School district honors dedicated teachers, staff

The School District of Philadelphia’s Teacher of the Year, Jesse Todd. — SUBMITTED PHOTO

The School District of Philadelphia hosted its 28th Annual Celebration of Excellence in Education on Thursday to recognize its most exemplary teachers, administrators and employees for their dedication to students.

“Tonight is an opportunity for us to showcase our principals, teachers and building engineers, for the exemplary work that they do all year, not just this year, but every year that they’re here as employees of the School District,” said School District Chief-of-Staff Claudia Averette, who also organized Thursday evening’s event. “This has given me great honor to be able to pull this event together tonight, that we call a ‘Celebration of Excellence,’ because that's what it is, it’s (about) the excellent work that they do every day.” 

According to Averette, honorees included 7 regular education teachers, 3 special education teachers, 4 principals, 11 building engineers, and individual nominees and actual award winners for the Rose Lindenbaum Improvement of Education Award, the Marcus A. Foster Award, The Leon J. Obermayer Award, and the most prestigious award recognition of the evening, the Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Teacher of the Year Award. 

Kathy Pizzimenti-Murphy, principal of George Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia received the Rose Lindenbaum Improvement of Education Award. 

“This is my first time winning,” she said. “I’ve been a principal for 18 years, and in the school district for over 30 (years), and it’s my first award.  I’m excited, I’m nervous.  The best part of it is, I have about 30 folks from my school here to support me - I’m just excited.”

The top award winner for the evening was Jesse Todd, the recipient of the Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Teacher of the Year Award. 

Todd, an imported talent from Connecticut and an alumnus of Temple University’s School of Education, is a Spanish teacher at Constitution High School. 

“I’m astonished, I’m very amazed to receive the recognition, it means a lot to me,” he said.    

In six short years employed with the district, Todd has made remarkable strides in the eyes of his peers and administrators.    

“As a Spanish teacher, I do a lot with chorale response,” he said. “So, if you step into my classroom, you see students that are very engaged, calling out — they are calling out the answers — they are very animated and excited.  And we do a lot of storytelling in class.”   

The Lindenbaum Award was created by a retired educator, many years ago, to honor teachers, principals and custodians, according to William Brodsky, a retired educator and co-chair of the Rose Lindenbaum Improvement of Education Award. 

Prior to retirement, Brodsky served as an educator within the School District of Philadelphia for 50 years. He was candid and adamant about the importance of exemplary teachers and administrators being recognized.

“I think it’s about time and long overdue, and should be a prime thing every, every week,” he said. “Without teachers, the society falls apart.” 

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