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Heroes in Teaching Award 2016

on May 10, 2016
Heroes in Teaching Award winner 2016

WVHS senior, Christine McSweeney, who nominated Mr. Burns; BOE President, Lynn Lillian; WVCSD Superintendent, Dr. David Leach; and WVHS History teacher and 2016 Heroes in Teaching Award winner, Mr. Gene Burns.

For the past several years, the annual WVCSD Heroes in Teaching Award, has been sponsored by WVCSD parent Nancy Appelquist, and awarded based on student nominations.

The award was originally inspired by the book, “That Used to Be Us” by Thomas Friedman, which addresses the topic of how we, as a country, are having difficulty rising to some of our greatest challenges; specifically, education.

Friedman believes that the key factor in educational success is recognizing and promoting excellence in teaching – and if we want to recruit the most talented applicants, we need to recognize and reward those people who are setting the bar high and achieving great results.

The goals of the Heroes in Teaching Award are:

  • To promote excellence in teaching within the Warwick Valley Central School District.
  • To publicly recognize those teachers who have affected the academic careers of students.

Nominations may be made by any graduating WVHS senior, who may nominate any current teacher in the Warwick School District who teaches any grade, K-12.

We wish to recognize these nominees because they are all amazing teachers – all somewhat different, but all achieving excellence in their own way.

It is truly inspiring to hear from HS seniors about the wonderful ways these two teachers are not only teaching, but inspiring their students.


Award Winner 2016
Eugene Burns, U.S. History and Government
Nominated by WVHS senior, Christine McSweeney

Mr. Burns teaches US history and Government. Christine stressed that although history was a difficult subject, in Mr. Burns’ class history was more than names and dates, but events in in a long chain that were interrelated. Mr. Burns helps his students understand the impact of those historical events on our lives today.

Christine also mentioned that Mr. Burns taught his students effective study skills that not only helped in history class, but translated into her other classes as well.

Finally, Christine wanted to nominate Mr. Burns because she was impressed with the way Mr. Burns went the extra mile and gave up his personal time to make sure each student was successful in his class. He was often available before school to help any struggling students and also to help students who wanted extra test prep in order to excel.


Dorothy Ainsley-Smith – Honors Chemistry, AP Chemistry, AP Biology
Nominated by WVHS senior, Tyler Gillespie

Mrs. Smith teaches Honors Chemistry, and according to Tyler, the effort that Mrs. Smith puts into her class on a regular basis is unmatched. She always grades tests and quizzes in a very timely manner, and for those students who struggle with the subject matter, Mrs. Smith offers extra help every single day before and after school.

Tyler said being in Mrs. Smith’s class completely changed his work ethic. He learned how hard you need to work in order to succeed in an honors level course. He is now committed to making sure every single homework question is right, and studies to the best of his ability with little to no distraction.

Finally, Tyler nominated Mrs. Smith not just because she is a great teacher, but also because she showed compassion to Tyler during a very difficult personal time. When Tyler lost a close family member last year, Mrs. Smith worked with him on test and assignment due dates and that meant the world to him.

According to Tyler, “Mrs. Smith is by far the best teacher that WVHS has to offer. Some may find her scary, harsh, or too tough – but in reality, that is the only way to have a near 100% Regents passing rate.”


Many thanks to Dr. Leach for allowing us to continue with this award, Mr. Carlos Barquero for helping get the word out to the Senior class about nominations, Cheryl Barker who’s been a part of the selection committee from the very beginning and supports the award in countless ways, and of course the students, Tyler and Christine who took the time to nominate their teaching heroes.



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