New York’s Teacher of the Year honored for mentoring, inspiring young teachers

Image courtesy of the New York State United Teachers

The September Meeting of the New York State Board of Regents got started with a jolt of enthusiasm — the announcement of the 2021 Teacher of the Year and the awarding of the Marge A. Tierney Memorial Scholarship.

The New York State Teacher of the Year award went to Jennifer Wolfe, a National Board-Certified Teacher of social studies at Oceanside High School on Long Island. This award comes in conjunction with two others — the Thomas Sobol Award and the David Johnson Award, both of which were created as annual gifts for the winner of the Teacher of the Year award.

In the past, Wolfe has also been awarded three Fulbright Scholarships and the New York State Social Studies Teacher of the Year award.

Wolfe’s students, colleagues and supervisors say she is passionate about teaching and proud of her profession. Her students say they always feel validated and encouraged in her classroom while her colleagues all admire her tenacity and dedication to the teaching profession.

“Jen is an extraordinary educator who demonstrates a boundless amount of passion for the work of ‘teaching and learning’ each and every day,” says Phyllis S. Harrington, superintendent of the Oceanside Union Free School District.

Interim State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa said, “Jennifer Wolfe is a stellar example of devotion to teaching and learning in a way that elevates everyone around her.”

Wolfe currently teaches 9th grade pre-advanced placement world history and advanced placement human geography. She is also the director of the Long Island National Board Network, providing leadership and support to teachers working toward the profession’s highest certification.

Wolfe co-created the Long Island Teacher Leadership Powered by Teach to Lead Conference, bringing together educators to work with national, state and local leaders on special projects for their districts. From 2015-2018, Wolfe worked as Oceanside’s Improvement Lead on the $95,000 Network to Transform Teaching Grant, awarded to her district from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

One of the grant projects was the subject of an article she co-wrote for Learning Forward titled Bridging Silos: Novices Partner with Veteran Teachers on the Path to Board Certification, published in August 2016.

“Jen’s selflessness is immeasurable,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango. Her passion for supporting young teachers and ensuring their success is an inspiration. And, she is a testament to the excellence that is synonymous with the teaching profession in New York State.”

In the coming year, Ms. Wolfe will serve as an ambassador for teachers throughout the state and will be the New York State nominee for the National Teacher of the Year.

During her acceptance remarks, Wolfe voiced her hope that this new era of remote instruction will spur an educational transformation in which students and educators will carry on practicing the most valuable lessons learned during the pandemic moving forward.

Also during her speech, Wolfe advocated for the creation of expert teacher leadership positions, where teachers are given official, funded positions that allow them direct input and influence over the policy making of their districts so that they can help “right the ship.” She concluded with the heartfelt words: “I look forward to championing the profession that I love.”

Video Courtesy of the New York State United Teachers

Four other teachers were also recognized as runners-up for the Teacher of the Year award.

Sara Bambino, an English teacher at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, North Syracuse Central School District, is broadening the scope of education with her elective courses on team building and emotional intelligence and has been awarded six classroom grants.

James Brown, a science teacher from the Sand Creek Middle School, South Colonie Central School District was awarded both the Distinguished Science Teaching Award and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science. He teaches renewable energy, robotics, and programing to fifth and sixth graders.

Chelsea Dyer, an English teacher at Columbia High School, East Greenbush Central School District, works with the Capital District Writing Project and promotes student engagement with their communities through volunteer work and sports.

Victoria Gentile, a Special Education teacher at Fort Salonga Elementary School, Kings Park Central School District, is both a certified special education teacher and a licensed behavioral analyst. Most recently, she forged a relationship with a local organization that allowed her to bring therapy dogs into the classroom.

The Marge A. Tierney Memorial Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship awarded annually to a highly distinguished graduate student studying vocational rehabilitation. This year, CUNY Hunter student Nia Williams was awarded the prestige of this scholarship. Nia Williams hails from the Bronx, and plans to get a Ph.D in clinical rehabilitation counseling.