Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District's Elizabeth Scully was the proud recipient of the Empire State Excellence in Teaching award. Scully is a reading specialist whose job constantly changes to meet the needs of her students and the overall desires of West Street Elementary School.
There are 500 students at the school that range in grades from K-5. She and two other reading specialists are responsible for intervention groups, data collection, assessment, organization and leading Child Study Team meetings and data meetings. She splits her time between being a reading recovery teacher, a first grade classroom teacher for about an hour a day and a reading specialist.
As a reading recovery teacher, she works one-on-one with specific first graders in order for the child to be reading within the average band of the classroom by 15 weeks. As a reading specialist, she works extensively with students in kindergarten and fifth grade to help them improve specific reading skills above and beyond classroom instruction.
The award recognizes the dedication, expertise and mission of the thousands of New York teachers and is given to those who demonstrate excellence in the classroom and make a difference in the lives of children. Gov. Cuomo called them, "Ambassadors to the future of our children, education, and New York state."
Sixty honorees receive a $5,000 stipend to be used to continue their professional learning endeavors.
West Street Elementary School Principal Theron Mong said it was exciting to get the call from the governor's office about the award.
"I had to keep it a secret from Liz for a week. We basically surprised her with this. She is so deserving, she works with our most vulnerable students making sure their reading comes up and they are working hard. This is such a great honor for her and West Street," Mong said.
Scully was floored when she found out the good news.
"I was lured into the room by being told I would be meeting with a neighboring district's administrative team regarding our literacy work. The outside nomination and application were a long time ago and I never actually thought I would receive it," Scully said. "I think to be an outstanding teacher, you maintain expectations, and by creating opportunities within reach for each student, you portray compassion as well. You never rest from prior learning, you stretch yourself to understand more, to see more and know more. Receiving this award is fantastic, but my reward is really working with the kids and knowing I am changing their lives. That is why I come to work every single day. They are the biggest joy of my job."