Long Island City teacher wins Big Apple Award for outstanding work at her school

Melisande Bolano with her third-grade class.
Courtesy of NYC Department of Education

A third-grade teacher from P.S. 76Q William Hellet School in Long Island City received the Big Apple Award, a Department of Education annual recognition of New York City educators who inspire students, model great teaching and enhance their school communities. 

Out of 6,500 teachers, Melisande Bolano was one of 20 educators picked to exemplify NYC’s most dedicated teachers. The process of awarding teachers is quite extensive; nominee applications are looked at by superintendent district teams, DOE central staff and former BAA winners. 

Tim Miller, the principal of P.S. 76, nominated Bolano because of her contributions and attitude at school. 

“She stuck out. She radiates positivity,” Miller said. “She has helped over the course of the last five years to grow our dual language department, which started from nothing. She is a gem of an educator. Everything is a teachable moment for her. She loves what she does and it shows”

Bolano said teaching has always been a dream of hers because of the influential educators in her life. She started at P.S. 76 eight years ago and said the kids have always been the best part of her day. 

“It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Bolano said. “Just spending time with them, there’s no better way to start and end a day than with them, and to see their growth is just fantastic.”

Being both hybrid and remote has been challenging for Bolano, but she feels teaching is about finding ways to engage students as circumstances change.

Melisande Bolano (Photo courtesy of NYC Department of Education)

“I’m motivated by the kids,” Bolano said. “I’ve learned a lot from them. The more I teach the more I realize as hard as it can be, there’s so much more reward you can get from it.”

Since Bolano is a multilingual learner and Latinx teacher, she feels especially connected to the Long Island City community. During the early months of the pandemic, she and her colleagues connected struggling families with resources from Brighter Bites and New York City Kids Rise. 

Bolano had initiated the dual language program at P.S. 76, which has taken off and expanded to multiple grade levels.

“I’m really happy for our community. We do have a lot of stars in our school, and I really feel like [Bolano] is part of the reason for that,” Miller said. “She’s a leader: a community leader [and] a team leader.”

Bolano was surprised in her classroom Thursday morning with the award. She didn’t hesitate to turn it into a teachable moment for her students, encouraging them to go after their dreams, too.

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