Teaching Matters is proud to announce the 5th Annual Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize for Schools Where Teaching Matters.

There is no question that Teaching Matters. For this reason, we are awarding the fifth annual Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize to a school leader who is successfully advancing teacher effectiveness.

The winner of the Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize will receive a one-time award of $25,000 for a school initiative to advance, expand and/or replicate work underway The award may be applied to staffing; consultants; release and/or common planning time; software; hardware; or other resources specific to your initiative.

2015 Finalists:

Ms. Maria Herrera – Renaissance H.S. for Musical Theater & Technology/Bronx, NY/X293
Renaissance High School devotes significant time and resources to assist in the development of teacher leaders. This process ensures the focus of teachers’ collaborative work on increasing student knowledge. RHS will continue to improve through teacher-leader development and teacher growth through collaborative work focused on “problems of practice.”

Dr. Terri Ruyter – Battery Park City School/Manhattan, NY/M276
Battery Park City School aims to build a more cohesive and collaborative professional team through Japanese Lesson Study, a highly focused planning process that uses student work and teacher inquiry to design lessons that meet the range of learners in their school.

Ms. Regina Tottenham –Brooklyn Transition Center/Brooklyn, NY/K373
The Brooklyn Transition Center, with 42% of teachers having less than five years’ experience and an imminent retirement boom, needed a plan for building internal capacity. Its solution involves two prongs - 1) to expand a successful teacher-mentor pilot project to help new teachers take ownership for self-learning, which is advancing teacher motivation and retention, and 2) to develop the next set of internal leaders through direct leadership training, team building, and a teacher-led hiring committee that aims to attract highly qualified teachers.

Mr. Christopher Zagacki – Freire Charter Middle School, Philadelphia
At Freire Middle School, top-performing veteran teachers act as instructional coaches to other teachers. Each coach spends frequent, consistent time with individual teachers planning for, implementing, and refining instruction. Instructional coaches also work with a small subset of teachers to develop “demonstration classrooms,” which provide spaces for professional colleagues to view, practice and discuss instruction and student learning.


  1. Yvette Allen, In-Tech Academy, Bronx, NY
  2. Siv Boletsis, Manhattan Academy for Arts & Language, Manhattan, NY
  3. Elizabeth Collins, University Neighborhood School, Manhattan, NY
  4. Maria Herrera, Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & Technology, Bronx, NY
  5. Terri Ruyter, Battery Park City School, Manhattan, NY
  6. Regina Tottenham, Brooklyn Transition Center, Brooklyn, NY
  7. Christopher Zagacki, Freire Charter Middle School, Philadelphia, PA
  8. Erica Zigelman, MS322, Manhattan, NY

Selection Committee:

Jaynemarie Angbah, Children's Aid Society
Jodie Cohen, 2014 Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize Winner
Ingrid Edelman, Co-Chair of the Teaching Matters' Chairman’s Council
Rachel Leifer, The Helmsley Charitable Trust
Christine Vernon, Howard University


Principals are eligible for nomination as representatives of their publicly-funded K-12 schools. Schools in the New York metropolitan area (within a 100 mile radius of New York City) may apply. Principals may apply on their own behalf or be nominated by another educator or parent. Since this is a one-time award, Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize winners from previous years are not eligible. However, we encourage former applicants who meet program criteria to resubmit for consideration.


Submissions must demonstrate exemplary practice in attracting, growing or retaining great teachers. Examples may include but are not limited to:

Teacher Recruiting, Teacher Leadership, Data Use and Collaborative Inquiry, Smart Retention, and Observation and Feedback.

Submissions will be judged by a Prize Committee comprised of educational innovators and practitioners using the criteria that follow. To view the complete rubric please click here.

  • Supportive of Learning – The initiative benefits student learning outcomes.
  • Expectations for Effective Teaching – The initiative promotes a culture of clear and shared high expectations for instructional practice and student outcomes.
  • Promotes Professional Growth – The initiative promotes professional growth and recognizes excellence.
  • Cost Effectiveness – The initiative contains costs without seriously compromising its integrity.
  • Sustainability – The initiative is supported by and supportive of a critical school improvement priority. It has the potential to continue over time and grow within the school.
  • Replicability – The initiative can be replicated in other schools with a minimum of difficulty.

