2016 Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award Winners

2016 Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award Winners

Capital Region


Frank Adamo, Niskayuna Central School District
Frank is a product of the NYS Department of Education from kindergarten through graduate school. He has spent almost his entire career working with middle school students to develop reading, writing, and thinking skills that will serve them across disciplines and grade levels. Frank is extremely interested in the project-based and standards-based learning models, especially as these ideas are enhanced by technology and game theory. First, last and always, Frank is blessed to have the opportunity to work with amazing teachers, families, and students.


Daniel Anderson, Queensbury Union Free School District
Daniel Anderson earned his BS in Mathematics and Computer Science and Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education from Union College. In the classroom for twelve years, Mr. Anderson teaches mathematics and computer programming at Queensbury High School. A strong advocate for the appropriate integration of technology into classroom teaching, his students often use instructional technology tools to work together.


Theresa Bradway, Watervliet City School District
Theresa Bradway is the Fine Arts Chairperson at Watervliet Jr.-Sr. High School. She is also the director of several ensembles; middle school concert band, high school concert band, marching band and jazz ensemble. One of the most unique groups that she directs is an after school barbershop harmony ensemble. Theresa has been teaching in the Watervliet school district for the past 31 years and has enjoyed her work with the music program, the mentor program and many district wide committees.


Willard Hardin III, Granville Central School District
Willard Hardin III is in his 14th year teaching Mathematics and has taught at all levels from 7th grade through Calculus. He currently teaches Algebra 2, Pre-calculus, and Calculus. Additionally, Willard is an Instructional Leader, New Teacher Mentor, National Honor Society adviser, Math Club adviser, and lifelong learner at the Granville Jr/Sr High School. He is an avid technology user promoting the importance of technology to inspire, motivate, engage, and assess student learning. Recently Willard completed the Teacher Leadership Certificate Program through SUNY Plattsburgh which has provided him tools and perspective towards the effectiveness of a leader in sharing his talents and skills with other teachers. Willard regularly facilitates professional learning opportunities; including presentations at AMTNYS and HMVAMC Math Conferences. One of his proudest accomplishments was achieving National Board Certification. Through deep reflection on student learning, the certification process and portfolio was the single most significant factor of growth in Willard’s effectiveness as an educator.


Kathryn Peterson, North Colonie Central School District
Kathryn is an 8th grade social studies teacher at Shaker Junior High School and teaches the second half of American History. She is currently volunteering her time to help advise a student group to do work at the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt historic site in Hyde Park. She is also an avid dog lover and has trained her yellow lab to be a therapy dog, so she can visit schools, airports, nursing homes and hospitals. She enjoys animals, going to historic sites, reading and sharing her knowledge with others.


Bernadette Wehr, Ballston Spa Central School District
Bernadette Wehr, originally from Singhofen, Germany, holds a B.A. in English Literature from Elmira College and an M.S. in Elementary and Secondary Special Education from Bank Street College of Education. In 2003, after having taught in Guatemala, Central America, and New York City, Ms. Wehr began working as a special education teacher at Ballston Spa High School. Since then she has developed curricula for and taught in a variety of classroom models. She is actively involved in supporting Ballston Spa’s at-risk students and has implemented a schoolwide mentoring program. When not at work, Ms. Wehr enjoys reading, hiking and traveling.

Central New York


Daniel Bondgren, Jordan-Elbridge Central School District
Daniel has been teaching science in rural Upstate New York for over two decades- all at the same school. His wife teaches in the same building and both of their boys have attended the district since kindergarten. The two have given their lives to the community in which they live and work and Daniel can't think of anything that he would rather do. He would like to think that he has as much of an impact on his students as they do on him and can only hope to improve as he continues down this road.


Michael Ferris, East Syracuse-Minoa Central School District
Michael is a Career and Technical Education educator that specializes in Communication and Media Studies. His program offers a range of classes and puts out a 10-minute news show every day. He also coaches several sports. Long ago, Michael was part of a pilot program at SUNY Cortland called, “Teacher's for the 21st Century”; and spent 6 years teaching elementary school.


Prin Furst, Auburn Enlarged City School District
Prin took the non-conventional route to teaching. She worked many jobs before her education in teaching even began. She worked as a laboratory technician at a veterinarian office until she had children. When her kids were old enough to go to school, she began working as a substitute teacher to be able to more easily balance her home and work life. Working as a substitute teacher is what made Prin decide to begin her formal career in education. Students continually asked, “Why can’t you be our real teacher?” Prin had to tell them she was not certified. Their answer to her was, “So? Get certified.” After a short period of time, Prin realized they were right and decided to go to back to college and get her teaching certification and pursue her dream to be a full time teacher. She was able to become triple certified to teach biology, chemistry and general science in a year. In the past twelve years, she has been able to make a difference in students’ lives. Prin has continued her own education to be current with best teaching practices to be the best teacher she can be for her "kids".


