This Year's Big Apple Award Recipients

This year’s 20 recipients represent a diversity of grade levels, subject areas, and each of the five New York City boroughs. In addition to continuing their outstanding work in the classroom, these model educators will also serve as Big Apple Fellows during the 2021 – 2022 school year.

Ivelisse Ramos Brannon

BAA Winner Ivelisse Ramos BrannonEnglish Language Arts & AP Language and Composition, Central Park East High School (04M555) Manhattan

A former student of NYC public schools, Ivelisse Ramos Brannon became a DOE teacher to serve diverse and dynamic young people in the system that nurtured her. As a Master Teacher, she leads through example, pairing a deep commitment to student success with a passion for lifelong learning and collaboration. She is a leader for her colleagues, modeling professional risk-taking and innovation, leveraging technology in instruction and assessment. Ivelisse has long supported colleagues in learning and growing alongside her, but it was during the shift to remote learning that she showed how invaluable she truly is. Drawing on years of experience conducting collaborative research on digital literacy, Ivelisse led the school-wide transition to remote and blended learning, overseeing the reopening committee and supporting the school community in “going live” almost immediately after shutdown was announced. In addition to conducting and curating research-based tools and resources for her colleagues, she regularly draws from their experiences and expertise to support their leadership through mentorship. During this past year, Ivelisse has led digital intervisitations where teachers have the opportunity to learn with and from each other and coordinated staff-led PD on effective practices for remote teaching and learning.

In recent years, Ivelisse has worked with Dr. Gholdy Muhammad and the New Visions Affinity District on rolling out Culturally and Historically Responsive and Sustaining Education (CHR-SE). This has provided her with the opportunity to engage in action research and bring her learning back to the school community where she models teaching and lesson planning and supports in planning and facilitating CHR-SE PD for school-based and district-wide teachers and school leaders. Ivelisse makes it a priority for students to explore topics and investigate issues that matter to them, their families, and their communities. This approach allows her to forge important connections with students, getting to know their strengths, challenges, and interests. As a result, she is able to design instruction around those elements while encouraging her students to explore their dynamic identities.


Jonathan Schulman

BAA Winner Jonathan Schulman4th Grade Civics and Sustainability/English Language Arts and Debate, P.S. 110 - The Monitor School (14K110) Brooklyn

Jonathan Schulman is the type of teacher who believes he is learning as much, if not more, from his students as they are learning from him. In the shift to remote learning, Jonathan worked hard to provide his students with engaging materials, high-interest videos, and a number of digital tools. As students transitioned back to in-person learning, he was committed to offering the same high-quality instruction without skipping a beat. He made it a priority to listen to his students, tapping into their academic and social-emotional needs. Through his enthusiasm and positive spirit, Jonathan has developed a strong rapport with his students, always going the extra mile to provide them with authentic learning experiences.

As the lead Civics for All teacher and chair of the Civics, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, Jonathan has made it a priority to lead thoughtful, reflective discussions on events that have unfolded before us this past year. He is a pillar of support for his colleagues, offering resources, mentorship, and coaching to aid them in having difficult conversations about racism, inequity, and social injustices. This past year, he has led virtual assemblies for upper grade students to discuss issues in current events and continued to volunteer as a Debate Coach, leading the Debate Team to tremendous success. In his time volunteering in this role, Jonathan has quadrupled the team and provided students and their families’ ways to discuss issues outside of school that enrich their lives and help provide connections to the world around them.


Melisande Bolano 

BAA Winner Melisande BolanoElementary, Dual Language, P.S. 76Q William Hallet School (30Q076) Queens

Melisande Bolano begins every school year by teaching her students that they are family and the classroom is home. She makes great effort to get to know her students on a personal level and help them to do the same with each other. Mel takes this learning to the next level by using her knowledge to create targeted lessons and fill the classroom with high-interest books and materials. Students learn early that they must take an active role in their learning, which Mel prioritizes by having students apply for classroom jobs and participate in decision-making processes. From the very start of the school year, she shows her students that their voices matter and have impact. According to her principal, “Mel consistently goes above and beyond to ensure her students have every opportunity to be successful; for example, in an effort to accommodate students during remote learning, she sought out and scheduled flexible times to meet with her students as a class and tailored meetings for strategic small groups of kids.”

