SPOTLIGHT ON: Teacher of the Year Dayna Reist

The Rye City School District has this really fantastic problem, and that is, the selection of its annual, district-wide Teacher of the Year recipient. How, in a district that employs so many gifted teaches, do they ever pick just one?

Published October 10, 2015 2:22 PM
3 min read

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TOTY-thThe Rye City School District has this really fantastic problem, and that is, the selection of its annual, district-wide Teacher of the Year recipient. How, in a district that employs so many gifted teaches, do they ever pick just one?

By Annette McLoughlin

TOTYThe Rye City School District has this really fantastic problem, and that is, the selection of its annual, district-wide Teacher of the Year recipient. How, in a district that employs so many gifted teaches, do they ever pick just one?

That said, one teacher — a gem among gems — is chosen every year. The 2014-15 award went to Dayna Reist, a second-grade teacher at Milton School.

Reist came to the School District in 2009 initially as a substitute teacher assigned to Milton and was hired as a second-grade teacher two years later. She holds a B.A. in Zoology from the University of New Hampshire and an M.S. in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street. Before coming to Rye, Ms. Reist worked as a museum educator at the Aquarium for Wildlife Conservation and at the Museum of Natural History.

At this summer’s Superintendent’s conference at which the award was presented, Dr. Frank Alvarez said, “Dayna is known at Milton and beyond for her commitment to excellence, her positive attitude, and her extraordinary level of involvement both in and out of the classroom.”

A passionate and enthusiastic educator, Reist also channels a good part of her boundless energy to a number of school committees and teams. Currently, she serves on the Curriculum Council, the Environmental Committee, the Excellence Committee, and the Executive Council at Milton. She is the faculty liaison to the PTO and to the school gardening committee. She’s also active in the Child Study Team and the Committee on Special Education. One of her Milton colleagues said of her widespread involvement, “It seems like there is not a committee or a team that Dayna has not yet joined!”

Somehow, she also finds the time to attend education workshops and seminars at Bank Street and at Columbia’s Teachers College Writing Workshop and shares her notes with her colleagues. Her fellow teachers describe her total dedication; “she is always thinking about work, even when she’s not in the building.” And they say that they sometimes receive multiple emails from her over the weekend about things that have inspired her.

The process of selecting Teacher of the Year starts by writing a letter. Teachers, parents, and students (present and past) promote the teacher they believe most deserves the honor. And the one word that appeared repeatedly and emphatically throughout the recommendation letters for Reist was “warm.” Parents praised her for her warmth and her one-on-one connection to her students. Milton School Principal Dr. JoAnne Nardone wrote, “She provides a stimulating, warm, and nurturing environment where all students develop self-confidence and academic success.”

Reist takes the time to really get to know her students, having a special lunch with each one individually. She was one of Milton’s pioneers in the Responsive Classroom Program.

Another teacher commented, “Dayna engages her students in active learning, encouraging rich discussions and explorations about a topic.” And she engages students in the concept and process of finding their own voice and the courage to impact their community. A great example of this is her Lunch Brunch program in which fourth and fifth graders meet with her on a regular basis to create and execute ideas to turn lunchtime and recess into more fulfilling experiences for all.

She is beloved not only by her students and their families but by her fellow teachers and faculty. Dr. Nardone said of her, “Dayna is a shining star whose glow embraces our entire community and helps us all reach our potential.” In Assistant Rye High School Principal Suzanne Short’s words, “Dayna reminds people around her how important it is to hold onto that passion for teaching and learning and the incredible potential that exists in all of us.”

Of the many rave reviews and recommendations, one parent summed up Dayna Reist’s qualities perfectly, “She exemplifies the synthesis of performance, humanity, and spunk that makes this an unrivalled place to raise and educate our children.” 

 

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