Stephanie Hughes, Morrisville-Eaton Central School District
Stephanie’s third grade students at E.R. Andrews Elementary School inspire and amaze her every day. Through collaboration and cooperation, they have created an exciting and effective learning environment. Outside of school, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her fiancé, Jon, and her sons, Tyler and Colin. Teaching and learning are Stephanie’s passions and she is so fortunate to work with talented colleagues and students.


Jessica Keane, North Syracuse Central School District
Jessica has taught all secondary levels of French for eight years – she is currently in her third year with the North Syracuse Central School District and previously taught five years within the South Jefferson Central School District, both located in upstate New York. Jessica graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in French from SUNY Geneseo in 2007 and a Masters of Arts in Romance Languages from SUNY Stony Brook in 2009. She studied abroad for a semester during college at the University of Montpellier, France and again for six weeks at the Université de la Sorbonne in Paris, France after her first year of teaching. She also participated in the Summer Institute for Teachers of French in Montréal, Canada (2016) through SUNY Plattsburgh and the University of Maine, as well as the Summer Teacher Institute at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (2012). Throughout her teaching career, Jessica has been an advisor for French Club in addition to the Multi-Cultural Club and Co-Advisor for the middle school musical.


Kathleen Totman, Homer Central School District
After graduating from Cornell University, Kathleen went on to pursue a Masters in Childhood Education from SUNY Cortland. She then spent ten years teaching third grade at Homer Intermediate School, where she enjoyed helping students utilize technology throughout the school day. She has hosted numerous college practicum students and student teachers over the years as well. Kathleen is currently working towards a Masters in School Librarianship through SUNY Buffalo.

Finger Lakes


Adel Bouallagui, Rochester City School District
Adel Bouallagui is an ESOL teacher. He has been an educator for the past twelve years, where he served in multiple capacities. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism & Mass Communication. He holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from SUNY Empire State College and a Master of Arts in Media & Arts from Long Island University. Adel is a devoted teacher who strongly believes that all students can learn and succeed. His instructional practices and decisions stem from his firm belief that every student deserves a world-class education that meets his/her individual learning needs regardless of his/her ethnic, socioeconomic background or any individual difference that he/she may have. He uses interdisciplinary approaches and inquiry-based teaching methods that aim to expand students’ knowledge, enhance their academic skills, and enable them to become college and career ready. His passion for teaching emerged from his personal experience as a second language learner. Adel is currently pursuing a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Educational Leadership to expand his knowledge in instructional leadership and become an effective leader in the field of education. His areas of interest include, but are not limited to, educational policies, culturally responsive teaching, curriculum and instruction, literacy & culture, multiculturalism, pedagogies for English learners, foreign language teacher preparation programs, and issues of equity in education.


Michelle Ebert, Greece Central School District
Teaching positions were not available after Michelle graduated from Alfred State College with an AAS degree (1988) and from SUNY Plattsburgh with a BA degree in Geology (1990). After many years of success in sales, her desire to teach had not diminished, so Michelle applied and was accepted in The College at Brockport’s special MSED program evenings while continuing to work full-time. In 2001, she earned a Masters of Education Degree, certified to teach in Earth Science, her favorite subject and her strength. Michelle began teaching in December 1999 and then worked to become a National Board Certified Teacher (2007). That certification is being renewed this year. She is now a candidate support provider and has been an evaluator for this certification as well. She also has worked with the NYS Education Department for many years as well as with the private sector to help contribute to the validity and fairness of exams for students and teachers.


Jessica Flanders, Rochester City School District
Jessica has been a devoted teacher in the Rochester City School District since 2009. The successes she has experienced as a teacher are due to the strong relationships developed with her students, using the backwards design to plan instruction, differentiating her instruction based on student need and creating lessons that engage her students. Jessica’s students are engaged in learning because it is meaningful, relevant and rigorous.


Joseph Gallina, Spencerport Central School District
Joseph graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2002 with a Bachelors in Technology Education and has been employed by the Spencerport Central School District ever since. He has had the pleasure of instructing eight different courses in his department ranging from industrial arts to PLTW pre-engineering courses. The one thing Joseph has learned through his experience, no matter what the new educational trend is, it comes down to relationships. He tells his students at the beginning of every year, "It’s about the journey; the destination will take care of itself"; "Believe in yourself and Dream Big!”


Deborah Ingerick, Spencerport Central School District
Deborah believes it is the teacher’s responsibility to stimulate and tap the hidden imaginative and creative modes of expression in a child. She became a teacher for this reason. Throughout the past twenty years, Deborah has been fortunate to participate in sharing her passion about learning and creating with her students and peers. She has also been blessed with two children of her own. One of Deborah’s fondest memories was watching her daughter and son win the top Art awards in their high school. She admits watching her students succeed takes a close second. To be a teacher is to be fulfilled.


