Outstanding Educators of the Year 2009 Awards Ceremony
And you thought Thanksgiving was only in November and that only Plymouth rocked. Not so, to judge from the outpouring of tributes at Education Update’s seventh Outstanding Educators of the Year Awards Breakfast Ceremony at the Harvard Club recently. It was a celebratory event full of thanks, given by those presenting the awards and those receiving them.
Opening the program, Dr. Pola Rosen, publisher of Education Update, evoked spontaneous applause from the audience when she noted that Education Update was honored to applaud those in attendance that morning. “We salute you.” “Good teachers teach,” she beamed, but “great teachers inspire.” And they do so as innovative classroom teachers, administrators, political supporters, and corporate sponsors. Honorees came from every borough and represented every level of public education. They were all in their different and various ways New York City leaders in education who “would be remembered” for the work they do, local achievements that would continue to have “national reverberations.”
Humor marked the start of the morning, when CUNY Senior Vice-Chancellor Jay Hershenson, introduced as “Chancellor,” gave thanks for his promotion and then delivered the Keynote Address. Stressing CUNY’s great success in producing 70 percent of the city’s outstanding educators, he reminded the audience that CUNY has always done “more with less.” A Queens public school graduate, he noted that his own career, serving six chancellors, had given him a unique perspective from which to appreciate “the magnitude” of CUNY’s progress. During his tenure, he remarked, he has seen the establishment of many graduate-level teacher education programs, close collaborations between public high schools and the college campuses on which they are situated (eleven, to date), and an outstanding pass rate for prospective teachers (97-99 percent) on state certification exams. He sang the praises of three typically untypical CUNY students, whose extraordinary careers “reflect their extraordinary teachers.” The address was followed by the Distinguished Leader in Education Awards, presented by Dr. Rosen.
Introduced by Hunter College President Jennifer Rabb, Ernest Logan, President, Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, rose to accept the first medal and certificate. Citing a heritage of being involved in education in his own family—he has 12 siblings, all of whom he encouraged to get into the field—Harlem born, New York City educated Logan spoke animatedly of “public education as the great equalizer.” Humbly referring to himself as “an average guy blessed by extraordinary mentors,” he became an English teacher, he said, because someone told him, “You can do that.” Yes he could, and did, and he also became a curriculum writer, education administrator, assistant principal, and principal. Yes We Can emerged as a theme for many of the speakers that morning.
Distinguished honoree Randi Weingarten, President of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers & United Federation of Teachers, was introduced by Susan Fuhrman, President of Teachers College. “We have the best teaching force since the ‘70s,” noted Weingarten. Invoking both public education and the labor movement as related accomplishments of capitalist democracy, she expressed delight at “getting an award for the work you love doing.”
Alfred Posamentier, Dean Emeritus, School of Education, The City College of New York, was introduced by William Dinger, CEO of Sadlier Publishing Company, the oldest (“but not stodgy”) education publisher in the city. Dean Posamentier, who was garnering any number of awards on his recent retirement from CCNY, said he took particular pride at popularizing mathematics, his great passion. The author of over 45 mathematics books, he writes a regular column on mathematical issues and enigmas for Education Update. He noted that in spite of criticism of American math education, this country is still leader to the world about “how things are done.” He reminded the audience that comparative graduation rates and test scores are flawed because only in this country does everyone have access to public education. No swan song for this long-time educator who is looking to “new challenges:” swans mate for life and the Dean is clearly wedded to mathematics education.
The morning also saw awards given to two special Education Update honorees: Regina Peruggi, President of Kingsborough Community College, who was introduced by Augusta Kappner, President Emerita, Bank Street College, and David Steiner, Dean of the School of Education at Hunter, who was presented by Charlotte Frank, Sr. VP, McGraw-Hill. President Peruggi sang the praises of KCC, of course, but also of community colleges as the “new Ellis Island,” places that spin immigrant hopes into “gold.” Aside from his stellar innovative achievements at Hunter, including a nationally recognized practicum-based Digital Video program for student teachers, Dean Steiner will probably also be remembered for his opening remark, that “as Henry VIII said to each of his wives, ‘I will not be keeping you for long.’” He proved true to his (and Henry’s) word, but not before acknowledging that he used to be a critic of schools of education but was now pleased to be heading one and rising to the challenge.
No Education Update Awards Ceremony would be complete, of course, without presenting Medals and Certificates to the Outstanding Educators of the Year, 2009. The Outstanding Administrators included: Alyce Barr, Principal, Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies; Jeanne M. Fish, Principal, P.S. 277 (Brooklyn); Paula Holmes, Principal, Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts (Brooklyn); Judy Mittler, Principal, I.S. 125 (Queens); Dr. Laverne Nimmons, Principal, P.S. 335 Granville T. Woods (Brooklyn); Mary Padilla, Principal, P.S. 5 (Bronx); Mary Scarlato, Principal, P.S. 31; Josephine Viars, Principal, P.S. 380; and Joan Washington, Principal, P.S. 811 (Queens).
The Outstanding Teachers of the Year, 2009 included: Beth Altmann, P.S. 811 (Queens); Craig Antelmi, Bronx High School of Business; Steve Cucuzza, Abraham Lincoln High School (Brooklyn); Dedria Lacy, P.S. 335 Granville T. Woods (Brooklyn); Sandra Mattes-Schwartz, P.S. 811 (Queens); Leah Moore, Baruch College Campus High School (Manhattan); Rosanna Ohba, Marta Valle Secondary School (Manhattan); Margarita Rosa, The IN-Tech Academy (Bronx); Karena Thompson, P.S. 335 Granville T. Woods (Brooklyn); and Michael Tighe, The Richard H. Hungerford School (Staten Island).#