Inspiration Corner

SDP hires wonderful new teachers to the district each year!

Here you will read new SDP teachers reasons for teaching in Philadelphia, and read their Consulting Teacher’s thoughts on their outstanding dedication to our students.

Please check back often for inspiration from our new teachers, as we are currently in the process of updating this page.

Nicholas Palazzolo, 9th-12th Grade Teacher , Central High School

Nick is captivating to watch as a teacher! He has found a way to carefully balance rigor with relevance, and his students lead class based on the way he teaches them. There is authentic and deep learning happening in his classes and I learn more from him every time I’m there. -Sharon Menotiades, Consulting Teacher

In 1967, high school students demanded Black studies in Philadelphia. In 2005, the school district met this demand. As a teacher of African-American history, I am proud to teach in a city with a powerful legacy of leadership and power from black youth. -Nicholas Palazzolo

Anne Murray, 4th Grade Teacher , John Moffet School

Anne is truly committed to her students and school community. She worked hard during her first year to meet the student’s needs while building a classroom community of learners. Her students benefited from her well planned lessons, reflective practice as well as her compassion for her students as individuals. Anne’s growth mindset, positive attitude, work ethic are inspiring. – Jenn Schneider, Consulting Teacher

I’m not originally from Philadelphia, but during grad school in Philly, I was drawn in by the many teachers I met who were not only deeply involved with their students and school community but also committed to the larger social justice needs of the city. This stood out to me and hooked me into teaching in Philadelphia. The elementary school I am in is a strong community of families who have lived in the area and gone to my school for many years, allowing for teachers to grow with these families over time. My tight-knit school community is giving me the opportunity to grow as an educator, challenge myself to keep learning, and also become part of what Philadelphia’s all about. -Anne Murray

Zuleika Cardona, Grade 1 - Bilingual, Munoz-Marin School

Zuleika Cardona teaches a Dual Language classroom full of enthusiastic first graders. She exhibits veteran teacher qualities. Ms. Cardona welcomes feedback and exhibits a growth mindset. She is extremely thoughtful and caring in her execution of lessons. She is a role model for her bilingual community and executes the dual language program with ease. -Betsy Ortiz-Cann & Gara Speight, Consulting Teachers

As a native of Puerto Rico, I am grateful for the opportunity to be an inspiration to students and families who share similar backgrounds despite being so far from home. I have lived in Philadelphia for a short time, but since my arrival to the city I knew that my mission was here. I love kids, and I love teaching! The SDP has given me a chance to be an inspiration to my students and their families. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of the positive change in the community and share wonderful everyday experiences with my students. I am thankful to be a part of the SDP at Luis Muñoz-Marín school because I witness the great transformations that teaching can make on the lives of the students and the community.  -Zuleika Cardona

Gina Wei, Grade 11 & 12, Constitution High School

Ms. Wei, a Math teacher at Constitution High School, works very hard to promote higher order thinking skills in her Math classes. She does this by asking students to work in groups to explain their reasoning with one another. Instead of just focusing on the right answer or the What of Math, students examine their thought processes in order to understand the Why. She presses her students to “to think deeply about a math problem, even if it’s challenging, to construct our own ideas and share them in writing and verbally.” -Carl Ackerman, Consulting Teacher

I came to the School District of Philadelphia looking for a community that shares the same purposes and passions that made me want to be an educator. The young people in this district have a lot to give to the world, and I feel lucky to be part of their contributions. – Gina Wei

Paris Beissel, Grades 3-5 : Learning Support, Bridesburg Elementary School

Ms. Beissel is a dedicated and reflective educator. She has established a positive rapport with her students and their families with the use of class dojo, student incentives, and verbal communication. She embeds instructional interventions and student’s I.E.P. Goals as she plans engaging lessons and work stations. It is my hope that Ms. Beissel will continue to plant seeds of knowledge into the lives of “our SDP Students.” – Lisa Richardson, Consulting Teacher

