Award Recipients


Meet This Year's Recipients

Meet Last Year's Recipients


This Year's Recipients

Phyllis Berk

Pre-Kindergarten teacher, P.S. 188 Kingsbury (26Q188)

Phyllis Berk is a passionate advocate for pre-kindergarten because, as she says, “this is where it all starts.” From exploring the type of cloud that will hold the most water to using a Vaseline-covered leaf to make predictions (along with a game of telephone), Phyllis mixes creativity and rigor to create a classroom environment where each child is valued and challenged. She also helps her students see beyond their classroom by engaging in a pen pal program with students in Botswana. (Her students have corresponded with pictures and letters, and led a fundraising drive for a new library). As an active UFT delegate, Phyllis facilitates dialogue between faculty and school leadership, leading to solutions that support the entire school community.

Margaret Boyd

7th grade Math teacher, New York City Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies (02M312)

Margaret Boyd “is passionate about math, and her love of teaching comes across in lessons which make learning math fun,” a parent of a student in her class writes. Her classroom exudes joy; students recently passionately debated which polygons would have the greatest area (no rulers allowed!). Margaret also provides opportunities for her students to demonstrate their expertise as “mathletes” in the Continental Math League, the AMC8, and the New York Math League. In addition to her responsibilities as the math chair, Margaret is committed to providing a safe space for all students to learn, including by serving as a school-wide dean and helping craft the school’s anti-bullying policy.

Ramil Buenaventura

7th and 8th grade Math teacher, Renaissance Charter School (84Q705)

Ramil Buenaventura moved to New York after 13 years as a school teacher and administrator in the Philippines. With ten years under his belt working here, his classroom provides exceptional examples of integrating mathematical practices and common core standards into math lessons. Ramil uses project-based learning, "pi" challenges, and student-created videos to help his class achieve.  And he continues to maintain a close relationship with his country of origin: After Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines last fall, he coordinated a School Relief Drive for victims with his advisory class. All of his efforts, Ramil says, are worth it for the success he sees in his students: “This is the essence of why I am a teacher.  As I see these gains and successes, they challenge me to gain more so I can give more.”

Nekesha Bynum

3rd grade teacher, P.S. 310 (20K310)

“In this class, one of the important lessons we learn every day is the importance of sharing,” explains one of Nekesha Bynum’s students. Indeed, excitement was abounding on a recent morning when students were able to mix and mingle to Pharrell’s “Happy” and then asked to freeze to share a new learning with a partner. Nekesha’s enthusiasm and expertise has led to great gains for her students, with 86% of her students advancing more than four reading levels during each of the last four years. She says her nine years in the classroom has led to her finding additional ways to support the learning of her colleagues; Nekesha serves as a member of the Core Instructional Team, a mentor teacher, and an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College.

Doreen Donnelly

3rd grade teacher, TAG Young Scholars (04M012)

Colleagues describe Doreen Donnelly’s classroom as “a mecca for teacher training.” She invites her students to make their thinking visible, often through a shared text. (A recent class involved her third-graders looking at figurative text in Langston Hughes’ “A Dream Deferred” and then creating their own poems). In addition to this shared inquiry approach, Doreen has leveraged her previous experience  managing a media company to collaborate with a non-profit theatre troupe, “The Story Pirates,” to encourage more creative writing at her school. She also designed and launched a morning and afterschool program for students who needed additional support. Her investment in her school community has paid off: This past year TAG Young Scholars was named one of the top-performing 25 schools in all of New York State. 

Irina Gonzalez

8th grade Social Studies teacher, J.H.S. 123 James M. Kieran (08X123)

Her principal says that Irina Gonzalez “works tirelessly on behalf of her students and our entire school community.” Her nominator, a colleague at her school, says she is a “prototype of what an exemplary teacher should be.” In just two years, Irina has contributed in significant ways to her school and her classroom: leading and chairing the Social Studies department, creating new document-based questions to support her English Language Learners, and coaching her students to a third place victory at the National History Day Regional Competition. In addition, Irina continues to pursue her own professional development by representing her school at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which is committed to the improvement of history education.

