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BETHLEHEM—Two Bethlehem educators received 2018 Empire State Excellence in Teaching Awards earlier this month. Bethlehem Central Middle School Spanish teacher Shannon Lundgren and Eagle Elementary School fourth grade teacher Julianna Palomba were both recognized for classroom innovation and a commitment to sharing best practices with fellow educators.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the Empire State Excellence in Teaching Program in 2016 to support exemplary teachers across New York state who “foster creativity, instill a love of learning, motivate students to maintain high expectations and academic goals, and make a difference in the lives of students.” The program recognizes 60 teachers from around New York state who work to prepare a new generation of learners for the future.
Lundgren, a longtime teacher at the middle school, coordinates the district’s Teacher Mentor program, which pairs veteran educators with new teachers to provide support, encouragement and understanding in an effort to ensure their success in the classroom.
Lundgren not only learned that she had been selected for the honor, but was also presented with the award on Monday, May 7, in front of a packed room during a regularly scheduled faculty meeting. The surprised teacher received a standing ovation from both faculty and staff, along with a surprise visit from her husband, David.
Daniel Fuller, assistant secretary for education under Gov. Cuomo, presented Lundgren with the award.
“Teachers of excellence hold high expectations for every student and provide access to higher levels of learning for all,” said Daniel Fuller, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s assistant secretary for education. “We want to acknowledge these teachers, we want to thank them, give them a prize and have them tell their stories so others can be inspired by them.
“And now it’s happening at Bethlehem Middle School,” he said.
Lundgren received $5,000 to use for professional development purposes, in the form of an oversized cardboard check presented by Fuller and the Governor’s Capital Region representative Jeff Quain.
While Monday’s award presentation was a surprise for Lundgren, school leaders — including BCMS principal Mike Klugman — learned the good news the previous week, and were asked to keep it under wraps until the formal presentation.
“Shannon is extraordinarily deserving,” said Klugman. “While her work in her classroom continues to be exemplary as is her work with our new teachers, she also remains passionate about her own learning. Her learning curve is phenomenal because she is immune to complacency.”
At Eagle, students and staff from every grade assembled in the gym on Monday, May 21, for Palomba’s surprise announcement. Principal Dianna Reagan also arranged for her family to be present for the award presentation.
“Since Julianna first walked into Eagle as a student teacher, she has been energetic, happy, dedicated and just loves being with kids,” said Reagan. “Over the last two years, she has grown to be an outstanding educator who goes above and beyond to make learning meaningful, challenging and joyful.
“She is a teacher who constantly wants to better her teaching skills and enjoys working with others to be the best she can be. We are extremely lucky to have such a talented teacher at BC.”
Palomba also received $5,000 for professional development, which also came as an oversized cardboard check presented by Fuller, himself a BCHS graduate, and the parent of a Hamagrael student.
“I am pleased, honored, and humbled to accept this award with my Eagle family whom I admire and appreciate so much,” said Palomba. “I want to thank my students for making me love teaching more and more every day and to my colleagues for keeping me afloat my first few years teaching.
“And, of course, thank you to my family for always supporting me and being here,” she said. “I am blessed to be acknowledged in this way and my heart is full.”