There are many different and important reasons to become a teacher. I believe it is very important for students to learn, however I personally feel it is even more important for students to feel like they have support and a safe environment. At the beginning of every school year, my biggest goal is to make every single one of my students feel safe, comfortable, and confident to speak about how they feel. Although this is true for all schools, I think it is more essential in the Philadelphia area. This is what drove my passion for working in the Philadelphia School District. -Paris Beissel

Christopher Shuster, 6-8th Grade Emotional Support, James Dobson Elementary School

Mr. Shuster is a caring, motivated and dedicated educator. Mr. Shuster advocates for the needs of his students both academically and emotionally. He has created a classroom community among support staff and students that supports high expectations for learning. Mr. Shuster’s ability to think “outside of the box” and his passion for education has a positive impact on his students and school community. – Jenn Schneider, Consulting Teacher

I chose to teach in the School District of Philadelphia because I wanted to make a difference and give back to my community. Growing up, I attended Cook Wissahickon and Levering Elementary both which were in the Philadelphia School District. Philadelphia schools for the most part have a negative connotation about them, which is inaccurate to me. I ended up playing college football and am now working on my second Master’s degree. I wanted to teach in Philadelphia to not only serve as a teacher of inner city students, but also a mentor, a role model, a coach, and an advocate for them as well. Looking at Philadelphia’s population I believe students need people that will believe in them and not give up on them and I believe I can be that person for them for years to come. -Christopher Shuster

Octavia McBride, 3rd Grade Teacher, Samuel Powell School

Teacher Octavia McBride is an accomplished poet and published author who currently teaches 3rd grade at Samuel Powel School. She has very high expectations for student achievement and strives to tap into the potential of all of her students. From having them write persuasive essays on topics of their choice, to making sure they are well versed in geography, to teaching them how to create dolls representing historical women, the sky is the limit in her classroom. When you enter her vibrant and colorful classroom, her students are eager to learn. As a result of Teacher McBride unlocking their creative ability, students haiku poems were published in the Philadelphia Tribune. – Anastasia Austin, Consulting Teacher

When I asked Teacher McBride why she choose to teach in Philly, this is what she said “In November of 2002 I had to return home from the Ivory Coast due to the Civil War that was occurring there. It became to dangerous for us to remain. Upon my return, I worked as a Substitute Teacher for 10 years while raising my children and working with my family. Once they were older, I decided to enroll at Drexel University and earned my Teacher certification. Philly is my home. I am a product of Philly schools and I purposely wanted to work in underserved communities.  I want to help children unlock their inner poets and authors by showing them how creativity can be found within the curriculum. Teaching is my passion and working with the students of Powell School brings me so much joy” -Octavia McBride

Michelle Dos Santos, Grades 3 - 5 Emotional Support, Carnell School

Ms. Dos Santos is a caring, motivated, and committed educator. She has created a classroom environment that embraces students’ social-emotional needs while also supporting high expectations for learning. Her students are continuously developing the knowledge and skills to become reflective learners who demonstrate a growth mindset..- Gara Speight, Consulting Teacher

I teach in Philadelphia because I believe knowledge is power, and I want to ensure that each of my students reach their full potential. Urban education is many things, but most of all, it is invigorating and rewarding. Our scholars come to school with different experiences, talents, and mindsets. It is through this diversity that we are able to empower each other to learn and grow.
Watching the successes of my students is worth so much to me, and it inspires me to put forth the work that I do. I love knowing that I am able to provide a safe space where my scholars can become the best versions of themselves. At the end of the day, sometimes I wonder who is truly teaching who. While I value my education in the field of teaching, my students are really the ones who have molded me into the teacher that I am today, and I don’t think I could ever repay
them for that.. -Michelle Dos Santos