As a multilingual learner and Latinx teacher, Mel feels connected to the Long Island City community and has developed strong partnerships with parents, families, and the community. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her colleagues dedicated considerable time and effort to connecting families facing hardship with resources from Brighter Bites and New York City Kids Rise. Mel spearheaded the piloting of the Dual Language program in her school, which has now expanded to multiple grades. She has also mentored and supported other teachers in building capacity on the implementation of a dual language classroom.


Virginia Ford 

BAA Winner Virginia FordSpecial Education, Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science (09X241) Bronx

Virginia Ford is a lifelong learner, constantly pushing herself to adapt and do better. She has high expectations for herself and for her students, something that is reflected in her classroom. She believes in leading by example and demonstrates this by going beyond expectations for her students and colleagues. Virginia is a champion for CR-SE, understanding intimately that in order to implement and follow through with CR-SE practices, one must start by knowing one's students well, as well as the multiple cultures they embody. Her principal shares that “Virginia’s thinking around instructional practice and curriculum is deeply grounded in culturally responsive education -- she fundamentally believes that school curriculum should not only reflect the lived experiences of young people, but also be a vehicle for student liberation through storytelling and the honoring of student voice.”

In addition to being an exemplar teacher, Virginia also takes on a leadership role in her school, supervising the curricular decisions and development of teachers in grades 6 and 7. As part of this work, she offers support in developing their pedagogical skills and refining the school's culturally responsive humanities curriculum. Virginia’s efforts don’t stop there. She is actively involved in countless areas of the school, serving as basketball coach, lead facilitator for the girls’ empowerment program, and mentor for apprentice teachers from Harvard University’s Fellow program. She also serves as the lead teacher on the school’s equity team, consistently building her practice by engaging in professional development through the Expanded Success Initiative, Facing History, and NYC Men Teach.


Sasha Roopchand 

BAA Winner Sasha RoopchandPhysical Education & Health Education, The Brooklyn Green School (16K898) Brooklyn

Sasha Roopchand is determined to ensure that Physical Education and Health classes are valued as much as any core subject. She is dedicated to providing all students with access to quality Health and Physical Education, always offering multiple means of accessing information with a strong focus on literacy instruction and experiential learning. Her principal shares that, “Sasha is like no other Physical Education teacher I have ever met. She works diligently to change the narrative that physical education teachers are focused solely on physical education. She is a teacher of math and literacy, a leader in Social Emotional Learning, instructional minded, and scholarly.”

According to Sasha, “students do not care about how much a teacher knows until they have learned how much a teacher cares.” She genuinely cares for her students’ well-being, has high expectations for learning and is an actively involved member of the school community who intentionally seeks opportunities for professional growth to improve her practice. Sasha has built relationships with her students and their families that extend beyond the classroom to support their individual growth and learning. She has successfully transferred all of the components one would expect to see in an in-person Physical Education class to the remote environment, creating a space where students feel safe to express themselves verbally and through physical movement. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she is a member of many committees, including the math, literacy, and School Leadership teams. Further, she leads advisory and programming, is a UFT delegate, and is the school lead for Restorative Practices.


Azucena Quintuna

BAA Winner Azucena QuintunaElementary ENL/Bilingual Education Teacher , P.S. 108 Sal Abbracciamento (19K108) Brooklyn

Azucena Quintuna is passionate about teaching multilingual learners. A lifelong learner, she has recently taken to learning Mandarin so that she can better support future students and families. Supporting students and families has always been a priority for Azucena, from volunteering to stay after school to provide RTI to struggling students to leading weekly parent workshops. This commitment was even more evident during the pandemic when she made it clear that she would not rest until all of her students had access to daily, grade-level instruction. She collaborated with her colleagues after school hours to prepare videos in Spanish and English to support teachers, parents and students who were struggling to adapt to virtual learning. Taking it a step further, she hosted workshops for parents of MLL students twice a month to provide timely support and resources.

