Teacher of the Month: Ed March Reply

Where did you grow up?

I was raised in Brooklyn, New York.

What was your previous job?

My last job was working as loss prevention for Prada in a mall.

What kind of student were you in high school?

I was kind of this odd under-achiever; I could’ve done better, but besides that, I did pretty well. More…


Teacher of the Month: Ms. Beane Reply

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri.

What type of person were you in high school?

I was, and this is actually true to this day, I still have friends who say, ‘you didn’t belong in any one group’ and so I had friends in lots of different groups. I was a dancer, I used to dance in the high school musicals. I was the editorial page editor for my school newspaper. I was a swimmer, I was the captain of the swim team when I was a senior.

Was there anything that influenced you to work with students with special needs while growing up?

That’s an interesting question. My interest in teaching was really cultivated by my high school history teacher. She helped me really turn around because I wasn’t really doing well in my tenth grade year. I had her for my junior and senior years and I just became a much better student because of her, and so that’s where that began. As to working with special needs, my brother has done that for a very long time… at first, it was very difficult and I wasn’t sure I made the right choice, but now I’ve adjusted and I really really love it. Like I don’t know, if somebody said to me ‘would you like to work in general education English,’ I think I’d miss my kids that need extra help. I’ve gotten too attached. More…

Teacher of the Month: Ms. Tramantozzi Reply

Where did you grow up?

Yonkers, NY.

Have you always been interested in art?

I think even when I was very young, I always really liked drawing and I always liked making things (like projects or anything that I could make); but I think I began to think seriously about it in high school when I started getting positive feedback. I started to get recognized for doing art from my friends, some teachers, and my dad. I didn’t think that it could be something I could pursue in my life until someone said that I could. I didn’t even know that it was a major in school because I didn’t have it in high school. It definitely came from people’s encouragement (like from my friends and family).

What made you enjoy art making so much?

I don’t think I ever had to think about that, but I think that when I discovered that it could be a language that I could use to communicate that was different than words, art became more interesting for me. So, I might have been shy when I was younger, and having this other language to express myself was something that was very interesting to me. Then when I learned about other artists and saw the ways that they would express themselves that were different from me, that caused me to become more and more interested. More…

Teacher of the Month: Mr. Yanek 3

What is your cultural background?

I am a New Yorker, through and through.

Where did you grow up?

Franklin Square, New York.

If you could live in any other place in the world, where would it be and why?

New York is my first choice, but if I couldn’t live in New York I think I’d be pretty happy in Mexico City. It’s like New York, but it has public toilets. It seems like enough of a big city for me and it has a good vibe.

What type of kid were you in high school?

I got good grades, but deep down I was a fool.

If you were a student and had yourself as your teacher, would you meet the standards you hold for your students?

With a vengeance. More…

BSGE’s New Assistant Principal Reply

Among the many recent changes introduced to BSGE is the arrival of a new assistant principal, Ms. Maria Mamo-Vacacela. She has been appointed as an Interim Acting Assistant Principal, meaning that before Ms. Mamo-Vacacela gets permanently hired she has to undergo a trial process. Ms. Johnson explained, “She is with us now, you can think of it as a probation period to see if it is going to be a good fit. Then, she gets interviewed for the position. Afterwards, teachers, students, and parents get a chance to say, “‘yes’ or ‘no’.” According to Ms. Johnson, Ms. Mamo-Vacacela is being tried for the position because “the responsibilities placed on principals have increased, and we may eventually need more help, especially if our population will grow.”

When asked about her education, Ms. Mamo-Vacacela said laughingly, “I’m a Queens girl.” After having graduated from Christ the King High School in Middle Village, she pursued and received B.A. degree in Mathematics at Queens College. Ms. Mamo-Vacacela also holds a master’s degree in multicultural education from the College of Mount St. Vincent. She perceives this specialization especially fitting here, at BSGE, because of our school’s diversity. More…

Teacher of the Month: Mr. Mac Reply


IMG_4112What were your favorite sports in high school? Why?

I enjoyed golf and tennis because they were individuals sports where I was competing against myself or one opponent, but I also loved playing basketball too for the team experience.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Rhode Island, which is about 40 minutes south of Boston.

Other than sports, what other interests did you have as a kid?

