2013: A Year in Review

It is hard to believe that it has been a full year since I wrote last year’s ‘year in review.’ 2013 has gone by so incredibly fast, and since there have been so many great moments along the way, I sure hope I did not forget any here!
With the ESHS Student Council at the 2013 Inauguration

In January, I started off the year by attending the 2013 Presidential Inauguration with the East Side High School student council. It was so surreal to be standing on the national mall, listening to our president get sworn in and give his inaugural address. It was also great having higher level political conversations with some of our all-stars from East Side. Obama gave such a great speech, and I will never forgot when our students cheered like crazy when Obama mentioned immigration reform. Besides Obama, Kelly Clarkson perhaps unintentionally stole the show with her fantastic rendition of “My Country, Tis of Thee.” Attending the Inauguration was an experience I will undoubtedly never forget.  

In February, I officially started my masters program at Seton Hall University, which I was extremely excited about. The masters will be a M.A. in Educational Leadership, Management and Policy, with a concentration in educational administration. I also had the privilege of meeting Bobby Marks, a Marist alum who is currently the assistant GM for the Brooklyn Nets, before watching a game at the brand-new Barclays Center with Meaghan and Brian. 
In March, I had many TFA-related activities, and was able to visit Marist one weekend as well. After Easter, I geared up for April, which was one of the busiest and most fun months of the year. In April, it felt like just about every weekend I was in a different city. Between Boston, Denver, Newark and Poughkeepsie, I sure had a fantastic journey going across the country for everything from NCTM conferences to high school college visits. I would strongly recommend reading my full post on my adventures in April here.

Playing some kickball to end the year
May was a graduate-filled month, as my first set of graduate classes were coming to a close and my next semester was already beginning. June went really fast as well, especially since we spent so many of the last days of school playing kickball with students and attending our high school’s graduation. I also experienced my first Portuguese Festival which was, well, one of the most interesting nights of the year. During the second weekend in June, my cousin Danny and his beautiful wife Elisabetta got married on Long Island! The wedding was so much fun, and one of the best I have ever been to. 
The Wedding Party!!!
A week after school was over, I went on a family vacation to St. Maarten. It was, quite frankly, one of the nicest islands I have ever been on. Between amazing food, breathtaking views and an unbelievably relaxing atmosphere, it was the best way to wind down after a busy year. Perhaps most notably, I decided to get my open water scuba diver certification, and I went diving four times, including two deep dives to a coral and an old wreck. It was one of the coolest activities I have ever done.
With my family in St. Maarten

When I got home from the Caribbean, I worked summer school for a few weeks. In between teaching summer school, I had the opportunity to visit many places, including Princeton (as one of my good friends Kassie was staying there for the summer) and the floor of the New York State Exchange. I also squeezed in a boat tour of NYC sponsored by the Marist Alumni Association and a quick trip to Philadelphia and Boston before the summer was over. (I finally was able to get to the Sam Adam’s brewery, as well, which was something I really wanted to do for a while.)

With Kassie at Princeton University

And just like that, August was winding down, which meant school was just around the corner. After a few weeks of cleaning up my room and setting up my class, I went up and visited my beloved alma mater for one last time during Labor Day weekend. The end of the summer means the annual Brazilian festival comes to Newark, which of course means lots of great food, drinks and music to be had by all!

At the annual Brazilian Day Festival in Newark

September and October flew by, as we had so many different things going on. Between so much controversy in the Newark Public Schools and new laws being passed seemingly daily, it was hard to not get overwhelmed in all of the commotion brought upon by education. There was even more controversy in November, when the district and the union fought over teachers going to the annual NJEA conference held in Atlantic City. Unfortunately, no matter whose side you were on, the only people that lost at the end of the day were our students. We need to stop putting adults in front of education in our schools, and continue to work hard to a day when all of our students have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

Also in November, the East Side Student Council visited two colleges in Pennsylvania, including the University of Scranton (where my sister currently attends) and Penn State. As you most likely have come to expect by now, it was another great trip that always helps to reset my perspective on life. I wrote a longer debrief of the trip on a previous post, which can be found here.
With Danny watching the Packers/Giants at Metlife Stadium
To end the year, I celebrated with some of my teachers friends (Nick and Karina) on board the Turks & Caicos Aggressor II. It was my first live-aboard, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone that is interested in Scuba Diving; It was honestly one of the best weeks of my life. And hey, what better way to start the New Year than be scuba diving fifty feet underwater?
Hanging out with the Delgado’s during Christmas Time
Well folks, that just about does it for 2013. Who knows what 2014 will have in store for us, but if the past is any indication for the future, I think I’m in for a really great year.

