Andrea Robinson: “How New Visions Empowered and Equipped Me For A Career I Love”
Seven years ago, I knew I wanted a career that would make an impact in the lives of others. As a graduate student in Cellular and Molecular Biology, I was dividing my time between research and teaching, and found myself drawn to teaching more than lab work. A friend told me about an organization called New Visions and the rest is history. Today, as both a teacher and teacher-leader, I impact the lives of my students and empower teachers with the knowledge and skills that I have acquired over the years.
My first experience with New Visions was in the New Visions - Hunter College Urban Teaching Residency (UTR), an 18-month teaching certification program. Thanks to UTR, I received expert instruction from Hunter College faculty and earned my master’s degree, while training to teach in a real classroom environment with support from a veteran mentor teacher.
After graduating, I began to take advantage of the various professional development opportunities New Visions offered to me as a UTR graduate. One of the most impactful opportunities they’ve shared has been the New Visions Living Environment Curriculum, which provides Common Core educational resources, designed by teachers, for high school living environment and biology courses. I implement different aspects of the curriculum in my classroom each day, and over the past two-and-a-half years, I have seen improvements in my students’ engagement, understanding, and excitement.
During my first couple of years teaching, I struggled to keep my students engaged as we jumped from topic to topic, sometimes without clear connections between them. This curriculum helped to solve that problem. Each unit begins with an exciting question that engages them. The students follow the question all the way through the unit which culminates in a final task around what they’ve learned. The opening question from one of my favorite units, “Nutrition, Energy & Biochemical Processes,” asks students: “Would crickets make a good addition to school lunch?” That question always gets their attention!
Another part of the curriculum that has tremendously impacted my teaching is group learning routines. These structured discussions help facilitate students’ learning from listening to one another. I have to admit, I was reluctant to utilize group learning routines at first because I worried about letting go of some control in the classroom. I was afraid that it would take a lot of time to prepare and complete each routine and that we’d lose time transitioning between activities. However, as soon as I adopted them, my students really started responding to the routines and they actually proved quite effective from a timing perspective. Because of the routines, my students are more confident in sharing their perspectives and have a better handle on vocabulary comprehension.
Last year, I was invited to join the board of teachers who help develop the New Visions Living Environment curriculum. In my exciting new role on the Teacher Advisory Board, I help shape the curriculum, disseminate the curriculum beyond New York City, and work with my team of fellow teachers to identify relevant conferences that we can attend. Because of these efforts, I’ve been able to attend and present at conferences on both the local and national level over the past year and have received valuable feedback that has helped further refine the curriculum. Each time I present to a new group of teachers, I come across some new insight into why a particular routine works or a new way to scaffold an activity for a particular group of students. New Visions is dedicated to continuous improvement and the Living Environment Curriculum is no exception.
The opportunity to share and grow with other teachers has been one of the greatest parts of being a part of the New Visions community. This past summer, I became an instructor in the New Visions MicroCert program, which provides professional development opportunities for current educators. I taught a course on homeostasis and it was my first time teaching a multi-day course to other teachers. I enjoyed it so much that I’m planning to teach it again this spring!
Seven years ago, I had no idea where my path would take me. Today, I am grateful to not only be able to impact the lives of my students, but also the lives of educators, just like me. My goal, as I continue my involvement with New Visions, is to keep developing professionally, further refine the Living Environment curriculum and help develop new resources that will not only help my students, but students around the country.
The New Visions Living Environment Curriculum pilot project is made possible through the generous support of the Noyce Foundation, Toyota USA Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
About Andrea Robinson:
Andrea is a graduate of the New Visions-Hunter College Urban Teaching Residency, and currently teaches Living Environment and Earth Science at All City Leadership Secondary School in Brooklyn. She is in her third year of working with the New Visions Living Environment Curriculum, and has presented portions of the curriculum to teachers at local and national conferences. Andrea is also a Math for America Master Science Teacher.