4 MARCH 4, 2021 RIDGEWOOD TIMES WWW.QNS.COM
Ridgewood middle school teacher
wins State Farm Teacher Assist Grant
BY SOFIA VALDES
Frankie Dascola, a middle school music
teacher at I.S. 93 in Ridgewood, was one of
40 New York City teachers to win the State
Farm Teacher Assist Grant.
The State Farm Teacher Assist Grant is awarded
to 200 teachers spread throughout California,
Florida, Michigan, New York and Texas. Each
teacher will be receiving $2,500 to help address
the societal impacts of COVID at the community
Dascola plans to use the money from the grant,
along with other money she has raised to start
many long-term diversity initiatives to support
the social emotional learning curriculum, which
includes Drag Queen Story of the Hour, (DQSH
NYC), Social Justice Club, bilingual events and
the purchasing of drum sticks.
Social emotional learning is the process
through which children and adults acquire
and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes
and skills necessary to understand and manage
emotions; set and achieve positive goals; feel and
show empathy for others; establish and maintain
positive relationships; and make responsible
I.S. 93’s social emotional learning branch contains
three spheres. The first one is a school-wide
“Our entire student population of 1,100 kids is
exposed to social emotional learning activities
and we use this curriculum we purchased called 6
Minute SEL, where students and teachers engage
in videos and discussions and various activities
that encourage the five subcategories of social
emotional learning which are self empowerment,
self awareness, decision making, relationship
skills and social awareness — all which create a
well-rounded human being,” Dascola said.
The second sphere is named “Restorative Justice
and the Use of Community Circles,” and is
run by Nicole Anazagasty. This club will allow
for students to discuss current events and issues
students may have gone through themselves. The
idea for this club started around the time of the
George Floyd incident.
“Anazagasty does this great work where it
basically curates and creates an open dialogue
space for students as well as teaches them skills
or gives them space to utilize skills they learned
during the school initiative,” Dascola said.
The State Farm Teacher Assist Grant will cover
work in the third sphere, student clubs and activities.
In this sphere, the school will focus on the
social justice/student government arm. With all
the recent social injustice and civil unrest, Dascola
said that I.S. 93 felt that it was important as
a middle school to make sure that their students
are well informed.
“We are in the restructuring of our student government
which is why the amount from the State
Farm Grant is going to be so important, because
it’s going to allow us to bring in the resources to
really get us off the ground in a meaningful way,”
Another club coming off the ground is their
Gender Sexual Alliance club, which has the
Frankie Dascola with two of her music students. Photo courtesy of Frankie Dascola
interim name Ram’s Pride. Through this club is
the GSA-led initiative, DQSH NYC, which brings
the drag queens story hour not only into the
school but into the community as a whole. Dascola
believes that though the community is affirming
to a point, most of the lack of affirmation comes
from simply a lack of awareness.
“By creating this educational space, it allows
for not only the student to have a safe space in
the GSA, it allows for the parents to be exposed
and educated on queer issues and remove the
threat of ‘my child is this, how could a parent
ask their 12-year-old child?’ By us creating this
space, they now get to ask an adult, ‘Hey, what
is this?’ They won’t traumatize their own child.
They won’t traumatize themselves, and now
there’s a community who are literally helping to
raise a child,” Dascola said. “So our whole idea
is to expose all the children to drag activity by
grade-level opportunities, have parent outreach,
as well as actually bringing in Eric Vaughan, the
head of LGBT student services for the DOE, to do
awareness and training with the staff to make
sure our community is fully acceptant, tolerant
In order to obtain the resources needed to run
this initiative, I.S. 93 won the Lambda Literary
Writers in School Program, which brings queer
authors and queer books into the community. The
school will also be using the comics and book club
literature to create a space where students are
able to learn about LGBT culture through history,
literacy and current events.
According to The Trevor Project, the third leading
cause of death in the LGBTQ community is suicide.
Data shows that students without affirming
households, through the national survey, there’s
29 percent homelessness. In the city of New York
there is 14 percent homelessness, 30 percent of
which is LGBTQ between the ages of 14 and 18 —
and those are just the confirmed, self-reported
cases of homelessness.
“So the reason I came up with these initiatives
is because I am surrounded, as being part of the
queer community, I’m surrounded by staggering
data that tells us that some of our most vulnerable
youth need help. So, why not?” Dascola said.
“The whole idea is to give everyone a voice,
whether it’s the 10-year-old sixth-grader, or the
50-year-old parent. Everybody in our community
should have an equal, reputable voice so that we
then can figure out, ‘Where’s the equity?’ And
that’s creating the space so that these students
can find themselves, these students can flourish,
even in the time of something like COVID.”
Other initiatives Dascola plans on bringing
into the school include bilingual events as well
as purchasing drum sticks for both in-person
and remote students in order to strengthen their
social emotional learning curriculum.
According to Dascola, the equipment they had
in person was great, but now during the pandemic,
it is not enough. Currently, I.S. 93 has students in
six countries and eight states.
In Dascola’s spare time, she works with a
local 3-D printing specialist to print musical
instruments as well, which will lower the cost of
instruments and allow each students to have an
instrument of their own, lowering risks of COVID.
The instruments will be made with resin, a highquality
“We’re not just focused on the ELA and math
of our students. We care about your whole child
and to do that, we are willing to bring in certain
services and initiatives that really elevate the
student to empower them to find their own voice,
whether that’s through social justice, or student
government, or through them exploring their
gender and sexuality,” Dascola said.
As of now, all of these initiatives and events
will be held virtually, in order to reduce the risk
and spread of COVID. They plan on making these
initiatives long-term and recurring and hope to
one day hold these events in person.