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September 12, 2023
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JP O'Hare

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State Education Department Announces Rochester Music Teacher Named 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year

The Board of Regents today named Zachary Arenz, a music teacher at Flower City School Number 54 in Rochester, as the 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year. Teacher of the Year is the nation's oldest and most prestigious teacher recognition activity. Each year, New York selects an exceptionally skilled and passionate educator to be an ambassador for NYS teachers and to serve as the NYS nominee for the National Teacher of the Year Program.

Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said, “Congratulations to this year’s Teacher of the Year, Zachary Arenz. World-class educators, like Mr. Arenz and each of our finalists, exemplify the role our teachers play as ambassadors for excellence and equity in education, shaping future generations for a brighter, fairer, and more inclusive world for all. I thank each of the teachers honored today for their commitment to New York’s 2.5 million students.”

Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, “Zachary Arenz is the embodiment of a dedicated and inspirational teacher. His ability to engage with students and inspire and ignite a passion for lifelong learning through music is exceptional. His determination to help all students achieve success by providing them with a safe and supportive environment is a model for all schools across the state. Congratulations to this year’s nominees and Mr. Arenz, 2024 Teacher of the Year.”

NYSUT President Melinda Person said, “Zach exemplifies the life-changing work our teachers do every day, whether that’s guiding children and families through restorative practices, turning his classroom into a refuge where students feel supported, or ensuring parents have the resources to engage with their kids’ learning. The mark he is leaving in Rochester is inarguable proof that emphasizing the whole child is key to healthy students, public schools and communities. We are proud to congratulate him on this honor.”

NYSUT Executive Vice President Jaime Ciffone said, “We can look to teachers like Zach for inspiration as we explore new ways to teach and learn in our rapidly changing world. His success in combining modern technology and methods with human connection and creativity is a model for how we can nurture individual students on unique pathways to success.”

Mr. Arenz embodies the power of the arts. He inspires students and positively impacts their social emotional development as well as their academic skills by ensuring his students enjoy learning through music. In addition to his traditional music classes, he also teaches ensembles and instrumental lessons and has developed a music enrichment program for students who are experiencing grief. Mr. Arenz is not only a model leader for his students but also a dynamic example of excellence and motivation for his colleagues.

Before teaching at Flower City School Number 54, Mr. Arenz taught classroom music in Sweden to students in grades 7-9 and mentored students in grade 9 to prepare for high school and career opportunities by creating academic and social goals. He holds several music and arts certificates, as well as a certificate in therapeutic crisis intervention for schools.

Rochester City School District Superintendent Carmine Peluso said, “I am proud and humbled to have such an honor for our students and Flower City School No. 54. Zach is someone special and his commitment to his profession and dedication to his students is inspiring.  He is a natural leader and a fantastic representative for teachers across the state.”

Rochester Teachers Association president Adam Urbanski said, “Zach has earned the respect of his fellow teachers and the affection of his students. He represents the excellence and dedication of so many other teachers in our district and throughout our state. We are so very proud to be his colleagues.”

The Board also honored finalists for the 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year. They are:

  • Jonathan Clemmons- Minisink Valley Middle School, Minisink Valley School District, Slate Hill, NY
  • Ellen Foley – Wheelock Early Childhood Center, Fredonia Central School District, Fredonia, NY 
  • Nichole Hantsch – Chenango Forks Middle School, Chenango Forks School District, Binghamton, NY 

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 Parent Teacher Association (NYSPTA); New York State Association of 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 on NYSED’s Teacher of the Year website.