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.

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

Veronica Montijo-Nunez, Grades 9-12, Dobbins High School

Mrs. Montijo-Nunez is an inspiration to her students and fellow teachers. She has created an amazing Cosmetology virtual course by rigorously incorporating Science and Business Administration into her classes. Most importantly, she has built strong relationships with her students by learning about them individually and sharing her own background and experiences. Her high expectations and strong relationships create a welcoming, positive, and powerful learning environment.” – Carl Ackerman, Consulting Teacher

Being able to teach in my hometown is a dream come true. Oh the joy to be able to witness the diversity of growth in our young people, and their joy in learning. The outcome is worth the patience it requires. I feel honored to be a part of the School District of Philadelphia family and will strive to be the best educator I can be for the students, parents, and district. – Veronica Montijo-Nunez

Helen Lam, 2nd Grade, Mayfair School

As a second grade teacher, Ms. Lam has built a true classroom community despite the challenges of being in a virtual setting. Her student-centered approach gives students the opportunity to frequently share their connections, explanations, and strategies with one another. Ms. Lam gives clear directions, using a variety of approaches to meet her students needs while empowering them to take academic risks, grow as learners, and have fun in the process.” – Christy Ashaba, Consulting Teacher

Growing up as an Asian-American in the School District of Philadelphia, I seldom saw teachers that represented me. Philadelphia has been my home and there is so much this city has to offer. I became an educator to make an impact on the lives of my students where our classroom would feel like a sanctuary. I couldn’t see myself teaching anywhere else. – Helen Lam

Dolores Gehner, Grades 9-12, Roxborough High School

Ms. Gehner is a talented math teacher, finding ways to reach and support her students everyday in a challenging virtual year. Her expertise exudes as she seamlessly incorporates the new math frameworks, all while balancing student engagement and scaffolding. Her students are so lucky to have her!” – Sharon Menotiades, Consulting Teacher

Teaching in Philadelphia gives me a sense of pride. The students, staff, and parents have welcomed me with kindness and guidance to help me grow as a teacher. The Philadelphia School District promotes equity and equality, which I am proud to be part of. – Dolores Gehner

Veronica Brocco, 6-8 Autistic Support, W.D. Kelley School

Ms. Brocco is making her dream a reality by teaching middle years Autistic Support. She is a caring and dedicated educator who provides her students with quality and consistent instruction. Students, families and support staff are an integral part of the teaching and learning environment in Ms. Brocco’s classroom. Her students are developing the knowledge and skills to be reflective learners who will be college and career ready. – Gara Speight, Consulting Teacher

After growing up in Philadelphia and moving to southern New Jersey as an early elementary school-aged student, I was given the opportunity to go back to my roots and serve our title 1 students in the most rewarding way possible. After graduating from Rowan University, I knew my passion revolved around teaching; however, I wanted to feel like I was part of something bigger. I wanted to give title 1 students more than just a good teacher, I wanted to give them a home away from home and someone who loves them. I chose to teach in this city to give back and liberate the minds of our future, reminding them the power they hold each day. Not only do I look forward to my job, but I look forward to all the years to come serving our more than deserving Philadelphia public school students. – Veronica Brocco

Malcolm Richardson, K-8 Music, W.D. Kelley School

Mr. Richardson pours his love of music and teaching into his K-8 scholars at W.D. Kelley School. He is a compassionate educator who values his students’ experiences, talents, and contributions to the learning environment. Mr. Richardson has created online and hybrid classroom environments that foster student engagement and opportunities for social-emotional learning. His love for teaching has definitely been reciprocated by his students and their excitement for learning! – Gara Speight, Consulting Teacher

I chose to teach for the School District of Philadelphia, because I wanted to be a part of a company that shows me that I matter. Over the past 6 years of my teaching experience, I’ve always showed my pride in being a good teacher, but now I can confidently say that, because of the leadership in the SDP, I am a phenomenal teacher. The coaching is always positive, and purposeful, the professional development sessions have directly impacted my pedagogical understanding as an educator, and the level of support both in and out of my classroom is by far the most I’ve ever received. Thank You SDP! – Malcolm Richardson

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

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

Jennifer Roof, 11th Grade, Murrell Dobbins High School

Ms. Jennifer Roof is a dedicated and enthusiastic Chemistry teacher at Dobbins High School. During this virtual season, she has created a classroom environment that embraces students’ social-emotional needs while also supporting high expectations for Chemistry learning. Her students benefit from her well planned lessons and her enthusiasm for the Sciences. – Meenu Bhutani, Consulting Teacher

Over the past six years living and learning in Philadelphia, I have fallen in love with the community. In choosing a career, I found that I loved the experiences that I had tutoring and learning from students in West Philadelphia schools and decided that I wanted to continue having a positive impact on students through teaching. I have a strong background in the sciences, and one of my main goals is to engage students in scientific practice and help them see how science is relevant to their lives. – Jennifer Roof

Amy Keller, Grades 9-12, Roxborough High School

Ms. Keller is an exceptional educator! Her warmth, compassion, and genuine love of her students is palpable and contagious, shining through the virtual experience. She has found ways to balance engagement, rigor, and supports for her students’ needs. The best compliment I can give is this: I would be ecstatic if my son were in her class. – Sharon Menotiades, Consulting Teacher

