Five New York City public school teachers won a combined $175,000 for themselves and their schools last week.
One teacher from each of the five boroughs won a grand prize in the FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence, which seeks to honor exceptional public school teachers.
Winners included Dana Monteiro, a music educator at Frederick Douglass Academy in Manhattan and the founder of Harlem Samba; Patricia Lockhart, the science teacher at Hubert H. Humphrey elementary school/PS 57 on Staten Island; Andrew Chiappetta, a second grade special education teacher at The Brooklyn New School/PS 146; Cheryl Rizzo, a middle school English Language Arts teacher at The Lindenwood School/PS 232 in Queens; and Penelope Smetters-Jacono, the founding band director at Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music in the Bronx.
Each teacher will get a cash prize of $25,000 and their schools will get $10,000. The winners were selected from 1,000 nominations cast from students, principals, fellow teachers and parents. An independent group of judges made up of education and philanthropic leaders help determine the competition winners.
Judges included Dr. Betty A. Rosa, commissioner of education and president of the University of the State of New York; Dr. Lou Lahana, 2020 FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence winner; Max Kenner, founder and executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI); Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, chancellor of the City University of New York; and Nicola Vassell, founder of Nicola Vassell Gallery.
“Anyone who’s ever met a public school teacher knows that they are always putting their students first, and this year’s winners proved that point and so much more. All of the teachers we’ve learned about through this process have shown that nothing—not even a global pandemic that took so much from so many—could stop them from innovating and creating spaces where students could learn, share, grow, and thrive,” said Glenn Fuhrman, co-founder of The FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence.
Out of the 1,000 nominations, judges chose 35 semifinalists who had to complete an application, take part in an interview and have their principal interviewed.
“Teachers, students, administrators, and families are completing a school year unlike anything we have ever experienced before, and it is important that we take the time to honor what has been accomplished. I am thrilled at this opportunity to recognize and celebrate our inspirational teachers,” said Dr. Betty A. Rosa.