2012 Educator of the Year: Daniel Goldfarb

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01/04/2013 9:00 AM |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Dr. Dan Goldfarb gives Oysterponds student Nico Wittenburg hands-on instruction in the use of a camera.

What do eggs and digital cameras have in common? They’re some of the tools Oysterponds elementary students are using to learn about the pitfalls of gravity and to experience using professional photography equipment.

For his work creating unconventional programing to engage young minds, Dr. Daniel Goldfarb is the Suffolk Times Educator of the Year.

Known to students as “Dr. Dan,” Dr. Goldfarb has been the district’s school psychologist for the past 10 years. He also has a private practice and is a social worker for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

Dr. Goldfarb lives in Wading River with his wife, Lisa, also a psychologist. The couple has two children, Maxwell, 16, and Judith, 18.

Principal Françoise Wittenburg described Dr. Goldfarb as “very giving” to Oysterponds students, faculty and staff. She said he is “constantly collaborating with teachers” to develop new programs. Recently, he helped parents, teachers and students cope with the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“He’ll never say no to anybody, especially the kids,” Ms. Wittenburg said.

Dr. Goldfarb and teacher Jennifer Wissemann developed the annual egg drop competition, in which students create enclosures to project their egg from breaking when dropped from the school’s roof.

Of the 10 entries in this year’s competition, seven eggs survived. It’s all part of the school’s science, technology, engineering and math program, known as STEM.

Students applied those academic subjects while working on their projects, which involved more than just creating something to protect the egg from breaking.

Students must follow a math formula during the planning process. The more parts used, the heavier the casing and the farther it landed from the bull’s-eye the lower the resulting score. That score was then multiplied by zero if the egg broke or by one if the egg survived the fall intact. These variables are known as the “egg integrity factor.”

Dr. Goldfarb also runs the school’s camera club, where students learn about balancing elements, leading lines, symmetry and patterns, viewpoint, background, creating depth, framing, cropping and experimentation.

Each student learns how to use professional Canon cameras, which Dr. Goldfarb provides from his personal collection.

“They all get the lecture about making sure they are wearing the strap,” Dr. Goldfarb told The Suffolk Times in an interview. “I’ve never had a problem and trust them.”

Photography is his hobby and said he still has his Minolta SRT-202 35-millimeter film camera.

“I have a great deal of difficulty drawing a stick figure,” Dr. Goldfarb said. “There’s something about photography that the machines allow me to have some creativity when I have absolutely no manual dexterity in terms of anything artistic.”

In addition to the egg drop competition and camera club, Dr. Goldfarb works with students to help improve their speech and interpersonal skills through video commercial projects.

School special education secretary Donna Mosquera said she’s known Dr. Goldfarb since he started at the district and described him as “very generous with his time and his friendship.” He’s a big fan of the classic television show “The Honeymooners” and “Star Wars” movies and is also fond of Kit-Kat candy bars.

“It is never an ordinary day when Dr. Dan is around,” Ms. Mosquera said. “He will leave you in stitches for hours — no matter the mood you may have started the day with.”

jennifer@timesreview.com

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