Fairport educator is state Teacher of the Year

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

A Fairport High School chemistry and physics teacher has been named New York State Teacher of the Year by the State Education Department.

Richard Ognibene Jr won the honor yesterday.

“In a state known for its dedicated, highly professional teachers, Richard Ognibene stands out,” said New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Iannuzzi. “He is a mentor to other teachers, a leader in his community, and a role model to students. Richard is a fitting choice to represent all the terrific teachers in our state.”

Ognibene, a teacher for 21 years, has been known to open the school year by writing his name in ethanol on his chalkboard and then lighting it on fire. To demonstrate the principles of gravity, he drops a bowling ball and tennis ball from the school roof.

Ognibene, who has taught at Fairport High School for 15 years, has mentored new math teachers; leads a district-wide program that teaches civility, respect and tolerance to students; organizes a fundraiser for a school in Kenya; and presents workshops on how to make gay youth feel welcome in the classroom and the workplace. An active union member, Ognibene has also served as vice president of the Fairport Educators Association.

Ognibene will represent New York teachers around the state and is in the running for national Teacher of the Year honors.

Four other educators – all from upstate – were named Teacher of the Year finalists by the State Education Department.

• Felipa Gaudet, a kindergarten teacher at Violet Avenue Elementary School in the Hyde Park School District. Gaudet has developed innovative programs to help students living in poverty and those who are English language learners. To reach out to families of her students, many of whom are from Oaxaca, Mexico, Gaudet has created a special day celebrating the culture, music and dance of Oaxaca.

• Elaine Ormsbee, a middle-level counselor in the North Syracuse School District, is known for making every child feel like an important part of the school community. She has been a leader in anti-bullying efforts in her school district and community.

• Anne Sierotnik, a high school English teacher in West Genesee, is a mentor to other teachers and is extremely active in her community. She has organized class activities to benefit local, state and national charities, including the Camillus Food Pantry, Hurricane Katrina relief and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

• Alison Albright, an English teacher at the Canandaigua Academy in Canandaigua, commits an extraordinary amount of time to working with students on writing, both for school work and college application essays. She is a Nationally Board-Certified teacher.