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Teachers of the Month: Mrs. Theresa Braun and Mr. Dewan Bajaj

This month’s featured teachers were nominated by Terrence Hinson, District Chairperson for Guidance at Northport-East Northport Union Free School District in Northport, NY. Mr. Hinson praises two teachers in his district, Mrs. Theresa Braun and Mr. Dewan Bajaj, for making a difference in the lives of Northport students with the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum.

As a school counselor at East Northport Middle School, Mrs. Braun uses the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum to support New York State's Dignity for All Students Act, which seeks to provide public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying. During the 2012-2013 school year, Mrs. Braun integrated the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum into seventh grade science lessons on ecosystems, biodiversity, observations and inferences, and the scientific method. She hopes to expand Mutt-i-grees to other areas in the coming school year. “Teachers love it,” she says. “And the students are enjoying every minute, interacting and talking about more so than any other curriculum I have ever used.” Mrs. Braun loves the Curriculum’s flexibility and encourages other counselors and teachers to use it in their classrooms. “Just try it!” she suggests. “It only takes a lesson or two to get you (and others) hooked! I am so excited to implement it further in the next few years.”

Mr. Bajaj, a special education teacher at Northport High School, also attributes the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum for his success with his students. During the 2012-2013 school year, Mr. Bajaj used activities from the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum once a week with lower functioning high school students to teach teens life skills that would enable them to be as independent as possible. To make a larger impact on students at Northport High, Mr. Bajaj enlisted the help of students who were assigned to in-school suspension for behavioral issues in the school’s Time Out Room. Mr. Bajaj facilitated an arrangement where the Time Out Room students co-taught Mutt-i-grees lessons about positive and negative thinking, development of self image, coping skills, and anger management to students in the life skills class. According to Mr. Bajaj, connecting these two classrooms made a huge difference. He saw more engagement and interest from students from both classes after he began this program. “Mutt-i-grees gave these students a sense of empowerment and purpose,” he says. Mr. Hinson agrees. He explains, “Mutt-i-grees has connected students to peers they may not have interacted with otherwise. It also repurposed the Time Out Room into a space to make a difference, rather than simply a punitive place.”

In the future, Mr. Bajaj hopes to bring the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum to long-term suspension students at an alternative education building on Northport’s campus and would like to use some of the lessons in a Resource Room class with students with learning disabilities. He also plans to integrate some of the lessons from the Curriculum into a summer program he runs for high school students working with senior citizens.

Congratulations to Mrs. Braun and Mr. Bajaj – keep up the good work!

See More Teacher of the Month Stories