Chancellor Porter Announces 2021 Big Apple Award Winners

  • Posted: Wed Jun 16, 2021 Updated: Fri Jun 18, 2021

NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter today announced the winners of the ninth annual Big Apple Awards, honoring 20 exemplary New York City public school teachers. The Big Apple Awards are a citywide recognition program open to all full-time teachers in New York City public schools. This year’s 20 recipients were selected from 11,328 nominations.

The 20 award recipients include ten classroom teachers, two special education teachers, and two English as a New Language (ENL) or Bilingual Education teachers This year’s awards include recipients of four Arts Education Awards – Dance, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts, a Physical Education Award, and a Pre-K Education Award. All 20 recipients were surprised by Chancellor Porter or other DOE senior leaders with in-person or virtual celebrations in June to honor the work they did this school year.

“I am so proud to call the teachers of New York City my colleagues. They met the challenges of this pandemic with creativity, perseverance, and humanity – serving our young people remotely and in-person,” said Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter. “This year’s Big Apple Award winners represent everything great about our educators and the incredible diversity of experience and backgrounds they bring to our schools. I look forward to working with them on the Chancellor’s Teacher Advisory Council over the next year.”

The Big Apple Awards is the culmination of a rigorous selection process that includes community nominations, principal recommendations, classroom visits, an interview, and a review by a board of judges. During the 2020-21 school year, the DOE received 11,328 nominations, representing all of the city’s communities. 75 percent of nominations came from students and families. Each year, award recipients are selected based on their ability to demonstrate exceptional success in three key competency areas aligned with the Framework for Great Schools: impacting student learning, demonstrating strong instructional practice, and contributing to their school community.

A board of judges – comprised of former Big Apple Award winners, DOE officials and representatives from the United Federation of Teachers and the Fund for Public Schools – selected 20 award recipients, with New York Road Runners supporting the selection of the Physical Education teacher and Lincoln Center, the Arthur Miller Foundation, the Arnhold Foundation, and Studio in a School NYC supporting the selection of the four Arts Award recipients.

The Big Apple Awards are made possible in part by private support through the Fund for Public Schools - the DOE’s non-profit fundraising partner - who facilitates sponsored awards and ensures all recipients receive a classroom grant. The Fund has partnered for a ninth year with Lincoln Center to sponsor the Arts Music Education Award. As part of its role as an artistic and civic cornerstone for New York City, Lincoln Center also works with the DOE on its Middle School Arts Audition Boot Camp program. For the fifth year, the Physical Education Award is made possible with funding from New York Road Runners, a DOE partner that provides fitness and wellness programs to over 125,000 children across the City.

“The Fund for Public Schools is proud to play a role in recognizing the extraordinary hard work and brilliance of our City’s educators. Along with the generous support of our private donors, we’re excited to sponsor the awards and provide a classroom grant to help Big Apple Award recipients deepen their impact on students and their entire school community,” said Julie L. Shapiro, Chief Executive Officer of the Fund for Public Schools.

“Each year, New York Road Runners celebrates New York City’s greatest teachers through the Big Apple Awards. This year more than ever we’re excited to shine the light on physical educators and the positive impact they've had on the physical and mental health of our city's kids,” said Jane Benson, vice president of youth and community programs at NYRR. “PE teachers like Sasha Roopchand, who focus relentlessly on their students' well-being, embody Rising New York Road Runners' commitment to the health and happiness of youth. Ms. Roopchand's recognition is well-deserved."

“We know the value of arts in the lives of young people is immense—helping prepare them for success in a rapidly changing world in which innovation, collaboration, imagination, and empathy are key to vibrant communities,” said Jean Taylor, Assistant Director of Education at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “We congratulate music educator Jennifer Schecter on her deep commitment and creativity, particularly over this past challenging year. We’re proud to join with the NYC Department of Education to honor her with this Award, and to invite Jennifer and her students to collaborate on a number of projects in the coming year.”

For the first year, the DOE and The Fund have partnered with the Arnhold Foundation to sponsor the Dance Education Award, the Arthur Miller Foundation to sponsor the Theater Education Award, and Studio in a School to sponsor the Visual Arts Education Award.

