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 2022 - 2023 school year.
Grade 11 / English As a Second Language
International High School at Lafayette (21K337)
Working with a diverse group of English Language Learners, Cindy consistently integrates the experiences of the students into the projects that are designed and creates a setting in which students feel safe and open to taking risks with language. Cindy brings culturally responsive-sustaining education (CR-SE) practices into every project that she does, including through the literature that students work with and the connections made to the experiences of students.
Cindy continues to deepen her practice, including through her participation in an Early Career Fellowship with the Academy for Teachers. Cindy has made numerous contributions to her school community, including her role as team leader and her work with student government. As team leader, Cindy facilitates weekly meetings in which she and other teachers from the same grade look at curricula, review data, and plan supports with regard to the socio-emotional well-being of students. Within student government, Cindy has centered student voice and advocacy, which has led to multiple initiatives from the students, including peer tutoring and support, a student newsletter, and a leadership development program. Cindy and her team also coordinate a 100-hour internship experience for every junior.
Elementary, Common Branches
P.S. 132 - The Conselyea School (14K132)
Jarisa Santiago ensures her instructional practice meets the needs of the diverse learners in her first grade classroom. Jarisa's classroom has made an impact on all of the lower grades through her leadership and instruction through demonstrations, teacher team collaboration and data analysis, and facilitation of training and instruction for phonics and fluency. Her colleagues share, “Ms. Santiago has a very kind and generous demeanor as it relates to sharing best practices with her school community- including her colleagues. Her selflessness is inspiring.”
As lead teacher and the ENL Family Liaison, Jarisa has worked tirelessly to ensure ENL families feel included and heard. As a result of conversations with families and recognizing and listening to their needs, she worked closely with the administration and the ENL teacher to organize Monthly ENL Family Nights, bridging the gap between families and the school. Her intentional work has made an impact on the school's connection to the ENL families and students, as well as in student achievement.
Dr. Nyree Dawn Dixon, District 14 Superintendent, states: “Ms. Santiago is exceptionally devoted and works tirelessly for her students' success so that they become lifelong learners. She is a proud product of District 14. She is to be commended for her consistency in differentiating her instruction daily in order to cater to the individual needs of students. Jarisa lives our District 14 vision and mission. District 14 is proud of her many accomplishments as one of the many Gems in Brooklyn!"
P.S. 108 - Sal Abbracciamento (19K108)
Ms. Joseph Nunez’s 3-K class is lively, engaging, responsive, and fun, reflecting her experiential, play-based learning philosophy. Her passion, knowledge, and commitment to refining her instructional practices have had a positive effect on her students’ academic, social, and emotional outcomes. Ms. Nunez works with families to bring in their cultures, prior knowledge, and perspective to extend learning into the home. She uses multiple sources of formal and informal data, lesson plans, hands-on activities, family engagement, photo documentation, and videos to plan for each individual child’s needs.
In addition to her highly effective instructional practices, Ms. Nunez is head of P.S. 108’s Library Committee, supports family needs in all grades alongside her school’s parent coordinator, leads festivals and community projects throughout the year, runs food drives and toy drives in the winter and spring, and is a part of P.S. 108’s School Leadership (SLT) and Instructional Leadership (ILT) teams, while also supporting the school’s student government. Ms. Nunez has also represented her school for the Brooklyn Basics Initiative and joined the Grant Committee for District 19, which led to the district being awarded a Hydroponics Grant.
Elementary, Common Branches
P.S. 208 - Elsa Ebeling (18K208)
Mr. Perreira is a detail-oriented teacher who uses data to inform his instruction. His instructional plans are often used as examples for upper and lower school teachers based on the resources and strategies that facilitate differentiation to address the needs of students on multiple levels.
In Mr. Perreria's classroom, it is not surprising to hear visitors ask if they are in a high school or college classroom. The students are pushed to think outside the box, and the connections that students make to real life and families is unsurpassed. Mr. Perreria is outstanding in math and reading–his students went into his second grade class below expectations in both math and reading, and in almost three months with Mr. Perreria, all students moved up two or more reading levels, and they also closed their learning gaps in numbers and operations.
