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Two Warner graduates recognized as outstanding first-year science teachers

Supporting an Unconventional Path to Teaching

The Rochester City School District (RCSD) recently celebrated the achievements of first-year educators and named two Warner School graduates as 2020 Career in Teaching (CIT) Interns of the Year. Gavin Jenkins ‘19W (MS) and Eleanor (Ellie) Coonce ‘19W (MS) were honored for their exemplary performance as first-year teachers at an award ceremony in June. The recipients both studied in the science education program at the Warner School of Education.

Warner alumnus Gavin JenkinsJenkins completes his first year of teaching chemistry at East High’s Upper School. Since his first day at East, Jenkins has devoted himself to his students and his classroom. He is conscientious of the classroom environment that he has built with his students and support staff, creating a “no fear” zone where students are free to take risks with their learning.

Jenkins is often found attending his students’ extracurricular activities, which further enhances his relationships with students, who recognize his interest in their talents and activities outside the classroom. Jenkins is known for his dedication to all students at East and his belief in their ability to be successful, as well as his ability to help them reach their goals. 
Warner alumna Ellie CoonceCoonce completes her first year at Enrico Fermi School No. 17 where she teaches seventh-grade science. Her constant positivity and her willingness to go above and beyond make her stand out from many teachers, both veteran and new. Students love her energy, positive demeanor, and connectedness that keep the class flowing and fun.

Class time is never about Coonce, her plans, or her agenda. Rather, the flexibility and responsiveness that are vital for teachers at this development level come naturally for Coonce, maximizing opportunities for learning and capitalizing on teachable moments. 

April Luehmann, associate professor and director of the science education program at Warner, says that this is especially remarkable because their most demanding year—their first year of teaching—took place during a pandemic. 

“Gavin and Ellie exemplify the type of equity-committed educators that Warner’s whole existence is dedicated to realizing,” says Luehmann. “Hearing their stories of innovative pedagogy, meaningful connections with youth and families, and collaborative work toward reform gives my heart hope for a dramatically different future for youth in groups who continue to be marginalized in and through schooling. Their work shows that science education can and needs to be used as a vehicle for much-needed change.”

The Warner School’s program in science education prepares teachers to understand that learning is more than simply memorizing the facts and procedures and to make science meaningful and relevant to students. The program prepares a new generation of reform-minded teachers entering the classrooms in future years, resulting in higher quality science education. Graduates of the program receive a master’s degree and New York State certification to teach biology, chemistry, physics, or earth science in grades 7-12. Learn more about Warner’s programs preparing science teachers.

The CIT Program, a collaborative effort between the Rochester Teachers Association (RTA) and the RCSD, pairs first-year teachers with mentors, who provide professional support. Learn more about the district’s CIT Program and the 2020 honorees