As an SDP alum, a spouse to a fellow SDP teacher/alum, and as a mother who has entrusted the education of her own children to SDP, I truly believe in the power of this district to provide a high-quality education to each and every student we serve. I have seen first-hand the transformative power of public education–as well as the tremendous positive impact that good teachers can have on the lives of our children, particularly those with unique learning needs. I cannot imagine a more gratifying career than serving the students of my hometown, and promoting a more inclusive learning environment for all. I love coming to work each and every day to share my passion for life-long learning, and to seek out highly engaging and innovative ways to reach, teach and empower my amazing students! – Amy Keller

Peter "Bear" St. Michael, 9th Grade, Building 21

Peter “Bear” St. Michael is an Algebra teacher at Building 21. He has worked tirelessly to build a classroom community despite the challenges of being in a virtual setting. Bear uses a variety of approaches to meet his students’ needs while empowering them to take academic risks. His students benefit from his well-planned lessons, seamless transitions with various platforms online, and a calm and respectful demeanor.  – Meenu Bhutani, Consulting Teacher

There’s just something about Philly. The people are the nicest, the history is the richest, and walking around the city there are so many amazing places to discover. I first came to appreciate this city when I moved here for college. I left for a few years, but eventually Philadelphia called again–and I am so happy to be back. – Peter “Bear” St. Michael

Walter Kirby, 10th-12th Grade, Academy at Palumbo

Walter Kirby is a caring and motivated educator. He teaches Geometry and Pre-Calculus teacher at the Academy at Palumbo. During this virtual season, he has created a classroom environment that embraces students’ social-emotional needs while also supporting high expectations for learning. His students benefit from his well planned lessons as well as his compassion for them. The students are also very receptive to the Math jokes he incorporates in his lessons. – Meenu Bhutani, Consulting Teacher

I wanted to become a teacher because when I was in high school, I was able to
take AP Calculus and AP Statistics during my senior year of high school, and the
same teacher taught both classes. After the AP Exams, we were required to tutor
any of his students who were in his non-AP classes, and when I was able to see
everything click for those students, it was a joy to see. As for why I wanted to
teach in Philadelphia, as soon as I stepped foot on Temple University’s campus, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life in Philly. And as soon as I began taking my coursework and interacting with the faculty and students of certain
Philadelphia schools, it just became more and more evident to me that this would not only be my career, but it would be my life’s calling. -Walter Kirby

Rachel Scoratow, 9th Grade, Building 21

Rachel Scoratow is a Physical Science teacher at Building 21. She has created a caring and nurturing environment in her virtual class, where students are excited about Science. From Bath bombs to human diseases, Ms. Scoratow uses observable and interesting phenomenon related to students’ daily lives to drive student inquiry. – Meenu Bhutani, Consulting Teacher

After graduating college, I moved to Philadelphia to serve for a year with City Year in Philadelphia schools. My year of service introduced me to the most inspirational students, innovative educators, and a purpose. I chose to teach in Philadelphia to join these educators in empowering and continuing to serve our amazing young people. – Rachel Scoratow

Elaina Hawkins, 2nd Grade, Hill-Freedman World Academy

Elaina has been an avid participant during our professional development sessions who shares best practices and is eager to collaborate. She has created amazing choice boards which challenge her students to showcase what they are learning in her Spanish language class. Students have risen to the challenge and have submitted amazing work, including a TikTok cooking video with a sound track! – Andrew Guyon, Consulting Teacher

I chose to teach in Philadelphia because of the students. We have such bright, hardworking young people in our schools, and I wanted to be able to introduce students to the diverse Hispanic cultures in the world. I hope my students see the passion I have for learning and teaching, and are driven to think of themselves as global citizens! – Elaina Hawkins

Allison Jones, Kindergarten, Carnell Elementary School

Ms. Jones provides her Kindergarten students with a welcoming classroom environment that is conducive to teaching and learning. She is an insightful educator who is data driven and works to bridge learning gaps. Ms. Jones’ work with the Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT) at her school is commendable. She goes the extra mile to engage her students’ families in their academic progress. – Gara Speight, Consulting Teacher

It has always been a dream of mine to work with scholars in a diverse setting that exhibits academic and social-emotional challenges. Many of my current scholars face these challenges daily. This year, especially, has shown me how resilient, determined, and committed my scholars are when it comes to their learning. I am thankful and honored to be working for the students of The School District of Philadelphia. The district has provided me with ample opportunities and resources to help strengthen my instruction to meet the needs of all learners. Not only did the district provide me with professional learning opportunities, but it also provided me a new love for teaching. My scholars and their families will forever hold a special place in my heart. I am the teacher that I am today due to my resilient and courageous scholars. – Allison Jones

Carly Lacoe, 1st Grade, James Sullivan Elementary

Carly Lacoe is passionate about teaching her first grade scholars. It is clearly evident authentic relationships and rapports were established in her classroom. Ms. Lacoe consistently prepares engaging digital lessons to teach standards- based content. Students are provided opportunities to show their understanding of skills by engaging in discussions and utilizing digital learning platforms. It is my hope Ms. Lacoe will continue teaching “our S.D.P. Scholars” with the same level of commitment and enthusiasm.  – Lisa Richardson, Consulting Teacher

After growing up in a small town, moving to a city for college was a big goal of mine. While completing my degree at Temple University I fell in love with the School District of Philadelphia. In all the classrooms I was a part of I saw values that aligned with my own. Equity and diversity is something that was lacking in my childhood and here it is of utmost importance. I am so glad I am now officially a teacher for the district that has taught me so much! – Carly Lacoe