Education

Hunts Point teacher is finalist for $1 million teaching award

From The Ellen DeGeneres Show

PS 48 music teacher Melissa Salguero reacts to her gifts on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in August.

A Hunts Point music teacher is a top 10 finalist for a $1 million teaching prize that will be awarded in Dubai on March 24.

Melissa Salguero, who started P.S.48 Joseph R Drake elementary school’s music program, is a finalist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019. Now in its fifth year, the award is the largest prize of its kind.

Salguero and the other nine finalists were selected from over 10,000 nominations and applications from around the world. The other finalists are from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Georgia, India, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, and the UK.

The award is granted to a teacher who has made a unique contribution to the profession while highlighting the important role teachers play in society. The UK-based nonprofit hopes to prompt public debates about the importance of teachers.

Before the Florida native’s arrival at PS 48 in 2010, the school hadn’t had a music program for three decades, and she knew that she was going to have to build one from the ground up. She entered contests, applied for grants, and eventually raised funds to start the school’s first-ever band program in 2012.

Behavioral problems have gone down and attendance has gone up for Salguero’s students, which helped her land a Lincoln Center Arts award as Teacher of the Year in 2013. 

After a 2014 break-in in which $30,000 worth of equipment was stolen and damaged, she and her students wrote a song called “We Will Rise” that went viral and caught the attention of TV hostess Ellen DeGeneres. She invited Salguero onto her show and presented her with band equipment and a $50,000 check that helped revive the program. Salguero subsequently won a Grammy Music Educator Award in 2018.

Salguero’s story can be viewed here.

The winner will be asked to serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation, attending public events and speaking in public forums about improving the profile of the teaching profession worldwide. 

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