CUBA — High school teacher Carly Santangelo’s favorite thing about her job is her students and the exciting new things she can share with them in the classroom.
The last thing she expected was to be recognized on a statewide level for just doing what she loves every day.
Santangelo, an agriculture teacher at Cuba-Rushford Central School, has been named Teacher of the Year by the New York State Education Department.
“I am very honored and very excited for the opportunity to help other teachers and our students,” Santangelo told the Olean Times Herald. “I’m really humbled to have been chosen.”
Santangelo began her career teaching animal science at the CA BOCES center in Belmont. After coming to the Cuba-Rushford district in 2018, she has taught several science and technology classes including agriscience, welding and small engines, career and finance and farm to table.
In addition to her work in the classroom, Santangelo’s love of farm life continues in her volunteering with the Allegany County 4-H and as an FFA member.
Santangelo was nominated by her principal, Katie Ralston. She said she appreciated that Ralston thought of them for the contest and proceeded with filling out the application.
“Mrs. Santangelo has a vision and a direction that allows her impact to expand beyond her own classroom, with benefits of her work riveting through the district, our local community and the educational region,” Ralston wrote in her nominee letter.
The application process goes in a series of rounds, Santangelo explained. The first round required some recommendation letters from others in the school district, while moving onto the second round asked for more reflection on her part in a series of questions and answers.
In his letter to the Teacher of the Year advisory council, technology teacher Michael Johnson said of Santangelo: “Carly is an enthusiastic and energetic teacher, co-worker and community member, and is an avid promoter of career and technical education. She leaves an indelible mark on the people with whom she meets and works.”
Cassandra Bull, Farm to School coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Allegany County, wrote, “Carly has gone above and beyond in her position because of her capacity for leadership, natural tendency toward progress and love of hands-on education.”
When filling out the application and updating her resume, Santangelo said she remembered thinking about how her resume reflects her as a teacher.
“I learned through this application process that my voice and my message is what the committee was looking for,” she said. “I train my students to be advocates, and I’m an advocate myself for my profession.”
Santangelo said her students are the reason why she is constantly thinking of new ways to be a better teacher and do a better job connecting with them. She said she wants to give them every opportunity imaginable.
That has been tested during the past 18 months of social distance and virtual teaching due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, Santangelo said because she looks at how she does things with a critical lens, the challenges since March 2020 have helped her look at how she teaches in a new way.
“Yes, it’s different but no different than if I were to evaluate at the beginning of any school year how I would provide content to these kids,” she said.
Santangelo said those she works with who knew about the application process have been supportive throughout, but noted that everyone in the school is supportive of each other all the time, one of the reasons that makes her successful, too.
“They provide me with a ton of inspiration,” she said. “I deeply feel that I’m surrounded and inspired by some really exceptional educators. … We’re better because we’re a community and able to see the practices that work and able to have colleagues that support us on the days that are difficult.”
“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.”
“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. “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.”
“New York’s teachers are critical to the success of students in every corner of our state,” Chancellor Young said. “The outstanding group of nominees represent what makes this profession so special and are well deserving of this honor. The Board and I extend our most sincere gratitude and recognition to Mrs. Santangelo and each of this year’s nominees for all they do on behalf of New York’s students.”
“To achieve the level of sustained engagement among New York’s students over the past year and a half wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment of our state’s exceptional teachers,” Commissioner Rosa said. “Taking a moment to honor New York’s top teachers is important as we strive to highlight the significant and noble work that they do each and every day. Congratulations to this year’s nominees and Mrs. Santangelo, our 2022 Teacher of the Year.”
Now that she’s been recognized as Teacher of the Year, Santangello said she hopes she can help other educators learn how to connect with their students and help schools connect with industries so students can be better prepared for life after high school.
“I think every teacher can challenge students to solve authentic problems that are important and valuable to the students,” she said. “In doing that, we connect our students and teachers, we help our teachers build resilience and help empower our students to take ownership of the problem-solving process.”
*This story has been updated to reflect that the Teacher of the Year award is from the New York State Education Department, not the New York State United Teachers as originally published.*