Jun 11, 2013  |  NYC.gov

Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott today announced the winners of the inaugural Big Apple Awards: Recognizing Teacher Excellence in New York City. The Big Apple Awards is the first citywide teacher recognition program open to all full-time teachers in public schools across New York City.

There are 10 Big Apple Awards for teachers of all subject areas, along with one Lincoln Center Arts Teacher Award dedicated to an arts educator. The goal of this award program is to recognize the City’s best teachers and support a system-wide conversation about excellence in the classroom. All award recipients receive a $3,500 classroom grant to deepen their work with students. The Big Apple Awards are made possible through generous support from The Fund for Public Schools, as well as Lincoln Center, which sponsored the Lincoln Center Arts Teacher Award recipient. The Mayor and Chancellor Walcott honored the 11 Big Apple Award recipients in a ceremony at Gracie Mansion.

“Great teachers are a school’s most valuable asset, and we must recognize their skills and the impact they have on our students – even beyond the classroom,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “I am thrilled to present these awards to honor and celebrate these inspirational educators. Whether it’s at an elementary school in Bensonhurst or a high school in Harlem, the Big Apple Award recipients exemplify the best of our New York City teaching corps – the biggest, most diverse, and talented group of teachers in our nation.”

“The Big Apple Awards celebrate the unsung heroes who go above and beyond every day on behalf of our 1.1 million students,” said Chancellor Walcott. “By honoring their success, we also pay tribute to the countless teachers across the City who also care so deeply and passionately about their students, their school communities, and their profession. This group of awardees is a shining example of the wonderful diversity of teachers throughout New York City’s public schools.”

“Lincoln Center Education is honored to support the New York City Department of Education in celebrating excellence in the classroom with the first Lincoln Center Arts Teacher Award,” says Russell Granet, Executive Director of Lincoln Center Education. “Every day all across the city, arts teachers inspire their students in extraordinary ways. Better learning through the arts is a core value at Lincoln Center; we are proud this award will recognize exceptional work in arts education and further enrich the classroom experience.”

The Big Apple Award ceremony is the culmination of a rigorous application process that included community nominations, principal and colleague recommendations, teacher essays, an interview, and a classroom observation. More than 2,000 nominations were received from students, families, teachers, school staff, administrators, and other community members; over half of the nominations came from students and families. A select group of 500 nominees were invited to submit an application that included essays as well as principal and colleague recommendations. Following a review of the applications, 50 finalists from schools in all five boroughs were interviewed and observed teaching at their schools. A board of judges composed of Department of Education officials, along with representatives from the United Federation of Teachers, the New York City Charter School Center, Columbia University, Lincoln Center, and TNTP selected the final recipients.

The Big Apple Awards are intended to provide a focal point and a stage on which to honor some of New York City’s top educators. At each point in the process, the Department of Education acknowledged and celebrated the close to 1,500 teachers who were nominated or invited to apply. Every nominee received a certificate signed by Chancellor Walcott congratulating them on their accomplishment. The Big Apple Awards build off the success of the New York City Teaching Fellows Award for Classroom Excellence, which had been given annually to six outstanding New York City Teaching Fellows over the last five years. This award initiative also follows in the footsteps of other large urban school districts including Washington, DC and Chicago in making efforts to celebrate the city’s teachers.

The inaugural group of Big Apple Award recipients come from across New York City, teach a range of subjects and grade levels, have a variety of experiences, and represent the diversity of schools available to New York City families.

  • Silvestre Arcos, a 5th grade math teacher at KIPP: Washington Heights Middle School in Washington Heights, Manhattan
  • Patrick Berry, a 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher at J.H.S. 057 Whitelaw Reid in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
  • Erika Bogdany, a high school English Language Arts teacher at Brooklyn Bridge Academy, a transfer school in Canarsie, Brooklyn
  • Damion Clark, an 11th and 12th grade English Language Arts teacher at Democracy Prep Charter High School in Harlem, Manhattan
  • Catherine Downey, a 5th grade Science and Social Studies teacher at P.S. 128 Bensonhurst in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
  • Kristin Ferrales, an 11th grade Social Studies teacher at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice in downtown Brooklyn
  • Marietta Geraldino, a 10th and 11th grade Math teacher at Fredrick Douglas Academy II Secondary School in Harlem, Manhattan
  • Stephen Jackson, a middle school Science teacher at P.S./M.S. 278 Paula Hedbavny School in Inwood, Manhattan
  • Deborah Laster, a special education teacher for autistic students (ages 14-21) at P.S.176 in Co-op City, Bronx
  • Kimberly McCorkell, a 4th and 5th grade teacher who provides academic intervention services at P.S. 222 The Katherine R. Snyder School in Marine Park, Brooklyn
  • Melissa Salguero, General Music Teacher at P.S. 48 Joseph R. Drake in the South Bronx

