Two extraordinary University of Vermont alumni - Kristen Morrissey and Leah Green - recently won New York City Excellence in Education Awards presented by Success Academy schools. Kristen received an ETHOS Excellence Award, which recognizes school staff who best demonstrate the core values of excellence, teamwork, humor, ownership, and students. Leah won the Academic Achievement Award, recognizing teachers who inspire their students to perform at the highest academic level across all 41 Success Academy schools.
Currently teaching third grade at Success Academy Prospect Heights, Kristen graduated from UVM in 2014 with a degree in Art Education. Leah, a fifth grade math teacher at Success Academy Midtown West Middle School, graduated from UVM in 2016, receiving a degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in Mathematics.
Kristen remembers how her UVM experience launched her career. “My undergraduate degree in Art Education was great preparation for my career in education because my major was a mix between education classes and studio art classes," she says. "Because Vermont is such a welcoming and creative place, I was able to have many educational experiences in and outside of schools. I was given the opportunity to teach children art in a museum setting, in a private art studio, and at summer camps. My most fulfilling experience was doing my semester of student teaching in an elementary school.”
As a very recent graduate, Leah explains how UVM provided the quality academics and experiences that led her be a successful teacher right out of college. “My undergraduate degree prepared me to work with students at a high mathematical level using my background knowledge in the subject in order to guide them into a deeper understanding of different levels of math," she says. "While obtaining my degree, I learned how to work with a multitude of different types of kids, ranging in all ages and topics. I became very comfortable understanding how to use their strengths to overcome their weaknesses in order to help them succeed."
Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public K-12 schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. With 41 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 14,000 students, primarily low-income children of color in disadvantaged neighborhoods. About 77% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, 95% are children of color, 16% are children with disabilities, and 8.5% are English language learners.
Ranked in the top 1% in math and the top 1.5% in English on 2016 state proficiency tests, Success Academy schools received more than 20,000 applications for about 3,200 open seats this year.