Outstanding Educators of the Year 2006 Celebrated at the Harvard Club
For four years Education Update has been honoring outstanding public school teachers at much-anticipated and well-attended award breakfasts at the Harvard Club. On June 22 the celebration continued, including for the first time recognition as well of the contributions of outstanding administrators. It was quite a morning, as an overflow crowd of teachers and supervisors from schools all over the city were joined by representatives from Metropolitan area colleges and Landmark College in Vermont and universities and from major TV and print media, leading cultural institutions, businesses and major publishing houses. They came to help sing the praises of those who, in the words of Dr. Pola Rosen, the organizer of the event, helped to “inspire and shape the lives of young people.” Once again, Roberta Guaspari’s Opus 118 Harlem Center for Strings (and one piano) – a group of 8 girls and 4 boys —put on a dazzling performance of what could easily be called Mad Hot Violinists, proving anew that elementary school children with no previous artistic training can become disciplined amateur musicians—and focused students. Their selections, beginning with “Danny Boy” and moving on to tango, country, blues and classical, clearly showed that, in the words of their teacher / conductor “they don’t get any better.” When Ms. Guaspari concluded with a short plea for supporting arts education at the earliest possible stage, the room broke into spontaneous applause.
Outstanding Educators of the Year 2006 was hosted by Education Update (EU) whose publisher and editor-in-chief Dr. Pola Rosen noted in opening remarks that letters of congratulations sent by Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein would appear in the July issue of the paper. Lou Young, senior reporter for CBS-TV, introduced Laurie Tisch, Chair of the Board of Directors for The Center of Arts Education who was this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Leader in Education Award. A long-time ardent friend of education (“it’s the family business”), she noted with pride that the Center, constantly growing over its ten-year history and now serving over 400 schools in the city, had “no plans to slow down.” Dr. Augusta Kappner, President of Bank Street College of Education then introduced Keynoter Matthew Goldstein, Chancellor of The City University of New York, who spoke largely extemporaneously—the matters being close to his heart.
This would be “the decade of the sciences,“ the Chancellor declared, pointing out that CUNY was already working with the public schools on math and science initiatives. Indeed, he stressed, such university-public school collaborations are essential in ensuring that the city and the country have sufficient “human capital” to compete in the global marketplace. Scientific literacy is the “sine qua non for a healthy nation,” the Chancellor remarked, noting that math has already been transforming the financial services industry, where the best jobs are. Jesting that he was not Tom Friedman’s agent, he nonetheless urged the audience to read Friedman’s best-selling wake up call, The World is Flat. Chancellor Goldstein also noted that CUNY Trustee chair, Benno Schmidt would soon be leading a delegation to Nanjing Province where 100 new universities are being built. Did we hear that number? —100 in just one province!
Of course, teachers and administrators are crucial to such an effort to strengthen math and science, but they need to be joined by a wide number of “stakeholders” outside the classroom, where learning also goes on. The workplace now evidences a team approach and prefers professionals who can move easily among several disciplines, and who appreciate different cultures and work ethic traditions. Together, all must engage in conversation about how best to recruit even more educators of “intelligence and passion,” but also to face some hard truths about why so many students, particularly young African American males are still being left behind. “I believe this is a national security problem,” the Chancellor said. The more youngsters who drop out of school and remain disengaged, undirected, uninterested, the more the city— and the country—puts itself at risk in maintaining a productive and competitive society. He did not mean to leave listeners on a negative note, he added, and indeed, he drew attention back to the reason why his audience had assembled that day: to celebrate good news by honoring those who had already made a difference.
Outstanding Educators of the Year 2006 go through a highly selective process starting with recommendations from school supervisors and culminating in a vote by EU’s Advisory Council, a prestigious group of school administrators, political leaders, business executives, university academics representing major disciplines, the press and of course supporting philanthropists.