Teacher Feature: Mr. Cina


Photo Credit: photo provided by Mr. Cina

Hen Hud teacher Mr. Cina!

Meet Mr. Cina, an all-grades English teacher in the Academy! Mr. Cina spent one year as a permanent substitute at Ardsley before coming to Hen Hud, and is now in his third year of teaching here. In the past, Mr. Cina worked at a variety of jobs ranging from delis to manufacturing, and was inspired to become an English teacher when he recognized that many of his coworkers had been “shortchanged by the system when they were kids,” and in some cases “could barely read or write.” He also admitted that as a kid he “wasn’t super engaged in [school],” but knew from experience that certain teachers could make school more interesting and enjoyable. Therefore, he wanted to provide that experience for students like him and “get them the help they should be getting” by teaching in a nontraditional style. 

When Mr. Cina first met with Mr. Perlman and the rest of the Academy team, he realized that Hen Hud’s Academy program aligned perfectly with his goal of “working in a setting where the idea is to try and flip the script a little bit, and try a different approach to the same ideas.” Mr. Cina said that “the second [he] came in and met the crew,” he just had a feeling of “yeah, this is it. This is for me.” He’s “loved every year” since that moment. 

One of Mr. Cina’s favorite activities he’s done with his students occurred earlier this year, when he challenged seniors to identify an issue in our community using the method of “critical consciousness,” and then answer the question “what can we do about it?” They identified the issue that students are often unaware of the mental health and addiction support resources available to them, and then turned this activity into real change by talking to representatives of the Town of Cortlandt, joining a youth outreach program, emailing politicians, and designing flyers as part of a social media unit. Mr. Cina said it was a “very proud moment” for him to see his students “so engaged in something that was meaningful to them,” and to watch them continue their activism even after the assigned project ended. 

As an English teacher, Mr. Cina has a favorite work of literature and a favorite book to teach, but notes there’s a definite distinction between the two. Mr. Cina says that he’s always been interestested by the American Renaissance period, due to the “radical thinkers of the time” who sought to “move past British literature.” Of that period, Walden by Henry David Thoreau is one of his favorites, because it presents the important idea that “one’s actions don’t represent who they are as a person,” meaning “a thinking person is no better than the person working with a plow in the field.” 

In the classroom, his favorites are The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye, as they were the first books “that really spoke to [him] in high school.” Catcher in the Rye was particularly impactful because of the scene where the protagonist “imagines that if he could pick one thing to be when he grows up it would be saving and protecting children.” Mr. Cina laughingly noted that “now [he’s] a teacher, so maybe there was a little bit of influence there.”

Mr. Cina has also become involved in many extracurricular activities at Hen Hud; he’s an advisor with the Speech and Debate club and the head of the Digital Film and Editing club. Most recently, he and the Digital Film and Editing club tackled the challenge of putting on a virtual performance for the Hen Hud theater department. They had to come up with a way to “make it work seamlessly, avoid distractions for the actors, and get access to things like custom backgrounds,” and figured out a method of multiple google meets where the actors joined a google meet with Mr. Cina, and then he presented his screen to the audience. 

Clearly a man of many talents, Mr. Cina is also a pretty good musician. He can play drums, guitar, bass, ukulele… basically he said if you “throw [him] a fretted stringed instrument, [he’ll] play it.” He admitted “it might not be the best,” but he’ll try! However, Mr. Cina said he won’t touch woodwind or brass instruments, as that’s where “it all goes haywire.”

Overall, Mr. Cina wants to give the advice that “there’s no wrong day to start putting your foot in the right direction. And when we start taking one step in the right direction it’s easier to take another step in the right direction.” He recommends that people try to focus “less on the past,” and instead  “switch up their mindsets to find a love of learning that often gets lost, and come to find enjoyment in what we’re working on and what we’re discovering.” 

Thank you Mr. Cina for the amazing impact you’ve already had on the Hen Hud school and community!