High School Teacher of the Year 2017
Degrees and Certifications:
Ms. Michelle DeBonis-Matica
Michelle DeBonis-Matica joined the Yonkers Public Schools in 1996 as an English teacher in Lincoln High School’s Alternative Program for at-risk students. In 1999, Michelle moved into a regular English position at Lincoln where she has remained for the past 21 years. Since 2007, she has served as Chairperson of the English Department and currently teaches Century Honors English 10 and English 11. During her tenure she has taught Summer, Saturday, Night and Holiday school programs, as well as professional development for her peers including districtwide and school workshops, a Yonkers Teachers' Center Course on English Language Arts Common Core (ELA CC) Instructional Strategies, and mentored four student teachers over the last 6 years.
Creative opportunities abound in Mrs. DeBonis-Matica classes and it’s apparent as soon as the students enter her richly decorated classroom in September. The students walk into a wonderland of warmth and color. Then, as a quick activity she asks the students to draw inferences about her as a teacher and person from how she decorates her room. She noted, “Drawing inferences is a critical skill that my students need to acquire so we begin with that on day one as an icebreaker.”
Her classroom inspires students with word walls, grammar and writing strategies, Elizabethan England, inspirational quotes, Yankees, Giants and Knicks and butterflies; every month there is something new. For Halloween there is an integrated teaching activity with the Science, Math and Social Studies department whereby students create tombstones and epitaph for dead poets. Mrs. DeBonis-Matica wrote about December’s instruction, “after reading and viewing Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the students have to create a gift box with answers to specific questions that mirror the ELA CC Regents exam, but with a creative twist to it. The Gift of the Past, Present, Future and Central Idea are written on all sides of the box with the answers to specific questions written or typed below it. Each assignment has a rubric that needs to be followed which the students create with me. They need to be active partners in their education and this strategy works because they do such beautiful work for me.”
Technology is integral in Mrs. DeBonis-Matica’s instruction. To immediately engage students when they enter the classroom, she uses the Smartboard with a Write Now, Do Now, View Now of thought provoking quotes, pictures and video clips to enhance their learning. She engages with the Remind App for homework and notices, and also sends Do Nows to the students' phones and expects a text response. In addition, she uses graphic organizers, 3-2-1 Notes, Post It Projects, Exit and Central Idea Tickets, SB activities, and videos to draw-in the students.
Mrs. DeBonis-Matica’s involvement in Lincoln High School is not limited to the classroom. As a skilled and passionate athlete, she has coached girls Junior Varsity and Varsity basketball, softball and volleyball and worked boys and girls basketball games.
Mrs. DeBonis-Matica noted, “I have always been supported by my administration. It's a team effort, and without their support, I wouldn't be as successful as I am. Whether I win this award or not, I have been incredibly blessed and honored to work for a school system that has embraced all that I have to offer, so Teacher of the Year or not, I have already won.”