Persephone DaCosta, a dance and leadership teacher at Khalil Gibran International Academy.
Persephone DaCosta, a dance and leadership teacher at Khalil Gibran International Academy.

Persephone DaCosta, a dance and career leadership teacher in Brooklyn, has been recognized as an extraordinary public school teacher who inspires learning through creativity, passion and commitment.

The FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence, which receives close to 1,000 nominations from students, parents, principals and fellow teachers, has chosen DaCosta as Brooklyn’s grand-prize winner. She has been honored with the FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence, which comes with a $25,000 cash prize, as well as a $10,000 grant for her school, Khalil Gibran International Academy.

DaCosta’s nomination

DaCosta was nominated through her work in the R.O.S.E. (Respectful Outstanding Sisters of Excellence) program and the positive effects it had on her students, including increased attendance, improved grades and behavior. In this class, DaCosta is teaching her students to be leaders, and they help plan school-wide events and serve as mentors to others.

They are also learning basic etiquette training, visiting college campuses, and learning self-care and mental wellness. She also teaches dance, which offered a great outlet for self-expression for her students during the pandemic.

DaCosta said she would like to use the grant money to renovate the dance studio with basic things such as ballet barres and dance equipment and bring in teaching artists. She would also like to establish a Community Dance Performance Troupe.

“I love that the school and myself are both awarded funding because there is so much more to do. This work is demanding because our children have lots of needs,” said DaCosta.

“If we can’t pour anything into ourselves we get depleted and can’t give as much to others. My goal is to make me better, to go into the next school year reenergized and ready to pour all that I can into our students. Thank you for filling my cup and making it easier for me to continue giving more of myself to our students.”

“Public school teachers are among the most important pillars of our communities… This year’s winners exemplify the best of the teaching profession. The teachers we got to know through this process all put forth a phenomenal effort to create environments where their students learn and grow and it is an honor to recognize these individuals,” said Glenn Fuhrman, Co-Founder of The FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence.

The $25,000 cash prizes for the winners are for teachers’ personal use. The additional school awards of $10,000 each are to be used for arts education initiatives with input from the winning teachers. There are also ten finalists who will receive $10,000 for their personal use, and their schools will receive $2,000 each to use toward an arts-based initiative. And 20 semi-finalists will receive $500 for their personal use, and their schools will receive $500 each.

Brooklyn finalists

The FLAG Foundation selected one grand-prize winner per borough plus additional finalists and semifinalists. The Brooklyn finalists are Cailin Schiller and Nicole Hamilton, both from the Brooklyn Transition Center.

The semi-finalists for Brooklyn are: Alyssa Infranco, The Daniel Mucatel School;  Brittany Beck, High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology; and Maya Pincus, Bushwick Leaders High School for Academic Excellence.

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