Joel Blecha, a first and second grade teacher at Manhattan’s Neighborhood School, has been teaching in New York City for seven years.
Nominator Dave Bellel explained, “I met Joel Blecha when he was recommended as a tutor for my daughter almost 5 years ago. It’s instantly recognizable the talents that Joel has as a teacher and as a human being. He’s vibrant, curious, and loves kids. He’s the teacher that I wish I was.” Bellel referred Blecha to the Neighborhood School, and principal Judith Foster related that she thanks Bellel in her prayers every day for sending him along.
Joel relishes in creating and teaching curriculum that excites his young learners. He believes in helping his kids connect to the world around them, whether it’s the natural world or the world of their families. One project, in which kids raise trout in a 55-gallon tank in their classroom, was recently profiled in Trout Magazine.
The six and seven-year-olds also learn interview note taking “just like college kids,” one student proudly exclaimed. Bellel explained, “The class either hosts family members or interviews them at their place of work in order to learn about their heritage or job. Often the interview sessions involve cooking (pizzas with the Italian family), dancing (meringue with the Dominican family), or learning about American history (from the one student whose great-great-great-great grandmother was a runaway slave).”
On a more personal level, Blecha’s entire class served as his ring bearers and flower children for his wedding two years ago! He also works with folks at Teachers College to create curriculum to share with his colleagues.
In the picture above, you’ll see Blecha and his class on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade on one of several trips they took while studying the Brooklyn Bridge. Joel pens his own lyrics to other songs in order to teach his kids important concepts. On this trip the class sang, “Since You’ve Been Gone,” an ode to bridge architect, John Roebling, from his son, Washington - all to the tune of Kelly Clarkson’s hit.
Keep up the good work, Mr. Blecha!
Read more about this series and see other teacher profiles here. You can nominate a cool teacher by emailing me at eduwonkette (at) gmail (dot) com.
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