Staff Member of the ̶M̶o̶n̶t̶h̶ Year: Mr. Jose Mondestin

Interview with Mr. Mondestin

By: Shane P ’18 and Jaskarn P ’18


What do you teach and what grade?

I teach grade 11 and I’m teaching Pre-Calculus and Geometric Optics, which are my favorite subjects to teach.

How are you enjoying QHSS since you came here? What are your favorite aspects? Least favorite? If you could change these aspects, what would you do?

It’s wonderful so far; the kids are great! They challenge me, they make me work harder, trying to make the problems harder. So when I go home, I work ten times harder compared to other schools. So I am enjoying it. Least favorite aspects? If there are any, it would be the space. If we had more space, it would be wonderful. Favorite aspects, again, would be the students. You know, they’re gorgeous and wonderful. They make me enjoy the school day. The staff also is great.

Why did you choose to work here? Do you enjoy teaching?  

Yes, I enjoy teaching. I was lucky enough to be chosen by the former principal. I’m here with you guys and I enjoy every aspect of it.

Why did you pursue a career in mathematics? Did you want to teach anything besides math?

That’s a long story. I remember back in the day, when I was back home, I did struggle with math and happened to fail one of my math classes. Then, I changed everything around 180 degrees. And since that time, I have said “I have to major in math,” which I did in my Master’s and Bachelor’s and here I am now. Teaching anything besides math, that’s Geometric Optics. It’s a combination of geometry and optics. I really enjoy teaching that, it’s one of my favorite classes.

Where are you from?

I am from Haiti. I studied statistics in Haiti, I have my Bachelor’s in Statistics. And I entered the United States in 1996, went to Baruch to study mathematics. I took too many math classes and decided to major in math. Then, I went to Lehman College and did my Master’s in Pure Mathematics. One day, I plan on doing my Ph.D. in Mathematics.

Where did you teach prior to QHSS?

Prior to QHSS, when I was in Baruch, I found this little job as a multi-subject teacher. During my last semester, I saw the flyer and I called. It was about teaching Pre-Calculus, French, and Spanish. So it was three subjects. So that was my first job teaching. It was at Smith High School. And once I graduated, I started to teach at Richmond Hill High School and then transferred to Andrew Jackson High School. And after that, I came here.

What do you think of your colleagues? Of your students?

My colleagues and the entire staff are wonderful, great people to work with. And the students, they are gorgeous as I said. You guys couldn’t get any better.  

What do you consider your greatest teaching accomplishment?

My greatest teaching accomplishment was when I worked with a student who was really weak in math. I started to tutor her one-on-one, and you know she passed the Regents with a high score. And after that, I figured, if you help people, they can accomplish great things.

Any words of wisdom that you want to give to all the students?

Be hardworking, like I used to be. If I didn’t fail math, I wouldn’t have decided to try harder and make it my career. So any student can be the same on any subject.


Amnesty Spreads the Word on Solitary Confinement

by Soorya A’18

On February 3, 2017, QHSS’ Amnesty International presented the issue of solitary confinement in prisons. The project was done in collaboration with Mrs. Majumder-Afzal, Mr. Kalamaras, and Mr. Sweiven. The President of Amnesty, Mohamed M’17 (nicknamed as Momo) explained that the members “[aimed to find a topic that would] target a large part of our criminal justice system and address its effects on our society.” From there, students created a presentation designed to convey the seclusion of solitary and its detrimental effects on the prison populations, as well as focus on the youth involved in the practice. As Valerie F’18 described, Amnesty’s primary goal was to raise awareness of the subject to the students of QHSS. They’ve accomplished this not only by their elaborate presentations, but also by their bold outfits,  displaying the attire commonly worn in prisons.


Momo M. (‘17) and Nia R. (19’) answering a question during presentations.

For those who may have missed the presentation, solitary confinement is the isolation of prisoners in a cell, anywhere from 22 to 24 hours a day. In order to express the severity of the practice, presenters began by gauging a range of the students’ prior knowledge, asking questions such as, “What do you know about it?” and “What do you think it accomplishes?” In one class, all of the students in the audience were actively participating, both asking and answering questions. According to one presenter, Arwa R’18, the orange jumpsuits themselves sparked interest in students and were “vessels [for students] to ask questions on the topic.”

Amnesty members discussed aspects of solitary confinement such as which countries uses it, what it hopes to accomplish, who is held under solitary, and what its effect is. What seemed to be the climax of the presentations was when the students were shown a 360° interactive video on the effects of the practice. During her presentation, Valerie F’18 found that students “grew wide eyed and had interesting opinions to share with the class.” The video rendered the class silent, as many began to comprehend the severity of solitary. It seemed to be one of the defining moments of the presentation.

