Chancellor Fariña Announces Winners of the 2014 Big Apple Teacher Awards

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced the winners of the second annual Big Apple Awards: Recognizing Teacher Excellence in New York City, which celebrate the incredible and life-changing work of public school teachers in New York City. The Big Apple Awardsis a citywide recognition program open to all full-time teachers in New York City public schools. Twelve award recipients, along with more than 100 finalists and semi-finalists, were honored in a ceremony at Gracie Mansion.

The three Bronx teachers who won, along with nine other award recipients from around the city, were chosen from more than 3,000 school community nominations and were chosen based on their instructional practice, professional leadership, and focus on supporting students in and out of the classroom. Award recipients receive a $3,500 classroom grant to deepen their work with students. The awards are made possible by The Fund for Public Schools, the Centerbridge Foundation, and Lincoln Center, with additional support from the New York Mets, STATE Bags, and Modell’s.

“The Big Apple Teacher Awards are a celebration of the hardworking educators who have committed their lives to preparing our children for bright futures,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “No school can succeed without talented teachers, working together with school administrators and parents, to ensure every child has the opportunity to thrive. These honorees exemplify the tireless dedication, endless creativity, and exemplary professionalism New York City teachers bring to the classroom. Congratulations to this year’s winners and nominees and thank you to all of our teachers!”

“Teachers are the heart and soul of all our schools, and these awards recognize the transformational impact they have on our students and families every single day,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Each educator honored today brings passion and a mastery of the art and craft of teaching. These leaders are opening the door for our students to reach their greatest dreams, and pushing the boundary of opportunity to thrive both in and out of the classroom. These incredible teachers from a range of grades and subjects demonstrate the committed talent across our City’s schools, and I thank all teachers working tirelessly to help our students suceed.”

The Bronx Winners:

Irina Gonzalez, middle school social studies teacher at J.H.S. 123 James M. Kieran, Bronx

Her principal says that Irina Gonzalez “works tirelessly on behalf of her students and our entire school community.” Her nominator, a colleague at her school, says she is a “prototype of what an exemplary teacher should be.” In just two years, Irina has contributed in significant ways to her school and her classroom: leading and chairing the social studies department, creating new document-based questions to support her English Language Learners, and coaching her students to a third place victory at the National History Day Regional Competition. In addition, Irina continues to pursue her own professional development by representing her school at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which is committed to the improvement of history education.

Laurence Minetti, high school art teachers at the Collegiate Institute for Math and Science, Bronx

“My school is my home,” Laurence Minetti says. Laurence has the unique opportunity to be teaching at the same high school campus from which he proudly graduated, and to follow the footsteps of his mother, who was also an educator. His nominator describes his classroom as a “laboratory for his colleagues to visit.” Indeed, it’s a place where self-expression is encouraged and where students learn to be “constructive critics.” As a result, his students see art as a way to build self-confidence, motivation, and courage. His students’ masterpieces are exhibited throughout the entire building. Laurence takes on leadership roles outside of the classroom, training staff on the Common Core shifts, helping to launch an AP Art Studio class on the campus, and organizing a $10,000 beautification initiative. The Big Apple Arts Award is made possible by generous funding from Lincoln Center.

Joseph Pesqueira, 10th and 11th grade social studies teacher at the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, Bronx

One of his students describes Joseph Pesqueira as the “most dedicated person I know…not only is he there as a teacher, but he is a great man overall.” His student-centered classroom is often “flipped,” which means students take notes on pre-recorded online lessons at home and then come to class ready for rich classroom discussion. (To ensure access, Joseph comes to school early every morning to provide computers to students who do not have Internet at home). A recent discussion on which piece of literature was most important in the development of America included a comparison to the Declaration of the Independence as a ‘break-up letter.’ His work has led to great success for his students: His principal noted that an unprecedented 96 percent of Joseph’s U.S. History students passed the Regents exam, with three out of four students passing with an 80 or higher.

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