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Gambian named 2019 New York State Teacher of the Year

Bronx teacher Alhassan Susso (pictured) has been named the 2019 New York State Teacher of the Year. (Photo credit: Jonathan Fickies/UFT) (Jonathan Fickies/UFT)

For the first time in 23 years, a Gambian-born teacher in New York has been recognized with the state’s top educational honor.

Inspiring Bronx teacher Alhassan Susso, who overcame a debilitating eye disease and a difficult childhood in Gambia to help immigrant teens achieve their college dreams, has been named the 2019 New York State Teacher of the Year.

The annual award presented by the state Education Department recognizes the most brilliant public school educators in the state.

Susso, 34, was chosen out of a field of more than 200,000 educators to receive the honor.

“Teaching is a profession with the potential to transform the world,” said the dedicated city teacher, who commutes two hours each way from his home in Poughkeepsie to the International Community High School, which only enrolls new immigrant students.

“If can get to their young minds and guide them, they can use that knowledge and skill to be able to lead meaningful lives,” said Susso who travelled to United States at age 16.

Bronx teacher Alhassan Susso (pictured) has been named the 2019 New York State Teacher of the Year. (Jonathan Fickies UFT)

Susso left behind a younger sister, Binta, who became ill with Hepatitis B as she sought to join him in upstate New York. She died in Gambia at age 19 having been unable to secure adequate healthcare.

The tragedy inspired Susso to dedicate himself to improving the lives of young immigrants in the U.S. — a calling he pursues each day.

He overcome his own serious eye illness to help kids in his school raise its graduation rate from 31% in 2012, when he arrived there, to 83% in 2018.

As teacher of the year, Susso will serve as an ambassador for teachers throughout the state and will be the New York nominee for the National Teacher of the Year awards.

Education officials hailed Susso’s work and praised his inspirational life story.

“Every day, he focuses on making the school-community connection that is critical to educating the whole child,” said state Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa. “I’m proud to honor this Bronx teacher as the Teacher of the Year.”

City schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said Susso exemplifies the dedication and passion of the city’s 79,000 public school teachers.

“Using the obstacles he’s overcome and lessons he’s learned in his own life, Alhassan has changed the trajectory of students’ lives and helped them pursue their dreams,” Carranza said.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said Susso embodies the power of teaching.

“By empowering his students, by helping them to believe in themselves, he gives his high school students the tools they need to chart their own future,” Mulgrew said of Susso.

Susso is the seventh city teacher to win the recognition since the awards began in 1970.

He credits much of his success to a positive attitude.

“I’m a big believer there are no accidents in life,” he said. “Everything is designed to get you where you need to be.”

Source: New York Daily News

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