Burton Street Elementary School second grade teacher Julie Kielbasinski, standing back row center left, and her second grade students were pictured with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s CNY representative, Colleen Deacon, on May 8 after Kielbasinski received a 2018 Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award. (photo courtesy Cazenovia CSD)
Burton Street second grade teacher Julie Kielbasinski has been selected as a recipient of an Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award 2018 by the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Kielbasinski is one of just 60 teachers in the state to receive the award.
The Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes educational leaders (PreK through 12) who exemplify the professional work of thousands of outstanding, progressive teachers and innovative educators.
Kielbasinski received her award in a surprise ceremony in her classroom on May 8. In addition to all her students being present, also in her room that day was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s CNY representative, Colleen Deacon, Cazenovia district Superintendent Matt Reilly and Burton Street Principal Mary-Ann MacIntosh.
“I had no idea I was getting an award. Truthfully, when I walked into my classroom I thought I was going to have an unannounced observation!” Kielbasinski said. “When I walked into the classroom and saw Mr. Reilly, Mrs. MacIntosh and Mike Byrnes videotaping me, I was really confused. All I could think was that they were in there because my class had been part of a special lesson study experience and he wanted pictures of them to put in the district Blue and Gold newsletter. Finally, I noticed Collen Deacon and then she and Mrs. MacIntosh started to explain what was going on. The whole time I was just trying to make sense of what was happening.”
Deacon gave a brief statement in which she explained that Cuomo’s office was celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week by highlighting teachers who “have gone above and beyond in their communities,” and said, “And we know that here at Burton Street Elementary, we have one of those such teachers.”
Deacon then presented Kielbasinski with a plaque naming her a recipient of an Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award 2018, and also a check for $5,000 to be used for continued learning and professional endeavors.
“I was completely shocked and overwhelmed,” Kielbasinski said. “I didn’t cry until the other adults left and a student came up, put her arms around me and said, ‘I’m so proud of you, Mrs. K.’ Then one by one a couple other kids said, ‘Me too,’ and joined in the hug until another child said, ‘Group Hug!’ Then every student spontaneously came up and we had a giant class group hug. That was the best part because they are the reason I teach! It is all about the kids.”
Kielbasinski was nominated for the award by former Cazenovia assistant superintendent Terry Ward. Her application was judged by a panel of educational leaders from several professional associations, including the New York State United Teachers, United Federation of Teachers, New York State Council of School Superintendents and the New York State Parent Teacher Association.
“We are incredibly proud and thankful to have Julie as a teacher here in the district,” said Superintendent Matt Reilly. “She was nominated for her outstanding instruction, particularly her use of the co-teaching model in her classroom. She truly is all about all kids.”
Kielbasinski said she would like to use her award money to attend a conference that she otherwise would not have been able to attend because of the cost, such as the Chicago Lesson Study Conference, the Literacy For All Conference in Providence, R.I., or a Reading and Writing Workshop with the Teachers College at Columbia University.
To see a video of Kielbasinski being presented her award by the governor’s CNY representative, Colleen Deacon, visit the school district website at photos.app.goo.gl/rIIDAPfOFOcCemMj2.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.