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Two OPHS Teachers Selected as Master Teachers

The Orchard Park Central School District is proud to announce that in early October two Orchard Park High School teachers were selected as members of the New York State Master Teachers Program by Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Math teacher Brian Dena and Industrial Arts teacher Joseph Bella are two of the 275 recipients chosen.

The 275 Master Teachers are dedicated professionals who teach science, technology, computer science, robotics, coding, engineering, and math courses across grades K-12 including Advanced Placement, honors, Regents and International Baccalaureate levels.  All Master Teachers are active beyond their classrooms.

Mr. Brian Dena is in his 23rd year at the Orchard Park High School and is currently teaching Advanced Calculus, AP Calculus (BC) and Applied Mathematics.  In addition to teaching at the high school, he serves as the advisor of math club along with colleague, Bret Norvilitis and has previously served as the District 6-12 math coordinator.  He has been a cooperating teacher for student teachers and a mentor for current teachers. 

“Mr. Dena has long distinguished himself as an educator of the highest quality.  On behalf of his colleagues at the high school, I congratulate Brian on this tremendous recognition,” said Mr. Jonathan Wolf, Orchard Park High School principal.

In addition to teaching in Orchard Park, Mr. Dena is an adjunct instructor for Medaille College where he teaches classes that include elementary mathematics for aspiring teachers.

Mr. Dena learned about the Master Teacher program from a colleague and was interested in providing his students with STEM related applications in class.  He feels that calculus is the language spoken in many of the sciences, especially physics. By working closely with Orchard Park High School Physics teacher Mr. Greg Hylkema, he gains new insight into providing students with physics-related activities. 

As a Master Teacher, Mr. Dena is looking forward to building relationships within the STEM community.  He states, “I feel that after 23 years I have gotten closer to mastering my own subject matter, but have a lot of learning to do in others.  This experience will enrich my own teaching and in the end, my student’s learning.”

He resides in Wheatfield with his wife Rebecca and two daughters Allison (16) and Katelyn (13). 

Mr. Joseph Bella is in his first year of teaching at Orchard Park High School, his Alma mater.  Prior to coming to Orchard Park High School, Mr. Bella taught in the Buffalo School District at the Charles Drew Science Magnet, the Antonia Pantoja School of Academic Excellence, and the Fredrick Law Olmsted School.  At Fredrick Law Olmsted Mr. Bella was the yearbook advisor for several years as well as the senior class advisor, and he managed the Tech Club.  Some of his classes even competed in regional Technology competitions.

Mr. Bella has always been interested in relating the practical skills and engineering concepts that students learn in Technology Education to the theory of mathematics and the research and discovery of science. As a Master Teacher, Mr. Bella hopes to learn and grow as an educator through exposure to the program’s numerous collaborative professional development opportunities. This will allow him to integrate more STEM topics into the classroom.

Mr. Bella said, “I am excited to work with the teachers in the Master Teacher program to learn and grow, and help contribute to the excellent educational community here in the Orchard Park district.” 

Mr. Wolf adds, “Congratulations to Mr. Bella on being named a NYS Master Teacher.  I am so pleased that Joe has decided to return to his Alma mater and continue the tradition of excellence in our technology department.” 

Throughout their four-year participation in the Program, Mr. Dena and Mr. Bella will receive an annual $15,000 stipend; engage in peer mentoring and intensive content-oriented professional development opportunities throughout the academic year; work closely with pre-service and early career teachers to foster a supportive environment for the next generation of STEM teachers; attend required regional cohort meetings, and participate in and lead several professional development sessions each year.

Mr. Dena and Mr. Bella exemplify the Orchard Park Central School District’s commitment to developing lifelong learners and contributing members of an ever evolving society.