How the Awards Work

About the Big Apple Awards

Great teachers change lives. They unlock their students' potential and put them on paths to success. In New York City, more than 75,000 teachers are making a difference in the lives of our 1.1 million students each day.

The Big Apple Awards is a citywide teacher recognition program open to all current, full-time public school teachers in New York City. Now in its third year, the Big Apple Awards celebrate educators across the City and honor those teachers who inspire students, model great teaching, and enrich their school communities.

The Big Apple Awards begin with an annual citywide nomination process open to all members of the New York City education community. After a rigorous selection process, a select group of recipients are recognized in June and receive a classroom grant for their students and schools. They serve as citywide Big Apple Fellows during the following school year, representing teachers citywide as advisers to the Chancellor while they continue to make an impact in their own classrooms. Learn more about the Big Apple Fellowship Year.

By honoring the success of these teachers, the NYC Department of Education celebrates the countless teachers who go above and beyond to serve New York City's schools. We thank each and every one of them for their unwavering commitment to our 1.1 million students.

Who’s Eligible?

Current, full-time public school teachers at NYC district and charter schools, as well as full-day pre-kindergarten lead teachers at community-based early childhood centers.

Who Can Nominate?

Anyone can make a nomination, including teachers, students, families, colleagues, school staff members, administrators, and community members. During a citywide open call last fall, the Big Apple Awards team received more than 4,500 Big Apple Award nominations. More than 65 percent of these came from students and their families.

The Selection Process

After the nomination period, a select group of about 500 nominees are invited to submit an application, which includes essays and letters of recommendation. Following a review of the applications, the Big Apple Awards team interviews 100 semi-finalists, of which approximately 40 advance to the finalist round and receive classroom visits. A Board of Judges, made up of NYCDOE senior leadership and a representative from the United Federation of Teachers, then selects the final award recipients. Learn more about this year's recipients.

During all stages of the process, candidates were selected based on their ability to demonstrate exceptional success in their impact on student learning, in their instructional practice and in their professional contributions to their school community.

Sets and exceeds standards-driven goals for stellar student achievement (academic, social, and behavioral).Uses rigorous instruction through a variety of teaching methods, creates a supportive environment in the classroom that actively engages students in learning, and acts as a collaborative teacher by working with others to innovate and hone their practice.Demonstrates effective leadership in and out of the classroom and shows relentless efforts to build strong family-community ties.
Establishes trust with students to allow for true collaboration and broaden impact on student learning.Establishes trust with colleagues to allow for true collaboration and strengthen instructional practices.Establishes trust with families and school leaders to allow for true collaboration and expands the impact of the professional contributions.

These competencies are adapted from the NYCDOE's multi-layered Framework for Great Schools for teachers, implemented by Chancellor Fariña and designed to ensure our educators can meet the core goal of student achievement in all NYC public school classrooms. Learn more about the Framework for Great Schools.


The Big Apple Awards are made possible through generous funding from Leonard and Louise RiggioThe Fund for Public Schools, Lincoln Center Education and HBO.

For More Information

Consult our Big Apple Awards FAQ sheet, or contact us at


Return to the Big Apple Awards main page