Sunday, December 9, 2007

Cool teachers you should know: Toni Molnar-Port

Toni Molnar-Port is a 9th year Biology teacher at Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey. Born and raised in Trenton, Ms. Molnar-Port's commitment to her hometown led her to take a job at the high school she attended.

Her colleague reports that Ms. Molnar-Port emphasizes experimentation and laboratory work in her classroom. As a result, her students come to see themselves as "scientists in training." One of her favorite units is environmental science, in which she takes students to the local marsh to collect and test specimens of all kinds. During her summers, Ms. Molnar-Port has coordinated and led a science camp for middle school girls from Trenton and Philadelphia.

Ms. Molnar-Port is not only an expert teacher herself, writes her colleague, but "the kind of teacher that you are always grateful to have down the hall. Whether you are pulling your hair out or celebrating a small victory, she's the go-to person for support." She is known at her school for reaching out to new teachers to provide mentoring, and is currently hosting two student teachers.

Her advice to new teachers? Ms. Molnar-Port provided this excerpt from a guide for new teachers that she wrote with a colleague:
1. Build relationships — get to know your students, their families, your colleagues, and your school’s local community. Think of the time spent building these relationships as an investment, one that will pay off for both you and your students. People are experts in their own lives, and their insights may have valuable implications.

2. Search for your students’ strengths—it is very easy to make a list of things people don’t know or can’t do. Find opportunities for all students to be successful. Make sure you provide opportunities for your students to demonstrate to you what they already know and can do. Once you know this, building upon these strengths often comes naturally. Labels can help identify some students for extra support, but all too often they become the lens through which we view someone. Resist this temptation.

3. Examine your own perspectives, and understand those of others—try to look at what you teach and how you teach from someone else’s point of view. What messages are you sending, intentionally and unintentionally?

4. Include students' own experiences as a springboard to learning whenever possible; this keeps the content relevant and allows students to make important contextual connections.

5. Consider that learning to teach is a lifelong process—approach your teaching with questions that relate to your goals. Keep track of the things that you’d like to improve or change, and follow through.

6. And most of all, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and ask others to allow you to set things right when you do. Extend this courtesy to your students as well. If they came to us perfect, we’d hardly need to teach them at all.
Keep up the good work, Ms. Molnar-Port!

You can nominate a "cool teacher you should know" by emailing me at eduwonkette (at) gmail (dot) com.


Anonymous said...

she is the best teacher ever

Anonymous said...

I have known Ms. Molnar-Port on a personal basis for quite a number of years. Not only is she an exceptional teacher, she is an exceptional person. Ms. Molnar-Port has a level of expertise, and integrity that is not often seen in this day and age.