Cuba-Rushford agriculture teacher Carly Santangelo takes top teaching honors

Photo by Dana Fournier.

It’s shortly before 8 p.m. and
across an open field from a small
farmhouse set back from the
road on the outskirts of this rural
Western New York town, a bright sun
is sinking fast, ending another busy
day for Carly Santangelo — but not
just yet. There’s still a herd of bleating
goats inside a barn at the end of a dirt
driveway that needs tending.

Tending to the herd: It’s the same
way Santangelo begins each morning,
before sunrise, prior to heading
off for the day to Cuba-Rushford
Central School where she teaches
agriculture to middle and high school

“Carly is knowledgeable and
enthusiastic. But I think what’s most
important is she lives the life; Carly’s
authentic,” said Michael Johnson, a
Cuba-Rushford technology teacher
who Santangelo considers a mentor.

There’s a rich history of dairy and
cheese production in Cuba, and
soon Santangelo’s goat farm, which
she runs with her husband, will also
include a creamery. But cream’s not
all that rises to the top in Cuba these
days. So, too, has Carly Santangelo,
named by the State Education
Department as New York State’s 2022
Teacher of the Year.

A nine-year classroom veteran,
Santangelo’s lessons span the concepts
of environmental stewardship,
agricultural sustainability and
community building. With a focus on
preparing students for the workforce,
she also aims to develop in her students
a sense of community through
initiatives such as volunteering at
the local food bank and teaching
elementary school students and area
businesses about the value of composting.

Santangelo said she wants
her students to realize the impact
they can make on the greater good.

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta
said Santangelo’s commitment to not
only her students but also her community
underscores the very mission
of the union movement.

“Carly represents the very best
qualities that our members possess:
Dedication, mastery of craft, and a
sincere belief in community,” Pallotta
said. “Cuba is a town made up of
working families and Carly is dedicated
to improving the lives of everyone
who lives there. We’re privileged to
call her a NYSUT member.”

Katie Ralston, Cuba-Rushford
Central School 6–12 principal, said
Santangelo “is a teacher who knows
no limits” and whose impact “extends
well beyond the four walls of her

Take, for instance, the World
Foods and Diversity program she
founded with Joseph Franzen, a
Cuba-Rushford history teacher. Now
in its first year, the course helps students
understand how gender, race,
history and other global issues relate
to the food we eat.

“Food’s something we all connect
with,” Santangelo said. “Giving kids
the opportunity to have their hands
in the soil and produce their own
food empowers them. It gives them
a point of connection to people who
they might not have had a connection
to before.”

Santangelo also works to expose
all students to fields traditionally
viewed as male-oriented, such as
welding. Doing so, she said, helps
break down gender-based barriers
and stereotypes.

NYSUT Executive Vice President
Jolene DiBrango said key to
Santangelo’s success is that she
“recognizes the power of trial and
error as part of the learning process.”

“Carly not only meets students
where they are when they arrive in
her classroom,” DiBrango said, “she
helps take them to new heights. That
is very inspiring.”

“We have to view our school as
an extension of our community,”
Santangelo said. “Learning takes
place in the classroom but learning
also takes place when we allow
our students to take what they have
learned and apply it elsewhere.”


Also recognized by the State
Education Department as 2022
Teacher of the Year finalists are:
Amber Chandler, Frontier Central
Teachers Association; Jeanne Lance,
Watervliet Teachers Association;
Heather McCutcheon, Herkimer
Faculty Association; and Lynn Sajdak,
Hamburg Teachers Association.

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