Azucena also provides valuable support to her colleagues. She regularly participates in professional learning courses, hosts intervisitations to highlight effective practices, invites administration and staff developers to observe new strategies in action for feedback, shares new technology learnings with the school community, and collaborates in lesson planning. She recently became a certified educator for Nearpod and PearDeck so that she could be better prepared for the world of virtual learning. Most importantly, Azucena leads by example, exemplifying the growth mindset she wants to see in her students and colleagues. Her principal shared that, “Azucena creates a safe environment where all students are resources for one another, building the mindset that they can achieve their aspirations and dreams.”


Krystal Chong

BAA Winner Krystal Chong8th Grade Mathematics & Algebra I, Madiba Prep Middle School (16K681) Brooklyn

In Krystal Chong’s classroom, students are center stage. She offers her scholars a safe space where they can be themselves, nurture their curiosity, and feel secure enough to explore and discuss new content freely. When designing instruction and establishing a rapport with scholars, Krystal always takes a culturally responsive approach. She shares that, “this approach has paved the way for my scholars to attain deeper understanding of content and created opportunities for them to collaborate and rely upon each other as thought partners, allowing me to take on a facilitator role while learning occurs organically.”

Krystal takes on many roles at Madiba Prep – she is a member of School Leadership Team, a NYC Teaching Collaborative Lead Coach, and Lead for My Sister’s Keeper. As a Peer Collaborative Teacher, Krystal plays an integral role in bridging the gap between school and home. Her principal shares that, “Krystal focuses on teachers and parents working together and going beyond all measures to help ‘our’ children become the best individuals that they can be.” This was particularly apparent during the pandemic when Krystal led weekly PD sessions focused on increasing knowledge and capacity of technology. She also took on a leadership role in creating a Virtual Summer Bridge Academy that allowed students, including incoming 6th graders, to attend Math, Humanities, STEM and Arts classes from home. Taking it even further, Krystal facilitated virtual workshops for parents around academic and social emotional strategies, offering a multitude of resources to assist with at-home learning. She also offered after-school tutoring to both students and parents, knowing that many of them needed extra support to be equipped to succeed while learning at home.


Catherine Blades

BAA Winner Catherine BladesTheater, J.H.S. 383 Philippa Schuyler (32K383) Brooklyn

Catherine Blades became a Theater teacher because she believes in the power of stories to teach and the power of empathy to break barriers and build bridges. She prioritizes social-emotional learning and relationships in her classroom. She shares that, “relationships are the foundation of trust and communication, which are prerequisites of creativity and expression.” Her students learn to trust each other enough to experiment in front of each other and take risks, unafraid of looking foolish - not an easy task for middle school students! It is through this that they gain incredible self-confidence and communication skills. Catherine’s students have had exciting opportunities to flex these new skills. For the last four years, she has led the Digital Theater Project (DTP), a collaboration between the NYC DOE Office of Arts and Special Projects and C&T Theater Company in the UK. Through this, her students have had the opportunity to present their original work at Carnegie Hall, on YouTube, and via Zoom to classrooms on multiple continents.

When schools transitioned to remote learning, Catherine effectively utilized technology to make the transition seamless for her students. She used a variety of digital tools to successfully engage her students, evidenced by the 90% or higher attendance rate in each of her classes. She has helped bridge the gap between remote and in-person students by working with them to develop a live news network hosted on the school’s YouTube Channel. Catherine also served as an Educator Advisor to Roundabout Theater Company to help develop arts curriculum for all NYC schools and collaborated with the Arts Office to assist with curriculum development and lesson/unit planning to support teachers system-wide.


Jamala Roper

BAA Winner Jamala Roper

Fifth Grade Literacy, P.S. 179 (07X179) Bronx

Jamala Roper is passionate about empowering her students. In her classroom, the students facilitate teaching and learning, serving as co-teachers. In this role, students are provided the opportunity to co-create lesson plans, giving them a safe space to take risks. She shares that, “I come to work every day with the goal of impacting young minds. With students in the ‘co-teacher’ role, I gradually release my guidance and empower them to take control. This helps them to understand not just WHAT they learn, but WHY and HOW they learn.” Indeed, Jamala’s students are doing remarkable things – in her classroom you will find students engaging in research based instruction that provides them with the confidence and skills needed to succeed. Her principal shares that, “Jamala encourages her students to always be and try their best. She challenges each student to be better than ‘their last assignment’”.