I truly fell in love with taxidermy. Have you ever stuffed a dead cat? It’s a passion of mine! More…

Teacher of the Month: Ms. Meifen Xia Reply


Ms. Xia is the new Chinese teacher at BSGE and she teaches eighth, tenth, and eleventh graders.

Where are you from? Shanghai, China. I was born and raised in the city.

What did you parents do? They are in China now. My father is a chemist and he was like a magician; he was able to answer any questions I had. My mother is a designer and she didn’t speak a lot, but she would take care of us. I grew up with two older sisters.

What was school like when you were in high school? I went to a specialized high school about 30 years ago. I remember taking a math test every Monday after school, because my teacher didn’t want to waste teaching time in class. It made me unafraid of any test. Also, the classroom was much different because girls could not sit with boys. We were not encouraged to date in high school. I knew only one couple in high school who secretly dated and no one found out until college. More…

A Warm Welcome to Mr. Rabinowitz, BSGE’s Newest Humanities Teacher Reply

This school year, BSGE gained a new humanities teacher, Mr. Steven Rabinowitz. In a recent interview, he shared the details of the path he took to becoming a teacher as well as a devoted follower of a secret band.

So what made the Long Beach native, and upcoming girls’ basketball coach, interested in the humanities? As a child, Mr. Rabinowitz’s took long road trips with his grandfather. On these adventures, he would stare at maps and memorize all their features, from rocks and rivers, to cities and states. Somewhere along the way, a passion for history and geography was born. In the 6th grade, Mr. Rabinowitz’s guidance counselor asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, and not surprisingly, Mr. Rabinowitz said “history teacher.”

At 24, Mr. Rabinowitz went to grad school in “the most awesome place on Earth,” or as others know it, Santa Cruz, California. In 2011, Mr. Rabinowitz completed graduate school, and began covering for teachers on maternity leave. This is his fourth full year teaching in a classroom.  It seems as if Mr. Rabinowitz is a jack of all grades; for the last couple of years, he’s taught everything from seventh to twelfth grade, plus independent study.  He loves contemplating alternate histories, but tries to avoid this when thinking academically. Imagine a world in which there wasn’t a Revolutionary War–we’d be having tea everyday (not that I’d mind, of course).

So what attracted Mr. Rabinowitz to BSGE? Was it the crowded hallways or the cafegymatorium? Surprisingly, neither. Mr. Rabinowitz was enchanted by the fact that BSGE is passionate about its students.

He liked that the teachers here want students to strive and develop on their own. The cozy atmosphere appealed to him as well. At BSGE, almost everyone knows each other, which as many students can understand, is both a blessing and a curse. Mr. Rabinowitz last taught at Brooklyn Latin for a year. It was a good school, but, “it wasn’t me,” he said.  At Brooklyn Latin, the children wore uniforms which he felt minimized expression. Most students there didn’t approach the teachers for help either. Here, Mr. Rabinowitz thinks the students are “great.” He feels that BSGE has abundant character.  Mr. Rabinowitz is amazed by how expressive the students are, and is fascinated especially by the way we interact with one another.

Even though some people may associate the humanities with old, creaky men writing documents, Mr. Rabinowitz’s music taste is not Beethoven. He in fact has 3 ½ terabytes of classic rock, folk rock, jam bands, 80s new wave, and nu disco on his computer.  The Grateful Dead, Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem, Tool, Zero7, and Paul Simon are some of his favorites. Then there’s THE band. The band he has gone to see 216 times. The Band Who Must Not be Named. Or rather the one he absolutely refused to name because he was afraid he’d bump into one of his students at a concert.

For years in college, Mr. Rabinowitz spent most of his money going to see bands “he couldn’t afford.” Still, he said the concerts were “worth every penny.”  “Yolo,” he said. Then his history-teacher personality kicked in: “‘Unless you’re a Buddhist or Hindu. Or a cat.”

If there’s something that Mr. Rabinowitz loves as much as music, it’s teaching. He loves that “something subtle could impact someone so much.” Thinking back to high school, only his humanities teacher and his French teacher stood out. He said he never forgot how they helped him grow as a person. Now he wants to pay their wisdom forward. He wants to push his students at BSGE to progress just as he did.  Nevertheless, he doesn’t forget that “as much as you guys are learning, I am too.” Often, we don’t realize that we’re not the only ones going through a learning process. While we are growing, Mr. Rabinowitz said, we’re also helping him grow.

