Two Math Teachers Move On

As the fall semester came to a close, two teachers from the mathematics department, Mr. Gary Jaye, and Ms. Lisa Daniels, announced their departures from Stuyvesant High School.

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With the start of the spring semester, two math teachers, Gary Jaye and Lisa Daniels, announced their departures from Stuyvesant High School. Irene Mouzakitis and Stacy LoCascio will be taking over their Algebra II classes, while math teacher Gary Rubinstein will be teaching Mouzakitis’s former geometry classes. In addition, math teachers Ciprian Ghita and Catharine Maitner are both teaching an extra class.

Jaye retired from his position as an Algebra II and AP Calculus teacher after being a member of the Stuyvesant community for 30 years. “I loved the five times a day that I taught. That was a constant for all 30 years,” Jaye said in an e-mail interview. “In October, I realized that I couldn't teach to the level that I expected of myself. [...] I never wanted to give my students anything less than my best effort, and that's what they would have received had I remained for the spring semester.”

Despite the fall term being Daniels’s first semester at Stuyvesant, she stepped down from her teaching position due to personal reasons. Prior to her departure, Daniels taught five classes: four Algebra II classes and one Advanced Algebra class. However, Daniels was absent for about a month during the weeks leading up to the final. She later informed her students that she would no longer be teaching at Stuyvesant.

Adjustments were made to fill their positions for the spring semester. Mouzakitis is taking over Jaye’s Algebra II classes while Ghita and Maitner are now both teaching a sixth class in his absence. Mouzakitis’s previous geometry classes are now taught by Rubinstein, leaving him unable to teach the Math Research elective for the spring semester. “[For] Jaye’s classes, there was a lot of reconfiguring that had to happen with some of the courses. A couple of the other math teachers are teaching an additional class,” Assistant Principal of Mathematics Eric Smith said.

“During times of crisis, you’ve got to really be a team player,” Rubinstein said. “If really the only way to do it is for you to change what you were hoping to [teach], [then] you just have to chip in for the team.”

For Daniels’s classes, LoCascio will be taking over as a substitute teacher for the rest of the year. The replacement process for Daniels was different from Jaye’s. “To cover both Ms. Daniels and Mr. Jaye, we had two options: [one], hire a substitute teacher who has a math license. We did this in hiring Ms. LoCascio. [Two], have the DOE assign an ATR [Absent Teacher Reserve] teacher who does not currently have an appointed position at another school,” Smith said in an e-mail interview. “It made it harder because we could only bring in math substitute teachers, so it was finding substitute teachers [who] had math licenses, and that’s a very short list.”

In preparation for second semester, the departmentalized final made sure to cover all topics taught in the fall semester. This made sure that the students were taught these certain topics. “The [departmental] final exams that the students took […] were meant to put a punctuation mark for the end of the semester. Now, it’s just a question of covering the spring section,” Smith said. “The [new teachers] are picking up where the other teachers left off.”

For students who previously had Daniels, further arrangements were made to make up for her absence during the two weeks leading up to the final exam. “I think that [Daniels’s absence] did probably affect the performance on the final exam but we are making adjustments for those students,” Smith said. “Most of the material had been covered, but I provided review materials so that they would at least get review in preparation for the final exam.”

Most of the students found this to be helpful, but they still would have preferred having a teacher present to help clarify and address any misunderstandings they had. Students in Daniels’s Algebra II classes were concerned about their performance on the upcoming final exam and felt unprepared due to Daniels’s early absence. “I definitely do believe that [Daniels’s absence and departure] affected how I [performed] on the final, considering that we did not cover several things in class and we had much less practice time and help covering the other subjects,” sophomore Michael Russo said.

Students were also concerned about their overall grade in the course. “It felt like it [was] [...] difficult for me to pull out a good grade because a lot of the kids [who] weren’t taking Daniels were learning a lot of things that I was not able to learn,” sophomore Sayan Shil said.

In the first few weeks of the second semester, students have been finding it difficult to adjust to a new teaching style. “Both teachers have very different teaching techniques and I adapted to Mr. Jaye’s technique, but now adapting to Ms. Mouzakitis’s technique may take some time,” sophomore Asifuzzaman Sami said.

Despite the transition, Smith, Jaye, and their students are confident that the performances on standardized exams, such as the Regents in June, toward the end of the school year will not be affected drastically. “If I [do] my job and my students [do] theirs, their capacity to thrive should be and will be unaffected,” Jaye said.