James (Jamie) Porta, Brighton Central School District
Jamie earned his BS in chemistry from SUNY Geneseo, MSEd from the University of Buffalo, and National Board Certification in science. He has been in the classroom for 18 amazing years, the last 17 at Brighton High School, teaching chemistry and physics. In addition to his classroom responsibilities, Jamie advises the Mountain Bound Course and the Outdoor Club. These two programs focus on team building and leadership by taking students to the Adirondacks, Colorado, and Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. Jamie also co-founded and advises the Brighton Science Research Club, which focuses on helping students to do more STEM activities outside the classroom and connects students interested in a science degree with local colleges. A NYS Master Teacher since 2013, Jamie enjoys collaborating with other Master Teachers in the Finger Lakes region to make his classes even more rewarding for students.

Hudson Valley


Nancy Fabrizio, Valley Central School District
Nancy has worked as a chemist for research and development for computer technologies for five years. She is presently an educator. Nancy has taught at the college level and now has taught middle school science for the past seventeen years. Her best experience with professional development so far has been gaining her National Board Certification. Nancy lives with her husband and two children in the Mid-Hudson region of New York.


Kira Lamarre Herbert, Croton-Harmon Union Free School District
Kira began teaching in 1991. Since that time, her career has allowed her to work in several school districts, including Monroe-Woodbury, Cornwall and Croton-Harmon, where she presently teaches fifth grade. Kira earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from SUNY Geneseo. She completed her M.Ed at Ohio University through an exchange with Sheffield Polytechnic in Sheffield, England. Kira furthered her professional development at both Bank Street College and Columbia Teacher's College. She has completed an advanced degree (CAS) in educational administration at SUNY New Paltz. She has worked as an educational consultant, curriculum coordinator and been a teacher presenter at a conference on integrating arts in the curriculum. Kira is also an adjunct professor at PACE University's School of Education.


Danielle Michielini, Brewster Central School District
Danielle Michielini is an artist, maker, and teacher currently living in Claverack, New York. She has been working as an art teacher since 2008 after completing her Bachelors of Fine Arts and her Master’s of Arts and Teaching from Manhattanville College. She is a teacher at C.V. Starr Intermediate School in Brewster where she hopes to continue to inspire and instill a love of art in her 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students. Her students' enthusiasm and eagerness to learn keep her approaches to education exciting and fresh where she is constantly inventing new ways to challenge and push them forward.


Cynthia Sandler, North Salem Central School District
Cynthia Sandler is the Library Media Specialist at North Salem Middle/High School in North Salem, NY. An educational technology integrator, Cynthia is involved in clubs and projects including project-based learning, video broadcasting, coding, robotics, Ted-Ed, global collaboration, and libraries as beacons for innovation. She is passionate about rethinking and redesigning the classroom to engage students and make learning fun. Cynthia is a Google Certified Innovator, a Google Geo Teacher Institute member, a Flat Connections Certified Teacher, and received Honorable Mention for the ISTE SIGMS - Media Specialist Technology Innovation Award. Cynthia is a frequent speaker locally and regionally and this summer presented at ISTE in Denver, CO.


Dorothy Venditto, Bedford Central School District
As an elementary teacher, Dorothy has had the opportunity to teach multiple grade levels and gain a deep understanding of children's growth over time. She is currently teaching many classes for a schoolwide enrichment program. The program encourages rigorous reading and hands-on learning in the areas of math, science, art and technology. Dorothy lives in Westchester County and has two daughters who are also teaching in New York State.


William Yager Jr., Millbrook Central School District
William A. Yager Jr. has been an educator in the Millbrook Central School District for 29 years. He currently teaches 6th grade science and STEM in the middle school, PLTW Principles of Engineering to high school sophomores, and coaches a middle school robotics team. William also taught 19 years as a 5th grade educator in an upper elementary setting. His unique style includes considerable interdisciplinary project based / “hands on” experiential learning. Mr. Yager has also been recognized by the Mid-Hudson School Study of Excellence in Teaching in 2011, SUNY New Paltz Dean’s Award for Instructional Leadership and Teaching Excellence in 2011, NYS Teacher of the Year Finalist in 2001, NYS Academy of Teaching and Learning for SS and MST in 2000 & 1999 and an Educator of Excellence by the NYS English Council in 1997.