Silvestre Arcos, 5th grade math teacher at KIPP: Washington Heights Middle School
Culturally relevant pedagogy is the cornerstone of Silvestre Arco’s teaching vision. The Southern Poverty Law Center awarded him with the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching in 2011. Silvestre’s diverse teaching experiences – in two urban school districts and in both a district and charter schools – have given him significant experience in this area and made him a model educator. Before he began his teaching career in New York City, he worked with emergent bilinguals in Los Angeles for three years. Upon moving to New York, Silvestre led a transitional bilingual classroom and created a dual language program at M.S. 223 in the South Bronx, which resulted in his school receiving the Spanish Embassy’s School of the Year Award. After spending five years at M.S. 223, he was asked to join the founding staff of a new KIPP Charter middle school in Washington Heights this school year and is already stepping into a new role as grade level chair and math department head.

Patrick Berry, 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher, Whitelaw Reid Junior High School
“I have never seen a teacher who is so committed to the achievement of his students,” says Principal Celeste Douglas. Ninety seconds after the first student walks in the door of Patrick Berry’s 8th grade class at Whitelaw Reid Junior High School, all 29 of his students are on task. Patrick’s high expectations for his students translate to a classroom of respect and inquiry where students are asked to question and discuss their own thoughts and those of their peers. Patrick began his teaching career in the Peace Corps in South Africa and came to New York City through the NYC Teaching Fellows program five years ago.

Erika Bogdany, English Language Arts High School Teacher, Brooklyn Bridge Academy
Through a partnership with Brooklyn Academy of Music, Erika Bogdany has helped her students learn to write and perform their own poetry. This is an example of how, as the ELA Department Team Leader, Erika has infused the team with a problem solving mindset. Erika challenges her students to become successful literary academics. She spent five years at Automotive High School prior to joining the Brooklyn Bridge Academy community, which is a transfer school in Canarsie with over-age and under-credited students who are facing tremendous challenges in their academic careers. During her two years teaching ELA at Brooklyn Bridge Academy, 85% of Erika’s students have passed the Regents, contributing to a 35% overall improvement in passage rate for the school’s ELA department.

Damion Clark, 11th and 12th grade English Language Arts, Democracy Prep Charter High School
Having previously taught college as an English professor, Damion Clark knows exactly what his Democracy Prep juniors and seniors need to be ready for their freshman literature seminar. His daily Socratic seminars are genuine exchanges of intellectual discourse – Plato’s The Cave, the cultural legacy of African imperialism, and Ellison’s Invisible Man were just a few of the connections made by his students in a recent class. This type of rich debate and attention to text pays off: All of his juniors passed the Regents last year (with 60% scoring an 80 or higher), and all are on track this year as seniors to excel on the English AP exam. After only two years at Democracy Prep, Damion’s influence extends beyond the classroom – as a faculty sponsor for the Latino Caucus, as the chair of the school’s literary magazine, and as the English Department Chair. As his principal notes: “Our teachers rave about how he has transformed their teaching.”

Catherine Downey, 5th grade Science and Social Studies, P.S. 128 Bensonhurst
It’s clear something special is happening in Catherine Downey’s fifth-grade class at P.S. 128 in Bensonhurst when 31 students are able to simulate the Mayan social caste structure using candy – and not one student sheds a tear when their entire collection is lost to the ‘warrior’ caste above them. Catherine employs a variety of scaffolds and differentiated activities to engage her students, which include a significant number of English Language Learners and newcomers. A colleague says that she “exhibits the confidence of a seasoned teacher who knows exactly what each individual child needs to succeed.” After five years at P.S. 128, Catherine remains a constant learner and leader – seeking feedback from peers using the Danielson Framework, participating in after-school and network study groups with other teachers, leading the P.S. 128 School Leadership Team, and organizing a multitude of school community events.

