Assistant Principal Ellen Fee returns to teaching math

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Photo By Renaenia Pangan

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After eight years of exclusively being the Assistant Principal of Organization and Physical Education/Health of Townsend Harris, Ellen Fee has once again taken on the position of a math teacher, now teaching Algebra II. Initially, trigonometry classes for the 2017-2018 school year held more than 34 students until it was decided by the faculty that an additional teacher would be needed to balance out the population of the classroom, leaving a class of 14 students to Ms. Fee during 3rd band.

Ms. Fee began working at Townsend Harris High School as a Pre Calculus teacher in 2002. In 2009, Ms. Fee put her teaching career on hiatus, focusing on her duties as an AP. Nevertheless, Ms. Fee always wanted to return to her roots teaching math stating, “For years, I had been saying that I wanted to teach a math class again but it was a little difficult for me to do both administration and teach a class so each time we got up to it, it seemed like it was a better idea to give it to someone else.”

Ms. Fee explains, “As a math teacher, my first priority is stellar scores on the regents exams but also a deeper understanding of the algebra foundations that will help students succeed in subsequent courses like calculus.” Using her extensive knowledge on the subject and the small classroom environment to her advantage, Ms. Fee wants her students to have a successful school year.

Having Ms. Fee teaching math provides certain advantages to the students in her class. Susan Brustein, AP of Math, Science, and Technology, explains, “I think that it is an advantage for students to have an assistant principal teaching when possible …. It puts us in direct contact with students, it makes us more sensitized to the problem you’re having on test days and all kinds of other things going on in a student’s life that we don’t necessarily hear first hand when sitting in an office.”

The students have also taken note of the benefits of an AP teacher. Freshman Mehakpreet Kaur states, “If you want to request something, you could just go to your math teacher who is also the AP and you could have that done. When we were discussing Founder’s Day and my classmate asked if we had a snapchat filter, and right then, she made a phone call and got it done.”

Sophomore Cailin Bell believes, “The learning environment in a small class is great since the teacher has more time to be able to speak individually with all the students and get to know their strengths and weaknesses well.” Most students in Ms. Fee’s class seem to agree that a small classroom setting leads to in depth discussions about the lesson taught. Yadira Gonzales, another sophomore in the class, adds, “My math experience has been better because by there being less people in the class, there are more opportunities for myself and other classmates to participate and ask more questions.”  

The change was registered by Principal Brian Condon, AP of Pupil Personnel Services Ms. York, Ms. Brunstein, and Ms. Fee. Ms. Brustein explains that “Students want a lot of different electives. We try to offer these classes while still having 8 periods of classes a day. This requires teacher’s time. Teachers are really scheduled for 5 periods a day. We exceeded that by having a teacher teach an extra class, which is expensive and a problem. We did that but we were still short one class, … the class that Ms. Fee is teaching.” Having Ms. Fee teach this necessary class was also a cost effective option for the school. This averted the need of hiring another math teacher for the Algebra II curriculum.

Ms. Brustein adds, “I think it is one of the best things that has happened. We have an expert math teacher returning to the classroom, which is great because she can collaborate with teachers that are teaching her curriculum and that enriches their teaching too.”

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