Currently at P.S. 208, eight teachers credit Mr. Perreira as the teacher who made them the teachers they are because of his welcoming and affirming personality. Whether in the school’s weekly “Spotlight on CR-SE,” or as a member of P.S. 208's Instructional Cabinet, Mr. Perreira is always called on to lead.
Grade 12 / Theater and Special Education
P.S. K721 - Brooklyn Occupational Training Center
Michael Pantone is an actor, director, and theater arts educator. He spent the first half of his career working as a professional actor, and has been working as an educator and director for almost 20 years. At P721K, a District 75 (D75) alternate-assessed school for students with disabilities, he splits his time working with high school students with Multiple Disabilities, and K–2 students with Autism.
Michael is a teacher recognized as a lead teacher in this discipline. He has been called upon to present to teachers, teaching artists, and as a panelist within various art organizations. For the Office of Arts and Special Projects (OASP) and the Arts for All Abilities Consortium, Michael creates and facilitates workshops for teachers and teaching artists working in D75, Inclusion settings, and General Education. He presents inclusive-practices workshops for the Citywide Theatre Professional Development series, and for the three-day Arts and Students with Disabilities Short Courses. Additionally, Michael serves as a creative associate for the OASP’s All-IN(clusive) All City Teen Theatre Ensemble program.
Michael Pantone expects greatness from every student and the staff members who support them. He is a strong advocate for seeing the abilities of each of his students. As the lead teacher in PS 721K’s Arts Quad, he is the point person for arts programming offered to students through residencies. He inspires and helps lead his team of teachers to new heights.
Grades 7 and 8 / Visual Arts
J.H.S. 383 - Philippa Schuyler (32K383)
Creativity, collaboration, and innovation are hallmarks of Mr. Haggerty’s exemplary work with his students and his ongoing work with citywide arts educators. He is an extraordinary, dedicated, and visionary educator who is an inspiration to colleagues and students alike. Mr. Haggerty uses artists from diverse backgrounds and cultures to inspire his students, and their interests and backgrounds shine through in their artwork. His art students contribute to the school’s Black History Celebration and STEAM Family Night through art installations each year.
Mr. Haggerty designed a citywide unit about Brooklyn-born artist Jean Michel Basquiat. Through this unit, students refined their literacy skills as they read about the artist, analyzed his work, and translated their knowledge of the artist into their unique pieces of artwork in the Basquiat style.
Mr. Haggerty has been a Citywide Arts Monday/Connected Arts Network Facilitator, leading the work in formative assessment, learning targets, and protocols in the classroom. His work has been highlighted in national conferences by renowned experts in the field of formative assessment. This year, he was recognized for his contributions in the Shubert Leadership Institute in fall 2021.
Grades 6–8 / Bilingual
I.S. 528 - Bea Fuller Rodgers School (06M528)
To be an exceptional educator, you need to be a lifelong learner, acquire innovative strategies, and apply them. Ms. Lagares' strength is presenting information in ways that both teachers and students can practice, apply, and master. Ms. Lagares uses current data to determine students' language acquisition, listening, and literacy abilities to plan her instruction to meet her students' diverse needs. Through the gradual release model of teaching, she creates attention-grabbing slideshows, including images, culturally responsive excerpts of text, video clips, and memes. Students love Ms. Lagares as she makes learning fun and safe. With her, students take risks by asking questions and sharing their ideas even when it is hard for them to express themselves in English.
Starting her career as a broadcaster for NPR, Ms. Lagares defines success as the “improvement of my ELLs who are beginners and cannot speak a word of English. I can see them produce written work, and respond to classmates in English—I can see my work. That production in a second language—that is my success.” As ENL Coordinator, ELA Lead Teacher, and member of I.S. 528’s Instructional Leadership and School Leadership teams, Ms. Lagares is a key stakeholder in the school community. Ms. Lagares works with her school’s administration to help communicate and present information about upcoming events, instructional expectations, curriculum updates, academic testing, I.S. 528 grading policies, academic interventions, schoolwide data, and more.
