Three Star English Education Students Look Back on Receiving the New Teacher Award
The New Teacher Award is given in recognition of outstanding performance in student teaching, excellence in scholarship, and service to the College. This award is granted annually to an individual student or in cases of equal merit may be shared by up to three equally deserving recipients. Last year’s awards were announced this past summer to English Education students Ramona Demme, Natasha Chadha and Larissa Dzegar, all of whom are now actively teaching. Below are their abridged but fruitful stories.
By Myiesha Gordon
Ramona Demme knows the feeling of being accountable as a student in the classroom. That is, she knows what it’s like for a teacher to expect excellence from her. Hailing from Nyack, New York, Ramona was drawn to Teachers College because of its history, progressive and new ideas in public education and the reputation of the English department to be a supportive environment. She studied English as an undergraduate student and after receiving her Bachelor’s degree, she had internships in publishing–for magazines and books. She was once an editorial assistant but had a passion for reading and writing and wanted to share that passion to students so she decided to pursue a Master’s degree in English education.
Ramona is an avid reader and hopes to inspire her students to read. When she’s not playing tennis, hiking or bird watching, she loves walking around NYC. Her favorite bookstores in NYC are Strand, McNally Jackson, and Book Culture.
Ramona’s philosophy of teaching is to see students as full humans, not just students, and welcomes all identities. When I asked what would be her advice to new teachers, she said, “Know your students. Learn their names. Treat them with kindness.”
Ramona is now teaching at Discovery High School.
Natasha Chadha has always loved school. A North Virginia native, she attended private schools as a student from kindergarten through twelfth grade and gravitated to English in high school. Natasha recognized at a young age that she wanted to be a teacher. She found that she loved learning and discovery through reading. When asked what character she would relate to her life, she said Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. Natasha recalled having difficulty making friends in kindergarten and first becoming aware in middle school that her Indian heritage made her different from her classmates. Because of her experience, understanding cultural heritage helps in classroom.
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Natasha came to Teachers College because her high school English teachers, whom she respected, attended TC. The experienced teachers, small class sizes and collaborative environment all appealed to her as well. She felt supported as a student at TC. This supportive environment allowed her to be successful as a student teacher. Before her student teaching experience, she said she never knew how many roles teachers play at once.
When asked what she valued about her experience as a student at TC, she responded, “They care about life beyond [your] getting your Master’s.” Natasha is now teaching on Long Island.
Larissa Dzegar’s teaching philosophy is to teach students what they stand for. “You have to stand for something.” Born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Larissa attended the same school for her K-12 education. She came to the U.S. to study theater at Sarah Lawrence College. A few years after graduating from college, she started teaching at a charter school in Brooklyn and realized that she loved teaching and wanted to improve her skills. Teachers College was her first choice to pursue graduate education. After visiting the campus on Prospective Students’ Day, she was convinced that TC was where she wanted to be. She attributed her decision to its “warmth and sense of community.”
Her theater experience and training as an actor influences how she approaches teaching. She feels a sense of responsibility to engage her students at all times, which jibes with her experience with audiences. She says it’s “criminal” if students look bored. She works hard to keep her students engaged. “I will be a clown if necessary.” she said. Larissa completed her student teaching at The Computer School and Laguardia High School and was excited that it was an “option in [her] world.” Larissa believes education should have commitment to curiosity. She speaks Portuguese and English and has been exposed to different languages through her teaching assignments. “Cultural awareness is a gift in the classroom” and she uses it as a teaching tool. “I model it so they believe it.”
Because she had experience working before pursuing her Master’s degree, Larissa said she treasured her experience at TC so much more. Larissa enjoys the “endless options” that NYC affords. When she’s not in the classroom, she enjoys writing poetry (she was recently published), going to the theater, and swimming. “TC taught me how to make the fun stuff relevant and be aware of the students in front of me.”
She has made lifelong friends and knows she can count on the community of teachers. “The English department took care of me.”
Larissa is now teaching at Manhattan High School for Girls, a Jewish orthodox school.