Seven alumni of The City University of New York have won 2018 Big Apple Awards, a recognition of their exceptional skills as New York City public-school educators. The winners, announced by the New York City Department of Education, represent four colleges – Brooklyn College, City College, Hunter College and Queens College – and the CUNY Graduate Center. CUNY is well represented among the winners, with nearly half of the 17 awards coming from the University.

The seven teachers who won were selected from a pool of more than 6,500 nominations, representing schools in all five boroughs. All will serve as Big Apple Fellows during the 2018-19 school year.

“This impressive showing by CUNY alumni among the Big Apple Award winners highlights the University’s critical role in educating teachers for New York City’s public schools,” Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz said. “With 16,000 students enrolled in our teacher-education programs, CUNY is the largest pipeline of educators for the largest public-school system in the nation, and our innovative programs reflect the University’s commitment to New Yorkers.

“We are honored and delighted to have played a role in these exceptional teachers’ education and career accomplishments, which enrich young New Yorkers’ lives year after year,” Ashleigh Thompson, University Dean for Education, said. “Congratulations to all of this year’s Big Apple Award winners.”

As Big Apple Fellows for the coming academic year, the award-winning teachers will serve on the NYC Schools Chancellor’s Teacher Advisory Group and meet monthly for career development sessions, giving them the opportunity to broaden their expertise in the classroom.

This year’s CUNY alumni Big Apple Award winners are:

Nina Berman is an Early Childhood Education teacher at the LYFE Program at Pathways to Graduation Downtown Brooklyn, and earned two degrees at Brooklyn College, a  B.A. and a Graduate School Counseling Program MSED.

Damen Davis is a sixth-grade English Language Arts teacher and lead ESL teacher for the sixth grade at I.S. X303 Leadership & Community Service in the Bronx. He earned his Master’s of Education at Hunter College.

Sandra Fajgier is a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at Magnet School of Math, Science and Design Technology in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn College.

Stephanie Flete is a teacher of fourth-grade Mathematics at Urban Scholars Community School in the Bronx and earned her B.S. at City College.

Jae Lee is a High School Foreign Language-Korean teacher at Bayside High School, in Queens and earned an M.Phil in Linguistics at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Ryuma Tanaka is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at I.S. 145 Joseph Pulitzer in Queens and earned his M.A. in TESOL at Hunter College.

Alberto Toro is a Middle School Instrumental Music teacher at I.S. 007 Elias Bernstein in Staten Island and earned his M.A. in Jazz Performance and Composition at Queens College.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 23 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields. The University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 275,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies. For more information, visit