Blowout response to being ‘in the crosshairs’

Photo of Matt Rozell by Andrew Watson.

Photo of Matt Rozell by Andrew Watson.

Even though Hudson Falls history teacher Matt Rozell has had experience with national media coverage (ABC, CBS, Buzz Feed) of his successful classroom efforts to connect Holocaust survivors with the soldiers who freed them, he was unprepared for the blowout response to a blog he wrote about Governor Cuomo’s disdain for public education and teachers.

In just four days, his post “Am I a Teacher or a Technician?” at teachinghistorymatters.com received 27,500 hits. The blog was written in response to the governor’s latest assaults on teachers, public education, funding, teacher evaluation, tenure and local control of schools.

“People are fired up and jacked up about this Cuomo nonsense,” said Rozell, a member of the Hudson Falls Teachers Association.

Rozell writes:

“…it doesn’t make you feel too good to come home from a day of nurturing, guiding and mentoring young people to feel like your back is in the cross-hairs of the most powerful man in the state. But unfortunately, I’m getting used to it. …

For achievements in the classroom, I would be awarded many top state and national awards for teaching … and would be recognized by my own SUNY Geneseo Alma mater as their 2013 Educator of the Year.(He is also featured on NBC Learn.

So how did the Educator of the Year rate in his own 2013-14 Cuomo Administration teacher evaluation? I scored an 89/100. Not even honor roll. None of the above achievements with students were counted or ‘measured’- and maybe rightfully so, I don’t know. But ‘Mr. History Teacher of the Year Multiple Times Over’ IS NOT highly effective in New York State.”

Many readers responded to Rozell’s post. A second-year teacher on Long Island wrote: “… I am proud to be a teacher, and have worked so hard to earn my degree, to earn my masters, and to continue my education to stay up-to-date with teaching practices … I hope many teachers and non-teachers truly understand … the flaws of the governor’s proposals.”

A retired teacher wrote: “I am sad for my son who is a high school science teacher in New York state … I am sad for all the idealist young teachers who will be driven out of the classroom, but mostly I am sad for the students of New York state (including my grandson who is in kindergarten) who are being over-tested and turned off to learning.”

Rozell, a soft-spoken teacher who was featured by NYSUT on Veterans Day, has made an impact in his Hudson Falls community and across the world.

He (along with veteran Frank Towers, 97, and others) helped 275 child survivors from a train leaving the Bergen Belsen concentration camp at the end of WWII reconnect years later. Rozell has coordinated three reunions at the Hudson Falls High School with soldiers and survivors; and been part of six reunions hosted by the 30th Infantry Division Veterans of World War II; several in Florida, and one in Israel.

This April will be the last planned reunion of the groups, due to the aging of the survivors. It is the 70th anniversary of the end of the WWII and the liberation of the Jewish prisoners. Rozell will be attending the reunion in Nashville.

If you’ll be in the Rochester area on April 15, Matt Rozell will be speaking about the train liberation at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester’s Community Yom Hashoah observance. The Holocaust Remembrance Day event is free and open to the public.

Making history real for students and reconnecting Holocaust survivors may not be considered evidence of “highly effective” teaching, but it’s what we do.

To learn more about the impact teachers make, visit itswhatwedo.nysut.org.

One Comment

  1. Liza Frenette January 29, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    “I can’t imagine where I would be if I felt that no one believed in me, all those dark days ago- if someone slapped an INEFFECTIVE label on me to fulfill a political objective (too many effective teachers) What if I had gotten the boot? None of this other stuff in my life or other peoples lives’ would have ever, ever happened.”
    Matt Rozell, who has reunited 275 Holocaust survivors with each other and with the soldiers who liberated them from a train bound for death. His blog hits are now up to 30,000, six days out.

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