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OHS Trio In November Teacher Spotlight

OSWEGO, NY – You really can’t have one without the other.

This month, three Oswego High School teachers are in the “Teacher Spotlight” as they work hand-in-hand with one another.

Thomas Caswell is a social studies teacher, Daniel Cunningham is a special education teacher and Patricia Devendorf is an English teacher.

Together they have more than 42 years of teaching experience and comprise an extraordinary team that is able to integrate the eleventh grade social studies and English curricula into an engaging and differentiated classroom.

Together they co-plan and co-teach American literature and US history and government.

Thomas Caswell is a social studies teacher, Daniel Cunningham is a special education teacher and Patricia Devendorf is an English teacher.
Thomas Caswell is a social studies teacher, Daniel Cunningham is a special education teacher and Patricia Devendorf is an English teacher.

Through a grant they were able to work for two full days during the spring of 2008 to align the US history and government and American literature curricula chronologically; with input from Cunningham they were also able to develop ways to differentiate their lessons based on the many different levels of learners in their classes.

Caswell grew up in Rochester and attended the University of Rochester where he earned a B.A. in History. He went on to earn a Masters in Educational Technology at Walden University.

Cunningham grew up in Fulton.  He earned an A.A.S. from Cayuga Community College, a B.S. from Oswego State and his Masters at LeMoyne College in Syracuse.

Devendorf also grew up in Fulton. She married and had a child and dedicated herself to her home and family.  When she turned 30 she decided to pursue her life-long dream to become a teacher. She eventually earned her B.S. in Education and Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Oswego State.

When asked what the favorite part of their job is Caswell responds, “I enjoy helping students develop and achieve.”

Devendorf adds, “Other than the chance to share my passion for literature, my favorite part of teaching is what I learn from my students. Every year, they teach me so many new and wonderful things, ways of looking at the world and the joys of discovering new knowledge.”

Cunningham sums up his feelings with one of his favorite quotes from George Evans, “Every student can learn, just not on the same day, or the same way.” He continues, “This is what makes it fun to come to work everyday.”

A visit to Oswego High School finds a group of actively engaged eleventh graders discussing our Founding Fathers.

All students are actively engaged in this lesson.

Students are ‘conferencing’ with one another and their teachers, related video clips are played on the SMART Board and an accompanying study guide is completed in small groups.

Students are extremely comfortable and there is an easy rapport between the students and teachers. The teachers have created an atmosphere of mutual respect in their classroom and the students are excited about learning!

Caswell, Cunningham and Devendorf have excited and engaged their students with their knowledge of history and literature and their use of technology. They are encouraging and supportive of their students’ efforts. The class is clearly excited about this learning opportunity!

In addition to being hands – on and engaging, this lesson is also a vocabulary – rich example that models good and appropriate uses of subject specific terminology such as: delegates, adjudicate, federalist, executive authority, debate and politicians.

This team of teachers regularly incorporates vocabulary instruction into their lessons and using the Six Step Vocabulary approach developed by education researcher Robert Marzano.

Through the use of non-linguistic representation, graphic organizers and vocabulary review games these teachers are able to help close the achievement gap for those students in their classroom who may be lacking the background knowledge necessary to succeed in the class.

Caswell, Cunningham and Devendorf easily differentiated their instruction to reach all of their learners through the use of varied Wait Time, Turn and Talk with a partner, small and large group activities and Interactive/Multimedia SMART Board use.

In addition to being leaders in the classroom and excellent role models for their students all three of these teachers keep busy outside of school as well.

Caswell and his wife, Alisha, are the busy parents of five children: Zachary (10), Dylan (8), Haley (7), Brandon (7) and Logan (1).

In addition, Caswell maintains his own website for his students that house a variety of resources and activities that can be used for instructional purposes.

Devendorf is busy preparing for her wedding to David Kuhl and is excited about combining their two families; Devendorf has one adult daughter, Lindsay, and will also have three stepchildren.

Cunningham and his wife, Stephanie, are also busy with their six children: Jeffrey (14), Derrick (12), Olivia (5), Lilly (3), Cayley (21 months) and Maximus (10 weeks).

For all that they have done to engage and motivate the students at Oswego High School, Caswell, Cunningham and Devendorf are being recognized as our  first co–planning and co-teaching team for the “November 2009 Teacher Spotlight.”