Assistant Principal Laya Ameri-Fernandez says about Ms. Lagares - “Ms. Angélica Lagares is an extraordinary force for bilingual education. Her support of multilingual learners at M.S. 528 has changed her pedagogy profoundly, and that effort is being shared with the whole school community. Acknowledging this effort would also lift up hope for teachers at schools that have previously struggled in Renewal/TSI/CSI status, and show them how much their work matters. Ms. Lagares as a Big Apple teacher would give voice to all the teachers who work so hard to support our most vulnerable students. Her work inspires us all, and visiting her classroom reminds us all of why we teach.”
Grade 8 / Mathematics
M.S. 297 (02M297)
Ayanna is a brilliant mathematician who clearly loves planning, teaching, and students. The driving force behind all of Ayanna's instructional plans is creating an environment of equity and one where students develop a true love of mathematics. She knows each and every one of her students deeply, and has been able to build a rapport with them that is based in trust—making them more open to exploring their individual mathematical identities.
Ayanna begins each lesson asking students what they "notice"; this is her way to incite curiosity but also critical thinking. Students often notice things that go beyond the mathematical intention behind the questions. Ayanna prioritizes critical thinking over procedural or mechanical work. She believes math is a beautiful science that can help students make sense of the world around them, and she is constantly encouraging students to trust themselves.
Ayanna is a leader inside and outside the classroom and actively seeks out feedback from colleagues and supervisors. Ayanna is working with the D2 Math Equity Group, and has welcomed a coach from the group into her classroom to plan and provide feedback on her work. She is focused on providing Algebra for All access for all her eighth grade students, and has invited staff developers to observe and offer her constructive feedback. She is also a member of her school’s Instructional Leadership Team, initiated vertical alignment of Math Department grading, and even led a PTA meeting about standards-based grading and the positive impact of growth mindset. Additionally, Ayanna created a step dance afterschool program to give students an opportunity to express themselves freely while building community. Whether with students, families, or colleagues, Ayanna Emanuel has made an extraordinary impact on those she serves.
Grade 8 / English
ReStart Academy (79M973)
During Ms. Anderson's time teaching with ReStart Academy, she has mainly worked at High School Equivalency sites within the alternative school program with older students who are in agencies that offer substance abuse and/or mental health counseling. Her demeanor has such a way of connecting these students to their learning environments and really getting them motivated to earn their high school equivalency diplomas by instilling in them confidence to realize their success. "It is not only the written work they complete or passing an exam. Success is when our students apply their learning to life outside of school. I ensure that my lessons cultivate their critical thinking and problem-solving skills." This school year, Ms. Anderson has worked in a middle school program for overage eighth graders, using science content to strengthen each student's reading and writing skills. Her classroom is one that makes students feel empowered to discuss openly not only curriculum topics but impacts upon them and their communities—her students know that their voices are being heard.
Ms. Anderson works tirelessly to learn new techniques and then implement them in the classroom as quickly as possible—she does not shy away from new strategies and techniques, rather, she embraces them. She is a valuable leader of professional development sessions, serves as a member of her school’s Instructional Leadership Team (ILT), pilots new programs, and provides valuable input to her fellow teachers. At the district level, she is on the High School Equivalency curriculum development team and has helped advance the integration of instructional technology through the Think Big initiative.
Ms. Anderson implements many instruction practices within her classroom such as project-based learning, explicit instruction, and questioning and discussion techniques. However, the practice that has contributed most to her students’ success is use of “wait time.” "Providing wait time—giving pause—allows students to have a moment to think. It is not about the question I am asking, but give them time to think about it."
Elementary / Special Education and Common Branches
KIPP Infinity Charter School
Melissa is the voice of students with exceptionalities, ensuring that her students with IEPs and ELLs have access to their curricula in creative ways. Every student that has been in her homeroom, SETSS, or RTI groups has met their literacy reading goals and school-set benchmarks year after year. Despite recent challenges due to the pandemic - attendance issues, illness, learning loss, etc., Melissa uses data to zero in on what students and families need to set students up for success. She provides students with strategies, tools, resources, and encouragement. She is committed to serving as an advocate and using her voice to support students and families.
