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Success Academy Excellence Awards Winners Share: Our Proudest Moments

When we announced our 2019 Excellence Awards winners, we asked them to share with us their proudest moments at Success Academy. Reading through their responses was deeply touching. Their commitment to our scholars shines through in every word and reminds me of how lucky all of us our to have such extraordinary individuals in our schools. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into what makes our educators proud and join me in thanking them again for all they do to create magical schools for our scholars!




Amanda Urcia, Bensonhurst, Growth

“I recently stepped back a moment to realize that my first year as a Kindergarten teacher was almost over. I was so proud to look around my room and see how much my scholars had grown, not just as people but as accomplished scholars.  They came in August, new to school, with new teachers, and new friends. And now, they’re like little, professional adults ready to take on the world! Everyday when one of them runs up for a hug or tells me I’m the ‘best teacher,’ it can make any stress, or ounce of doubt I had in myself go away instantly.”


Sharonda Taylor, SA Bronx 1, Academic Achievement

“My proudest moment at Success Academy is this present year. This is my first year being a lead teacher for an ICT classroom.  My class had 20% passing on the first Math IA, 70% passing on the second Math IA, and 90% passing on the third Math IA. Seeing the growth my class has made this year made me very proud.  I was feeling discouraged from the first IA, and questioned if I was good enough to teach. From that day, I knew I had to work harder and couldn’t give up. I had 30 precious little ones counting on me.  This job isn’t easy, but I wouldn’t have asked to be in any other profession or organization.”

Albert Nixon III, SA Bronx 2, Growth

“So far, my proudest moment was the time [my principal] Ms. Robtoy emailed my mom to let her know that my work is valued in the BX2 community. I’ve never felt that type of genuine love and respect from an employer, where she actually reached out to my mother to compliment my work!”


Chelsea Marone (Right), SA Lafayette Middle School, Academic Achievement

“It is difficult to name just one, but I would have to say watching my fourth graders walk across the stage at graduation last June. I was with them in third grade and looped with them to fourth grade. It was incredibly rewarding to watch them grow over those two years and extremely emotional to see all of their hard work come to fruition on graduation day. We definitely had some trying times in those two years, but the fact that they still reach out and update us on their middle school experiences make me even more proud to have been their teacher for two years.”


Carleigh Antico, SA Hudson Yards Elementary School, Rookie of the Year

“Although I have not been at Success for a complete school year yet, nothing compares to the feeling of appreciation and gratitude I have received from the parents within my class. It makes me feel proud every day to know that I am positively impacting these young minds and being recognized for it. One of my parents wrote to me, “My scholar has grown so much under your teaching. We are so lucky to have you as her teacher.” It is small gestures like that, that make me proud to be Ms. Antico.”


Ashley Richards, SA Harlem 5, Academic Achievement

“After thinking about this question for a while, I truly cannot say I have one proudest moment. Throughout the day, every day, my happiest and proudest moments are when I get to see a scholar who may have been struggling with a concept, finally get it. The smile on their face when they get it is filled with pride. Being able to give them the tools to be able to struggle and eventually succeed makes me proud every day.”


Kazmira Thomas, SA Bed-Stuy Middle School, Rookie of the Year

“It may seem small, but as a teacher you would hope that someone in the student audience appreciates the hard work, preparation, and love you put into a class. So, when one of my students (who wasn’t doing the best academically) told me my class was his favorite, I was ecstatic. When I asked why, he said it was because it’s fun and he learns something at the same time. All I wanted was to be able to instill a love of English and reading in my kids, and it’s working!”


Brandon Ward, SA Harlem North West, Growth

“I was most proud to see my scholars come together and work collaboratively in the Science Exploratorium. More than any academic successes I have seen from my scholars, I was truly impressed by the initiative, independence, and drive of my scholars as they attempted truly innovative projects.”


Makeda Southerland, SA Harlem West, ETHOS

“My proudest moment at SA would have to be when I got a call that a scholar was having a rough morning, and said that she only wanted to talk to me because I am always positive and a light in her life. I didn’t know that a simple hug and a smile in the morning when I see her could have such an impact.”


Sophie Herzing, SA Springfield Gardens, Rookie of the Year

“One of my kids came up to me — I can’t remember when or why — and said that he was so happy that I was his teacher. That almost made me cry on the spot. How lucky am I to be HIS teacher.”


Joshua Gerstein, SA Rosedale, Growth

“One of my newer transfer students came up to me recently and said, ‘Mr. Gerstein, I like your class.’ I asked him why and he said, ’You don’t get upset when we make mistakes. You allow us to make them and you teach us how fix it while having fun all at the same time.” That really opened my eyes on what I’m actually doing — sometimes we are blind to it all.”


Amanda Levy, High School of the Liberal Arts, Academic Achievement

“My proudest moment at Success Academy has been watching my students grow into kind, intellectually curious and talented young adults! The fifth-grade students that I started with, in 2012, are now juniors in high school. I was a founding teacher at Harlem East Middle School and after five amazing years there, I decided to come to the High School to reunite with my original students. As an AP World History teacher and this past year, a Verbal SAT coach, I have been pushed to increase my intellectual preparation. Nonetheless, every ounce of work I put into the classroom is for the students’ benefit.  I am so grateful I have had the privilege to grow as a teacher alongside them. I can’t wait to see where college and beyond takes them!


Carolyn Konopka, SA Washington Heights, Academic Achievement

“I let my scholars lead a number story discourse as part of a Friday effort party and they knew exactly what to do — one of them shared, another scholar charted the sharer’s work with precision, and another scholar made sure all the scholars were at 100%. They ended up leading a rigorous debate with the class about the answer — and they reached the lesson goal — I was so proud!”


Isabella Kundu, Bronx 3 Middle School, Growth

“For a year and a half, I worked with a scholar who had been held over and was working to be promoted back to the grade that the rest of his peers were in. Though it took months, together we worked on reading skills, study habits, and self-advocacy until he was able to not only move up to 6th grade with the rest of his friends, but also thrive both academically and socially. My proudest moment at Success is the moment I got to tell this scholar that he was going to be a sixth grader.”


Caitlin Flaherty, SA Rosedale, Growth

“Last year, I was in a 12:1:1. This year, I was able to see one of my scholars move to 4th grade in an ICT class and succeed academically and emotionally. Moments and stories like these make me proud because my co-teacher and I were able to provide him with the necessary tools to be successful this year and the years to come!”


Wendy Diaz, SA Bronx 4, Academic Achievement

“I’ve had so many proud moments at Success Academy that it is hard to express just one. Every time one of my scholars moves up a reading level or does well on an exam she was nervous about is a proud moment. Seeing how much my scholars grow each year, seeing them moving onto the next grade, seeing my scholars happy, smiling and excited to come to school every day or having parents thank me years after teaching their scholars are proud moments. Knowing that I am making a difference in my scholars lives every day are proud moments.”

Written by Eva Moskowitz May 8, 2019

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