Kristin Ferrales, 11th grade Social Studies, Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice
“Students are truly generating the questions and ideas that lead the learning [in her classroom],” says Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice Principal Shannon Curran. In her nine years of teaching with the NYC DOE, the high-level discussions that Ms. Ferrales’s students have experienced have prepared them for college and to be successful in life. Her students make significant academic gains, including an 86% pass rate last year on the Global History Regents Exam. Kristin also creates a classroom where her students feel valued as individuals and respected as learners. During a particular lesson on historical research, she provided numerous opportunities for all students to be involved and allowed their discussion to move the lesson in different directions. Kristin has demonstrated the need for peer collaboration to be an excellent teacher, and acknowledges her colleagues and administrators at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice as reasons for her success. A colleague noted that the emotional and academic support that she gives her students changes their lives forever.

Marietta Geraldino, 10th and 11th grade Geometry Teacher, Fredrick Douglas Academy II
How does Lincoln Center Institutes’ Striking Sounds relate to Geometry? Ask Marietta Geraldino, a 10th and 11th grade Geometry teacher at Fredrick Douglas Academy II, who designed an entire unit to use this music to teach graphing based on the waves of sounds. Marietta provides students with the opportunity and expectation that they will master content in order to learn about the world around them and develop the confidence necessary to succeed in life. As explained by her principal, “[Marietta] is able to deconstruct the most complex mathematical concepts and make them palpable to even the most resistant students.” During her 24 years of teaching, nine within the New York City DOE, she has constantly searched for ways to grow as an educator and seeks out professional development opportunities to improve her practice.

Stephen Jackson, 7th and 8th grade Science, P.S./ M.S. 278 Paul Hedbavny School
Prior to coming to New York City public schools nine years ago, Stephen Jackson was a teacher in Jamaica. In his current role, Stephen has created a middle school science classroom in the Washington Heights/Inwood neighborhood where students feel empowered to explore scientific concepts through a variety of creative outlets – T-charts, oral arguments, and audio presentations through digital “avatars,” to just name a few. And his students are excelling as a result: after his first year at P.S./M.S. 278, there was a 21% increase in eighth grade students scoring a level four on the science exam. Along with a meticulous dedication to data (he is the Data Specialist at the school), Stephen also knows what it takes to get his students smiling and engaged – whether it’s by playing music, throwing in a joke, or even physically spinning around in class to demonstrate a scientific concept. As a former colleague notes, Stephen “has consistently inspired students to achieve their best even when the odds dictate otherwise.”

Deborah Laster, Special Education Teacher for students ages 14-21, P.S.176
“Long before laws protecting students’ rights to an education in the least restrictive environment were enforced, Ms. Deborah Laster was at work improving the lives of students with special needs and their families,” says P.S. 176 Principal Rima Ritholtz. Born and raised in the Bronx, Deborah is a proud alumna of New York City public schools. During her 24 years of experience teaching the children of New York City, she has proven herself to be a model educator. Deborah sets the standard at her school through her assessments, lesson planning, and implementing rigorous instructional activities. She is an active member of the P.S. 176 community, and has served in many diverse capacities including directing her school’s student chorus and creating curriculum maps as a former member of the School Leadership Team. Ms. Laster has also designed four enterprises, including “It’s a Wrap,” a school business program that prepares personalized candy bars in a step-assembly method and allows students to apply their Common Core learning skills.

Kimberly McCorkell, 4th and 5th grade Math, P.S. 22 Katherine R. Snyder
Kimberly knew from a young age she wanted to be a teacher. As a struggling student herself, she felt the difference that teachers made in her own confidence and ability to excel. She now instills that same confidence and skills in her students every day. Kimberly always gives her 4th and 5th grade math students the hardest problems first so they can learn not only the math behind the problem, but also so they can build the confidence to solve anything put in front of them. She tracks her students closely and measures their day- to-day gains in Common Core aligned math work. Every one of her students scored a 4 on the 2012 state exam. In addition to her academic success with her students, she measures her own success based on the emotional and social growth of her students over the course of the year.

Melissa Salguero, General Music Teacher, P.S. 48 Joseph R. Drake
The sound coming from down the hall is the impromptu concert practice for an upcoming student orchestra performance. As a first year teacher, Melissa Salguero has given the students of P.S. 48 something they have not had in more than 50 years- the gift of music. She has built the music program from the ground up. Out of 500 entries into the Glee “Give a Note” Contest, she and her students won the $50,000 grand prize. With these funds, P.S. 48 was able to purchase all of its music essentials. She has also built a relationship with The Hunts Point Alliance for Children to create a group called SongCorps, which is designed to reach out to at-risk 4th grade boys through music. Through music, Melissa teaches life skills such as teamwork, humility, leadership and respect. Her mission is to make students into lifelong music lovers so that they become community members who appreciate music and support the arts.


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