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Big Apple Awards

17 winners earn DOE advisory role

New York Teacher
Big Apple Award winners for 2019.
Miller Photography

Big Apple Award winners for 2019.

David Roush (second from left), a television production and media communications
Miller Photography

David Roush (second from left), a television production and media communications teacher at Truman HS in the Bronx, is surrounded by the students who nominated him.

David Roush, one of this year’s 17 Big Apple Award winners, remembers walking into a classroom 11 years ago without any preparation.

The UFT honorees

BRONX: Emilie Jones, IS 303; Amanda Palmieri, PS 10 @ PS 304; David Roush, Harry S. Truman HS; Danielle Tutelian, Bronx HS of Business.

BROOKLYN: Yadira Hans, PS 249; Kimberly Middleton, Millennium Brooklyn HS; Karen Pierre-Charles Byrd, PS 59; Douglas Rebecca, PS 721.

MANHATTAN: Rita Fattorusso, 47 ASL and English Lower School; Nicole Feliciano, West Prep Academy; Alan Merced, College Academy.

QUEENS: Melissa Aguirre, JHS 217; Jamie Cacciola-Price, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts; Elizabeth De La Garza, Pathways to Graduation, Jamaica Learning Center; Jo Ann Westhall, PS 31.

STATEN ISLAND: Paraskevi Langis, Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School.

“I think I was too naive to be intimidated,” explained the former TV reporter and anchor, who teaches television production and media communications at Truman HS in Co-op City in the Bronx. “Now nothing could get me to leave.”

At this year’s seventh annual awards ceremony at the city Department of Education headquarters in Manhattan on June 11, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza congratulated the winners, all but one of whom are UFT members, and said he was looking forward to meeting with them monthly in their new role as the Chancellor’s Teacher Advisory Group. “We’ll close the door and talk shop,” he said.

Kimberly Middleton, a special education teacher at Millennium Brooklyn HS in Park Slope, is looking forward to the opportunity to meet with the chancellor, “so I can advocate for students.” Unaware a student had nominated her, she wondered why he kept asking if she had checked her email in February when the names of award finalists were announced.

Teachers learn they are winners when the chancellor or one of his deputies knock on their classroom door with balloons and banners. That moment for each winner was caught on camera and shown at the ceremony. Students were as thrilled and surprised as their teachers, leaping out of their seats, hugging them, and hooting and hollering with delight.

The ceremony was a family affair. When winner Emilie Jones, an English teacher at IS 303 in Morris Heights, the Bronx, received her award, both her mother, who has been an English and theater teacher for 40 years in a South Carolina high school, and her sister were there to celebrate.

It was a rigorous process to pick the winners from 250 finalists culled from 7,100 nominees this year. Nominated by students, families, administrators or community members, the finalists were observed in their classrooms by their superintendent’s review team and also asked to send videos of their work. A board of judges reviewed the finalists and made recommendations for the chancellor’s approval.

After being named a finalist, winner Karen Pierre-Charles Byrd, a 4th-grade teacher at PS 59 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, said she was hesitant at first because “I had a lot on my plate as a teacher,” but with encouragement she began the process.

Now, she said, she looks forward to being a strong advocate for “equality for all our students.”