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Big Apple Awards

A visionary

Manhattan teacher gets students needed eye examinations and glasses
New York Teacher

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A student shows off the eyeglasses she received thanks to the efforts of West Pr
Pat Arnow
A student shows off the eyeglasses she received thanks to the efforts of West Preparatory Academy social studies teacher Nicole Feliciano (right).
Nicole Feliciano knew something was wrong three years ago when it seemed as if every student in her 6th-grade social studies class at West Preparatory Academy was complaining about not being able to see the board. And they all wanted to sit in the front of the classroom — an impossible situation.

“That space is limited,” said Feliciano, the chapter leader at the school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Feliciano started using larger fonts on the smartboard. But one girl in front still couldn’t see and yelled in frustration when she had to hold her laptop up to her face to read the writing on the screen. When that student finally had an eye exam, she couldn’t even make out the classic big “E” that sits atop the eye chart.

That student’s eye exam and dozens of others were performed because Feliciano made it happen. Her initiative on behalf of her students earned her a 2019 Big Apple Award, bestowed by the city Department of Education to celebrate teachers who inspire students and enrich their school community.

Once Feliciano realized her students were in desperate need of eye exams and most likely eyeglasses, too, she went to work. She raised $3,300 on DonorsChoose.org, which enabled her to participate in the Warby Parker Pupils Project. Eyeglass maker Warby Parker has teamed up on the project with DonorsChoose.org and National Eye Care to bring access to affordable eye exams and eyeglasses to New York City students in need.

It wasn’t only Feliciano’s students who benefited. “When I created the DonorsChoose page for the class, I asked other teachers in my school to identify students who really needed glasses,” Feliciano said.

Ultimately, 29 West Prep students received exams and prescription eyeglasses.

Chante Orane, who teaches 8th-grade science at West Prep, was one of the teachers who referred students to Feliciano. “My students had trouble seeing the board, and they had trouble understanding the textbook and science diagrams,” Orane said. Because of Feliciano’s efforts, Orane’s students had exams and obtained glasses.

“It was well-organized,” Orane said. “She did all the footwork and pulled together the paperwork.”

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