Prior to and during the pandemic, Jamala has been instrumental in supporting her colleagues. In her role as Peer Collaborative Teacher, Jamala welcomes teachers into her classroom to help them learn and grow in their practice. She also facilitates professional learning opportunities for colleagues in her school and across the district. This past year, she has supported a district initiative, Project Based Learning (PBL). Through virtual intervisitations, teachers were able to see how Jamala implemented PBL into her classroom. A natural leader, Jamala is an active member of the Instructional Leadership Team, Action Research Team, Assessment Team, and District Teacher Leader Pod Facilitator Team, always striving to find ways to further develop her skills and offer support.


Kim Wojcieszek 

BAA Winner Kim Wojcieszek Kim Wojcieszek, P.S. 100 The Coney Island School (21K100) Brooklyn

Kim Wojcieszek believes in her students and it shows. She became a NYC DOE teacher because she wanted to share her love of dance with students, particularly those who otherwise may not have been exposed to, or had the opportunity to participate in, the arts. Her classroom is alive with excitement and curiosity, a place where students feel comfortable being vulnerable and taking risks. Her superintendent shares that, “Kim provides her students with leadership opportunities in the classroom. She allows them to lead the warmup and provide warm and cool feedback to each other throughout the lesson, setting high expectations that they rise to meet.” Kim’s students thrive in this environment. She shares that, “my students are open and willing to explore all genres and styles of Dance. They are fearless…not afraid to experience the unknown.”

Kim has made it a priority to support students and their families in understanding the value and importance of the arts. She often invites parents and families into the classroom so that they can gain insight into their child's Dance development. According to Kim, “allowing families to see their children collaborating and working creatively is a valuable part of each student’s success.” Kim also takes on many leadership roles in her school and community. She serves as the Arts Education Liaison, taking responsibility for ensuring that all of the arts operate equitably in the school. She is also a member of the School Leadership Team and coaches the school’s fourth grade students in ballroom dancing rehearsals and competitions. During the pandemic, Kim worked tirelessly to find a replacement for in-person performances. With support from colleagues, she was able to create a movie highlighting the talents of P.S 100 students through a Virtual Performance piece.


Charan Morris

BAA Winner Charan MorrisEnglish Language Arts, Vanguard High School (02M449) Manhattan

As a young person of color, Charan Morris often felt underestimated – something she never wants her students to feel. She facilitates a learning environment in which students have the opportunity to explore their interests and engage in high-level academic discussions, where teaching each other is prioritized. Charan creates a space where students can explore thoughts, ideas and their identities with peers and make connections between who they were, who they are, and who they want to be. Her principal shares that, “Charan is the most gifted teacher I have observed in 25 years of coaching and supervising teachers. She develops readers, writers, thinkers, and citizens; she collaborates with youth and adults to improve the school environment for everyone. Her vision and passion embody the very best of our profession.”

Charan goes the extra mile to build relationships with parents and guardians, connecting families with material and psychological resources. She also makes weekly positive phone calls to develop solid relationships with parents. Of course, this extends to her students as well. During the pandemic, she saw how difficult it was for them to remain isolated at home. She worked tirelessly to connect the blended and remote students, using collaborative technology to avoid disconnection between students. She also created a new website with a digital syllabus and independent reading library. When students created a Student Voice group to address their emerging needs, they invited Charan to be a faculty leader. Charan is undoubtedly devoted to her school community, where she has spent 12 years as an invaluable contributor in building community trust and equitable practices.


Michele Nelson

BAA Winner Michele NelsonEarly Childhood, Infants and Toddlers, LYFE Program, Telecommunications High School (79M984) Brooklyn

Michele Nelson knows that her work doesn’t stop in the classroom. As an early childhood educator in District 79's LYFE Program (Living for the Young Family through Education) for the past 20 years, she’s worked hard to develop learning experiences for each child that are highly individualized. To do this, she prioritizes relationships with parents and families, ensuring that student parents serve as co-teachers in their children’s learning. Her principal shares that, “Michele considers the unique circumstances each family has experienced, or may be experiencing, along with their family’s culture, to inform the learning experiences she plans for children.”

