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Educators Honored at Harvard Club by Education Update
By Joan Baum, Ph.D.


Tellingly, the table centerpieces at the 12th Annual Outstanding Educators of the Year 2014 Awards this June at the Harvard Club were not flowers but books – one for each attendee. The books were scooped up, though it’s fair to say that the savvy audience knew a lot about the issues the books addressed. Each year, this well-attended ceremony hosted  by Education Update, celebrates Distinguished Leaders in Education in addition to honoring administrators and teachers. But this year, as Education Update publisher Dr. Pola Rosen noted, two significant categories were added to the list of honorees: Financial Literacy Scholars and Young Journalists who included two twelve-year-olds, Melina Danilidis and Jamie Landis.

Welcoming the large crowd, Dr. Rosen suggested that the Education Update annual is as important, if not more so, than the Hollywood Academy Awards since this Academy is the real deal – an annual coming together of professionals from arguably the most important academy in the country—the education establishment whose stars, sometimes unsung (until now), have dedicated themselves and continue to do so—to the essential achievements that make our nation prosper. Here were honorees who have already made a difference in the classroom and whose administrative and pedagogical innovations, studies show, have already advanced education policies and procedures. Which is not to say that accomplishments, alone, define the purpose of the annual awards. Indeed, Education Update, has as its mission educating the wider public to support public education, especially, as Keynote Speaker, Dr. Ernest Logan, President, Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, eloquently argued, to ensure quality universal pre-K. That message was broadened in a letter of greetings by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who said “education is “the leading civil rights issue of our generation” and the most challenging issue before the country.

This year’s impressive list of educators included not only those who received awards but those who presented them. Dr. Carmen Fariña, New York City Department of Education Schools Chancellor, introduced Dr. Jerrold Ross, Dean, St. John’s University. In speaking of Dean Ross’s accomplishments, she noted a relative rarity among those who get to the top: modesty. “He never forgot that the most important work goes on in the classroom.” A multi-talented scholar with degrees and administrative experience in music education (a former president of the New York College of Music, Director of Town Hall and president of the board of the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts), the dean initiated unique partnerships among schools, Lincoln Center and teacher training programs. And yet, what caused him to beam that morning was looking out at the appreciative audience, “you are all my family.”

Joyce B. Cowin, Rolls Royce of Financial Literary CEO, was presented by Hunter College President Jennifer Raab, J.D., herself a powerhouse of academic and corporate success, who emphasized how important education was for families, nothing that she saw today’s ceremony as an honoring of parents who encouraged and guided their children to enter education, and achieve. It was Joyce Cowin’s brief talk, however, that elicited some of the strongest admiring audience response. The speaker, an alumna and long-time trustee of Teachers College, started a program just a few years ago, filling a gap that today, to judge from constant newspaper reports of student debt of all kinds, would seem paramount, over and most other considerations: financial literacy. The academic curriculum the Cowin Financial Literary Project created, the result of a partnership among the DOE, the nonprofit Working in Support of Education and Teachers College, has already been integrated into courses and has become a model for schools nationwide. Included in the honors of the morning were four Cowin Financial Literacy scholars whose personal accounts bear witness to the breadth as well as depth of this imaginative concept: Paulina Chan, HS for Environmental Studies, Manhattan; Marlene May, Theater Teacher, Fordham HS for the Arts, Bronx; Linda Weissman, Social Studies Department, Stuyvesant HS, Manhattan; and Lisa A. Wohl, Social Studies Teacher/Dean Law, Government & Community Service HS, Queens.
Dr. Kimberly Cline, President of Long Island University was introduced by Jay Hershenson, Senior Vice-Chancellor of The City University of New York, who drew “ahas” when he began by noting that all the portraits on the Harvard Main Hall walls were of men – the perfect introduction of Dr. Cline, the 10th present of LIU and its first woman president, who then said, “I can’t wait till my daughters don’t have to answer the question” why are you the first?”  With a highly successful – and high-paying – job in a Fortune 500 company, she willingly left corporate America to teach and lead a university, at a much lower salary, because that was where her passion lay. Called “Pollyanish” and “pathogically optimistic,” she continues to enhance the strategic partnerships she established at LIU among teachers, business coaches and academic counselors.

The twelve Outstanding Administrators of the Year 2014 were: Magalie Alexis, Principal, PS/MS 282, Brooklyn; Ruth Arberman, Principal, The Sterling School, Brooklyn; Ellen Carlisle, Principal, PS. 6, Brooklyn; Susan Finn, Principal, PS 169, Manhattan; Bruce Gonzales, Assistant Principal, Liberation HS, Brooklyn; Roshone Lee, Founder and Principal, The South Bronx Academy for Applied Media, Bronx; Dr. Stephen Levy, Deputy Chair/Director/Professor, Touro College, Graduate Division, School of Education and Special Education, Forest Hills site; Michael Pepe, Assistant Principal, The Hungerford School, Staten Island; Janet C. Rotter, Head of School, The Studio School, Manhattan; Jennifer Suri, AP Social Studies, Stuyvesant S, Manhattan; Toni Marie Viera, Assistant Principal, Scholars’ Academy, Queens; and Diane Vitolo, Principal, John Wayne Elementary, PS 380, Brooklyn.

The eight Outstanding Teachers of the Year 2014 were Angela Beckham, Ellis Howe, Manhattan; Matthew Ianelli, Hungerford School, Staten Island; Maria Anna Messina, PS 209, Queens; Ariel S. Nadelstern, Crotona International HS, Bronx; Jeannine Sam & Deirdre Leggio, PS 10, Bronx; Mandy Tsai, Baruch College Campus HS, Manhattan; and Diane Whitecavage, PS 254, Queens.#



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