Joseph Pesqueira

11th grade Social Studies teacher, Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics (09X260)

One of his students describes Joseph Pesqueira as the “most dedicated person I know…not only is he there as a teacher, but he is a great man overall.” His student-centered classroom is often “flipped,” which means students take notes on pre-recorded online lessons at home and then come to class ready for rich classroom discussion. (To ensure access, Joseph comes to school early every morning to provide computers to students who do not have Internet at home). A recent discussion on which piece of literature was most important in the development of America included a comparison to the Declaration of the Independence as a ‘break-up letter.’ His work has led to great success for his students: His principal noted that an unprecedented 96 % of his U.S. History students passed the Regents exam, with three out of four students passing with an 80 or higher.

Jessica Russo

Special Education teacher (Grades 2-5), P.S. 55 Henry M. Boehm (31R055)

“Jessica is one of the most amazing teachers I have ever met,” writes a parent. “She taught my daughter, who has Down syndrome, things that I only dreamed she would be able to do.” Jessica Russo carefully matches the needs of her exceptionally diverse set of learners to an expansive repertoire of instructional strategies. Her positive classroom environment, the real-life connections she makes with her students, and the seamless integration of paraprofessionals in her classroom together provide tremendous support to her students. She is also a resource for colleagues, serving as a mentor, a member of the RTI team, and a model classroom teacher for other special education teachers in the district.

Jacqueline Stokes

Special Education (District 75, students 16-21), The Richard H. Hungerford School (75R721), Stapleton, Staten Island

Jacqueline Stokes has been a valued part of the Richard Hungerford School since she asked to be a volunteer there at the age of 11. She kept coming back – first as a sign language paraprofessional for seven years and now as an educator who is known for her passion and her partnerships with her students’ families, including daily phone calls to discuss her students’ successes. Outside of the classroom, Jaqueline continuously seeks opportunities to develop her professional skills to ensure she meets her students’ needs; she attended the TEACH program at Duke University, is ABA trained, and supports new teachers at Bank Street who are working with students with Autism. Her dedication to her students’ success has resulted in the highest scores on alternative-assessments at her school. 

Kathryn Vitale

8th grade English Language Arts teacher, Frederick Douglass Academy VIII Middle School (19K452)

On Kathryn Vitale’s classroom door, students see the following message: “Welcome. Take off your shoes and stay a while. This place is HOME. Here, your voice matters. Here, you are part of something special, and it is only special because you are here.” Indeed, Kathryn makes every day special because of her ability to, in the words of her principal, “think of innovative ways to make concepts like ‘central idea’ cool.” Her scholars drive the learning in her classroom and beyond, where they participate in her school’s NYC Urban Debate League team (which Kathryn started), poetry slams at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and writing retreats at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Kathryn also contributes to her larger school community, including revamping her school’s extended day program and creating opportunities for colleagues to teach together and learn from each other’s practices.    

April Yee

1st grade (Bilingual) teacher, P.S. 105 The Blythebourne (20K105)

When you walk into April Yee’s classroom, you can feel the positive energy as you see her first graders take on leadership roles – coordinating transitions, giving each other constructive feedback, and even rewarding each other with stickers. As an English Language Learner herself, Chun Yan knows what it takes to support each and every one of her 32 students, many of whom are newcomers to the United States. Her students benefit greatly from her dedication: they have the greatest NYSESLAT growth in her school, with 80% of students exiting her class on or above grade-level. Her commitment to her school extends beyond her classroom, too: April Yan engages in professional learning, writes curriculum maps, and mentors novice teachers. As she describes it: “Teaching is not a job or even a career; it is my life.”

Laurence Minetti

High School Art teacher, Collegiate Institute for Math and Science (11X288)
Big Apple Arts Award Recipient

“My school is my home,” Laurence Minetti says. Laurence has the unique opportunity to teach at the same high school campus from which he proudly graduated, and to follow the footsteps of his mother, who was also an educator. His nominator describes his classroom as a “laboratory for his colleagues to visit.” Indeed, it’s a place where self-expression is encouraged and where students learn to be “constructive critics.” As a result, his students see art as a way to build self-confidence, motivation, and courage. His students 'masterpieces are exhibited throughout the entire building. Laurence takes on leadership roles outside of the classroom, training staff on the Common Core shifts, helping to launch an AP Art Studio class on the campus, and organizing a $10,000 beautification initiative.

The Big Apple Arts Award is made possible by generous funding from Lincoln Center.