Rachel LaDonna McDonald, MAT, 3rd Grade, Allen M. Stearne Elementary

Every child needs a cheerleader in their life to provide continuous encouragement and support. Ms. McDonald is a cheerleader for her students as she motivates them to achieve academic success on a daily basis. Upon entering her classroom, you will notice the college-theme decor, students engaged in standards- based instruction, and participating in instructional call and response chants. It is my hope that Ms. McDonald will continue teaching “our SDP students” with the same level of dedication and passion.
– Lisa Richardson, Consulting Teacher

Because I grew up in a title one environment (Chicago Illinois public schools), I wanted to teach to a group of children that I could inspire and who could inspire me. Also, I wanted to give students a warm/demanding environment that would best set them up for success. Lastly, I believe that all children, regardless of race, creed or class are entitled to a quality education that gives them the tools to change the world. -Rachel LaDonna McDonald

Danielle Jones, 3rd Grade Teacher, Carnell School

Danielle has created a community of learners in her third grade classroom. She works hard to challenge her students academically and meets their needs emotionally. Danielle is thoughtful in her planning and preparation and differentiates according to student needs. Danielle’s passion of teaching has positively impacted her students and school community.  – Jenn Schneider, Consulting Teacher

I can honestly say I did not choose to become a teacher, but teaching chose me. Teaching is a gift that you keep giving year after year. Through the years I have learned that teaching is my passion. I love teaching my students and also learning from them. Just being there and encouraging them through the tough lessons is a joy. Some days are rough and tiring but knowing I am making an impact on children is my motivation to get up each day and try again. – Danielle Jones

Alexis Agree, 9th -12th Grade Teacher, West Philadelphia High School

Alexis works extremely hard to give her students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through projects and presentations. She developed a Shark Tank format for students to present the products they created in their Economics class. Ms. Agree invited guest professionals and fellow teachers to serve as the Sharks to offer students praise and constructive feedback. This helped to take the learning experience to another level. – Carl Ackerman, Consulting Teacher

I grew up in the suburbs of Pennsylvania in an upper-middle class area, and always knew I wanted to be a teacher. However, I chose to work in Philly because I wanted to work in a community that I believed really needed good teachers and was somewhere I could truly make a difference in students lives. Although urban education has its challenges, it is the place in which I know students need good role models and people to truly care about them in order for them to be successful.  – Alexis Agree

Gwendolyn Mitchell, 5th Grade, Roosevelt Elementary

Gwen Mitchell is a fifth grade teacher at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School. Ms. Mitchell has developed a caring and nurturing classroom environment through building rapport and implementing restorative circles. Students in her class are excited about learning and eager to participate. As a former Roosevelt student herself, Ms. Mitchell defines a true commitment to school and community pride. – Gara Speight, Consulting Teacher

As an educator, I assume many roles in support of my scholars. Each day, I equip students with the skills needed to excel in life. I appreciate the opportunity the SDP has given me to liberate the minds of these precious young students and move them closer to the reality that all things are possible through education. As a product of Philadelphia public schools, I have a duty to give back to the community that I love and the many wonderful students that reside in this district. I am so excited to be a part of something great!!! Watch Out, we are forever moving up and progressing forward! – Gwendolyn Mitchell

Daniel Center, 9th-12th Grade, High School of the Future

Mr. Center inspires me as a teacher because he works very hard to re-create History for students. He brings the past to life by incorporating artifacts and primary resources into his lessons. Students rotate through stations to examine and analyze the artifacts in order to draw conclusions about what life was like in the past. Mr. Center’s class is not just about learning about the past, but also helping students to live in the past and develop a deeper understanding through experiential learning. – Carl Ackerman, Consulting Teacher

Students lives in the Philadelphia School District are shaped by the legacy of history each and every day. History can be inspiring at times, but it is also rife with inequities. My goal by working as a social studies teacher in the district is to facilitate student discovery of the history that affects their lives and communities every day. In doing so, I learn from students about their own historically relevant experiences while also promoting them to think like historians. This allows students to be critical in their analysis of historical events in order to learn from them and make positive changes for the future. – Daniel Center