Biology teacher Barbara Spanos Named New York State Master Teacher

Engaging, active and relevant science exploration

Biology students learn about the interconnectedness of body systems through analyzing the data of real New York City Marathon runners  … discover the structure and function of cellular membrane by modeling it with soap bubbles … and understand different parts of the immune system by creating colorful B-cells and T-cells in origami.

The New York State Master Teacher Program identifies educators who are dedicated to providing an innovative and engaging learning environments and they certainly have found that with John Jay High School’s biology teacher Barbara Spanos.

Inspiring the Next Generation of STEM Leaders

Spanos is the fourth Master Teacher in John Jay’s Science Department

“Please join me in congratulating Barbara Spanos on this honor,” said Dr. Steven Siciliano, principal of John Jay High School. “I am very proud of the fact that she is the fourth science teacher at John Jay to be accepted into the New York State Master Teachers program, a distinction which includes Ann Marie Lipinksy, science research teacher; Jim Panzer, environmental physics teacher; and Frank Noschese, physics teacher.”

John Jay's four Master Teachers

A Lifelong learner

Spanos is thrilled to be named a New York Master Teacher because of the opportunities it offers for professional learning over the next four years. Prior to coming to Katonah-Lewisboro, she participated in Math for America, a fellowship program for outstanding mathematics and science teachers in New York City’s schools. She also worked with New Visions for Public Schools to design curriculum that is relevant to students' lives and aligned to college and job skills.

Those collaborative experiences informed her engaging, hands-on approach to teaching science.

"very influential in fostering my love for biology"

“Mrs. Spanos is one of my favorite teachers,” said senior Ariel Barniv. “She is fun and energetic and has been very influential in fostering my love for biology. Her lectures, labs, and other class activities are always very engaging and thought provoking."

One of her memorable moments in AP Biology was cell organelle speed-dating. Each student became an expert on a specific cell organelle and created a “dating” profile that highlighted its personal details such as occupation, where in the cell it likes to hang out, a bad habit and basic height/weight stats. They lined up the desks facing each other (scattered with rose petals and Hershey kisses), and went through rounds of “speed dating”—sharing profiles with each other in hopes of maybe finding a match, an organelle they work well with.

“One of the most important aspects of teaching is to be passionate about your subject,” said Spanos. “I am a biologist as well as a teacher and, as a scientist, I know that there is always more to learn. I am excited to take workshops through the New York State Master Teacher program and better myself as an educator.”

making parts of the immune system in origami

considering the cellular membrane through soap bubbles