Creating Science Stars

While some teachers might view less-than-optimal funding as a serious detriment, Lesia Kaszczak, chair of the science department at Yonkers Middle High School, sees it as a challenge that can be overcome.

“Sometimes our district doesn’t have enough funding for equipment,” she says. “But what we lack in materials we make up for in good teaching.”

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Kaszczak is quick to praise all the teachers in her department for their skill and effectiveness, but her past accomplishments and current undertakings demonstrate her own extraordinary dedication to her students and their education. A 24-year veteran of the Yonkers school district, Kaszczak began her teaching career at Emerson Middle School, where she remained for eight years before accepting a position at Yonkers Middle School in 2000. She holds a BS in biology, an MsEd in biology, and an EdD in instructional leadership. She is also a New York State Master Teacher, a designation awarded to educators in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines who have demonstrated excellence in the classroom and a broad commitment to ongoing professional development.

She currently teaches ninth grade and IB biology, and is advisor to the school’s science honor society. IB, she explains, stands for international baccalaureate, and her class is similar to the AP classes offered in other schools.  

Kaszczak is well aware that many students regard math and science as difficult, so she aims to make these subjects more accessible. Notably, she co-facilitates an after-school club that focuses on architecture, construction, and engineering. “We bring in mentors from these professions, and the students work on projects,” she says. A recent project involved building a model to showcase a redesign and repurposing of a building in Yonkers.

Yonkers Middle High School Principal Jane Wermuth calls Kaszczak a “skillful, conscientious, and dedicated professional” who accepts any challenge that comes her way. “She works tirelessly to help our students achieve their potential,” Wermuth says. “She is truly phenomenal.”

Kaszczak says it’s essential to alert students to all the exciting possibilities that STEM subjects offer. “Many students think that if they go into the sciences, they have to become doctors,” she says. “But as teachers, we show that there are many different careers open to them.”

“What we lack in materials we make up for in good teaching.” – Lesia Kaszczak, Yonkers Middle High School

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