Teacher of the Month: Mr. Matt Anderson

IMG_2812Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the South Bronx.

What type of student were you? How would you describe yourself as a kid?

I was inquisitive, I liked school, I was interested in the origin of everything. I felt like I was pretty athletic and I would ride around New York. We would go to Central Park and do a lot of athletic things. A lot of my life was built around that, being athletic. I did a lot of work after school, I did ballet, basketball and other things. My high school was somewhat of a performing arts school. You had to choose the talent you had in 5th grade. They had theater, dance, orchestra, they also had a glee club. I decided I wanted to be in the dance class. A big motivation was that there was a girl in the class that I liked. However, I liked the class too. More…

BSGE Staff Marathon Runners, Gretchen Schwarz and Tim David-Lang Reply

Congratulations to BSGE Art teacher Ms. Gretchen Schwarz for completing the New York City Marathon on November 1st. It was her first marathon.

Congratulations also to Tim David-Lang, BSGE’s Guidance Counselor and advisor for the Running Club, completed the Chicago Marathon on October 11th. He previously ran the New York City Marathon in 2013.


Ms. Gretchen Schwarz along the marathon path in Brooklyn hugging her nephew, Rafael, and sister, Mariah. Photo credit: Erin Lewis

Tim David-Lang at the Chicago Marathon

Tim David-Lang at the Chicago Marathon

Students’ thoughts on Ms. Shen’s retirement Reply

While asking students for their thoughts on Ms. Shen’s retirement and reflections on their time being Chinese language students, we collected way more than we could use in any story. Rather than let information go to waste, below is a collection of quotes and thoughts from students. If you want to have your thoughts added to the collection below, please email: AlyLakhaney@gmail.com

Noah Levine, ’09

I took Chinese since the 7th grade and it was always a struggle for me. Ms. Shen would take the initiative to help me anytime, all the time. By 11th grade, Chinese wasn’t getting any easier. But Ms. Shen never gave up on me, even when she wasn’t my language teacher then. She helped me out everyday after school for the upcoming regents. We worked for hours and she was always very patient with me. At the end of it all, I passed the regents thanks to her guidance. I couldn’t have done it without her. I truly appreciate Ms. Shen and what she did for me.

Malorie Mo, ’09

Ms. Shen,

You were a very important BSGE family member to me during my years at the school. I remember meeting you for the first time as my advisor and you welcomed us with such a warm, motherly heart, always taking the time to guide and support us as new students in the school.

A defining trait every staff member at BSGE has is their dedication to the wellbeing of students both inside and outside of school. The care and extra mile every staff member is willing to go for the students is a quality every educator should aspire to have. I firmly believe every public school teacher should learn from each of you at BSGE. We have you and all the other staff members to thank for the success of BSGE and its students.

You took on multiple roles throughout my years at BSGE – as my advisory teacher, my MYP project advisor, language teacher and my personal favorite, a mother to all. Whenever I had problems and came to you for guidance, you never hesitated to take time out of your schedule to comfort me. When I scored a 7 on the IB exam, you were happier than I was and held me in tears – it was all thanks to you, but you thanked me instead. I will never forget that moment when you were more proud of me than my own biological parents. Visiting you at BSGE after I graduated was always bittersweet – always happy to see you but sad that I’m no longer your student.

My years spent at BSGE were among the most challenging years of my academic career (so far) but also the most valuable. You’ve touched my life as an educator, advisor and mother. “Choose the job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” is clearly seen through you. There was never More…

Ms. Lily Shen to Retire at the End of the School Year Reply

LilyLong time BSGE teacher, Ms. Lily Shen, recently announced that she plans to retire at the end of the current school year. Ms. Shen has been teaching Chinese at BSGE since it opened its doors in 2002 and was one of its founding members.

When asked why this year was the right time to retire, Ms. Shen said that she’s been teaching all her life and that “it’s time to do something different while I’m still young enough to make the change.”

Ms. Shen started teaching right after she graduated from high school in China and has been teaching for 35 years total. She’s taught students from Pre-K to 12th grade at different points in her career.

