ALBANY, N.Y. Sept. 14, 2020 — New York State United Teachers today congratulated veteran Long Island educator and teacher mentor Jennifer Wolfe on being named the 2021 New York State Teacher of the Year.
Wolfe, a Social Studies teacher entering her 24th year at Oceanside High School on Long Island and a member of the Oceanside Federation of Teachers, received the State Education Department honor for her work with students in the classroom and empowering fellow educators to take on leadership roles.
Since achieving National Board Certification in 2002, the first Oceanside teacher to do so, Wolfe has personally guided more than 20 other teachers at Oceanside — as well numerous others in districts across Long Island — through the rigorous 300-plus-hour process, considered the “gold standard” of the teaching profession. In fact, before Wolfe achieved NBCT status, which she renewed in 2012, there were only 66 NBCTs on Long Island. Through her mentorship as a National Board regional coordinator in recent years, there are now more than 200. The impact of her work has been critical in providing students access to the nation’s very best teachers and the cutting-edge approach they bring to the classroom.
“Jen’s commitment to her profession is simply awe-inspiring,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Her dedication to her practice, and her passion for constantly elevating not only her career but the career of her colleagues, is why teachers in New York State’s public schools consistently rank among the nation’s very best. Teachers like Jen change students’ lives, and ensure they not only have the opportunity, but the tools and readiness to succeed. It’s an absolute privilege for NYSUT to call Jen Wolfe a member of our union.”
Wolfe, a three-time Fulbright recipient and former state High School Social Studies Teacher of the Year, plays a significant leadership role in Oceanside’s Tenure Attainment Plan, a supportive but challenging four-year program for novice teachers that aims to ensure they are supported during the critical first years of their career. The plan includes 1-to-1 mentoring, small group interactions, and video peer observations designed to develop and provide constructive and supportive feedback.
“Jen’s dedication to lifting her profession and ensuring the success of her fellow educators serves as a reminder that collaboration is a key ingredient to success in the classroom and that new teachers in New York State are not alone and will be supported as they develop their craft,” NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene T. DiBrango said. “Jen’s selflessness is immeasurable. Her passion for supporting young teachers and ensuring their success is an inspiration. And, she is a testament to the excellence that is synonymous with the teaching profession in New York State.”
“I am passionate about teacher leadership,” Wolfe said. “I believe that districts can improve student learning by recognizing and empowering the problem-solving skill set of the accomplished teacher. Elevating accomplished teachers to formal and funded teacher-leadership positions would enable teachers to be the change-agents education desperately needs.”
Wolfe’s mentorship also extends to her work with students. She has created mentorship and human relations courses in Oceanside as well, building a Government Economics and Mentoring class for seniors and freshman and a human relations course geared toward helping students understand bias and intolerance, for which she has partnered with Teaching Tolerance and Facing History and Ourselves. As a member of the Long Beach Parent Teacher Association, she also has volunteered her time in between online lessons during the coronavirus pandemic to deliver breakfast and lunch to students in need.
“If every educator took it upon themselves to be concerned with the well-being and character of their students beyond agreed-upon facts and phenomena, the world would be a much better place,” Sabrina Haertig, a former Oceanside student, wrote in her letter to the state recommending Wolfe for the Teacher of the Year distinction. “I sincerely believe that in this time of polarizing politics, where the environment is in critical condition and inequity has never been so extreme, teachers like Ms. Wolfe are indispensable assets to positive change.”
NYSUT today also congratulated the four Teacher of the Year finalists: North Syracuse Education Association member Sara Bambino; South Colonie Teachers Association member James Brown; East Greenbush Teachers Association member Chelsea Dyer; and Kings Park Classroom Teachers Association member Victoria Gentile.
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.