Last Year's Recipients

Silvestre Arcos

5th grade math teacher at KIPP, Washington Heights Middle School (06M068)

Culturally relevant pedagogy is the cornerstone of Silvestre Arco’s teaching vision. The Southern Poverty Law Center awarded him with the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching in 2011. Silvestre’s diverse teaching experiences—in two urban school districts and in both a district and a charter school—have given him significant experience in this area and made him a model educator. Before he began his teaching career in New York City, he worked with emergent bilinguals in Los Angeles for three years. Upon moving to New York City, Silvestre led a transitional bilingual classroom and created a dual language program at M.S. 223 in the South Bronx, which resulted in his school receiving the Spanish Embassy’s School of the Year Award. After spending five years at M.S. 223, he was asked to join the founding staff of a new KIPP Charter middle school in Washington Heights this school year and is already stepping into a new role as grade level chair and math department head.

Patrick Berry

7th and 8th grade ELA teacher, Whitelaw Reid Junior High School (16K057)

“I have never seen a teacher who is so committed to the achievement of his students,” says Principal Celeste Douglas. Ninety seconds after the first student walks in the door of Patrick Berry’s 8th grade class at Whitelaw Reid Junior High School, all 29 of his students are on task silently completing their Do Now. Patrick begins his lesson describing “The Aim” by explaining to his students how the 8th grade Common Core standard they are learning today builds upon what they learned in 7th grade. His high expectations for his students translate to a classroom of respect and inquiry where students are asked to question and discuss their own thoughts and those of their peers. Patrick began his teaching career in the Peace Corps in South Africa and came to New York City through the NYC Teaching Fellows program five years ago.

Erika Bogdany

ELA High School Teacher, Brooklyn Bridge Academy (18K578)

Through a partnership with Brooklyn Academy of Music, Erika Bogdany has helped her students learn to write and perform their own poetry. This is an example of how, as the ELA Department Team Leader, Erika has infused the team with a problem solving mindset. This partnership was created to find more effective ways to reach students. Erika challenges her students to become successful literary academics. She spent five years at Automotive High School prior to joining the Brooklyn Bridge Academy community, which is a transfer school in Canarsie with over–age and under–credited students who are facing tremendous challenges in their academic careers. During Erika’s two years teaching ELA at Brooklyn Bridge Academy 85% of her students have passed the Regents contributing to a 35% overall improvement in passage rate for the ELA department.

Damion Clark

11th and 12th grade ELA, Democracy Prep Charter High School

Having taught college as an English professor, Damion Clark knows exactly what his Democracy Prep juniors and seniors need to be ready for their freshman literature seminar. His daily Socratic seminars are genuine exchanges of intellectual discourse—Plato’s The Cave, the cultural legacy of African imperialism, and Ellison’s Invisible Man were just a few of the connections made by his students in a recent class. This type of rich debate and attention to text pays off: All of his juniors passed the Regents last year (with 60% scoring an 80 or higher) and all are on track this year as seniors to excel on the English AP exam. And after only two years at Democracy Prep, Damion’s influence extends beyond the classroom—as a faculty sponsor for the Latino Caucus, as the chair of the literary magazine Ink, and as the English Department Chair. As his principal notes: “Our teachers rave about how he has transformed their teaching.”

Catherine Downey

5th grade Science and Social Studies, P.S. 128 Bensonhurst (21K128)

You know something special is happening in Catherine Downey’s fifth–grade class at P.S. 128 in Bensonhurst when 31 students are able to simulate the Mayan social caste structure using candy—and not one student sheds a tear when their entire collection is lost to the ‘warrior’ caste above them. Catherine employs a variety of scaffolds and differentiated activities to engage her students, which include a significant number of English Language Learners and newcomers. A colleague says that she “exhibits the confidence of a seasoned teacher who knows exactly what each individual child needs to succeed.” And after five years at P.S. 128, Catherine remains a constant learner and leader—seeking feedback from peers using the Danielson Framework, participating in after–school and network study groups with other teachers, leading the P.S. 128 School Leadership Team, and organizing a multitude of school community events.

Kristin Ferrales

11th grade Social Studies, Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice (13K483)

“Students are truly generating the questions and ideas that lead the learning [in her classroom],” says Principal Shannon Curran. In her nine years of teaching with the NYCDOE, the high–level discussions that Ms. Ferrales’s students have experienced have prepared them for college and to be successful in life. Her students make significant academic gains, including an 86% pass rate last year on the Global History Regents Exam. Kristin also creates a classroom where her students feel valued as individuals and respected as learners. During a particular lesson on historical research, she provided numerous opportunities for all students to be involved and allowed their discussion to move the lesson in different directions. Kristin has demonstrated the need for peer collaboration to be an excellent teacher and acknowledges her colleagues and administrators at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice as reasons for her success. A colleague noted that the emotional and academic support that she gives her students changes their lives forever.

