New PARA teachers for the 2020-2021 school year

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For the 2021-2022 school year, Townsend Harris High School will welcome three new paraprofessionals (paras) to its staff: Andrew Strnad, Maha Elgendy, and Shafiqul Islam. 

Paraprofessional educators, also known as student teachers, are people who assist teachers in classrooms and supervise kids outside the classroom. They aren’t licensed to teach but they perform teaching-related activities to assist certified teachers.

Mr. Islam said, “When I started, I was a new immigrant, [and] I got an opportunity to work for DOE.  At the beginning I didn’t know anything about the school system. Later with the help of teachers and paras, I learned a lot. I love to work with special needs children.”

Before coming to THHS, they have worked at other schools as paraprofessionals. Mr. Islam said, “I started working at Aviation H.S., then W.C. Bryant H.S. and for a short period at Grover Cleveland H.S.”

Although they all are new teachers for this school year, some of them have prior experience in the THHS community. Mr. Strnad said, “I was the classroom para when Ms. Brandeis taught her first class! I worked at Summer School 2019 and I met Principal Condon and [Assistant Principal] Fee.” Since Mr. Strnad already had numerous connections and experiences with the THHS staff, when a para position opened, he was offered a job. “It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” he said.

Ms. Elgendy(featured above) will be joining Mr. Strnad and Mr. Islam as part of this year’s paraprofessional staff. Ms. Elgendy has been working for the NYC Board of Education since 2011 as an educational associate. Before she became a para at Townsend, Ms. Elgendy worked at The Magnet school of Science, Technology and the Arts. She explained how she was an “active member in many clubs and teams at school such as the ENL team, STEAM olympiad, Magnet Focus Group, Field Trip coordinator, and school instructional leadership team.”

In her free time, Ms. Elgendy said she likes to give back to her community. “I am a member of the National PTA association along with some other Middle Eastern American institutions.”

As students and teachers are adjusting to remote learning, paraprofessionals also face unique challenges this school year. Mr. Strnad said, “It is difficult because the job of a para is to work closely with individual students, which is very challenging remotely. It’s been a rough beginning not knowing what to expect and receiving forever changing plans.” 

In addition, Ms. Elgendy said she is, “ trying to adjust [her] practices to fit into the grade band (9-12) which are completely different when you work with lower grades students in grade band (K-5).”

Nevertheless, the three paras hope to make the best of this year for their students. “[Even though] I’m still adjusting to remote learning because I love to be with the students in person, I hope to make learning remote as enjoyable as possible,” added Mr. Strnad. 

“I am looking forward to supporting the most intelligent students in the city and building a great relationship with students and staff,” Ms. Elgendy said.

Photo courtesy of Ms. Elgendy