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Four Jefferson, St. Lawrence County math and science teachers named “master teachers”


Four math and science teachers from Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties were named “master teachers” by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday, making them each eligible for $60,000 in stipends for partaking in a statewide program to recognize and support some of our best educators.

Jennifer N. Fraser, with South Jefferson Central; Deborah J. Wilkinson, Lyme; Valerie Pond, Carthage, and Majella LaRock, Brasher Falls, are among the first 105 teachers to join the state’s Master Teachers Program.

The program will provide a $15,000 stipend per year for four years to each participant.

In partnership with SUNY Plattsburgh, the north country’s “master teachers” also will engage in peer mentoring and intensive, content-oriented professional development opportunities; help support the next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teachers; take part in professional development and training sessions, and attend regular meetings.

Mrs. Fraser, an algebra teacher at South Jefferson High School, Adams, said she’s looking forward to working with teachers around the state.

“For me to work with high-quality, more experienced teachers, it will be a good experience for me,” she said.

Mrs. Fraser, who has been at the school for four years, after two years at Lyme Central School, Chaumont, said she was most inspired by the chance to inspire young people and get them excited about math.

Mrs. Fraser said she also was excited to hear about Ms. Wilkinson’s selection. When she worked at Lyme, the two had neighboring classrooms.

Mrs. Wilkinson, an eighth-grade integrated science teacher at Lyme who also teaches Regents earth science and physics, shared Mrs. Fraser’s enthusiasm.

“I think this is a phenomenal opportunity. And I’m incredibly excited to work with the other teachers because I believe collaborating with other districts makes our district stronger,” she said.

Mrs. Wilkinson, a Lyme Central graduate who has been with the district for nine years, said she already works with a lot of new teachers and believes she’s a good fit for the program.

Thanking district administrators who assisted her through the application process, Mrs. Wilkinson said she is up for the challenge and eager to learn more about the state program.

Mrs. Pond entered her 17th year working for Carthage this fall as a high school math instructor. Her greatest accomplishment this year has been undertaking flipped classrooms, in which students watch videos of her lessons online after school and then do homework in class. In June she won state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie’s “Golden Apple Award.”

Mrs. Pond, who first heard she made the list in a phone interview, said only, “I was waiting to hear. ... I’m kind of in shock.”

In St. Lawrence County, Ms. LaRock, who teaches high school chemistry, biology labs and applied chemistry at St. Lawrence Central High School, Brasher Falls, said teachers had been encouraged to apply for the program by Thomas Morrison, president of St. Lawrence Central United Teachers.

Ms. LaRock said that while still teaching, she’ll be required to travel to Plattsburgh some evenings and weekends as part of the four-year program.

“It’s going to involve traveling to Plattsburgh a few times a month to do course work. It is a serious commitment,” she said.

It’s a stepping stone in her career, though, Ms. LaRock said.

“I’m about midway in my career here. I have a lot of years left. With all the changes coming, it seemed to be a great way for me to stay on top of and even get ahead of the game, to keep myself in the loop and fresh. It just appealed to me. I’m pretty excited about it. I’m really excited to be part of the first group that’s a part of it,” Ms. LaRock said.

Applications for the second round of the program will be accepted Nov. 1 through Jan. 3. Selections will be made next spring.

For more information or to submit an application, visit:

Times staff and Johnson Newspapers writers Gordon Block, Amanda Taylor and Bob Beckstead contributed to this report.

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