,” Newman said. “(As a teenager) I performed in plays and attended prom there. As an adult, I studied in the library and learned in the classrooms. Because of my time at Wilson, I was able to become the teacher I am today. The education and biology classes I took were topnotch and the professors were fantastic. The small classes, close relationships and comfortable and affordable setting were important factors in my success."
Now a teacher of biology at East High School in Rochester, N.Y., Newman added something to his resume in December that few of his peers can claim: certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Created in 1987 in response to A Nation at Risk, a report issued by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, NBPTS sought to create advanced standards for effective teaching and learning by which teachers could be evaluated on a voluntary basis.
Although there are now more than 100,000 board-certified teachers in all 50 states, relatively few populate the nation’s schools. Those who do spent countless hours preparing written and videotaped portfolios on which they were evaluated on mastery of their subject and their teaching ability using the board’s “Five Core Propositions for Teaching.” (Link to www.nbpts.org)
“It was one of the hardest things I have ever done as an educator,” Newman acknowledged. “During that time, I was also working as a mentor to new teachers in the district, and training veteran mentors in methods of communication. I also became part of a small cohort of teachers at the University of Rochester working on (becoming) master teacher fellows in math and science. But I wanted to push myself to be the best teacher I could and I had heard about this program.”
If being the best means offering students something they cannot get elsewhere, Newman qualifies on another level. His school may be the only high school in the country to offer ophthalmic fabrication, a course he helped create to teach students not only about the biology of the eye, but also about the art of crafting prescription eyewear, which he hopes his students will eventually be able to do for district schoolchildren.
“We look at it as an opportunity to do real hands-on and relevant learning that involves application of ideas and concepts,” said Newman, whose qualifications to teach the class date back to his days as an optician in the Navy — a career which led him to pursue a biology degree from Mansfield University.
For Newman, making real connections with authentic science and doing it in unique and challenging ways is what teaching is all about. “In my biology class, I’ve created activities that have students explore some of the fundamental experiences of evolution and natural selection, including comparing skeletons of various organisms and examining fossils of organisms,” he said. “In my ophthalmic fab class, my students get to dissect cow eyes and relate those to human eyes and the vision problems some people experience. They get to experience learning in a new and different manner.”
Creativity may be a hallmark of his teaching, but he is equally inventive outside the classroom. Take his garage, which has housed everything from a model Noah’s Ark—which he made for his children’s preschool — to a coffee table in the shape of a butterfly that he made as a wedding gift for a friend. A proud member of LumberJocks, an online woodworking forum, Newman even has a web page to display and market his work (http://lumberjocks.com/LoganN/projects).
Although his life has taken him in directions he could not have envisioned when he explored the Wilson campus as a boy, he is unequivocal in crediting the College for giving him the tools that launched him into a career he thrives on.
"I truly believe that it was the great start I got at Wilson that helped me attain national certification,” said Newman. “Without the Teacher Intern Program at Wilson, I would not be the teacher I am today. Wilson helped to push me to be my best."