#12 Using Twitter to Your Advantage — Starr Sackstein

Starr Sackstein 

English and Journalism teacher (World Journalism Preparatory School —  Queens, NY) DSC_0004


January Contest: Win a Copy of Carol Jago’s With Rigor for All by emailing me a lesson that worked (email)


 Segment I – Background and Inspiration

Tell your story. Where are you from and how long have you been teaching? What classes have you taught? 

– Starr started at Far Rockaway High School. She obtained certification by teaching in a high-needs district. After the initial feeling-out-process passed, she fell in love with teaching and her students. From there she proceeded to Locust Valley High School, an affluent suburban Long Island district. She thought that was going to be it for her, she would stay there for the rest of her career. But the politics of the district got the better of her. Now she is at World Journalism Preparatory School and has been there since its second year, which has allowed her to grow with the school.

 Who has helped you in your journey to become a master teacher?

– Starr’s high school English teacher opened her room to her as she was doing her observations. Lori Mayo, the teacher-center representative at Far Rockaway, got Starr involved in NCTE and the Writing Project, which helped her how as a teacher.  She is involved with JEA, Journalism Education Association, not just as a member but also as the state director. Her own personal learning network on Twitter has also been immensely valuable. 

It is important for other teachers to know that we all have had setbacks in the classroom. Identify an instance in which you struggled as a teacher and explain what you learned from that experience.

– Starr tried to do a dinner party after her students finished reading Pride and Prejudice. Everybody was excited about it. Yet, within 15 minutes it was evident that it was not working. Students forgot props and conversations died shortly thereafter. She called everyone to order and order them back to the text as their character. They re-did the lesson on Monday. She came in more prepared as did the students and it turned out much better. 

What do you love about the Language Arts?

– There are no right answers! Starr doesn’t like to talk grades with her students. Learning is about being proved and thinking about how we feel and how we connected with the literature. The Humanities piece of education offers students the opportunities to explore themselves in a lot of ways. 

What is one thing that you love about the classroom?

 – There is nothing more amazing than stepping into a classroom and feeling obsolete because you have empowered young minds to trust themselves and their voices. Starr enjoys bringing that sense of awe back into their lives… The better she does her job, the less that her students need her.

Segment II — Digging into the Teacher Bag of Goodies


 What book do you recommend to a developing teacher?

 Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator. She really connected with the idea of going outside the box.   

What is one thing a teacher can do outside the classroom that can pay off inside the classroom?

–Starr is a writer. Her blogging and writing helps her as a teacher. It gives her a practical connection to the struggles of a writer. She has shown her students her writing from college and how much she has crossed out, changed, and edited.

 Is there an internet resource that you can recommend which will help teachers grow professionally?

–Starr believes that Twitter is all about who you follow and the lists that you create for yourself. #COLchat (Community of Learning) is a way to reach a community beyond your school. Teach 100 has excellent teacher blogs. It is a good idea to read what other teachers are doing and be reflective in your practice. TED Talks is another great resource that Starr recommends.

What is a small thing that can produce big results with writing?

 – Conferencing. She spends a lot of time giving them feedback on their writing. Her students have to maintain a list of all the comments that they receive during the year and match those comments up with the standards. 

 What book should be a part of the school curriculum?
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  The entire Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (Books 1-6).



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