Alumna Rosario Orengo Has Received Prestigious Big Apple Award from NYC DOE

Alumna Rosario Orengo Has Received Prestigious Big Apple Award from NYC DOE

Alumna Rosario Orengo Has Received Prestigious Big Apple Award from NYC DOE

When Rosario Orengo enrolled in John Jay in the fall of 1995, she was sure she would graduate with a degree in Forensic Psychology and become an FBI investigator—just like Clarice Starling. But soon after starting the program, she realized it wasn’t like what she’d seen in the movies, so she went back to her high school to meet with her Social Studies teacher, who encouraged her to study government instead. She didn’t seriously consider teaching until pursuing her Master’s in Education a few years after graduating in 2000. “It was really the prompting of my teacher that got me to do it,” she said.

Today, Orengo is a Social Studies teacher just like her mentor, and this year she was recognized as one of the best in the city by recently winning the prestigious and highly selective Big Apple Award. After being nominated by her principal and a colleague at the Urban Assembly Unison School, Orengo went through an intensive process that included interviews and classroom visits, and eventually narrowed down a group of 7,200 nominated teachers to 19 winners.

Over a 10-month period, the award provides teachers with both leadership development as well as the opportunity to be a direct counsel to Chancellor Carmen Fariña. Since the Big Apple teachers represent the best in the city, they sit on the Chancellor’s Advisory Board, and meet with her to discuss how to improve school climate and parent engagement, two of the Chancellor’s areas of interest.

“There’s so much in education that’s broken and as a teacher, I have ideas,” Orengo said. “Now, I’m able to influence something bigger in the DOE. I work at a school that has figured out a lot of things that if done on a larger scale could have a big impact. I’m hoping that what I have to bring to the table will be seen.”

The Big Apple Award recognizes the unique enthusiasm and dedication that Orengo brings to her work every day. “As hard as teaching can be, I love what I do,” she said. “I like being responsible for young minds and I think what’s most important for me is how am I going to make them civically minded? How do I help them become responsible adults?”

Though John Jay didn’t take her on the path she initially expected it would, she credits the institution for developing her civic-mindedness. “John Jay exposed me to the idea that there is injustice in the world and that we are the ones who can help fix that. What I walked away with was a sense of responsibility for our society and the world, and I want to spread that,” she said.

As a teacher, Orengo influences the minds of New York’s future leaders, and now as a Big Apple Award winner, she has the potential to influence the city’s policies as well. But setting a good example begins at home, with her 16 year-old son and 6 year-old daughter. When Orengo was awarded the Big Apple Award, her daughter was extremely proud. “She wouldn’t stop talking about it at her school, and other teachers congratulated me until even the principal of her school found out,” she said. “She says she wants to be a teacher just like her mom.”