Long Island


Kristen Drury, William Floyd Union Free School District
Kristen teaches AP, Honors, and Regents Chemistry, as well as Forensic Science at William Floyd High School, on Long Island. She is a strong proponent of the blended learning environment. Kristen creates her own flipped videos and tracks students’ learning using EDPuzzle. Her classroom is inquiry driven, using inquiry labs and POGIL activities. Chemistry education is Kristen’s passion and she believes that radiates through her classroom and hopefully inspires her students. Additionally, Kristen loves working with other dedicated and enthusiastic teachers.


Jason Manning, Oceanside Union Free School District
Jason Manning is a National Board Certified teacher who has been teaching in the Oceanside School District for the last thirteen years. Mr. Manning has taught American History, Government, Economics, Global History, and has been a pioneer on Long Island in the teaching of the new Big History Course. As the lead teacher for The Big History Project, Jason works with teachers around the country helping them construct interdisciplinary lessons to meet the students’ needs. For his work with Big History with ELA in Oceanside, Jason was presented the Collaborator of Excellence Award by the New York State English Council.


Pamela O’Brien, Three Village Central School District
Pam has been a mathematics teacher for over 28 years. For the past 2 years, she has been honored to be a member of the New York State Master Teachers Program. Additionally, she has enjoyed her association with the College Board where she has had the role of AP Reader for the AP Statistics exam. Pam’s career goal has been to create a classroom environment where students are engaged in meaningful activities, discovering new concepts, and able to see how the mathematics they are learning can be applied to their lives.


Stephanie O’Brien, Commack School District
Stephanie O'Brien is a New York State Master Teacher in chemistry. She has taught the subject at nearly every level (inclusion, regents, honors, IB) and is a strong advocate of flipped learning to allow for more hands-on science in the classroom. A strong advocate for inquiry based learning; she involves her students in collaborative activities that allow for self-exploration of the content and the development of higher level literacy skills. She obtained her B.S. and MAT in Chemistry from Stony Brook University and is currently pursuing her doctorate in science education. Her professional interests focus on Pre-Service and in-Service development of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) in the field of chemistry.


Leslie Rubenstein, Carle Place Union Free School District
Leslie has been a secondary social studies teacher for 26 years, first in New York City and now in Nassau County. Throughout her career, she has endeavored to create opportunities for students to engage actively in the study of history, government and economics. From running campaigns for mock-presidential candidates, arguing appellate cases before a moot court, creating virtual road trips across the U.S. and debating and revising a post-WWI peace plan, students in Leslie’s classes are tasked with not just learning "about" history but with applying what they have learned in authentic ways.


Marianne Schoepflin, Smithtown Central School District
Marianne has been a mathematics teacher at Smithtown High School East for 10 years. Previously, she worked for the Northrop Grumman Corporation as a Radar Engineer and Senior Systems Analyst. Marianne is currently a member of the New York State Master Teacher Program. She also teaches engineering and math classes for middle school and high school students at Stony Brook University as part of their Institute for STEM Education. Marianne has done in-depth professional development in Social and Emotional Learning and firmly believes in bringing this practice into her classroom. She is currently pursuing the use of biofeedback in math education.

Mohawk Valley


Benjamin Atwood, Utica City School District
Ben Atwood was appointed as the Assistant Director for Young Scholars LPP in July 2016. He joined the program in Fall 2010 as the Site Assistant as JFK, and had been serving as the Site Supervisor at Proctor High School from Fall 2012 to June 2016. In 2015-16, a program-record thirty five YS graduates attained a NYS Advanced Regents Diploma, and the program attained a 100% graduation rate for the second time in program history. As Assistant Director, Ben supervises, designs, and coordinates programming and services for a cohort of 350 Utica City School District students. He works alongside the staff within each YS site to ensure a first-rate educational experience for students. Ben completed both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Utica College. He won an Excellence in Professional Service Award from Utica College in May 2016 and a Utica Rotary Pride in Workmanship Award in October 2016. He is a member of the Utica College Alumni Council and coaches kickers and punters part-time at Utica College. "We Grow Big Dreams in Young Scholars LPP by empowering students with an educational experience focused on college placement, high levels of academic achievement, community service, social and emotional well-being, and programmatic engagement. I am proud of the incredible achievements our students have accomplished in the 7 years I have worked for YSLPP, and I am excited for our achievements that lie ahead."


Mollie Burgett, Middleburgh Central School District
Mollie has always had an interest in the natural world around her, and so in college she studied botany. It was there, however, that Mollie stumbled upon the teaching profession after following her mother's advice to try out an education course. Having grown up in Schoharie County, NY, she eventually returned to her alma mater and has since then spent ten years instructing Living Environment and AP Environmental Science. Recently, Mollie’s teaching has been shaped by experiences gained through workshops and interactions with local organizations focusing on water quality in particular. The many contacts she has made through these events have resulted in real world experiences for her students and have unearthed a passion for studying aquatic ecosystems.


