ALBANY, N.Y. September 10, 2007 - New York State United Teachers today cheered the selection of Richard Ognibene Jr., a chemistry and physics teacher at Fairport High School, as the 2008 New York State Teacher of the Year.
"In a state known for its dedicated, highly professional teachers, Richard Ognibene stands out," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "He is a mentor to other teachers, a leader in his community, and a role model to students. Richard is a fitting choice to represent all the terrific teachers in our state."
Ognibene, a teacher for 21 years, has been known to open the school year by writing his name in ethanol on his chalkboard and then lighting it on fire. To demonstrate the principles of gravity, he drops a bowling ball and tennis ball from the school roof. "Like all good teachers, Richard finds ways to make learning interesting and exciting for all his students," Iannuzzi noted.
Ognibene, who has taught at Fairport High School for 15 years, has mentored new math teachers; leads a district-wide program that teaches civility, respect and tolerance to students; organizes a fundraiser for a school in Kenya; and presents workshops on how to make gay youth feel welcome in the classroom and the workplace. An active union member, Ognibene has also served as vice president of the Fairport Educators Association.
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira noted that Ognibene will represent New York teachers around the state and is in the running for national Teacher of the Year honors.
Neira also saluted four other educators - all from upstate - who were named Teacher of the Year finalists by the State Education Department.
"These teachers, like all teachers, are highly accomplished professionals. They have taken the 'art of teaching' to the highest levels and are symbols of what great teaching and community involvement are all about," Neira said. The four finalists for 2008 are:
Felipa Gaudet, a kindergarten teacher at Violet Avenue Elementary School in the Hyde Park School District. Gaudet has developed innovative programs to help students living in poverty and those who are English language learners. To reach out to families of her students, many of whom are from Oaxaca, Mexico, Gaudet has created a special day celebrating the culture, music and dance of Oaxaca.
Elaine Ormsbee, a middle-level counselor in the North Syracuse School District, is known for making every child feel like an important part of the school community. She has been a leader in anti-bullying efforts in her school district and community.
Anne Sierotnik, a high school English teacher in West Genesee, is a mentor to other teachers and is extremely active in her community. She has organized class activities to benefit local, state and national charities, including the Camillus Food Pantry, Hurricane Katrina relief and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Alison Albright, an English teacher at the Canandaigua Academy in Canandaigua, commits an extraordinary amount of time to working with students on writing, both for school work and college application essays. She is a Nationally Board-Certified teacher.
NYSUT represents more than 585,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.