A New Award for Excellence Goes to 11 City Teachers

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Eleven New York City teachers won the city's inaugural Big Apple Award which recognizes teacher excellence in the public school system at a time when teachers have felt bashed by those pressing for changes in education.

“The Big Apple Awards celebrate the unsung heroes who go above and beyond every day on behalf of our 1.1 million students,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a release sent to reporters. “By honoring their success, we also pay tribute to the countless teachers across the city who also care so deeply and passionately about their students, their school communities, and their profession.”

Walcott joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg at Gracie Mansion on Tuesday where they awarded the 10 Big Apple Awards for teachers of all subject areas plus one award devoted to an arts educator.

“Great teachers are a school’s most valuable asset, and we must recognize their skills and the impact they have on our students – even beyond the classroom,” Bloomberg said, also in the release. “I am thrilled to present these awards to honor and celebrate these inspirational educators."

Awards went to teachers who made it through an application process that included being nominated, interviewed and observed in the classroom. The process started with more than 2,000 nominations from students, families, teachers, school staff, administrators, and other community members.

Kristin Ferrales was one of the winners. She teaches research writing at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice. Her class is taught in conjunction with Global History and focuses on independent research and world events.

"It's nice to feel like all the hard work that you do is recognized," Ferrales said about the award. "And it's especially nice because I think our school is doing really, really good work to help students be successful after they graduate from high school."

Stephen Jackson, who taught in his native Jamaica for 13 years before moving here nine years ago, was another winner. He said he combines creative writing and math and technology to align his science class with the Common Core.

In Jamaica, Jackson said, teachers are "real leaders and role models" who are looked up to by the community; he experienced "culture shock" when he began teaching here.

The award-winning teachers are:

Silvestre Arcos, a 5th grade math teacher at KIPP: Washington Heights Middle School in Washington Heights, Manhattan

Patrick Berry, a 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher at J.H.S. 57 Whitelaw Reid in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

Erika Bogdany, a high school English Language Arts teacher at Brooklyn Bridge Academy, a transfer school in Canarsie, Brooklyn

Damion Clark, an 11th and 12th grade English Language Arts teacher at Democracy Prep Charter High School in Harlem, Manhattan

Catherine Downey, a 5th grade Science and Social Studies teacher at P.S. 128 Bensonhurst in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Kristin Ferrales, an 11th grade Social Studies teacher at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice in downtown Brooklyn

Marietta Geraldino, a 10th and 11th grade Math teacher at Frederick Douglass Academy II Secondary School in Harlem, Manhattan

Stephen Jackson, a middle school Science teacher at P.S./M.S. 278 Paula Hedbavny School in Inwood, Manhattan

Deborah Laster, a special education teacher for autistic students (ages 14-21) at P.S.176X in Co-op City, Bronx

Kimberly McCorkell, a fourth and fifth grade teacher who provides academic intervention services at P.S. 222 The Katherine R. Snyder School in Marine Park, Brooklyn

Melissa Salguero, General Music Teacher at P.S. 48 Joseph R. Drake in the South Bronx

The Big Apple Awards were funded in part from The Fund for Public Schools, as well as Lincoln Center, which sponsored the Lincoln Center Arts Teacher Award recipient.