Affinity Groups: Looking Back as We Look Forward

iZone’s monthly Affinity Groups provide a creative, thoughtful outlet for like-minded educators to explore innovative practices or ideas. We’re excited to launch our first round of Affinity Groups for the 2014-15 school year, and are certain the sessions will be meaningful for all involved. To smartly move forward, let’s look back at the origin of Affinity Groups and the dedicated educators who helped lead them last year. 

We first formed Affinity Groups three years ago to offer NYC educators a collaborative and practitioner-led learning experience. Groups are between 5 to 15 participants on average, and meet monthly to discuss topics, share resources, and reflect on promising practices. During school year 2013-14, topics included 1:1 academic coaching, socio-emotional learning, and leveraging social media in schools.  (Check out the table below for the full list of Affinity Groups.)


What’s the experience like for educators? Here’s what some Affinity Group members had to say about their experiences last year:


My Affinity Group helped me think about the designing of assessments, and the presentation of data in my classroom—to students and colleagues alike.

 – High School ELA Teacher, Data Through a Design Lens

It was great to hear what other schools were doing with social media. It was also great to hear feedback on what we are/were doing. Often what we do exists in the vacuum of our school, but the Affinity Group was a great way to get outside input as well as hear outside critiques. In addition, it was a valuable experience to craft social media guidelines as a group. It put a lot of what I teach into context and gave me a few different ideas and perspectives on how I can teach going forward.

– Computer Teacher/Technology Coordinator, Engaging Schools with Social Media

 The Socio-Emotional Learning Affinity Group not only validates the ‘softer’ skills that we as educators continue to emphasize despite the current testing and data craze, but it also offers us a chance to share approaches and ideas that can help us continue to cultivate these necessary practices that keep students and staff safe and engaged.

– High School Teacher, Body, Mind, Spirit: Socio-Emotional Learning


Affinity Groups from School Year 2013-14

Special shout out to the Affinity Group Co-Leaders who dedicate time to design, facilitate, and document the work of their groups!

Group NameDescriptionLeaders
1:1 Academic Coaching with StudentsCollaborate, and share resources and best practices around 1:1 academic coaching with students. Sonhando Estwick, Tompkins Square Middle School
Pablo Wolfe, School of the Future
Body, Mind, Spirit: Socio-Emotional Learning and Innovation at the Human LevelFoster greater awareness of your own social emotional competencies, and bring the practice into your respective professional community.Brooke Jackson, NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies
William Frackelton, Soundview Academy for Culture and Scholarship
Embedded: Video Design for the Asynchronous ClassroomDevelop an online platform for your curriculum, and learn how to create and embed videos that support your lessons.Ethan Knect, Bronx Compass High School
Corey Beder, Bronx Compass High School
Christina Kingham, The Young Women's Leadership School, Astoria
Branding Innovation: Sustaining Innovation through Our StoriesCreate your school’s signature story and explore publishing platforms that will best support the story and invigorate your community. Workshops will be offered in: storytelling, branding, filmmaking, and marketing.Stacy McCoy, Bronx Compass High School
Noel Parish, Bronx Compass High School
Data through a Design-Thinking LensThinking through real data issues as a group in order to get smarter about collecting and analyzing data in the field.Yvonne Wang, Office of Research and Data
Al Sylvia, iZone
Turning Your Class on its Head: The Flipped ClassExplore the concept of the flipped classroom, and gain the necessary knowledge to begin flipping your own class. Jerry France, The Young Women's Leadership School, Astoria
Mike Miller, NYC DOE
Regents or Project-based Learning? Why not both?Learn how to successfully implement project-based learning in Regents classes, and develop the capacity to coach others through this process.Christina Canon, NYC DOE
Alexander Lyvers, The Young Women's Leadership School, Astoria
Breakthrough School DesignUtilize user-centered design methodologies to co-design a potential new multi-located 9-14 school. Monica White, iZone
Alana Laudone, iZone
Engaging Schools with Social MediaLearn to leverage social media to engage students, strengthen relationships within your school community, and celebrate the stories of our schools.Lisa Nielsen, NYC DOE
Monica White, iZone
The Innovative Book ClubExpand your knowledge of texts on various topics that will help unite us as a group of innovators and inspire us as individuals. Cynthia Warner, iZone
Amy Shroyer, iZone
Developing Student Voice: Student-Led ConferencesCreate time and space for your students to share their academic progress and develop and share best practices around student-led conferences. Christina DiZebba, IS 289
Marc Todd, IS 289