Carly Santangelo, a middle and high school agriculture teacher at Cuba-Rushford Central School in Western New York, is the 2022 New York State Teacher of the Year. Santangelo, a member of the Cuba-Rushford Teachers Association, received this year’s prestigious State Education Department honor not only for her work teaching environmental stewardship and agricultural sustainability, but also her efforts to prepare students in her rural community for the workforce and community building.
A nine-year classroom veteran, Santangelo studied agriculture in high school and was an active 4-H and Future Farmers of America member. She aims to develop in her students a sense of community through initiatives such as volunteering at the local food bank and teaching elementary school students and area businesses about the value of composting. She wants her students to realize the impact they can make on the greater good.
Described by fellow teachers and administrators as knowledgeable, enthusiastic and authentic, Santangelo is a teacher whose impact extends well beyond the classroom. For an example, look no further than the World Foods and Diversity program she founded with Joseph Franzen, a Cuba-Rushford history teacher. The course helps students understand how gender, race, history and other global issues relate to the food we eat.
“Food’s something we all connect with,” Santangelo said. “Giving kids the opportunity to have their hands in the soil and produce their own food empowers them. It gives them a point of connection to people who they might not have had a connection to before.”
Santangelo also works to expose all students to fields traditionally viewed as male-oriented, such as welding. Doing so, she said, helps break down gender-based barriers and stereotypes. Prior to teaching at Cuba-Rushford, Santangelo taught at the Belmont Career and Technical Center, first in Animal Science and then as the integrated academic science teacher. She continues to teach informally as a volunteer with Allegany County 4-H.