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September 14, 2020
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JP O'Hare

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Oceanside UFSD Social Studies Teacher Named 2021 New York State Teacher of the Year

National Board-Certified Teacher, Former NYS Social Studies Teacher of the Year Shines in Providing Leadership and Support for Fellow Teachers

CUNY Student Recipient of 2020 Marge A. Tierney Memorial Scholarship

The Board of Regents today named Jennifer Wolfe of Oceanside High School on Long Island the 2021 New York State Teacher of the Year and awarded the 2020 Marge A. Tierney Memorial Scholarship to Nia Williams, a graduate student at CUNY’s Hunter College.

2021 Teacher of the Year

Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown and Interim State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa presented Ms. Wolfe, a high school social studies teacher at Oceanside High School in the Oceanside Union Free School District, with a certificate of recognition. Ms. Wolfe, who is also a National Board-Certified Teacher and past New York State Social Studies Teacher of the Year, was presented with the Thomas Sobol Award and the David Johnson Award, both created as annual gifts for recipients of the Teacher of the Year award.

“Jennifer Wolfe answered the call to teaching after working as a substitute and in the two decades since, has worked tirelessly to share her knowledge and enthusiasm with her students, fellow educators, families and community,” Vice Chancellor Brown said. “This honor speaks to her professional dedication to education, and the admiration that she has earned in the school community. Ms. Wolfe will be an excellent ambassador for New York’s educators.”

“Jennifer Wolfe is a stellar example of devotion to teaching and learning in a way that elevates everyone around her,” Interim Commissioner Rosa said. “I often say that New York has some of the best teachers anywhere, and in these unprecedented times, our teachers have truly shined in helping their students and each other. Jennifer Wolfe has led by example throughout her career and I’m honored to present her with this award today.”

“Jen is an extraordinary educator who demonstrates a boundless amount of passion for the work of 'teaching and learning' each and every day,” Dr. Phyllis S. Harrington, Oceanside UFSD Superintendent said. “She is a true mentor and a gifted ‘teacher of teachers.’ She helps remind us all that teaching is the greatest profession in the world. I can think of no one more deserving of this incredible honor.” 

“Oceanside High School is thrilled with the selection of Ms. Jennifer Wolfe as New York's 2021 Teacher of the Year,” Oceanside High School Principal Dr. Brendon Mitchell said. “Ms. Wolf is a passionate, engaging, and incredibly talented teacher who is committed to the social, emotional, and academic growth of her students. Her dedication to the craft of teaching extends beyond the walls of the classroom as she is a powerful voice on teacher leadership as well as gifted scholar on educational research and development. Ms. Wolfe's outstanding contributions to Oceanside High School and all of New York State continue to have a powerful effect for students, teachers, and administrators alike.

“Jen’s commitment to her profession is simply awe-inspiring,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Her dedication to her practice, and her passion for constantly elevating not only her career but the career of her colleagues is why teachers in New York state’s public schools consistently rank among the nation’s very best. Teachers like Jen change students’ lives, and ensure they not only have the opportunity, but the tools and readiness to succeed. It’s an absolute privilege for NYSUT to call Jen Wolfe a member of our union.”

Ms. Wolfe is a National Board-Certified teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult Social Studies. She also earned the New York State High School Social Studies Teacher of the Year Award, three Fulbright Scholarships including the Fulbright Teacher Exchange at Teesside Preparatory in the United Kingdom and an honorary doctorate from Union College.

Ms. 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.

Ms. 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.

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.

Finalists for the 2021 New York State Teacher of the Year were also honored today. They are as follows:

  • James Brown, a science teacher from the Sand Creek Middle School, South Colonie Central School District;
  • Chelsea Dyer, an English teacher at Columbia High School, East Greenbush Central School District;
  • Victoria Gentile, a Special Education teacher at Fort Salonga Elementary School, Kings Park Central School District; and
  • Sara Bambino, an English teacher at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, North Syracuse Central School District.

The New York State Teacher of the Year Program is administered by the New York State Education Department and sponsored by New York State United Teachers (NYSUT); United Federation of Teachers (UFT); New York State Parents and Teachers Association (NYSPTA); New York State Association for School Curriculum Development (NYSASCD) New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA); School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS); New York State Association of Teacher Educators (NYSATE); and New York Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (NYACTE). The program is run in conjunction with the National Teacher of the Year Program, sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

Additional information about the New York State Teacher of the Year Program is available in the Office of Curriculum and Instruction at the New York State Education Department at (518) 474-5922 or on the Teacher of the Year website.

2020 Marge A. Tierney Memorial Scholarship

The Board of Regents today awarded the 2020 Marge A. Tierney Memorial Scholarship to Nia Williams, of the Bronx, NY. Ms. Williams is a graduate student in the Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program at Hunter College, The City University of New York (CUNY). She is also enrolled in the master’s degree Disability Studies program at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.

“Nia Williams is committed to empowering others to take charge of their lives,” Board of Regents Vice Chancellor Brown said. “She is exactly the caring, devoted individual who embodies Marge’s commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities can be full partners in the rehabilitation process.”

“Nia is committed to supporting individuals with disabilities in achieving independence and success in their lives,” Interim Commissioner Rosa said. “She is very deserving of this award and will continue to make a meaningful impact as she continues her studies and pursues a career in helping people. We are honored to present her with this scholarship so she can continue to excel in her career.”

Ms. Williams recently began her graduate coursework in clinical rehabilitation and has more than 10 years of experience working in the rehabilitation field. Her work experiences include coordinating services at the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York, direct support professional, residential habilitation specialist and Medicaid service coordinator. Ms. Williams plans to obtain a PhD in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling, so she can provide support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This scholarship was established in memory of Marge A. Tierney, a State Education Department employee whose career in vocational rehabilitation spanned 33 years.  Marge was a leader in the field of rehabilitation and a strong advocate for people with disabilities. Her career was dedicated to the development of quality services aimed at enhancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Under Marge’s leadership as the Director of District Office Administration from 1999-2003, over 63,000 individuals with disabilities were placed in jobs. To honor Marge’s achievements and dedication, one student is selected each year to receive a scholarship to help defray the costs of tuition, books, and other college-related expenses. Recipients of the Marge A. Tierney Memorial Scholarship Award receive a citation and $1,000.

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