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Awards & Honors
2024 Academic High Schools Awards

Agents of ‘change’

Manhattan educators manage the strain of a school closure
New York Teacher
Agents of change
Erica Berger

Maxine Greene HS for Imaginative Inquiry Chapter Leader Tyshawn Davis, special education teacher Yves-Nelly Lavaud (middle) and digital and visual arts teacher Tiffany Simon are part of the team whose efforts earned them an award.

Educators at Maxine Greene HS for Imaginative Inquiry in Manhattan had “inklings” the school could be in danger of closing, as enrollment dwindled from about 500 students 15 years ago to fewer than 100 this year.

In March, with enrollment at 85, they received word that the school, named for an academic who promoted aesthetic education, would close in June. Staff and students who wish to can be absorbed into the HS for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice, which is on the same floor and is one of the six schools at the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus.

“We didn’t know that it was going to happen as quickly as it did,” Chapter Leader Tyshawn Davis said. “From a numbers perspective, I can understand it.”

The bittersweet time for Davis, who has helped members navigate the closure process, became sweeter when he learned that the school chapter would receive a Team High School Award at this year’s Academic High Schools Awards celebration.

“I thought that it was a fitting end to the journey of Maxine Greene, as well as something that each of the members of the team can take as memorabilia as they move on to the next steps of their career,” he said.

Yves-Nelly Lavaud, a special education teacher at the school since 2009, said she will miss the closeness and the special bond that the school’s dozen or so educators have with one another and their students.

Maxine Green HS “feels like home,” she said. That positive atmosphere has an effect on students, who know they can go to staff members for whatever they need. “You come here and you don’t want to leave the people here because they’re so great,” Lavaud said.

Tiffany Simon, a digital and visual arts teacher at the school for six years, said she will miss the tight-knit, family-oriented school community the most. “It’s not something we tried to do. It just happened naturally,” she said. “We just all of a sudden became aunties, uncles, school moms and school dads.”

The educators are making sure that their students are aware of the merger and its implications, such as larger class sizes, said Davis. They also want the students to “know how to advocate for themselves,” he said.

Davis’ colleagues say that he has done a great job keeping everyone informed. “He’s amazing. He gets stuff done,” Lavaud said.

Learning about the award “was validating in that the hard work that the members and I have put in is being recognized by those outside of the community,” Davis said.

“We definitely earned it,” Simon said.

Academic High Schools Awards

Over 300 UFT members from academic high schools donned formal attire to celebrate themselves and their colleagues at a prom-themed Academic High School Awards celebration on May 31.

‘Co-creating learning’

Teacher Kristen Rush of the HS for Public Service in Brooklyn was awarded for Excellence in Education at this year's Academic High School Awards for her ability to better engage students in her English curriculum by incorporating their insights into her lesson plans.
Related Topics: High Schools