Ask their students, ask their principals, ask Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: These 17 Teachers are the “Apple” of their eye.
Ms. Fariña made that official June 24 by bringing the 17 to Department of Education headquarters at Tweed Courthouse, where they were presented with the fourth annual “Big Apple Awards” for being the best of the best of city public-school Teachers.
Chosen From 4,600
This year’s winners were selected from a pool of more than 4,600 nominees from schools across the city. They were chosen, the Chancellor said, “based on their ability to demonstrate exceptional success in three key competencies: impacting student learning, demonstrating strong instructional practice, and contributing to their school community.”
The ceremony at Tweed was actually the second celebrating the honorees. Earlier, for the first time since the program’s inception, Ms. Fariña and her Deputy Chancellors surprised the Teachers in their classrooms to present them with their awards “as a way to engage students and school staff in celebrating their outstanding work.
“These awards recognize the amazing and life-changing impact that Teachers have on students and families,” Ms. Fariña said. “Big Apple Award winners spark curiosity and inspire their students, enrich their school communities, and work tirelessly to help each student reach their full potential.”
And there was more praise from high places.
‘Passion and Commitment’
“The Big Apple Awards are a powerful reminder of the incredible educators who teach in our classrooms across the city,” said Mayor de Blasio. “I congratulate this year’s recipients, who show such passion for their work and a commitment to their students and families.”
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said, “We have spent the past year celebrating our public schools. Today, that means celebrating the commitment our Big Apple Award winners bring to teaching and recognizing the ingenious ways our winners help their students to thrive.”
This year’s Big Apple Award recipients come from all five boroughs, and teach a range of subjects and grade levels. All, said Ms. Fariña, “distinguished themselves as exceptional educators.” They include:
• Michele Fienga, an English Teacher at James Madison High School in Brooklyn, a graduate of city public schools, who said she “became a New York City public-school teacher not only because I want to provide young people with the skills they need to be successful, but also because I want them to understand themselves first.”
• Jonelle Hinchcliffe, a High School Math Teacher at Westchester Square Academy, The Bronx, who left a successful career in advertising to become a Teacher, and describes herself as “relentless,” focused on making the content she teaches accessible—no matter what. “My students know that if they ask for help, I’m going to sit down and explain it to them until they get it,” Ms. Hinchcliffe said.
• Jamie Lefkowitz, a 1st Grade Bilingual Teacher at P.S. 28, the Wright Brothers School, in Manhattan.
“I want to be a superhero,” said Ms. Lefkowitz, half of whose students have special needs and nearly 40 percent of whom are English Language Learners. “Not the kind who scales buildings or has super-human strength, but the kind who creates a classroom where all of life’s hardships disappear and students are always eager to learn.”
• Dana Monteiro, a High School Music Teacher at Frederick Douglass Academy in Manhattan, leads a massive program of samba performance groups—some as large as 75 students—in the Harlem school. “Each day our building shakes with the sounds of drumming, because every student knows how to play an instrument,” Mr. Monteiro said.
• Dominique Nute, a 6th Grade Math Teacher at One World Middle School in The Bronx, where her Principal proudly says that Ms. Nute “understands that every second matters. Students are engaged and focused on mastering objectives at all times.”
Other 2016 Big Apple Award winners:
• Anna Bennett, 5th Grade Teacher, P.S. 59, the Beekman Hill International School, Manhattan.
• Carmine Guirland, High School Equivalency Science and Mathematics Teacher, Pathways to Graduation @ Bronx NeON, The Bronx.
• Nila Johnson, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, 1199 Future of America Learning Center, The Bronx.
• Bushra Makiya, 8th Grade Math Teacher, I.S. X303 Leadership & Community Service School, The Bronx.
• Angela Manekas, 4th Grade Teacher, P.S. 232, The Walter Ward School, Queens.
• MaryBeth Meenan, 2nd Grade Special Education Teacher, P.S. 102 Bayview, Queens.
• Angela Saccaro, 2nd Grade Teacher, P.S. 55, The Henry M. Boehm School, Staten Island.
• Aleksey Shats, 3rd Grade Special Education Teacher P.S. 24 The Andrew Jackson School, Queens.
• Helen Sink, Middle School Science Teacher, P.S. 7, The Samuel Stern School, Manhattan.
• Zaharoula Skulikidis, Social Studies Teacher Long Island City High School, Queens.
• Chelsey Tubbs, 5th Grade English Language Arts Teacher, KIPP STAR College Preparatory School, Manhattan.
• Sara Yerry, 2nd Grade Dual Language Teacher, Brooklyn Arbor Elementary School, Williamsburg.