How MƒA helps Gloria Nicodemi step out of her comfort zone and become a leader among her colleagues.

MƒA Master Teacher Gloria Nicodemi is used to being the only earth science teacher at the East-West School of International Studies in Flushing, Queens, where she has taught for 17 out of her 20 years in the classroom. But even as an experienced teacher, Nicodemi admits to feeling like a bit of an outsider when she first joined MƒA — until she got the opportunity to bounce ideas off other teachers who share the same focus.

“It’s great getting to share my knowledge, but having conversations with other teachers that are teaching earth science is the real gamechanger,” Nicodemi says. “I don't think I could have grown as much as a teacher as I have if I didn't have MƒA for the last nine years.”

 Geology of New York minicourse
Nicodemi leads MƒA courses where she explores and links geological features and landforms to the greater topography and geologic history of New York City.

The learning, inspiration and community gained through MƒA boosted Nicodemi’s faith in herself, enabling her to become a leader not just in the classroom, but among her colleagues. Beginning in 2019, she created and co-facilitated an MƒA mini course, Geology and Geography in the Classroom. She and her co-facilitator led field trips to Inwood and Isham Parks and Orchard Beach, exploring the geologic history of the region.

“We incorporated the new NGSS [Next Generation Science Standards] in order to make sure that the teachers could bring what they learned back to their classroom,” Nicodemi says of the mini-course. “We worked together to develop ways to bring field trips, whether in person or virtual, to our students.”

Nicodemi has also co-facilitated a Professional Learning Team on co-teaching, which at the time was open to non-MƒA teachers as well. “A lot of times with co-teaching, there’s some difficulty in communication and understanding of roles and sharing roles between the special education teacher and the content teacher,” she points out. “We just looked at different ways that you can share the space, and actually be co-teachers and not one teacher and somebody else who does something else.”

Gloria mentoring a fellow teacher
Nicodemi provides one on one mentoring for new teachers, often developing lesson plans, classroom management strategies, and evaluating student work for understanding and misconceptions.

While she had worked to mentor new teachers at her school before, Nicodemi drew on the confidence gained at MƒA to launch a new brand of professional development (PD) at her school. East-West regularly offered PD for its teachers, but she felt the targeted sessions weren’t as helpful as they could be for first or even second-year teachers, many of whom still need support in establishing fundamental areas of practice such as lesson planning or classroom management.

With that in mind, Nicodemi approached her administrator with the idea of starting a New Teacher Group. “I said, ‘I'd like to take whatever topic you’re doing once a month in PD with the majority of the teachers and do that with [new teachers] at a level they’re at, rather than way above and beyond what they’re able to understand and be able to do right now,’” she recalls.

The New Teacher Group proved to be a “huge success” at East-West, and new teacher retention has improved over the past several years to nearly 100%. “In MƒA we work together to critique, but not criticize, each other's work,” Nicodemi says. “I try to bring that to my newer teachers and show them, look, we’re all here to grow. Nobody is perfect and nobody has all the answers. The group gives them that safe space.”

“Gloria created an atmosphere conducive to learning and relying on each other."

“It was a space that you could really go to with whatever you were challenged with,” says Matt Guzowski. A certified special education teacher in his third year of teaching, he participated in the group for his first two years of teaching, and now co-teaches with Nicodemi and others. “You would not only be able to express what was going on with other teachers and vent a little bit, but you would also have people to bounce ideas off of that were going through the same thing,” Guzowski says.

Adam Pepitone, another third-year teacher who participated in the group, appreciated Nicodemi’s leadership. “Gloria created an atmosphere conducive to learning and relying on each other,” Pepitone says. “The assistance given in areas like lesson planning, time management, and reaching new teacher milestones was definitely more practically valuable than a cookie-cutter PD designed for the general staff.” 

For Nicodemi, MƒA continues to be her own personal safe space, where she can continue to develop her own teaching practice, grow her self-assurance and spend quality time around other like-minded teachers. As she puts it: “MƒA helped me to realize that I’m not an outsider looking in at the incredible talent of the teachers here, but a real member as well, because of the confidence and empowerment I have gained here.” 

New Teacher Group

Nicodemi's New Teacher Group builds a community of professionals that work together to grow their practice in a safe learning environment. Since the launch of the group, new teacher retention at her school has improved to nearly 100%.