Melissa Garcia is an exceptionally committed special educator who, outside of her classroom time, works to support and advocate for the most vulnerable and at-risk students and their families. She takes her work personally, seeing herself in the young learners who struggle with reading or are coming to school not yet knowing English. Working collaboratively with her peers and leadership, she has moved a large percentage of her students to make an entire year's growth in reading by April, meeting them at whatever reading level they are. For those who have not yet made this benchmark, she continues to work with them to see growth, encouraging, supporting and creating a classroom environment where all students feel confident and proud of their growth. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Garcia created a "Conversation Club" where Emergent Bilingual students' needs are centered; where they can bond with and practice their English with peers. She also uses her strong family relationships to ensure that parents know their rights and what resources are available, and advocates to have services and accommodations in place to ensure her students’ success.
Grades 10 and 11 / Dance
Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts (02M531)
Erika Bance exemplifies so much of what is remarkable about teachers and teaching. She deftly balances instructional practice, social-emotional support, rigorous demand, personal warmth, unflagging professionalism, and indefatigable work ethic to support our students. She has the monumental task of teaching every student every year, and yet manages to build meaningful individual relationships that foster growth.
Her practice is consistently aligned with the school’s instructional vision, so much so that her classroom often serves as a laboratory for everything from questioning and discussion techniques to authentic performance assessment. Walking into her classroom is like peeking in on a professional rehearsal, with students of all abilities and experience levels physically and cognitively engaged in learning, refining, critiquing, and discussing choreography. She possesses a toolkit of engagement strategies that we have seen turn even the most hesitant dancers into confident practitioners.
Erika’s cultural responsiveness is evident the moment one walks into her classroom, and is further demonstrated upon watching her teach, hearing her talk to students and families, or discussing her curriculum and professional development activities. Students are introduced in her class to a diverse list of choreographers that transcend race, gender expression, sexual orientation, and style. Students see themselves in the choreographers being taught and the stories being told, and as a result they are able to take themselves seriously as artists, whether or not they continue their Dance education beyond high school.
Student-generated choreography is the norm in her class, giving students ownership and partnership within their learning. Erika is a leader in her field, having been called upon most recently to develop the citywide Jazz choreography instructional video used in all NYC High School Dance auditions.
Grade 3 / Music
P.S. 59 Beekman Hill International (02M059)
Jeannie is an extraordinary educator and provides professional learning opportunities for arts educators across the city. Even masked and distanced, kids can't wait to get to music, and their level of intellectual and emotional engagement is consistently high. The strict limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic have served only as a call to action to be more creative. While choral performances had been the norm, this year, Jeannie gathered up our fifth graders to form a ukulele group to visit classes and school offices and perform for them. She has managed to make sophisticated musical skills and concepts accessible to even our youngest kids and all students, regardless of learning challenges. Jeannie serves as a model of excellence and professionalism to her colleagues at P.S. 59, the graduate school interns she mentors each year, and the citywide arts community she supports with learning resources and the sharing of best practices.
Jeannie invented ways for kids to continue participating in chorus via Zoom during citywide remote instruction, prepared fifth graders to perform outdoors and in an engineered recorded format for their graduation, and formed instrumental groups around keyboarding and ukulele given the challenges of choral performances.
As a teacher, her practice promotes a warm, inclusive environment in which students feel safe and a sense of belonging. She inspires her students, her colleagues, and all who know her with her professionalism and commitment to students and a culturally responsive music education.
Elementary / Special Education
P.S. 91 Richard Arkwright (24Q091)
Ms. Galvin-Manzello is a fifth grade teacher in an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Horizon program. She fully supports all students’ academic needs with social-emotional components to further enhance their growth as learners and citizens. In Ms. Galvin-Manzello’s classroom, students become the authors of their own curriculum—student choice is integral when individually differentiating lessons—not only regarding their physical environment but also as to how they show their learning. She recognizes her students as gifted with perspectives that can contribute to their community, encouraging them to take part in school community activities such as student government, debate, and a music residency program, building feelings of self-efficacy and a sense of leadership.
Ms. Galvin-Manzello’s classroom is very safe and very personal. She says,”I try to connect with them on a personal level. I am good at cracking jokes. I get messages from parents —they are so happy to be going to school every day. I try to make them believe they can be anything they set their mind to. I love celebrating small moments with each other.”
Ms. Galvin-Manzello exhibits leadership and contributes to the school community through her weekly case conferences with teachers, paraprofessionals, and service providers by facilitating meetings and sharing information with school staff members and families on how to best support students with ASD. She demonstrates a systematic effort to conduct professional development for her school community and a commitment to lifelong learning.