Selection Process

The Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize winner is selected by a multi-step process that includes:

  • Completion of a nomination/qualifying online application by either nominee or nominating colleague or parent (Nominations accepted between February 24th to March 6th, 2015)
  • Submission of a full application by nominee (Applications accepted between March 9th and May 8th, 2015)
  • Final selection determined by a vote representing the prize committee and the public.
  • The Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize Luncheon with presentation to the winner and top five finalists on Thursday, July 23rd at the Harvard Club of New York.

As part of the voting process, finalists are required to share their initiatives online with the educational community. Finalists should be prepared to work with Teaching Matters in developing a short presentation on their exemplary practice.

About The Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize

The Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize is underwritten by The Elizabeth Rohatyn Innovation Fund. Mrs. Rohatyn is a champion of innovation and education. Driven by the belief that teachers are the most important school-related factor in raising student achievement, Mrs. Rohatyn joined forces with former teachers, principals and technology experts and founded Teaching Matters in 1994.

Past Winners

2014 Winner: Ms. Jodie Cohen, James Madison High School, Brooklyn, NY
James Madison High School believes that collaboration across the disciplines is key to enriching student access to the instructional program. Through the meeting of instructionally focused teacher teams, models for effective teaching and classroom environments that promote rigor and a culture of learning have been established. The outgrowth of our model classroom initiative has been the creation of a professional development calendar and drop box for sharing electronic resources. Funding has supported further professional development, teacher release time and the purchase of electronic equipment to aid communication.

2013 Winner: Dr. Salvador Fernandez of JHS052 Inwood, Manhattan, NY

Inwood Intermediate School 52, located in upper Manhattan, has committed itself to collaboratively developing, conducting and participating in professional development that refines and strengthens instructional design and delivery. The Rohatyn Prize offered the opportunity to pursue these efforts through a two-part process: 1) Curriculum Redesign and 2) Interclass Visitation. Both parts connect as they allow staff to look closely at both planning of lessons and the delivery of instruction.

The Curriculum Redesign Process is a project that has afforded teams of teachers the chance to examine units of study in ELA looking specifically at alignment: alignment to standards, horizontal alignment within each grade, and vertical alignment across grades. The Interclass Visitation Process, then, allows teachers to see these units in practice by looking at what is happening within classrooms. Teachers visit one another either one-on-one or in small groups, taking low-inference observation notes and looking at elements such as questioning & discussion techniques, instructional strategies, and differentiation. Teachers debrief and provide feedback to one another. Feedback includes clear next steps and often informs professional development offerings within the school, tailored to the needs of our teachers. Both processes promote high expectations for all staff and students, and provide support in reaching and maintaining quality practice.

2012 Winner: Ms. Rose Kerr of Staten Island School of Civic Leadership (R861), Staten Island, NY

The Triad Model is a teacher effectiveness initiative that puts three teachers in charge of comprehensive instruction for two classrooms. This allows the team of teachers to own responsibility for everything from analyzing student performance data and developing interventions, to scheduling. The initiative elevates teacher teaming to a whole new level. During her acceptance speech, principal Kerr explained the powerful effects of the Triad Model. "Ask any child in our building who their teacher is and it becomes plainly obvious they have not one, but three teachers accountable for their continued success," said Ms. Kerr.

2011 Winner: Ms. Jeanne Rotunda of West Side Collaborative (MS250), Manhattan, NYC

The Westside Collaborative/MS250 is an innovative middle school located in Manhattan that aims to foster teacher effectiveness through the expansion of an online collaborative community. The online structure fosters staff ability to differentiate for students, share resources and lessons, collaborate without the time constraints of meeting face-to-face, track progress, communicate about school-based teacher-leader initiatives and use assessment strategically. The effectiveness of the staffs’ use of these tools is evidence of how ingrained the collaborative structure is at West Side Collaborative where 75% of the staff is in teacher leader roles. The school schedule and differentiated staff roles promote the sharing of best practices in a culture of continual learning. This online collaboration system increases the ways the staff shares and makes that sharing transparent. The Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize allowed West Side Collaborative to further the school’s professional learning community. Ipads purchased for teachers made the entire process more efficient and effective. By allowing teachers to keep their dedicated tool with them as they travel between their shared classrooms, their ability to collaborate within and beyond the school day was extended.