June 12, 2013

Teachers Talk Back: Dennis Yacobucci

Dennis Yacobucci is a member of a Teacher Policy Team focused on teacher preparation programs, and teaches yoga and movement at PS 369 in Brooklyn, New York.

What inspired you to become an educator?

My mom was a teacher’s aid in Buffalo. After school, I would help out in class with the teachers, the paraprofessionals, anyway I could. It was always a part of my family:  Being a part of a school’s culture.

I went to a middle and high school that was focused on the arts, and I always knew I wanted to be involved with the arts in education. In college, I studied arts education and health sciences. Part of that program involved creating lesson plans and finding creative ways to implement arts in the classroom. I knew that I wanted to work with kids, maybe at a non-profit or after school.

Then I learned about the New York City Teaching Fellows. Their focus on serving high needs students really spoke to me. I applied for the program in 2007 and became a classroom teacher, for me it was very natural.

It was always a part of my family culture to be educators. Now I have close personal friends in teaching that are a solid part of my life. I love that my job is to teach kids about my passions!

Has teaching met your expectations?

I didn’t know what to expect! When I joined the Teaching Fellows, I’d only had a little experience working with special needs students. I just hit the ground running. I knew I just wanted to get in there and do the best I could for my students.

Having like-minded people around me has made it much easier. I struggled at my first school because we were not supported and there was not a strong culture of collaboration. Schools need strong leaders, and teams that are committed to building culture.

By my second year, I’d found a place where I felt part of a great team. E4E was also important in helping me feel like a part of a profession.

Teaching in NYC is hard. What keeps you going?

The kids are what bring me back.

I have an awesome role teaching yoga and movement. I get to write my own curriculum and design my own units. The kids have been amazing with the creative movement curriculum. They are so excited, and they have a ton of fun with their creativity.

All of my students are on the autism spectrum, and working with them on how they express themselves and interact with their world is a joy.

I’m also excited as the new evaluation and feedback system is launched. In the past, it has been difficult to get meaningful feedback on my work. I’m hopeful that, in the future, I’ll be able to have really meaningful conversations around development with my administrators and colleagues.

Why did you decide you decide to get involved with and E4E policy team? Why do you think it is important for teachers to get involved with advocacy outside the classroom?

I don’t think teachers realize the power they can have over their profession. Before I found E4E, I didn’t think I could do anything to influence my profession. I felt powerless.

E4E is great because it’s a safe place to talk about my struggles with teaching. I originally got involved when a good friend of mine was on a Teacher Policy Team a few years ago. I was blown away that a teacher could be a part of something that has such a meaningful impact on education policy.

When I heard E4E was doing another team, I jumped in because far too often, teachers are not given the opportunity to be a part of changing the system. I’m really excited to be launching our recommendations on how to best prepare teachers on June 19th!

To learn more about Teacher Policy Teams and reserve your seat for upcoming paper launches in New York and Los Angeles, visit our Teacher Policy Teams page.