William Chapman, West Canada Valley Central School District
William has been a teacher for the last 25 years in both private and public schools. His masters is in inclusive education. William believes that students with educational difficulties and disabilities, more than any other group, need a better educational pathway than is now available. He likes to make mainstream education as enjoyable as possible for all students. He feels being a science teacher makes this goal easy to meet. When not teaching, William enjoys hunting, fishing, firewalking, writing nature books, nature photography, astronomy, travel and politics. All these can be incorporated into the classroom, except of course firewalking. As for politics, William is running for governor on a platform for democratic educational and economic reform.


Tiffany Piatkowski, OHM BOCES, P-TECH
Tiffany Piatkowski is the STEM Integration Specialist and Lead Instructor for P-TECH OHM at Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES. She holds a Permanent New York State Teaching Certification in Technology Education. Additionally, she is certified to teach the following Project Lead the Way courses: Introduction to Engineering Design, Digital Electronics, and Engineering Design and Development. Tiffany has over a dozen years’ experience teaching STEM principles and concepts through project based learning.


Anita Stabrowski, Broadalbin-Perth Central School District
Anita is a National Board Certified middle school science teacher, as well as, a member of the Mohawk Valley Master Teacher Cohort. She has always loved science and the best part of her school year is learning from her students’ inquiry projects. For Anita, being part of a child's education is incredibly rewarding because she can impact the future.


Diane Stevenson, Rome City School District
Diane is an ENL teacher at Rome City School District. She currently teaches grades 9-12, acts as the Teacher Coordinator for the ENL department, and coaches track. Diane’s certification areas are in French and TESOL, but the majority of her career has been in TESOL. Diane’s focus is on improving her teaching and her ability to relate to students through personal and professional development, as well as setting high expectations for herself and her students. Failure should not be viewed as the end, but instead, the beginning of learning.

New York City


Jamie Cacciola-Price, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts
Jamie Cacciola-Price teaches advanced acting, musical theatre, playwriting and theatre history at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, NY. Jamie received his BA in Theatre from CSU Sacramento, his MA in Educational Theatre and English from NYU Steinhardt, and is currently working towards his EdD, also at NYU. While working towards his doctorate he aims to strengthen his pedagogy and craft by identifying the best practices for creating work with young people of varied learning needs in the classroom and on stage. In addition to teaching, Jamie directs several productions each year at FSSA. Some of his most recent directing projects include: The Music Man, Clybourne Park, Aida, RENT, Little Shop of Horrors, Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Comedy of Errors, Blood Wedding, Paganini, and Scapin. His production of “The Trojan Woman” was selected as a participant for the Shubert Festival in 2015, and his students were able to perform excerpts of the play on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre.


Andrea Chaves, The Young Women’s Leadership School
Andrea Chaves serves as a teacher and creative director at the Young Women’s Leadership School in Astoria, NY. She has revolutionized the student experience in TYWLS by transforming all her classrooms into digitalized, creative student-centered learning zones. Due to the overwhelming need for Andrea’s expertise, she recruited a group of student leaders known as the “Tech Crew” whom she expertly trained in using and implementing technologies. Andrea’s Tech Crew is composed of an array of departments that include young women experts in multiple fields: filmmakers, graphic designers, coders, website designers, information representatives, and project managers. Under Andrea’s guidance, these young women collaborate to create innovative projects to inspire other young women to take interest in the male dominated fields of STEM.


Jonelle Hinchcliffe, Westchester Square Academy
Jonelle is a proud Geometry teacher at Westchester Square Academy in the Bronx. Her class is a flipped classroom where students watch her videos and take notes for homework and have more time to practice in class. This model has proven to be highly effective; her students love it and have a 96% passing rate. Jonelle has the pleasure of mentoring new teachers and acting as a model teacher, where her class is a lab classroom for anyone who cares to visit. She has been teaching 13 years and LOVES it. Prior to teaching, Jonelle spent 9 years in advertising.


Patrick Honner, Brooklyn Technical High School
Patrick teaches mathematics and computer science at Brooklyn Technical High School in Brooklyn, New York, where he also serves as the instructional coach for his school’s 40-person mathematics department. He is a three-time Math for America Master Teacher and is very active in MfA's professional community. Patrick is also a proud recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). He is a frequent speaker and presenter on mathematics, teaching, and technology at local, national, and international conferences. He also writes about mathematics and teaching, and his work appears in the New York Times, professional publications and journals, and on his website, MrHonner.com, where he also shares his mathematical photography.


Kristine (Kristi) Mraz, P.S. 59, The Beekman Hill International School
Kristi is a kindergarten teacher in the New York City Public schools that believes passionately in the right of children to play, explore and create. She believes our youngest children are capable of making great and powerful contributions to our world, and it is a teacher's job to ensure every child feels powerful, capable, and valued. Kristi is in her fifteenth year of teaching, and works at the truly amazing PS 59 in Manhattan. She is also an author of professional books for teachers and has had incredible opportunities to work with teachers around the world.