Ms. Shen does not plan to be idle in her life after BSGE. She wants to remain involved in education in a different capacity by helping train new teachers and continuing to work with the IB. She also wants to go back to school herself. She was interested in pursuing a PhD but was unsure about what field to study. Her years spent teaching informed her curiosity about children and how they learn. She said that she’s “fascinated about how kids learn and how to find better ways to help them learn.”

She would also like to spend time volunteer at New York Chinese Scholars Garden in Staten Island. She wants to help bring student groups to visit the garden built by Chinese artists entirely More…

Farewell Michael Vlahovic! Reply

MichaelMichael Vlahovic, a temporary member of BSGE’s staff, is now leaving our school. He stayed at BSGE for over a month and was an assistant to Mr. Rajiv, the French teacher. He is in a Teacher Certification Program and is training to be a French teacher. As a requirement in the program, he was required to do “fieldwork,” which in this case was getting hands-on experience in a school. Upon being asked why he chose BSGE for his fieldwork, he said “I was interested in seeing classes that were taught by good teachers and exceptional students.” When asked what he will do once he leaves BSGE, he said that he will complete the Certification Program and then go on to find a position of his own as a French teacher. During his time at BSGE, students have enjoyed his company and believe he has done well as a French teacher. “He came in at the express interest of becoming a French teacher” says French teacher Mr. Rajiv, “and he decided to come and train as a French teacher.” He worked in Mr. Rajiv’s room, helping out with small things and sometimes taking over full lessons. He had been praised by both students and teachers on how supportive and helpful he is. “He helped out with written assignments and class work, so when Mr. Rajiv is working with other students, [he] would come around to others so it’s double the help,” according to Andrea V ‘19. Outside the classroom, Mr. Vlahovic is a multitalented person who is fluent in several languages and very well-traveled. He was born in California and learned to be fluent in French while in college and also had the opportunity to travel to France. He has also also been to Africa, the French Caribbean, and China. When he came back to the US, he received a Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics, which relates to language learning and teaching. We will miss Mr. Vlahovic after he leaves BSGE and we hope he is successful with his future endeavors.

Teacher of the Month: Mr. Laskowski Reply


Mr. Laskowski wearing an Iron Man mask even though he says his favorite comic book character is The Hulk

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Buffalo, NY which is about 20 min. from Niagara Falls.

What were you like as a kid?  What did you like to do?

I liked playing sports, I went outside and played every day. I also loved playing video games on the weekend.

When did you develop your love for science?

My 12th grade teacher was really inspiring but he was very passionate about physics and it showed in his work. He also looked like Albert Einstein, his hair was really frizzy, and I think he purposely styled it that way.  More…

Dr. Helfenbein on Movies: Science Fiction Movies of the 50s Part II Reply

Dr. Helfenbein is an avid film watcher (or, as some would say, cinephile) and will be writing a semi-regular column for the BACC Rag in which he recommends older movies students might be interested in watching. 

In the previous column, I mentioned that the large number of science fiction movies produced in the 1950s may in part be due to the atomic zeitgeist: by 1949, both the United States and the Soviet Union had atomic weapons. Many science fiction movies of the era deal with radioactivity in one way or another. In this column, I have written about two of these movies, both of which deal with the (fictional) effects of radiation, but go in opposite directions: one to the little and one to the big.

incredible_shrinking_man_poster_05The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) directed by Jack Arnold from a screenplay by Richard Matheson (from his novel) is the story of Scott Carey. During a day outing on a boat, an unusual mist passes over the vessel . . . and Carey’s body. Apparently, it is of no concern, but as the weeks go by he notices that his clothes are too big for him. Initially he thinks he may have lost weight. Eventually he goes to the doctor and discovers that not only has he lost weight, but he has also grown shorter. A visit to a research lab determines that the mist that Carey encountered was radioactive. He also remembers that weeks before the boating trip he had been exposed to a chemical insecticide. This combination has caused a change in the molecular structure of his cells. As time goes by, Scott Carey can no longer work, his relationship with his wife deteriorates, as does his relationship with the family cat once he is mouse-sized (and then there is the spider in the basement he must confront when insect-sized). It would seem as More…

Teacher of the Month: Darlene Bullock Reply


Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Brooklyn, down on 19th street in the lower portion of South Brooklyn. It was good, because I grew up around all my family, my mother’s side of the family primarily. I grew up with six brothers and sisters, so it was a lot of fun.

