ALBANY, N.Y. Sept. 14, 2021 — New York State United Teachers today congratulated dedicated Cuba-Rushford Middle-High School teacher and Cuba-Rushford Teachers Association member Carly Santangelo on being named the 2022 New York State Teacher of the Year.
Santangelo — an agriculture teacher whose work spans the subjects of agriscience, welding and small engines, and technology, to name only a few — was celebrated by the state Board of Regents and NYSUT Tuesday as a hard-working role model for her students and valued member of her rural Allegany County community.
A Cuba-Rushford educator since 2018 and former Cattaraugus-Allegany-Erie-Wyoming BOCES teacher, Santangelo takes a hands-on approach to her work, leading students in lessons that involve everything from growing produce to be donated to the school cafeteria and local food pantry to calculating the carbon stored in trees on campus to better understand the carbon cycle and changing climate. Her work teaches concepts that include environmental stewardship, agricultural sustainability and community building. Additionally, she serves as FFA adviser and has received certifications not only in agriculture and biology education, but also inquiry-based instruction from the NAAE Agriscience Inquiry Institute and drone piloting from the FAA to teach students new skills.
“Being an educator requires strong resilience in the face of challenges, and Carly exemplifies the resilience that NYSUT members show each and every day in their classrooms,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “She represents the very best qualities that educators across the state possess: Dedication, mastery of her craft, a sincere belief in the success of the entire school community and that resilience that has been so crucial especially in the last year and a half. We’re proud to call Carly a NYSUT member.”
Santangelo focuses on developing a spirit of collaboration among her students and the school community. She has secured more than $10,000 in grants for the district to purchase, among other valuable school resources, a high-tunnel greenhouse and develop a schoolwide composting program. Santangelo’s agricultural lessons go beyond teaching students how to grow produce from seeds. She helped design a course that will be taught for the first time this year on how gender, racial and other global issues relate to food. She also engages her middle and high school students by having them share their knowledge with elementary school students, guiding them to develop and teach grade-specific compost literacy lessons.
“Carly’s ability to meet students where they are when they arrive in her classroom and then help them accomplish what she knows they are able to is inspiring,” NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene T. DiBrango said. “She provides the tools and skills necessary for success, but also recognizes the power of trial and error as part of the learning process. What’s more, her understanding of the importance of learning from her students — her drive to be a better teacher based on their feedback — speaks volumes to her selfless attitude and dedication to creating a welcoming learning environment in which every student can achieve their best.”
“Connecting students with our community is my priority, whether that’s pairing them with volunteer opportunities that further what they’ve learned in class or simply helping prepare them to be successful in any career field after graduation,” Santangelo said. “I believe in a spirit of collaboration among educators, students and the community. When we come together, we can show students the kind of impact they can make in the world every single day.”
Santangelo’s impact on her students is immeasurable. One former student wrote in a letter recommending Santangelo for the Teacher of the Year award that in just her first year on the job as a BOCES instructor, Santangelo was able to change the student’s outlook on education and her self-confidence in what she could achieve.
“I am living my dream, and it’s all because Carly thought I could,” the former student, Olivia Barnes, wrote. She added that she attended college, “which before wasn’t a thought I entertained,” and has worked in recent years with a horse trainer after learning agricultural skills in Santangelo’s class. “She believed in me until I was able to believe in myself too, and for that, I am forever grateful.”
NYSUT today also congratulated the four Teacher of the Year finalists: Frontier Central Teachers Association President Amber Chandler, Watervliet Teachers Association Co-President Jeanne Lance, Herkimer Faculty Association member Heather McCutcheon and Hamburg Teachers Association member Lynn Sajdak.
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.