Michelle Rand, M.S. 289, Queens United Middle School
Michelle Rand currently teaches math at Queens United Middle School 289 located in Laurelton, NY. Prior to this position, Michelle taught Algebra 2/Trig, Pre-Calculus, and AP Calculus at Dominican Academy, an all girls school, located in New York, NY. Holding a B.S. in Secondary Education Mathematics from The University of Scranton and M.A in Secondary Education Mathematics from St. John's University, Michelle looks forward to continuing her education in a SBL/SDL program. Michelle is married, and in her spare time enjoys running, watching college basketball, and cooking.


Malika Willis, Brooklyn New School
This is Malika’s eleventh year of teaching and she has been teaching at The Brooklyn New School as a third grade special education teacher for 5 years. Malika is a mentor for a new teacher this year and has been for many student teachers from NYU, Bank Street, Syracuse, and LIU in the past. She is a member of several in-school committees, such as the School Leadership Team (SLT), Professional Development committee, the PROSE (Progressive Redesign for Schools of Excellence) committee, and the Race and Equity committee of which she is a co-chair. Malika received her MS.Ed from Bank Street College of Education in Early Childhood General and Special Education and just completed the Educational Leadership Program - School Building Leader at NYU. She is currently working toward her School District Leader certificate program at NYU.

North Country

Michele Armani, ADK P-TECH
Michele Armani currently serves as Coordinator of ADK P-TECH in Northern New York, a STEM school focused on Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering, and Design. Michele was a Fellow with the New York State Healthy Schools Leadership Institute. She also served on the Editorial Review Board for ALECC: the New York State Adult Literacy Education Core Curriculum. Ms. Armani is committed to connecting education to workforce and economic development as the foundation for strong and vibrant communities.


Dianne Drayse-Alonso, Ogdensburg City School District
Dianne Drayse-Alonso teaches 7-12 Art at Ogdensburg Free Academy in Ogdensburg, NY, bordering Canada and the St. Lawrence River. She serves as the Art Department chairperson and High School Art and Gallery Club advisor. Dianne received her BA in Studio Art from Connecticut College, her Art Ed Certification from Bank St./Parson's School of Design, and a Master's in the Humanities from Cal State Dominguez Hills where she was awarded the CSUDH Outstanding Graduate Project of the Year. Dianne began her teaching career at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, and is proud to be in her 17th year of teaching Art at her alma mater, OFA!


Megan Nemier-Green, Chateaugay Central School District
Megan is one of three junior high/high school math teachers in a small, rural school in Chateaugay, New York. Her district is located in Northern New York, just about five miles south of the Canadian border. Before becoming a teacher, Megan was lucky enough to be a teaching assistant in a special education classroom for eight years. She is also the mother of two young boys: Matthias, who is in first grade, and Henry, who is in kindergarten. Megan is very proud of her little school and community, and is looking forward to connecting with other people who are passionate about teaching and education.


Molly Reilly, Alexandria Central School District
Molly has been a social studies teacher at Alexandria Central School, Alexandria Bay, NY since 2002. While serving the ACS community, Mrs. Reilly has offered students opportunities to earn college course credit through concurrent enrollment partnerships with SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Jefferson Community College, as well as, College Board Advance Placement courses. Prior to her position at ACS, Mrs. Reilly honed experience working with students at Harrisville Central School (Harrisville, NY), Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic School (Miami, FL), The Children’s Home of Jefferson County (Watertown, NY), and working as a Teaching Assistance at SUNY Albany, where she was awarded a terminal Master’s Degree in Political Science from the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. In addition to her position at ACS, Mrs. Reilly is an adjunct instructor of Social Science for SUNY Jefferson. Elected in 2015, Mrs. Reilly is a Trustee for the Village of Sackets Harbor, NY where she resides with her husband, Clint Reilly, and son, Joseph-age 7. Mrs. Reilly is honored to receive this award and looks forward to working with other educators to strengthen students’ experiences.


Charlene Rydgren, Malone Central School District
Charlene Rydgren earned her BA in Math and Physics from SUNY Potsdam and her MS in Physics from Clarkson University. In the classroom for 24 years, Mrs. Rydgren teaches AP physics, Regents Physics and AP Calculus at Franklin Academy in Malone. She also teaches project based physics for freshman for the P-TECH Northern Boarders Academy program. Mrs. Rydgren is a physics content specialist for NYSED. She was a member of the writing committee for the NYS Physics Core Curriculum and the state leadership team for the Next Generation Science Standard Development. Mrs. Rydgren is an active member of professional organizations, serving as STANYS subject representative for physics and presenting professional development workshops for the Science Teacher Association of NYS. She has recently been appointed as the vice-chair of the American Association of Physics Teachers' National Committee for Physics in High Schools. Mrs. Rydgren is a sixth degree black belt and Master Instructor in the American Kang Duk Won Karate Association, teaching martial arts and gymnastics in the evenings and weekends.


