January 20, 2022

Exceptional educators

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Teacher Amoreena Tellaeche helps sixth-grader Alexis Knickerbocker with her math Thursday at Virgil Elementary School. Tellaeche has been awarded the designation of master teacher from New York state.

A Virgil Elementary School teacher is among the first of a small group of elementary school teachers who have been welcomed to join the ranks of “master teachers,” this year.

The state opened the designation to teachers of the younger grades this year and Sylvia Amoreena Tellaeche, a general education teacher at Virgil Elementary School, is among them.

She is also one of five teachers from Cortland County that were awarded the master teacher designation by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office this fall.

The other teachers are:
• Charles Canestaro, Cortland City School District
• Jamie Douglass, Homer School District
• Mark Morrell, Cincinnatus Central School District
• Juliann Quinn, Cortland City School District

They are part of a cohort of 275 announced this year to join the New York State Master Teacher Program, created in 2013.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched it with the State University of New York system and Math for America. It creates a network of high-performing science, technology, engineering and math teachers who share expertise with their peers.

Tellaeche said she applied last year and went through a rigorous interview process with SUNY Cortland, which is the partner college. There are professional development workshops offered at SUNY Cortland for the master teachers.

“We have teacher leaders in our district who have spoken highly of this opportunity and I wanted to be considered as soon as I heard the process was open to elementary grade teachers just last year,” she said.

Tellaeche said she liked that being a master teacher comes with professional development opportunities but also helps students.

Elementary school teachers make up one third of the group, which are all teachers of science, technology, computer science, robotics, coding engineering and math courses. The teachers have been teaching an average of 15 years and the 275 master teachers represent 160 school districts, according to a news release on the state’s website.

Virgil Elementary Principal Lisa Kaup said having a Master Teacher among the ranks is laudable.

“All of our teachers at Virgil are outstanding for various reasons, they have strengths in different areas,” she said.

“And master teacher is a difficult task. To obtain that standard they have to go through rigorous protocols to get to that level.”

Tellaeche was also recognized as the 2018 Teacher of Excellence by the Cortland City School District after a colleague nominated her last June.

“This recognition means the world to me because it is peer initiated and I strongly support collaboration and sharing,” she wrote in an email. “Teaching is not as effective when done in isolation.”