Grades 10–12 / Biology and General Science
Academy of Finance and Enterprise (24Q264)
For many high school students, Regents Physics is not usually the "fun" class. However, Mr. Anoba's Physics class is far from the usual. The words to describe his class are joyful, collaborative, dynamic, and inspiring. Students rush to line up at his door, waiting to enter the classroom where their excitement is palpable. Mr. Anoba created a classroom where students’ joy, voices, and choices are centered.
Regarding equal access and opportunity, Mr. Anoba makes sure that students are programmed regardless of academic level for his Physics class. Mr. Anoba is able to connect Chemistry, AP Chemistry, and Physics instruction with real life events that are taking place in the world today. His instructional practice has inspired students to select careers in the Science field such as Physician Assistant, Physician, Engineer, Pharmacist, and Biochemist. Mr. Anoba's enthusiasm for helping his students succeed within his classroom and in postsecondary programs is a driving force behind the success of his students.
Mr. Anoba is the lead teacher in his department, on the equity and instructional teams, and mentors new teachers. Additionally, he invites parents to college trips, information sessions about science and postsecondary planning, and does one-on-one outreach. As his district leaders state, “Mr. Anoba is an exemplary educator dedicated to the growth of every student who enters his class. His classroom is always a hub of intellectual activity and student-centered instruction. We believe that his pedagogy, genuine enthusiasm for his content, and belief that all children should be respected as learners encapsulate the joy of teaching and learning.”
Grade 10 / Special Education
John Adams High School (27Q480)
Matthew Nelson started out as a high school social studies teacher. Soon into his teaching career, he recognized a great student need which was not being addressed in regular academic classes: life skills. While Nelson is exceedingly successful in initiating a brand new culinary program at John Adams H.S. as his school’s Media Arts Small Learning Community Director, he shines most in the classroom interacting with his students.
When teaching, Nelson greets each student and directs them to their seats based on their self-selected recipe. Nelson urges the use of recipes in class, as recipes help students practice literacy and mathematics in addition to honing their culinary skills. For Nelson, responding to his students’ backgrounds extends to his family and community outreach: Nelson has hosted live culinary demonstrations for his students’ families that have been well-received.
In Nelson's class, the learning is continuous, experiential, and self-reflective. In fact, self-reflection and self-assessment serve as the foundation for his students' learning. Mr. Nelson’s students take lunch salad orders from staff "customers" every Friday. The following Monday, his students review their "customer" feedback, and work to improve the quality of their food preparation. Students then redeliver corrected salads, and communicate their apologies to their affected "customers." This process helps students hone proper cooking skills and customer service through the use of self-reflection and interpersonal communication—key skills for the culinary industry.
This type of "real-life" learning continues in Nelson's culinary internship class. Select students "intern" at the Grandstand, a cafe for school staff members, during their lunch period several days a week. The cafe, which sells coffee, pastries, and small bites during staff lunch periods, provides students with a venue to practice the interpersonal and financial skills necessary for the food service industry. Additionally, the interns get paid for their services, which helps them to learn how to create budgets for themselves.
Mr. Nelson has gone above and beyond to build programs and make them successful—designing rooms for courses, setting up technical equipment, purchasing special cooking tools, and assisting students with various food safety projects. Mr. Nelson is also the director of the largest academy in John Adams HS, the Media and Fine Arts program, which has doubled in size to 375 students under his leadership.
High School / English
Cambria Heights Academy (29Q326)
Tenth grade team leader, Nethaniel Colon, welcomes feedback, is proactive about finding solutions to any challenge, and sees himself as a catalyst for learning. Mr. Colon uses his own learning experience as a product of NYC public schools to ensure students have access to all opportunities. He also works afterschool and on weekends to help prepare students to be college ready. His classroom is brightened through his socio-emotional instructional practices, and he is motivated by his desire for his students to have a rigorous learning experience.
Mr. Colon extends himself beyond the classroom to help the community at large. He is involved in many initiatives for the school community—many of which he thought up himself. Mr. Colon is a member of Cambria Heights Academy’s School Leadership Team, and he single-handedly facilitated many of its community events, including a “Black Lives Matter” panel, Asian-American Heritage Month celebrations, movie nights, and game nights. His school community respects his willingness to give back to the community and students—and he seems to always be looking for more opportunities to make an even bigger difference in his school.