Marietta Timblaco Geraldino

10th and 11th grade Geometry Teacher, Frederick Douglass Academy II (03M860)

How does Lincoln Center Institutes’ Striking Sounds relate to Geometry? Ask Marietta Timblaco Geraldino, a 10th and 11th grade Geometry teacher at Fredrick Douglas Academy II, who designed an entire unit to use this music to teach graphing based on the waves of sounds. Marietta provides students with the opportunity and expectation that they will master content in order to learn about the world around them and develop the confidence necessary to succeed in life. As explained by her principal, “[Marietta] is able to deconstruct the most complex mathematical concepts and make them palpable to even the most resistant students.” Additionally, during her 24 years of teaching, nine within the NYCDOE, she has constantly searched for ways to grow as an educator and seeks out professional development opportunities to improve her practice.

Stephen Jackson

7th and 8th grade Science, P.S./ M.S. 278 Paula Hedbavny School (06M278)

Prior to coming to New York City public schools nine years ago, Stephen Jackson was a teacher in Jamaica. In his current role, Stephen has created a middle school science classroom in the Washington Heights/Inwood neighborhood where students feel empowered to explore scientific concepts through a variety of creative outlets—T–charts, oral arguments, and audio presentations through digital “avatars,” just to name a few. And his students are excelling as a result: after his first year at P.S./M.S. 278, there was a 21% increase in eighth grade students scoring a level four on the science exam. Along with a meticulous dedication to data (he is the Data Specialist at the school), Stephen also knows what it takes to get his students smiling and engaged, by playing music, throwing in a joke, or even physically spinning around in class to demonstrate a scientific concept. As a former colleague notes, Stephen “has consistently inspired students to achieve their best even when the odds dictate otherwise.”

Deborah Laster

Special Education Teacher for students ages 14–21, P.S.176X (75X176)

“Long before laws protecting students’ rights to an education in the least restrictive environment were enforced, Ms. Deborah Laster was at work improving the lives of students with special needs and their families” says Deborah Laster’s Principal Rima Ritholtz. Born and raised in the Bronx, Deborah is a proud alumna of New York City public schools. During her 24 years of experience teaching the children of NYC she has proven to be a model educator. Deborah sets the standard at her school through her assessments, lesson planning, and implementing rigorous instructional activities. She is an active member of the P.S. 176X community and has served in many diverse capacities including directing her school’s student chorus and creating curriculum maps as a former member of the School Leadership Team. Ms. Laster has also designed four enterprises, including “It’s a Wrap,” a school business program that prepares personalized candy bars in a step–assembly method and allows for students to apply their Common Core Learning Standard skills to work tasks in order to become productive members of the community.

Kimberly McCorkell

4th and 5th grade Math, P.S. 222 Katherine R. Snyder (22K222)

Kimberly knew from a young age she wanted to be a teacher. As a struggling student herself, she felt the difference that teachers made in her own confidence and ability to excel. She now instills that same confidence and skills in her students every day. Kimberly always gives her 4th and 5th grade math students the hardest problems first so they can learn not only the math behind the problem, but also so they can build the confidence to solve anything put in front of them. She tracks her students closely and measures their day–to–day gains in Common Core–aligned math work. Every one of her students scored a 4 on the 2012 state exam. In addition to her academic success with her students, she measures her own success based on the emotional and social growth of her students over the course of the year.

Melissa Salguero

General Music Teacher, P.S. 48 Joseph R. Drake (08X048)
Big Apple Arts Award Recipient

The sound coming from down the hall is the impromptu concert practice for an upcoming student orchestra performance. As a first year teacher, Melissa Salguero has given the students of P.S. 48 something they have not had in more than 50 years—the gift of music. She has built the music program from the ground up. Out of 500 entries into the Glee Give a Note Contest, she and her students won the $50,000 grand prize. With these funds, P.S. 48 was able to purchase all of its music essentials. She has also built a relationship with The Hunts Point Alliance for Children to create a group called SongCorps, which is designed to reach out to at–risk 4th grade boys through music. Through music, Melissa teaches life skills such as teamwork, humility, leadership and respect. Her mission is to make students into lifelong music lovers so that they become community members who appreciate music and support the arts.

The Big Apple Arts Award is made possible by generous funding from Lincoln Center.