VARDEN—At the Western Wayne School Board Meeting held on May 8, Director Bernice Fiorella recognized National Teacher Appreciation Week with a word of praise for all teachers in the district.
She stated she was proud of the work all the district's teachers do to generate quality students and individuals.
Exemplifying this sentiment is Western Wayne science teacher Maria Masankay whose efforts both in and out of the classroom are often lauded by students being recognized at the district's school board meetings.
Masankay has taught at Western Wayne for 17 years with an additional year of experience before that at Pocono Mountain. She teaches Physics and Chemistry, as well as some of the honors and Advanced Placement (AP) modules for those courses.
Masankay stated she enjoys teaching her honors courses the most because they tend to foster the students' problem-solving skills as they cope with the more difficult material.
“It's exciting to watch them grow,” said Masankay.
Masankay holds a Master's in Education, but graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering.
She said after getting her bachelors that she wanted to share her love of science and math with others. “Science and math can be hard to teach if you're not passionate about them,” she said, hoping that her passion would spread to her students.
Her efforts have proven fruitful as she has had numerous students consistently passing their AP Chemistry exams each year.
Masankay said that she instills a value of hard work in all her students, stating that it takes more than a simple algorithm to solve the world's problems.
When testing her students, Masankay said that she uses examinations more to denote areas where her teaching can be improved, rather than a simple assessment of student capability.
She reviews their scores to see if her methods for teaching a given subject are effective. If she deems them lacking, she seeks to find others which may prove more effective.
Masankay said this practice of self-assessment is critical to her philosophy as a teacher and something she works to pass on to her students.
“It's not about the grade, its about the knowledge,” she said.
Masankay also has an extensive presence outside the classroom. She has held several advisory positions, the position of Region 2 Treasurer, and conducted student scholarship interviews for the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS).
Masankay has also been involved with the Reading Apprenticeship in Secondary Education (RAISE), Student Assistant Programs (SAP), Teacher Student Alliance (TSA), Family Career & Consumer Leaders of America (FCCLA), the National Honors Society (NHS) and the Western Wayne Education Foundation.
She has also been involved with the district's science fairs and other science-related activities.
Masankay is the Envirothon co-advisor, the Western Wayne Science Department co-chair, the Western Wayne Education Association Treasurer and is the Western Wayne Junior Class Advisor.
Additionally, Masankay has been a three-time mentor for first-year teachers.
For students, Masankay has written letters of recommendation, secured job-shadowing opportunities and offered tutoring before and after school.
As mentor for the Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit 19 (NEIU 19) West Point Bridge Competition, Masankay helped her students claim a first and second place award.
She also mentored students in the Governor's Engineering Competition, helping them achieve a second-place victory.
Masankay has also been a softball coach for Petunias under 8 and assistant for those under 10, a backstage mother for dance recitals for 8 years and a baton mother for 10 years.
Masankay said that participating in extra-curriculars as she does is how one best gets to know their students. “There's so much more to kids than just the classroom,” she said.
Of all her roles as advisor and mentor, Masankay said she enjoys being a class advisor the most. “I love to see them support each other and compete” she said, “it helps pump up the school community.”
This concept of school community or “family” as Masankay put it is paramount in a learning environment. “The students need to know they're supported,” she said.
“The students truly are our greatest assets,” said Masankay.
Western Wayne Principal Paul Gregorski released a statement stating “Maria Masankay is an incredible teacher whose talent and abilities are among the best of any teacher I have ever encountered.”
Gregorski drew attention to Masankay's “formative assessment strategies” and her focus on developing critical thinking and problem solving as vital aspects of her instructional style.
Gregorski stated students repeatedly attribute Masankay as “the most lasting positive influence on their lives” during graduation and School Board student recognition speeches.
“The students and the community of the Western Wayne School District are blessed to have Maria Masankay as a teacher here,” stated Gregorski.
Western Wayne School District Superintendent Matthew Barrett lauded Masankay for her “high level of energy” when teaching and her “high expectations” of students.
He said these qualities have earned her much respect and admiration from the student body.