“The Arthur Miller Foundation is honored to sponsor the first Big Apple Theater Education Award. We are delighted that the award recipient is Ms. Hagan Blades, an esteemed Arthur Miller Foundation Alumni Fellow, whose values directly align with those of the Foundation. Ms. Blades believes in the power of theater to reach all students, providing them with a safe space to imagine, play, explore, create and collaborate. We thank Ms. Blades for her unwavering commitment to her students' social-emotional learning and development, as well as being a theater education advocate and change-maker within the New York City arts education community,” said Jaime Hastings, Executive Director of the Arthur Miller Foundation.

“Congratulations to this year’s Big Apple Awards winners! The Arnhold Foundation is proud to support the Big Apple Dance Education Award. This year’s recipient, Kim Wojcieszek, represents the best dance educators teaching in our schools. Kim is a dance education hero who is helping to fulfill the goal, Dance for Every Child in Every School. Congratulations, Kim!” said Jody Gottfried Arnhold | Arnhold Foundation, retired public school dance educator, and Founder, Dance Education Laboratory (DEL).

“Studio in a School is proud to sponsor the first Big Apple Visual Arts Education Award. We have been supporting children’s creative growth side by side with teachers in New York City public schools for four decades, sharing and building knowledge for a better future,” said Alison Scott-Williams, President of the Studio in a School NYC. “The Studio in a School Big Apple Visual Arts Education Award is truly special—it is presented to an exemplary, passionate art teacher in memory of another passionate and dedicated teacher, Alexandra Mattingly Reiss, who took great joy supporting young children.  It is our honor to recognize excellence in teaching.”

Next school year, the 20 recipients will serve as Big Apple Fellows, and will have the opportunity to meet monthly with one another, becoming leaders and ambassadors for their profession. Winners will also be invited to serve on the Chancellor's Teacher Advisory Council, which meets bi-monthly and contributes to policy decisions across the DOE.

This year’s Big Apple Award recipients come from all five boroughs and teach a range of subjects and grade levels. The recipients are below, and full winner bios can be found online.

Ivelisse Ramos Brannon (English Language Arts & AP Language and Composition, Central Park East High School, Manhattan)

Jonathan Schulman (4th Grade Civics and Sustainability/English Language Arts and Debate, P.S. 110 - The Monitor School, Brooklyn)

Melisande Bolano (Elementary Dual Language, P.S. 76Q William Hallet School, Queens)

Virginia Ford (Special Education, Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science, Bronx)

Sasha Roopchand (Physical Education & Health Education, The Brooklyn Green School, Brooklyn)

Azucena Quintuna (Elementary ENL/Bilingual Education Teacher, P.S. 108 Sal Abbracciamento, Brooklyn)

Krystal Chong (8th Grade Mathematics & Algebra I, Madiba Prep Middle School, Brooklyn)

Catherine Blades (Theater, J.H.S. 383 Philippa Schuyler, Brooklyn)

Jamala Roper (Fifth Grade Literacy, P.S. 179, Bronx)

Kim Wojcieszek (Dance, P.S. 100 The Coney Island School, Brooklyn)

Charan Morris (English Language Arts, Vanguard High School, Manhattan)

Michele Nelson (Early Childhood, Infants and Toddlers, LYFE Program, Telecommunications High School, Brooklyn)

Jennifer Schecter (Instrumental Music, M.S. 158 Marie Curie, Queens)

Alanna O’Donnell (Special Education, P.S. K721 - Brooklyn Occupational Training Center, Brooklyn)

Kristen Fusaro-Pizzo (English Language Arts, Staten Island Technical High School, Staten Island)

Meghan Brady (Elementary School, P.S. 153 Helen Keller, Bronx)

Michael Gentils (Mathematics, P.S. 288 The Shirley Tanyhill, Brooklyn)

Frankelly Fernandez (AP World History and Global Studies, New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science II, Bronx)

Deborah Rich (Visual Arts, P.S. 161 Arthur Ashe School, Queens)

Sonia Hurdle (Mathematics, I.S. 392, Brooklyn)