Innovative Educator Earns Master Teacher Status

Innovative Educator Earns Master Teacher Status

Whether it’s having her students construct and destroy gingerbread houses to test the forces of wind or do scavenger hunts around the school, Wantagh High School science teacher Samantha Gordon is known for her exciting, hands-on projects.

Ms. Gordon was recently accepted in the New York State Master Teacher program, which brings together educators from across the state to share best practices and provide innovative STEM education for students. She will be part of a program sponsored by the State University of New York and hosted locally by Stony Brook University. This year, 221 educators were selected, and Ms. Gordon will be part of the program for four years, receiving expanded opportunities for networking and professional development.

She is excited to join a community of teachers from across the state to improve her knowledge of science and her teaching practices.

“It seemed like a cool group of like-minded educators that I wanted to be a part of,” she said about her reason for applying. To be considered, she had to submit a lengthy written application, submit letters of recommendation from an administrator, colleague and former student, and participate in one-on-one and group interviews. 

Ms. Gordon, a physics teacher, had to present on a science topic that she doesn’t teach but wants to learn more about, so she chose forensics. 

This year she teaches Regents Physics, Conceptual Physics and Advanced Placement Physics, the latter of which she described as the “hardest class the high school offers” because it is a college-level, algebra-based, inquiry driven class. Conceptual Physics, she explained, is a project-based qualitative approach to the same concepts. During her decade in Wantagh, she has also taught science research and eighth grade science. 

Ms. Gordon is a 2008 graduate of Wantagh High School and was an active member of the Science Olympiad team. She attended Adelphi University, earning a bachelor’s degree in physics, and a master’s degree in adolescent science education.

In addition to teaching, she is adviser of the Science Honor Society, the Wantagh Foundation for Furthering the Sciences and the medical-based Health Occupation Students of America, which is new at Wantagh High School. Ms. Gordon also is the mentor teacher facilitator and the physics subject area representative for the Nassau County chapter of the Science Teachers Association of New York State.

Ms. Gordon said that the growth of Wantagh’s science program since her days as a student reflects increased career opportunities in STEM fields. She said it’s important to offer a robust program that engages students who are passionate about those subjects – science, technology, engineering and math. 

“I hope to become a better teacher,” she said of her involvement with the Master Teacher program, “and bring lot of new ideas to not only my classroom, but to my department and to the high school as a whole.”

Principal Dr. Paul Guzzone said Ms. Gordon is well deserving of acceptance into the program. He noted her ability to leverage technology and other teaching resources to foster critical thinking among her students. 

“This is a substantial achievement, and it doesn’t surprise me because she has proven to be a leader in the form of innovation in the classroom,” Dr. Guzzone said. “I consider myself lucky to have her as part of my team. We should all consider ourselves lucky to have her educating our children.”