Amanda Zullo, Saranac Lake Central School District
Amanda Zullo has taught Chemistry to 10th–12th grade students at Saranac Lake High School since 2005 and was the first National Board certified teacher in the district. Amanda is an advocate for inquiry-based instruction that facilitates student discourse, having served as associate editor for the high school’s process oriented guided inquiry (POGIL) books and a presenter at local, regional, and national conferences on the pedagogy. Through her role on the Professional Development Committee in Saranac Lake, as a New York State Master Teacher and as a National Board candidate support provider she focuses on making sure every teacher is provided with meaningful opportunity to learn, and support to execute exceptional instruction for students in their classrooms. This has fueled her work as grant coordinator/communication manager in the Adirondack Farm to School Initiative. Amanda also serves as a Hope Street Group National Teaching Fellow, an America Achieves New York Policy Fellow while having roles on the teacher advisory board for 100Kin10, National Council on Teacher Quality, TeachStrong, and the TeachNY Steering Committee. Amanda earned a B.S. in organizational communication and pre-medical studies from State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo, a Master’s in science education, and an Advanced Certificate in National Board Certification/Teacher Leadership from Clarkson University.

Southern Tier


Elisabeth Bostwick, Horseheads Central School District
Elisabeth Bostwick combines her passion for teaching and learning with her vision for enhancing a collaborative culture of thought leaders. She continues to be a risk taker and leader in education as she is in her 14th year as classroom teacher. Elisabeth currently serves as grade level chairperson and instructional strategy coach. She avidly seeks alternative methods to innovate in the classroom, and support systemic change. Students in her class are empowered to be leaders by developing their unique gifts and potential as Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E. Ambassadors. Elisabeth is leading the maker movement with a team at her elementary school. She has designed and facilitated a variety of district professional development. Elisabeth is also the co-host for #LeadUpTeach on Twitter and YouTube, as well as a Maker Mentor for www.YearInTheMaking.com.


Arthur Cass, Chenango Valley Central School District
Arthur graduated from SUNY Oswego with his Technology Education degree in 1994. He is currently a Technology Teacher at Chenango Valley High School in Binghamton, NY. Arthur has taught a variety of courses throughout his career including CAD, Photography, Multi-Media, DDP, Principles of Engineering and Drivers Ed., to name a few. He also coaches modified track and was the yearbook advisor for 18 years. Outside of school, he is the owner of AJ Cass Photography and specializes in wedding photography. Arthur has been married to his beautiful wife for 21 years and they have three children together.


Jordan Coffed, Campbell-Savona Central School District
Jordan Coffed has been teaching for eight years, focused primarily in seventh-grade life science, middle school engineering, and high school robotics courses at Campbell-Savona Jr./Sr. High School in Campbell, NY. Jordan received a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences and Master of Science Education in Science K-8, with a focus on STEM Education from Walden University, and is a member of the New York State Master Teacher Program. Jordan’s teaching interests include instilling a sense of relevance and ownership of learning in his students, engaging them daily in hands-on, investigative learning experiences that connect science to their daily lives. As part of a transdisciplinary middle school team, Jordan works closely with his colleagues to show students connections among content areas, veering their mindset from the common “silo” approach to learning. Through collaboration, communication, and problem-solving, this team-based teaching approach is reestablishing the middle school learning model.


Lorelle Dutcher, Franklin Central School District
Lorelle lives in beautiful Franklin, NY with her husband and three children. They are very happily busy with athletics, college applications and many school activities. Lorelle has taught the primary grades for 24 years at Franklin Central School. She believes strongly in the critical importance of early childhood education as well as the need to support the children in our rural schools.


Nichole Inthanongsak, Horseheads Central School District
Mrs. Inthanongsak is a kindergarten teacher in the Southern Tier of New York State. She is passionate about project-based learning, MakerSpace, and student led learning. When she is not in the classroom, she is busy with her own children; Laela (8), Kingston (7), and Miles (5).


Teresa Price, Chenango Valley Central School District
Teresa has been teaching physical education for over thirty years. She has taught grades three through twelve. Teresa is the past president of NYSAHPERD CSZ. She is a trainer for NYSAHPERD's PE Curriculum and assessment guidance document. Teresa loves being able to teach students about health and wellness. Every day that she steps into the gym is a brand new day and she brings that excitement to each and every class!