Elementary / Physical Education
P.S. 91 Richard Arkwright (24Q091)
Ms. Cohen is a physical education teacher for pre-K through fifth grade students who is relentless in the pursuit of learning for each individual child in her classes. She strives to create supportive environments that meet children where they are, and she adapts and adjusts her instruction to challenge students to move forward at a comfortable pace. She provides instruction in multiple ways, making use of technology, visuals, support staff members and even her own students to help demonstrate skills and concepts. She has many hooks, and has created routines that are high energy, fun, and contribute to creating a great learning environment.
Lisa has high expectations for all and is an actively involved member of the P.S. 91 community who intentionally seeks opportunities to improve her instructional practices. She has built relationships with her students and their families that extend beyond the classroom to support their individual growth and learning. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she leads the fourth grade inquiry team, and has developed schoolwide professional learning opportunities for her fellow educators.
Lisa engages the whole school community in physical education through field days and other physical activity opportunities. When City schools were closed for in-person instruction at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Cohen offered morning fitness opportunities virtually for parents, staff members, and students for fitness and community connection, and thanks to her efforts, she provided the P.S. 91 community with positive lifelong practices that will help them remain healthy and active whether they are on their own or among family and friends.
Elementary / Common Branches
P.S. 11 Thomas Dongan School (31R011)
Shara Breit is a fourth grade teacher who believes that student "voice and choice" are paramount in her classroom pedagogy. Upon entering her classroom, one immediately recognizes the relaxed atmosphere and culture that invites all students to succeed. All students are provided with enrichment opportunities, and projects created in collaboration with her students have gone schoolwide.
Mrs. Breit understands that keeping her students front and center means engaging their families in their education. She invites families to “Parents as Learning Partners” lessons. These lessons are interactive, and they have continued throughout the pandemic, virtually. On more than one occasion, parents have reached out to school leadership to request their children remain remote with Mrs. Breit, because they simply did not want to leave her or her online platform.
Mrs. Breit serves as a Grade Team Leader, social and emotional learning (SEL) coordinator, and data specialist. In the latter role, she facilitates grade-level and school-level (horizontal and vertical) Inquiry/Impact Team work to drill down on the best instructional practices that evoke the highest levels of student achievement.
Grades 8 and 9 / Biology and General Science
International School for Liberal Arts - Walton High School (10X342)
The students in Ms. Peralta's class are engaged in hands-on, project-based learning and high-level thinking. When planning, she involves other classes such as mathematics, spanish, and history, to ensure an interdisciplinary approach. She goes above and beyond to support her students as they complete their requirements and position themselves to graduate—she provides additional support afterschool and on Saturdays, and she encourages other teachers to help as well.
Teachers and students alike feel welcomed in Ms. Peralta's classroom. Ms. Peralta consistently shares student work and intentional literacy strategies during professional learning cycles, and she opens her classroom to her peers so that they may step in and see her strategies in action. She has also provided professional learning sessions around technology to the Walton High School community, and she has developed and maintained logs and spreadsheets to support other teachers with their communication with families.
Grades 6–8 / Special Education
P.S. 175 City Island (11X175)
Emily Doherty has quickly moved from a new teacher to a teacher leader in the school community. As a member of the Instructional Learning Team, Ms. Doherty has succeeded in leading the school's instructional improvement, and has taken a lead in impacting socio-emotional growth for all students. She has led professional training for staff members on Restorative Circles, Student Led Clubs, Brain Power, The Teacher's Guild, and Equity Team. First through her participation and then through her leadership, the Equity team at the school has brought CR-SE work to the entire community. When you walk into her room, you will find students learning about their own identities and the identities of others while appreciating each other's differences.
Ms. Doherty works diligently each day to teach with a culturally responsive curriculum, create an equitable environment where her scholars feel safe and comfortable to take risks, and help ensure they are challenged with rigorous grade level tasks that promote engagement as well as growth. She radiates passion and a zest for learning that is reflective in the warm, nurturing, equitable, and respectful classroom culture she creates.