‘Do it all’ science teacher wins coveted award

P.S. 64’s Alyssa Scherer, center, received the state’s Excellence in Teaching Award along with a $5,000 check from Karim Camara, left, representing Governor Cuomo, as Principal Marlon Hosang, right, proudly shared the moment. Photo by Sydney Pereira

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | Alyssa Scherer, the science teacher at P.S. 64, The Robert Simon School, won one of the state’s most prestigious education awards last Thursday afternoon. But it was a total surprise to her — kept secret by the school’s principal, Marlon Hosang, and assistant principal, Daniela D’Arcangelo.

“I’m in complete shock,” Scherer, a teacher at the elementary school, at E. Fifth St. and Avenue B, for the past six years, said shortly after receiving the Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. Her award was one of 60 given to teachers throughout New York State.

Scherer stressed that the distinction is a testament to the work the entire school does — echoing Hosang’s glowing remarks about her Thursday afternoon.

“When one of us is elevated, indeed, we are all elevated,” the principal told the assembly shortly after Scherer had been given the award, along with a $5,000 check.

The “assembly in disguise,” as Hosang described it, included representatives from the offices of Assemblymember Harvey Epstein and city Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, United Federation of Teachers union reps Dennis Gault and Don Albright, members of the New York Road Runners, and Karim Camara, the executive director and deputy commissioner of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services.

“Today, we’re honoring a teacher who stands for the very best of our profession,” Camara told the assembly.

Scherer started out as a student teacher while she was finishing up her education degree at the State University of New York at Oswego. Her whole life, she has wanted to be an elementary school teacher. Even while she was a student teacher, Hosang quickly noticed her commitment and dedication to teaching — so much so that he wanted to hire her as a fourth-grade teacher at P.S. 64 upon her graduation.

The city, at first, was overwhelming for her.

“When I first started student teaching, I was petrified to be in the city,” she said. But after graduation, she added, “it made perfect sense” to stay at the school. Now, she’s finishing up her sixth year at the school, living in Rockland County with her fiance and her dog, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Rudy.

“It was very easy to say yes and easy to become an official part of a great place,” Scherer said. “Here, you are lucky to have a tight-knit group of teachers who share the same values.”

After two years of her teaching fourth grade and a year of teaching general education, Hosang offered Scherer a position as a science teacher, which was her true passion and what she had focused on in her own studies.

As a science teacher for prekindergarten through fifth grade, she has the opportunity to help kids learn how to ask questions and figure out how the world around them works. One of the best parts, for her, is seeing how wide-ranging science can be. For example, students who might not like studying about rocks and geology one week might have their interest sparked the next week when she’s teaching them about plants and life science.

“They see how everything is connected,” she said. “Kids are so young that you can instill that lifelong love for learning early.”

Her favorite moment teaching science came around two or three years ago, when she organized a fourth-grade research project comparing urban and suburban ecosystems. Her students chose to research birds, gathering data and information on New York City’s birds and presenting it on tri-fold boards at a research symposium. Scherer said she let the students have notecards for their presentations, but they were so engaged with sharing what they had learned, the cards were hardly used.

“This is what teaching should be like,” she said, adding that the moment was an “amazing experience.”

But Scherer’s love for education and helping students grow extends far beyond the classroom.

She heads the school’s Parent and Family Involvement Committee and also its Community Connections Committee. In short, Hosang called her his “point person” for parent engagement. As such, Scherer hosts everything from movie nights to bingo nights to engage parents in their childrens’ education.

Scherer is the school’s sustainability coordinator, as well — helping P.S. 64 stay on track with its recycling and composting efforts. Scherer, who is a marathon runner, also began the school’s Rising Runners program, formally known as the Mighty Milers, every Friday for students, in which she leads running, games and other aerobic exercises.

“It’s a good way to instill healthy habits,” she noted.

The program is offered in coordination with the New York Road Runners. In a few weeks time, the students will participate in a half-mile run with other games and activities on Randalls Island for Global Running Day.

“She is a big proponent of health and wellness among our student body,” Hosang said. “She is well admired and respected by all.”

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