Jessica Abrams and Sarah Slack will receive a $25,000 cash prize and a $10,000 grant for their schools after being named FLAG Foundation grand prize award winners.

Two Brooklyn teachers are being recognized for their commitment to going above and beyond for their students. 

“Educators play such a huge part in our children’s lives, and they deserve recognition for their impact on the future lives of their students,” said Glenn Fuhrman, co-founder of FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence. “We are grateful to recognize these hard-working and inspiring NYC public school teachers. Our children are in great hands with these teachers guiding them.”  

The FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence recently announced its 2023 award winners. Founded by Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman and administered by co-presidents Risa Daniels and Laura Twersky, the annual award recognizes and celebrates extraordinary public school teachers who inspire learning through creativity, passion and commitment. 

“There are so many amazing educators, and we are glad we can honor a few individuals who have made a lasting impact on the lives of their students,” said Daniels. 

This year, two of the foundation’s six grand prize winners are from Brooklyn – Jessica Abrams and Sarah Slack. Each grand prize winner will receive a $25,000 cash prize, and their schools will receive a $10,000 grant. 

Jessica Abrams 

Abrams is a STEM teacher at Liberty Avenue Middle School in Brooklyn. She is a licensed special education teacher in an integrated co-taught classroom where she uses a self-designed curriculum to reach various learners. 

She also teaches two dual language science courses and a science enrichment class for gifted students. 

“Every single student I’ve come across in the past nine years yearned to be seen and heard. I feel seen, heard and honored to be recognized in this way by the FLAG Foundation,” said Abrams. “This award is dedicated to every student of Liberty Avenue middle school, past and present, who has impacted my teaching career. I heard and saw every single one of you.”

Abrams has taken the extra effort to write and obtain grants that have provided $250,000 for technology in STEM equipment and $175,000 to start a hydroponics lab in the school. 

Additionally, she led students in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition for several years, resulting in a combined $87,000 in prize money. 

Most recently, Abrams stepped out of the classroom to petition the NYC Parks Department to dedicate an outdoor space next to the school so she can expand the hydroponics lab and create a sustainable community garden for the families and the broader community. 

As an extracurricular, Abrams facilitates a girl’s group called Girls Empowerment Movement, that is responsible for a community fridge and a clothing drive. In May, through the program, she took 25 students to Europe to submerge them in different cultures and life experiences. 

Abrams is being recognized for her commitment to helping her students apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world scenarios. 

Sarah Slack

Slack is a science and STEM teacher at I.S. 223: The Montauk School in Brooklyn. Slack is known for motivating students through her personal experiences, which include studying wolves across North America to develop a lesson on evolution, traveling to Antarctica to study glaciers and the effects of climate change, and spending a year working on a research team with NASA’s Climate Change Research Initiative. 

At her school, Slack received a grant to install multiple hydroponics towers. She has also worked with an ENL teacher to grow popular herbs used in students’ home countries.

“I don’t want to just teach my students science; I want them to learn what it means to be a scientist. I hope that my students develop their ability to carefully observe their environment, to use critical thinking and engineering design skills to overcome a challenge and to back up their claims with evidence,” said Slack. “I am incredibly grateful for this recognition from the FLAG Foundation, and I hope it shows my students that the work we do in our classroom is meaningful.”

Slack is also the District 20 STEM coach, where she helps create district-wide STEAM events. She is a member of the Middle School Science Leadership team and co-chair of the NYCDOE’s Climate Education Leadership Team where she works with the NYCDOE’s Office of Sustainability on a Professional Learning series.

Slack is being recognized for teaching her students to be scientists rather than simply teaching them science. She focuses on associated skillset and critical thinking skills that come with technical knowledge.

The FLAG Awards for Teaching Excellence

Over the past four years, the FLAG Foundation awards have recognized 122 teachers across the five boroughs and given away $1,130,000 in prize money. 

This year, organizers received the most nominations in the foundation’s history with 1,337 submissions from students, parents, principals and teachers. 

Award winners were selected by an independent jury comprising education, community and philanthropic leaders based on criteria that emphasize the student experience. 

To be considered, teachers were required to complete a comprehensive application, participate in an interview process that included an interview with their principal and submit supplementary material. 

In addition to the six grand prize winners, ten finalists were also selected to receive $10,000 for their personal use, and their schools will receive $5,000 each to use toward an arts-based initiative. Additionally, 19 semi-finalists will receive $1,000 for their personal use, and their schools will receive $1,000 each.

2023 Brooklyn finalists include: 

  • Brittany Beck – High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology
  • Joseph Alvear – Fort Hamilton High School
  • Sasha Roopchand – The Brooklyn Green Magnet School for Eco Activism

2023 Brooklyn semi-finalists, include:

  • Andrew Boorstyn – Brooklyn Collaborative Studies 
  • Rachel Porter – Edward R. Murrow High School
  • Romina Keper – P.S. 86K 
  • Anthony Bonini – Eagle Academy Young Men II at Ocean Hill

“Great work shouldn’t go unnoticed, and I’m thrilled we could recognize and reward these outstanding teachers,” said Twersky.

The complete list of grand prize winners and additional finalists will be announced later this month. For additional information, click here

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