During the summer of 2020, as LYFE worked to prepare for a healthy and safe return for the DOE’s youngest learners and their families, Michele played a critical role on LYFE’s School Reopening Committee. She has exemplified adaptive teaching and teacher leadership during each transition this pandemic has brought, facilitating rich learning experiences at each turn. She is an active contributor to the LYFE community in multiple ways, supporting not only her professional growth but that of her colleagues as well. She serves as a coaching ambassador for her classroom team and her colleagues across LYFE, co-facilitating professional learning sessions that highlight her promising practices and support colleagues in growing their craft. This past year, she worked with colleagues to create a six-week curriculum guide focused on language development, which is now widely used by teachers and educational paraprofessionals across the program. She is also an active member of the Instructional Leadership Team, where she is focuses on using data to identify areas of strength and areas to strengthen across LYFE.


Jennifer Schecter

BAA Winner Jennifer SchecterInstrumental Music, M.S. 158 Marie Curie (26Q158) Queens

Jennifer Schecter leads by example, modeling what it means to be a lifelong learner and how to face challenges with courage and determination. Year after year, she evidences her deep, longstanding commitment to students and colleagues and to excellence in music education. Her transcendent journey into the world of music began as a student in NYC schools. She shares that, “the music education I received drastically altered the course of my life. I chose to teach in NYC so that I could provide similar opportunities to children in the city I have always called home.” And provide she has – Jennifer created a District 26 music professional learning community in order to share effective practices and resources with colleagues and, prior to the pandemic, created an opportunity for 300+ students from across the district to perform in a music festival. She also developed an after-school Band Buddies program through which eighth graders provide 1:1 private instrumental lessons to sixth graders and has been an active member of the facilitation team for Citywide Music Professional Learning Days. 

In an effort to keep students engaged and interested during remote learning, Jennifer created an entirely new curriculum allowing them to explore music in a variety of ways. She takes a highly personalized approach to engaging, assessing, and challenging her students. Her attentiveness to and knowledge of each and every one of her students is evident in every aspect of her professional practice, including classroom attendance, student engagement, formative assessment, and family outreach. Her principal says it best, “I’ve had the privilege of working with many of the City's top educators and Jennifer stands out as one of the finest I have seen.”


Alanna O’Donnell

BAA Winner Alanna O'Donnell

Special Education, High School, P.S. K721 - Brooklyn Occupational Training Center (75K721) Brooklyn

Coming from a family of public servants, it is no surprise that Alanna O’Donnell has dedicated her life to her students. In her own words, she became a NYC teacher because “my parents instilled in me a devotion to life-long learning and improving the lives of others.” Teaching 14-21 year-old students with autism in a fully remote environment, Alanna stops at nothing to ensure that all students have access to rigorous community-based academic experiences, hand-on training in skills to support future employment and independent living, and opportunities to celebrate their success such as donation-funded proms and graduation receptions. She has found new and inventive ways to keep her students engaged and invested in their education. Her principal shares that, “she has been incredibly resourceful and found ways to collaborate with organizations and community resources to bring her academic and activities for daily living (ADL) lessons to life in the homes of her students with autism.”

One way that she has implemented work-based learning activities for her students is by soliciting donations from the community to buy grocery items for her students and their families. Using these items as part of her remote instruction, she created a full culinary experience for each student and supporting family member. She also offers family cooking lessons each week, highlighting cultural foods and preferences of each of her students. When Alanna saw the need for social emotional connections beyond the classroom, she started an after-school girls group called P721K Pink Ladies. Her superintendent shares that, “Her love for what she does is apparent in her every action, from contagious student engagement during instruction, the maintenance of daily enthusiastic interactions with families during the most difficult of school years, the camaraderie she shares with fellow staff, and the groundwork she is laying for her students' successful adult lives.”


