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Giving Thanks For NYC’s Favorite Teachers

(This is a guest post by Glenn Fuhrman. Glen is a Trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and of the TATE Americas Foundation, and a board member of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.)

My mother and my aunt were both public school teachers, as was my wife’s mother, and I know how hard teachers work and how dramatically they can impact their students’ lives. 

I attended public school from kindergarten through twelfth grade and received a fantastic education. In fact, I would credit many of my teachers for directly helping me become the person I am today. My fifth-grade year, in particular, holds an important place in my memory, and my teacher, Stephen Kriss (Mr. Kriss, as I still prefer to call him), propelled me forward in an especially memorable, powerful way.

He nurtured my interest in science and math and always made the lessons exciting and unique—whether that meant a large group of us at the beach hunting for owl pellets on a weekend field study trip or an optional advanced math problem put up on the blackboard on Fridays for us to grapple with over the weekend. I still remember the excitement I felt returning to school on Monday mornings having solved the problem. And I am still in contact with Mr. Kriss, some forty-plus years later.

It is for teachers like Mr. Kriss, that we created The FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence. The vast majority of Americans rely on public school education. In New York City, teachers face tremendous challenges, including low budgets and large class sizes, and there is a seeming barrage of negative press discussing what is wrong with the public school system today. 

My wife Amanda and I wanted to focus on all of the good things that are happening, and to reward the fabulous teachers who are responsible for them.

To that end, we are looking for teachers who work in the Manhattan public school system who CREATE: 

Challenge and inspire students of all abilities, utilizing innovative teaching techniques and approaches to curricula and activities. 

Respect their students and the surrounding community of parents, peers, and administrators. 

Embrace their role as an educator with tireless, devoted dedication. 

Acknowledge the full spectrum of potential in each and every student. 

Teach through example, as a leader and role model both inside the classroom and out. 

Engage in opportunities for self-improvement and continues to learn, grow, and develop as a teacher.

From the nominees, roughly twenty-five candidates will be selected as semifinalists. Semifinalists will be asked to fill out an additional application, be observed in the classroom, and provide letters of endorsement. The jury composed of Laura Forese (Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, New York Presbyterian Hospital) Wes Moore (CEO of Robin Hood), Betty Rosa (Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents), Alhassan Susso (2019 New York State Teacher of the Year) and Wendy Woon (The Edward John Noble Foundation Deputy Director for Education at the Museum of Modern Art), will then select five finalists, and, ultimately, one grand-prize winner.

But the FLAG award is designed to go well beyond those four semifinalists and the winner, who will receive a $100,000 no restrictions cash prize, and a $20,000 grant awarded to the winning teacher’s school to be used for an arts-based initiative. Each finalist’s school will also receive $2,000 to be used for arts-based initiatives.

It is meant to celebrate excellent teachers everywhere and allow every student, every parent, and every principal to take some time to think about who in their school has done something extraordinary. It is meant to create excitement and positive energy toward all the fantastic teachers out there. It is for every child who is contemplating becoming a teacher when he or she grows up. 

We hope it is something that will draw national attention to the positive, creative ways in which teachers are enriching the lives of their students in classrooms across the country.

To find out more, or to nominate a fantastic teacher in your life visit flagaward.org

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