Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj holds third annual teacher’s appreciation breakfast

The teachers, educators and administrators who took part in the appreciation breakfast stand on the steps of Don Coqui.
Photo courtesy of Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj’s office

Teachers from local schools were honored for going above and beyond their job descriptions.

Nearly 20 teachers from 14 schools in Pelham Parkway, Allerton and Morris Park were honored with awards at a teacher’s appreciation breakfast after being selected by their principals for remarkable work over the course of the school year.

The Third Annual Pillars of Education Teachers Appreciation Breakfast paid homage to excellent educators and school leadership.

It took place at Don Coqui on Friday, June 3, and was hosted, as it is every year, by Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj.

The event acknowledges all of the educators and the work that they do, said Gjonaj.

Principals at the participating schools pick one or two teachers who have demonstrated excellence to bring to the breakfast and honor, explained the assemblyman, with each individual recognized.

“This allows us to single out those teachers who truly go above and beyond, and excel and giveback,” said Gjonaj. “Not only are they good educators, but they are doing something more than is expected of them.”

Doing something more than is expected could mean unpaid overtime, staying after the school day to help students keep up with their studies or reaching into their own pockets to purchase school supplies, said Gjonaj.

This year’s group of honorees included a large number of special education teachers, proving, as Gjonaj said he believes, special education teachers truly are special.

“They are humble,” said Gjonaj of the teachers. “They don’t do it for recognition.”

The teachers honored this year were Zoja Rugova, P.S. 83; Joseph Pugliese, P.S. 97; Priscilla Harper, P.S. 108; Jamal Haywood, M.S. 144; Ed Barone and Sal Ferone, Astor Collegiate High School; Veronica Bacino, Bronx Green Middle School; Sean Garvey and Henry Liu, Bronxdale High School; Seth Mactas, Collegiate Institute for Math and Science; Kris Forman, CUNY Prep; Fatai Omolaja, High School for Language and Innovation; Katrina Holmes,

Pelham Academy of Academics and Community Engagement; Eileene Krull, Pelham Gardens Middle School; Brian Rivera and Candice Walker, Pelham Preparatory Academy and Karisma Mora, The Young Voices of the Bronx school.

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, a former educator with decades of experience as a special education teacher, stopped by the event to speak to the group of educators.

Benedetto said the teaching profession has traditionally been well respected and put on a pedestal for the unglamorous but important work it does. But as of late, he said, teachers have been “raked over the coals” by reformers.

“As a teacher, you know that you want to praise your students…and as grown ups, we like that occasional pat on the back for a job well done,” said Benedetto.

Also at the event was a representative from Department of Education School District 11, Alice Cooper Jackson, as well as community education council and United Federation of Teachers officials, said a Gjonaj spokeswoman.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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