Here’s to 2014!

Marist, Boston and Denver; What an April to Remember!

This past April was one hell of a month. After surviving my first official graduate school residency at Seton Hall during the first weekend, I was looking forward to going to Boston with the East Side High School Student Council on the 11th and 12th. This was my third overnight trip with the group, and, having had incredibly moving experiences the first two times around, I was extremely excited about this one.

With the East Side High School Student Council
at Harvard University

In two days, we were able to visit four schools: Harvard, Boston College, Northeastern and Boston University. As was the case with previous trips, it was such an empowering weekend. Although I had a lot of great dialogue with the students during our two day venture throughout Boston, three specific conversations stick out: The first was at BC, when we were eating lunch. I was sitting across from a senior who recently moved to the United States from Ecuador seven months ago. We talked about the concept of poverty being relative, and how he plans to navigate going to college over the course of the next couple of years. Afterwards, on the “T” from BC to the North End, I had another great conversation with a sophomore that I often describe as having “unlimited potential.” We talked about college and what it takes to be successful, and ended with discussing possible college visits for the summer. This kid is only a sophomore and he has already seen more than two-dozen major universities! He is also very intellectually and emotionally mature; to be honest, he reminds me a lot of myself when I was in high school. I think he is going to be very successful one day.
A fantastic presentation about the admissions process to the
ESHS Student Council at Boston College 
The following morning, on the way home, I had such a powerful conversation with a group of students about changing the image of East Side and Newark in general. They were explaining some of the ideas they had to make their school a better place through different events and activities. For me, this resonated well with what Arne Duncan said recently: “Students are today’s leaders. Your voice and recommendations to re-imagine our school experience is vital.” I think we as a society discount the opinion of students far too often, and if we really want to make our education system the cream of the crop again, we must empower students and give them some autonomy to make a difference. Regardless, I genuinely enjoy chaperoning these trips so much, although I sometimes do feel a bit bad; I often feel that I learn way more from these amazing kids than I could ever teach them in a million years.
At the 2013 NCTM National Conference in Denver
The following week, my friend (who happens to be my boss) and I went to Denver, Colorado for the 2013 NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) National Conference. What another great trip! We did so much in the five days we were there, as we ate at many fantastic restaurants (including Sam’s No. 3, Osteria Marco and Vesta Dipping Grill), saw a great deal of sites (including the DaVinci Museum, the state capital of Colorado and the 16thstreet mall) and had plenty of exotic food (including rattlesnake and raw kangaroo!). The conference itself was inspirational and moving, and gave me many great resources and ideas to implement in my classroom. It was great to network with teachers from all different types of schools all across the country. Some highlights of the conference include a Harvard Professor lecturing about the concept of fixed vs. growth mindsets, and Dan Meyer’s (author of the well-known “Math Class Needs a Makeover” TED talk) presentation on perplexity. We also planned it out so that we could attend two sporting events before we left, as we got to see the Avs play at the Pepsi Center and the Rockies play at Coors Field. I would be remiss if I did not mention that we got to see the Lawlor family-which was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip.

With Mike and the Lawlor family at Coors Field

As April drew to a close, I visited my beloved Marist in Poughkeepsie for one last weekend before the end of the academic year. As with high school, I am sure that the longer I am out of college, the less it will feel like home. But as of right now, I sure do miss Marist College. After catching up with a bunch of friends, we went to Darby’s, had some Irish Nacho’s and wings, and had a load of great laughs along the way. As I said goodbye to all of my friends, I reminded them to enjoy “their last three weeks at the best place in the world.” I think that sums up my feelings about my alma mater pretty well.

And that was the end of a crazy month that I will remember for a long time. I now officially have less than eight weeks before my first year of teaching is under my belt. It has been a great run, but I am still wondering: Where has the time gone?