Western New York


Ashli Dreher, Lewiston-Porter Central School District
Ashli Skura Dreher, the 44th New York State Teacher of the Year for 2014, has been teaching for 21 years and for the last 19 years in the Lewiston-Porter Central School District. She is the first teacher in the district to earn National Board Certification for Professional Teaching Standards, and she is currently completing the NBPTS Exceptional Needs certificate. Ashli currently teaches special education in a 12:1:1 high school classroom working with students with moderate intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities. She also hosts the television program, Inside the Classroom, which can be seen on channel 19 in the Buffalo-metro area and channel 20 in Niagara County several times each week. Well known for her passion for learning, Ashli is a 1995 graduate of Canisius College with a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education and English, and she completed graduate studies at D’Youville College in 1998 earning a Master’s Degree in Special Education followed by a Certificate of Advanced Study from the State University of New York at Buffalo in Educational Leadership to earn a School District Leadership Certificate in 2002. Currently, Ashli is a dissertation level doctoral student in the Teaching and Curriculum Department of the University of Rochester's Margaret Warner School of Education and Human Development and recently passed the Dissertation Proposal defense. Ashli has published articles including Functional Literacy in a Lifeskills Curriculum for a 2010 issue of Educator’s Voice and has spoken at statewide conferences on the topics of transition, parental involvement, education reform, and student preparedness for future pathways. She is a contributing author to a new book published in September of 2016 by Rowman and Littlefield titled Confronting Oppressive Assessment: How Policy-Makers are Rethinking Current Educational Reforms. Most recently, Ashli was awarded a Fund for Teachers Fellowship in 2016 to travel to Austria, Italy, and the United Kingdom as well as a National Education Association Global Fellowship in 2015 to visit schools in Peru. Ashli served as the NYSUT Education and Learning Trust Regional Coordinator for the Western New York and Rochester areas for 10 years to promote turnkey training and professional development for teachers and aspiring educators.


Sarah English, Sweet Home Central School District
Sarah English started her career in education as a Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia, West Africa (95-97) as a math teacher after graduating from the University of Rochester. Upon returning to the United States, she continued her education at Niagara University with a Masters in Science Education and then at the University at Buffalo earning her Ph.D. in Science Education in 2006. Dr. English is currently employed at Sweet Home High School in Amherst, NY and teaches Regents Chemistry and Advanced Placement Chemistry. She is currently involved in the Master Teacher program where her focus includes working with other AP Chemistry teachers and the use of phenomena in teaching.


Andrea Fortin-Nossavage, Niagara Falls City School District
Andrea Fortin-Nossavage has enjoyed twenty-five years of experience in public education; both in and out of the classroom. Her NYS Certifications include Social Studies 7-12, School Counseling, School Building, and School District Leader. She spent nearly a decade serving as a Teacher on Special Assignment. Her responsibilities included serving as her District’s Mentor Program Coordinator, along with various District and Building level curriculum, instruction and assessment initiatives. Additionally, Andrea assisted with the implementation of several state and federal grant programs. In 2014, she was appointed by the New York State Board of Regents to serve a four year term on the NYS Professional Standards and Practices Board. Currently, Andrea is classroom teacher of United States History and Government at Niagara Falls High School, where she is pursuing her National Board Certification. In the future, Andrea plans to continue to use her unique set of experiences to advocate for students, and influence education policy at the District and State Level.


Kenneth Huff, Williamsville Central School District
Kenneth is a National Board Certified Teacher in early adolescence science. His present appointment is a middle school teacher in the Williamsville Central School District in Williamsville, NY. Kenneth serves the New York State Education Department as a member of its Science Education Steering Committee, and he founded and leads a Young Astronaut Council for fifth through eighth grade students at his school. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Mr. Huff is a member of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), Board of Directors – Division Director Middle Level Science Teaching, newly elected Vice-President, Science Teachers Association of New York State, and a Candidate Support Provider for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Mr. Huff is a past president of the Association of Presidential Awardees in Science Teaching. A New York native, Mr. Huff earned his BS and MS from SUNY Buffalo.


Brandi Meacham, Jamestown City School District
Brandi is an elementary teacher and instructional coach for the Jamestown Public Schools. She has two beautiful children and a supportive husband! Teaching has been Brandi’s passion from a very young age. Over the years, she has learned that teaching is about building relationships, motivating little learners, and demonstrating love and respect even through the hard times. Brandi is so grateful for the opportunity to reach so many lives though God's gift of teaching.


Adam Norris, Cheektowaga-Maryvale Union Free School District
Adam has been teaching at Maryvale High School for the past 11 years. He has taught nearly every social studies class, but in recent years, has been teaching US History and AP US History. Several years ago, Adam began experimenting with the "flipped classroom" model, and that has become the basis for his instruction. This summer, Adam and his wife became proud parents to a son.