Kristen Fusaro-Pizzo 

BAA Winner Kristen Fusaro-Pizzo.

English Language Arts, Staten Island Technical High School (31R605) Staten Island

Teaching in the same high school that enriched and empowered her as a student, Kristen Fusaro-Pizzo considers her school a second home and her school community a second family. She is a great support to colleagues, constantly seeking opportunities to conduct action research, collaborating on developing a more challenging curriculum for students, and frequently facilitating professional development sessions. Her principal shares, “Kristen’s talent, determination and hard work have resulted in her colleagues looking to her as an innovator in the classroom, which has ultimately led to her current role as one of our Peer Collaborative Teachers, providing 1:1 and small group daily professional development to our faculty and staff around best practices in pedagogy and Technology Education.” During this past year, she collaborated with colleagues to create a Peer Professional Development & Support Page to help navigate support around professional development, educational technology, distance learning, and instructional shifts.

Kristen has a talent for facilitating genuine excitement from her students, offering an environment where students feel valued and comfortable taking intellectual risks. Peer-to-peer and teacher-to-student interactions are the cornerstone of her instructional philosophy, thoughtfully utilizing multiple mediums to engage all types of learners within her English classes. Most noteworthy, she teaches a unique class on Modern Mythology: Gods, Monsters & the Apocalypse. This course addresses the foundations of world mythology, monsters, dystopia, and its effects on Western civilization, and how those effects have evolved and mutated into humankind’s greatest fear – ourselves. It has become so popular among seniors that the school now offers five sections of the class, encompassing nearly half of the senior class. Further, the school’s partner colleges were so impressed with the curriculum that the class is now being offered as a dual-enrollment college accredited course.


Meghan Brady

BAA Winner Meghan BradyElementary School, P.S. 153 Helen Keller (11X153) Bronx

Meghan Brady believes that, “in order for my students to feel valued and comfortable taking risks, I need to cultivate a positive, inclusive learning environment with high expectations for all.” Her passion and zest for learning is reflected in the warm, nurturing, and respectful classroom culture she has created in her classroom. Meghan empowers her students to be agents of change, embedding the philosophies of perseverance and resilience into lessons and daily activities. She teaches her students that they have the power to make a difference. One way that she does this is through the creation of classroom jobs that students must apply to - they even have to engage in a video interview! Meghan prioritizes a CR-SE approach in her classroom, where all students find themselves represented and reflected and all cultures are affirmed, valued, and used as a vehicle for learning. This is particularly evident in the text selections and revisions made to units of study.

In an effort to strengthen her practices and be the best version of herself for the students and families she serves, Meghan regularly seeks feedback from colleagues and supervisors. She posts a sign outside of her classroom stating areas where she can support colleagues and other areas where she is seeking feedback. Meghan has been inviting school and district colleagues into her lab classroom for years, long before she took on the Model Teacher role. She also collaborated with colleagues to develop a school-wide professional learning cycle focused on literacy. As part of this cycle, she recorded lessons so that colleagues could utilize them as a learning resource during the professional learning sessions.


Michael Gentils

BAA Winner Michael Gentils

Mathematics, P.S. 288 The Shirley Tanyhill (21K288) Brooklyn

Michael Gentils teaches his students that even wrong answers can be brilliant. This approach helps his students embrace the deep thinking that must happen in order for them to have success in his classroom. His principal shares, “What Michael is doing here goes way beyond the math classroom. He is instilling self-confidence and teaching students how to problem solve and engage in deep thinking. This emphasis on thinking and process rather than product is what is giving his students such valuable tools that will help them on whatever path they take once they leave middle school.” In fact, he has developed his own problem-solving mindset called OVPJ. Through this, students explore mathematical big ideas at an individualized pace by Organizing their ideas, Visualizing their goals, Persevering through adversity, and Justifying their actions. He shares that, “students come to develop a growth mindset about their own intelligence by understanding that being curious, setting goals, being creative, and communicating their ideas are ways to be smart.”