Where did you go to college?

Pick one! I went to St. Francis College. I went to, for about three years, Long Island College Hospital for Nursing. I also completed my Master’s degree at St. John’s University, and I attended Queens College for my administrative license and degree.

Why did you decide to become a history teacher?

Well, I’ve always loved history, and I worked for American Express for 19 years, as an employee and then eventually as an administrator. And then I got bored with it, because I knew it well, and I decided I’d like to teach, because I used to teach some of the people in my company. So I decided to leave American Express and go back to school to become a teacher. I really enjoy it.

Where did you teach before BSGE?

Well, I’ve taught in several different environments. I taught, as I said, at the company, as a trainer, and I also taught at Catholic school: Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn. I taught science there, based on my nursing license. I’m an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse). I then worked at Newtown High School for ten years as a social studies teacher. And from there I became an AP for three years at Martin Van Buren, and now I find myself here at BSGE, which I love, by the way. More…

Fewer Students in BSGE: What Does That Mean? Reply

Two years ago, there were 109 students in the BSGE seventh grade. Now there are 85. Does that mean that BSGE’s graduating class sizes are getting smaller each year? Is our reputation suffering? This is what some people think when they hear these numbers. It seems like it, but the truth is much more straightforward.

In the 2011-2012, and 2012-2013 school years, there were four streams of 7th graders which allowed for a much bigger overall number: 99 and 109 respectively. For the last two years there have only been three streams which accounts for the smaller number. During those years with four 7th grade streams, there were only 2 streams of 11th and then 12th grade to ensure that there were enough rooms for all the classes.

One student, Katia B. ‘20 said, “the amount of More…

Throw BACC Thursdays: Chris Potter: Quite the Crusader Reply

The BACC Rag will repost an old article or interview (from our archive of almost a thousand stories!) each Thursday to help share great stories from the past that would still resound today. 

Mr. Chris Potter, current English and Theory of Knowledge teacher, is a former Holy Cross collegiate basketball player.

First things first: who offered you scholarships to come play for their schools?
No that many in the end . . . I whittled down the schools that I was not interested in and that were actively recruiting me . . . Holy Cross, Fordham, North Carolina.  I was recruited, although they don’t offer scholarships, by both Princeton and Brown.

A few of those names definitely stick out—so why Holy Cross?
I had an interest in going to Holy Cross before the whole recruiting process started.  When it came right down it, I thought I might as well use the scholarship opportunity to go to a school I really want to go to anyway.

You are certainly a tall man at 6’4”, but players today are even bigger. How do you think the game has changed over the years?
When I look at the current game, I just see, physically, the differences in terms of body building . . . When I played, the general body type was very tall and thin.  You have to be so much stronger today; in the 70s that wasn’t a requirement.

Today’s game is full of athleticism—ever had the privilege of dunking on somebody?
In college I only dunked the ball once, and that was on a fast break.  I wasn’t a great leaper to begin with . . . But I’ve never felt the humiliation of having someone dunk on me.

What was your most memorable moment in college?
When I was a junior, Holy Cross was in the More…

Dr. Helfenbein On Movies: Science Fiction of the 1950s Reply

Dr. Helfenbein is an avid film watcher (or, as some would say, cinephile) and will be writing a semi-regular column for the BACC Rag in which he recommends older movies students might be interested in watching. 

The first two decades of the sound era (the 30s and 40s) saw few science fiction movies (notable exceptions being the serials Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers). Whether it was due to the atomic era and Cold War or just to the fact the time was right, the 1950s saw an explosion of science fiction on the big screen: space monsters, alien invaders, colliding planets, giant invertebrates, and mad scientists all made it to the big time in the decade that gave us Fortran and rock ‘n’ roll. In this column I’ll deal with selections from the unfriendly-visitors-from-outer-space subgenre.

            The Thing From Another World (1951), directed by Christian Nyby, tells the tale of a group of scientists, military personnel and news reporters at a station in Antarctica. They find, buried beneath snow and ice, a space ship . . . and its lone occupant. The Thing is a classic of claustrophobic horror with most of the action between humans and bloodthirsty alien taking place in the confined quarters of the station, the exterior an inhospitable frozen zone. This movie served up the UFO-mania r More…