Buffalo's first "Excellence in Education" awards were handed out Sunday evening as an event that was intended to be a public bash turned into a virtual celebration.
The coronavirus turned the ceremony into a digital event, mixing music from some well-known local musicians with pre-taped nominated speeches and victory speeches by eventual winners talked about what they do as teachers or administrators.
The awards program aired on WBBZ-TV was run by Friends for A Better Buffalo. That group was started by Buffalo School Board member Terrance Heard and his wife Nina.
"[I wanted to] establish a program that I felt was necessary in the City of Buffalo, since I was an educator in the Buffalo public schools system," he said. "My vision was to put together a program that would honor our teachers, building administrators and support staff for all the untold work that they do with our children, honoring the individuals who help our students through troubled times, mentor them throughout their childhood and educate and prepare them for the future."
Friends for a Better Buffalo opened the nominations to all the schools in Buffalo: public, charter and private. The kindergarten through third grade winner was Tapestry kindergarten teacher Jill Anna Fox.
"I get to be many students' first introduction to what school is all about. I get to help determine how a child feels about learning and about school in general. I get to teach them the foundation of everything they will ever study. We all know what Robert Fulghum said when he said that everything he ever needed to know he learned in kindergarten," she said.
The winner for seventh and eighth grades was Dr. Charles R. Drew Science teacher Sukhui Kim, who helps kids assimilate in their new country.
"As well as maintain their cultures and languages, so they could lead this country and serve their communities," Kim said. "When my former students who are now policemen, teachers, doctoral candidates, serving government agencies in various functions, invite me to their children's birthdays, weddings or ask for advice even after not seeing me for 20-something years, there is a gratification."
Other winners were from an array of different schools and different categories, from classroom aides to high school principals. There were special awards to sports coaches and a trailblazer award to music teacher Linda Appleby.