Michael believes in using extra-curricular activities to increase the impact he has in the classroom. During the past year, he recognized a need to build rapport among his fully remote students. He created a league using an online video game called eggball. Student captains drafted their own teams and played a full regular season schedule before competing in an exciting playoff tournament, ultimately culminating in a championship game. The league was an enormous success, supporting in building a fun and encouraging environment, as well as developing student leadership and conflict resolution skills.


Frankelly Fernandez 

BAA Winner Frankelly Fernandez

AP World History, Global Studies, New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science II Bronx

Frankelly Fernandez believes that the secret to his teaching success is his ability to be his true, authentic self with students. In doing this, he creates an opening for his students to do the same. He takes it upon himself to learn who his students are as individuals so that he can engage each of them on a personal basis. These methods have been especially useful this past year when so many students required additional support. Frankelly volunteered to take on a caseload of students, some of whom he did not teach, to connect with weekly in an effort to keep them active in school while engaged in fully remote learning. Working to build a stronger virtual community, he also hosted game nights and other virtual events. Frankelly’s methods were so successful that he was tasked with leading professional development sessions on student engagement, culturally responsive teaching, and social-emotional learning.

Frankelly is also a great support to his colleagues and school community overall. He collaborates with colleagues on instructional planning and developing strategies to meet the social-emotional needs of students and families. He was named 10th Grade Lead Teacher, providing him the opportunity to spread his strong engagement practices across the 10th grade cohort. He is also a member of the school’s Social-Emotional Learning Committee. His principal shares that, “Frankelly has maintained positivity throughout the pandemic. He never once gave up on our kids and worked hard to support the administrative team in creating sustainable and equitable practices for both students and staff.”


Deborah Rich

BAA Winner Deborah Rich

Visual Arts, P.S. 161 Arthur Ashe School (28Q161) Queens

Deborah Rich believes she learns as much from her students as they learn from her. She approaches each student with respect and uses cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and frames of reference, along with her vast understanding of diverse students' learning styles, to make learning relevant and effective for them. Debbie teaches her students that it is okay to make mistakes, because the learning that comes from those mistakes is truly valuable. This past year, Debbie had to take on a new role as Pre-K remote teacher. Her principal shares that, “she displayed extreme professionalism and commitment, creating and modifying lesson plans and developing digital resources for students and families.” She also facilitates an after-school theater, music, and literacy residency. Students create musicals from literature and put on a final production for the community.

Debbie is incredibly reflective, always looking for ways to improve her practice and grow professionally. For the past nine years, she has participated in ‘Arts Mondays’ where she facilitates monthly professional development sessions for Arts teachers across the city. Teachers from across the district have also come to observe Debbie teaching in-person, which has been continuing virtually via pre-recorded lessons. She also plays an integral role in school culture and dynamics, participating in the school’s spirit committee. In this role, she highlights student artwork in the hallways of the school and district offices and plans celebrations and events for the entire school community. Her talents extend to parents and families, as she also leads parent art workshops and participates in Family Fun Night.


Sonia Hurdle

BAA Winner Sonia Hurdle

Mathematics, I.S. 392 (23K392) Brooklyn

“Education is about improving the lives of others and leaving your community and world better than you found it,” says Sonia Hurdle. She has built her career on this principle, taking on new opportunities at every turn. Sonia has been a trailblazer in remote teaching and learning, taking risks and experimenting with various platforms. She goes above and beyond to lead by example and be a source of connection and collaboration in her school community. She has facilitated several professional development sessions for her colleagues and served as a technology consultant for the administrative team, providing valuable feedback about which digital platforms to purchase. Her principal shares that, “Sonia has extended herself beyond expectations to ensure that her colleagues can engage students virtually. Her leadership, reflective practice, and commitment to our scholars has greatly impacted the school community.”

Students know, trust, and respect Sonia for being a role model, mentor, and listener. Her principal reports that, “it is common to see children lingering after class and visiting Sonia during lunchtime and study hall to get extra support and to discuss assorted topics with her.” She is also well-respected by parents and families, often commended for her nurturing spirit and the welcoming environment she provides for entering middle school students. Passionate about maintaining the home-school connection, she also leads parent workshops, creates learning walks so that parents and families can shadow children in school, and frequently makes calls to parents to share positive anecdotes and notes on progress.

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