Teacher Appreciation Week: Dagmar Poll, Huntington

     Published on 5/6/16   Tagged under:    District News    Huntington K-8 School   

Dagmara Poll, the Spanish teacher at Huntington, has quite the tale to tell when it comes to how she ended up in the field of education.
Born in Cuba, she had the opportunity to study in Moscow, living there for six years. Upon moving to the United States, she worked in computer engineering for many years until her company was bought out. It was then that she applied to an IT job with the Syracuse City School District, a logical transition given her technical background. What she received was a request she didn’t expect.
“They saw that I was fluent in English, Spanish, French and Russian, and they asked me, would I be interested in a full-time position as a French teacher instead?” Ms. Poll recalled. “I didn’t have any teaching background, so they gave me a year to complete the requirements to earn my degree. It was quite the challenge… and quite a change!”
A change that has suited her well. Now in her 13th year at Huntington, she has also taught briefly at Corcoran and Lincoln. While teaching eighth graders can be challenging, she has learned the value of letting students find learning styles that work for them. In the past, for instance, Ms. Poll said that students struggled to learn conjugations. This year, students made their own songs or raps to help them remember.
“I’m flexible when it comes to instruction and what works, as long as you are learning and you can remember the content,” she said, noting that sometimes she gets students’ attention by dancing or bursting out with a Spanish monologue. “It’s all about opening up your mind to culture.”
Her method is working. One day, she recalled a student arrived in class having completed 65 questions of a 101 question assignment that the class was working through together. “I asked him, ‘how did you do that?’ He said, ‘You taught us!’ They always surprise me. They pick up so many things, and they just excel.”
Ms. Poll also noted that in her classroom and beyond, respect is key to creating a good relationship with students.
“I respect everyone,” she said. “As adults, we need to learn to be respectful of each other, no matter what. Students are looking to us as an example… what we project is what they see. We can’t just demand respect from our students—but if they see us showing respect to them and to each other as adults, they will eventually show us respect back.”
The culture at Huntington is one that breeds respect, Ms. Poll said. “When I started teaching at Huntington, [SCSD Chief Academic Officer] Linda Mulvey was principal, and she was wonderful. She had high expectations and was always pushing me to do better. Principal Harlow is the same way. I love when people expect great things, because it motivates me to keep trying to get better and better! The staff here is just wonderful—I couldn’t do what I do without them.”
Thank you, Ms. Poll, for your commitment to students at Huntington!