Master Teachers Bring Science to New Level

Deer Park science teachers David Knuffke and Jon Steigerwald were among only 42 Long Island teachers named as New York State Master Teachers by the governor’s office. These honorees are the first group from Long Island; a total of 215 teachers statewide have been named Master Teachers to date. Many districts had no honorees, and few districts had more than one make it through the extremely rigorous selection process. The program, which began last October, recognizes science, technology, engineering and math educators who have demonstrated exceptional skills in mentoring peers and furthering their professional development, part of the state’s mission to upgrade science education and assist students in preparing for careers in the STEM subjects.

Knuffke has taught AP biology and honors chemistry at the high school for a decade, after obtaining his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology and education at Stony Brook University. “I really like teaching science,” he said, noting that his selection was enhanced by the fact that he is very active in the AP bio community, serving as a forum moderator. “I focus on inquiry education,” he said of his less traditional teaching method, which he noted, keys into where science education is heading. “I train students how to ask questions and give them the tools they need to collect their own data.”

Steigerwald, who teaches eighth-grade science at Robert Frost, has been at Deer Park for nine years. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in secondary science education at Dowling College, and an advanced certificate for school administration from Hofstra University. “Constant education and professional development” is what he cites as the basis for his Master Teacher honor. “I continually take a lot of classes and workshops, and pass on my tech knowledge to coworkers.” As for his teaching style, he said, “I make it fun and make it relevant,” with extensive use of technology. He utilizes laptops for data collection, assessing students to address issues before testing.

Both Knuffke and Steigerwald emphasize the future of the teaching profession, how skilled, knowledgeable educators are using new methods and technology to improve learning for students. “This is a singularly amazing time to be a teacher,” said Knuffke. “Our understanding of how students learn continues to advance. We are provided with access to a technological palette that, if used properly, can fundamentally shift instruction. With a few clicks of a button, I am able to create and share materials with my students, colleagues and the entire world. I am eager to continue in my own progression as a Master Teacher, and to help others do the same,” said Knuffke.