TOURO
STUDENTS’ CHOICE

A good teacher can change the way a student looks at a subject; an excellent teacher can change the way a student looks at the world. This year, we asked Touro’s graduating students a simple question: During their time at Touro, who inspired them? Who served as their mentor? Which faculty member had the greatest impact? We collated the hundreds of responses and seven faculty members rose to the top. Our students chose seven outstanding faculty members as the recipients of Touro’s Students’ Choice. Professor Mirjana Lukic was chosen by the students of Touro College Graduate School of Education.

WHAT HER STUDENTS SAY

“Professor Lukic’s passion ignited our passion,” said Christina Ortiz. “You want to do what she does. You want the same passion she has. I kept a lot of the material she created and I spoke with her over the summer afer I graduated. Professor Lukic taught us that there’s always a way to get kids to fall in love with books. Sometimes kids have a big fear of looking at words and it’s our job to invite them in so they know it’s not scary. I make sure my students have access to the library during their recess and, while it took a while, they love to read now. They’re excited about new books. If you’re a teacher who is able to show by example that books are fun—the way Professor Lukic showed us—it’s a remarkable thing.”

- Christina Ortiz

Mirjana Lukic

Professor Mirjana Lukic has a story she repeats to all her classes. As a young child who emigrated from the former Yugoslavia, she picked up English slowly. During one assignment as a second-grader in PS 8 in the Bronx, she finally felt comfortable writing in English. It was an “aha!” moment for her, she recalled, that moment when she realized she felt comfortable in her new language.

Her second-grade teacher was not impressed.

The teacher reprimanded her for her use of the word “gonna” and criticized her. Humiliated and devastated, Lukic returned to her desk.

“We can’t assume what children know,” said Lukic, who says that the experience eventually informed her perception of education. “We have to reflect on our teaching to make each child successful.”

Current students at PS 8 are unlikely to have a similar experience because their teacher is Lukic herself, who is celebrating almost 30 years teaching at the same school where she was a student years ago. After graduating from John F. Kennedy High School, Lukic enrolled in Lehman College and studied linguistics. She received her master’s in education from the College of New Rochelle with the intention of teaching English as a second-language. She became a teacher at PS 8 in 1989 and has remained there ever since.

“I recalled my own experience struggling to learn English and this motivated me to ensure that children have a better experience than I did,” said Lukic.

In her tenure, she has taught child refugees from war-torn countries, victims of ethnic persecution and those, like her own family, who fled to the United States for a better future. She has taught them all with the same grace and patience.

Eleven years ago, she received a call asking if she’d like to teach a class at Touro’s Graduate School of Education.

“I wanted to share the joy of teaching with teachers who are just starting their careers,” said Lukic. “That’s been a driving force for me.”

Lukic said that what she loves the most about Touro is the feedback she receives from her students, many of whom are working teachers.

“I love modeling and demonstrating for them,” said Lukic. “When a teacher comes back to class and says: ‘I tried this strategy and it worked,’ that’s an incredibly rewarding moment.”

Last year, she noticed a familiar face in one of the Touro classrooms: a student from Bangladesh whom she had taught at PS 8. The student remembered her.

“Each child has a special light and it’s our job to find the switch.”

MIRJANA LUKIC

Lukic said teachers today are faced with a wealth of opportunity to have an impact on their students.

“There’s more flexibility in teaching now,” she explained. “Every individual teacher has their own strength—I love the arts and literacy and creative arts—so for me sharing that with potential students is a wonderful thing. Teachers are able to express their talents with their students. We want children to find what piques their interest and concentrate on that.”

“Every child has a special light,” Lukic continued. “It’s our job to find the switch.”

HER OBJECT

We asked each member of the faculty to choose an item that holds a special significance for them.

Lukic’s choice: A book. “Everyone has a story and I think when we use a story to motivate a student and the student finds a connection to it, the story never really ends. That student will tell the same story to someone else, and that person will continue telling the story. That’s why stories are so important to me.”

HER FAVORITE BOOK

The Curious Garden. “The main character, Liam, stumbles upon a patch of greenery in an abandoned railway station. As the story continues and as Liam continues to work, the entire town becomes much greener. The book is about how your actions affect others.”

HER HOBBY

All of Professor Lukic’s students know of her love of gardening. Her favorite plants are the fifeen varieties of peonies that she grows in her garden. “My neighbor told me that it’s a shame that they bloom for such a short time. I think that’s what makes them so glorious.”