The presentations closed with “steps to move forward,” as the presenters explained to the audience the importance of staying involved in the our society. Amnesty members confidently concluded that they “all effectively delivered our message to our intended audience and learned a great deal from the experience” and  “that there were a number of people, regardless of grade, who learned something regarding the experience of solitary or the effects of it.”

Arwa R’18 went on to say, “This experience was valuable to me as well, as I did not know much about the issue of solitary confinement before. This experience allowed me to be actively involved and truly feel that I was helping in the cause.”

The Women Behind the Screen: QHSS’ Third Movie Day!


By: Pelumi Omotosho

On February 17th, at 9:00 am, our school will be venturing on a day trip to see the movie Hidden Figures at Jamaica Multiplex. Much like similar outings a couple of years ago, during which we saw the movies The Great Gatsby and Selma, this “Movie Day” aims at entertaining and informing QHSS students. In its 127 minute runtime, Hidden Figures tells the untold story of three female African American mathematicians whose calculations were imperative to Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight program of the United States.

Hidden Figures, which is based on the book, chronicles the impacts of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, as they broke barriers in space and their professions.  

In the midst of pressure caused by a successful Russian satellite launch, Katherine Johnson was assigned to the Space Task Group, which made her not only the first African American woman on the team, but also the first in the entire building. Katherine would go on to aid in the dissolution of segregation within the Space Task Group and calculate the trajectory for the spaceflight that landed the first two humans on the Moon: Apollo 11.

Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson experienced similarly impressive breakthroughs. Dorothy Vaughan became supervisor of the West Area in 1949, making her the first African American woman to supervise staff at the center. She also prepared for the introduction of machine-computers that can perform the jobs of her and her colleagues by teaching herself and her staff the programming language FORTRAN. Her knowledge in the area would lead to her heading the programming section of the Analysis and Computations Division. Mary Jackson became NASA’s first black female engineer in 1958 and, after 34 years at NASA, would earn the highest title for an engineer. Her focus later turned to highlighting the accomplishments of women in her field.

Despite their very impressive feats, the stories of these women have been concealed for several decades. Hidden Figures aims to bring the undervalued achievements of these women out of the dark by telling the story in a way that could only be captured on the big screen. Hidden Figures makes it so that the incredible impacts of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson aren’t hidden any longer.


QHSS Girls and Boys Bowling Teams: Season Review

By: Dharam M’19

The QHSS boys and girls bowling teams have recently capped off the 2016 season with improvements in showings.

The boys bowling team, coached by math teacher Mr. Lopez, finished up the season with a 4-8 record, sixth place in the Queens II League. The tightest game took place on October 13, when QHSS pulled out a victory in the final frame of the game. The strongest outing came a day later in a victory against Bayside High School, in which QHSS put up a cumulative score of 1446.  By pinfall average (game score average), the team ranked forty-third in the city.  The team narrowly missed the playoffs, for only the top forty teams qualified.  The boys bowling team has been dominated by seniors for the last two seasons, with ten seniors in 2015 and six seniors in 2016.  


The boys bowling team, with head coach Mr. Lopez.

The girls bowling team, under the guidance of Assistant Principal Mr. Reo, dominated the Brooklyn/Queens League with a first place win. The team finished with a 11-1 record. The strongest outings coincided with victories. The team won against Richmond High School on September 29, putting up a total score of 1160. Following the match with Richmond was the team’s October 6 play against Cambria Heights Academy. The team bested Cambria Heights with a total score of 1148. In terms of pinfall average, the team ranked twenty-seventh in the city.  Unfortunately, the team was eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, losing against Beacon High School.  


The girls bowling team, with head coach Mr. Reo.

Four seniors on the QHSS bowling teams – Sandra Cantillo, Jackie Shi, Henry Li, and Jerry Lu – were selected for the PSAL (Public School Athletic League) Individual Players City Finals. For the girls individual, Sandra came in 9th place and Jackie in 14th. For boys individual, Henry came in 9th place, with Jerry following in 11th place.   

Jackie Shi, captain of the girl’s team, offered a few comments on the experience of playing in the PSAL finals.

“It was rewarding to lead my team. Considering that most of the girls on our team were rookies and never bowled competitively before, I was really happy with the way we ended our season, despite our loss at the end.”  

She described her time on the team as a fun and enjoyable experience, and she encourages future QHSS bowlers to keep practicing. After all, “one [pin down] is better than none!”


PSAL Individual Finalists (from left to right) Sandra C’17, Jackie S’17, Jerry L’17, Henry L’17.