Distinguished Educator Awards

2024 Award Winners

Amy is a Buffalo State two-time alumni (secondary English 93 and MPS 98). She has been teaching in the Niagara Falls city school district since 1994. This is her 30th year of teaching. She has taught every grade at every level 9-12. She currently teaches grade 12 AP Language and Multicultural Education (through Niagara university ) and School for Society (through Buffalo State). She is English Department chair, adviser for yearbook and newspaper, school activities and climate coordinator, and 5 time class adviser. She loves teaching and is a little melancholy about being done in 2 years. 

In the mid- 2000s she achieved National Board Certification. She says, "Teaching has been good to me!"

Kate Rapp earned her BA in English Textual Studies and English Education from Syracuse University and her MEd in Special Education from Boston College. She began her career as a special educator in Framingham, MA and has completed her 19th year at Amherst Central High School where she teaches 9th, 10th, and 12th grade English. 

At Amherst, Kate serves as the ELA Curriculum Coordinator for grades 7-12 and has been a class advisor for many years. She is passionate about young adult literature and over the past decade, has worked to diversify her curriculum with modern titles to increase student engagement, help students make valuable personal connections, and represent the diverse student community that she feels so fortunate to teach. In the last year, Kate has incorporated an inquiry based approach to teaching and learning that focuses on identity and social justice in a student-centered classroom. She is excited about the growth and development of her students as critical thinkers and scholars.

Kate is also a proud mother of three boys and enjoys spending most of her free time with her husband at hockey rinks and baseball diamonds.

Lindsey Gallagher teaches 11th grade English at Wilson High School. Lindsey is always looking for new, creative ways to reach all student abilities through projects and activities that involve choice. She creates an environment for students to express themselves both individually and collaboratively through project-based inquiry learning, and creates meaningful opportunities for young people in her small, rural school to explore WNY for real-life learning experiences. One of her favorites is the annual Youth Voices Speaker Series at Buffalo State College, where she brought a group of students the past two years to present their own original work that is meaningful to them. She is an alumni of Buffalo State University English Education MS and MSED programs. Lindsey and her husband Patrick love exploring, and currently reside in Newfane, NY with their dog, cat, and 13 chickens. 

Dr. Chris Thuman began his career as a K-8 teacher in Chicago Public Schools before relocating to Scottsdale, AZ in 2005.  Dr. Thuman worked in the Scottsdale Unified Schools for 16 years in a variety of roles.  First he was a High School Science Teacher and then an Assistant Director of Community Education Programs.  After that he became an Executive Director for three years, MS Principal for four years before ending his time in Arizona as an Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education in 2022.  Born and raised in Hamburg, Dr. Thuman and his family relocated back home in the summer of 2022 which is when he started his role as Principal at Frontier MS.  Dr. Thuman lives with his wife Kristen and two daughters Brooklyn (8) and Rylie (6). 


The WNYNET Distinguished Educator Awards recognize English teachers and administrators in the Buffalo-Niagara region who have shown a commitment to the young people of our region through the meaningful teaching of English Language Arts in grades 7-12.  

  -  The New and Early Career English Teacher Award is given to an educator that has taught 7-12 English for 1-5 years. Recipients of this award are developing as leaders in their departments and schools. They engage in meaningful, reflective practice within their classroom and work to connect teaching to their students’ lived experiences. They incorporate new technology and current research in the field to significantly enhance student engagement.

  -  The Experienced Teacher Award is given to an educator that has taught 7-12 English for 6-20 years. Recipients of this award demonstrate the same commitments as above while also assuming leadership roles in their districts and Western New York through the mentoring of new and pre-service teachers, their engagement in local, regional, and national professional networks (such as WNYNET, NYSEC, NCTE) and in other capacities that support and encourage meaningful teaching in our region.

  -  The Lifetime Achievement in English Teaching Sponsored by Just Buffalo Literary Center is given to an educator that has taught 7-12 English for over 20 years. Recipients of this award have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the meaningful teaching of English Language Arts throughout their careers. In addition to the above, these teachers have served as leaders in their communities, worked for many years as mentor teachers, and have continued to develop their understanding and advocacy for meaningful English teaching in our region, state, and country.  

  -  The Administrative Leadership in Support of English Language Arts Award is given to building and district administrators who have supported the meaningful teaching of English Language Arts in their schools and/or districts.

Who can nominate an educator? 

Anyone can nominate an educator. This includes colleagues, parents, administrators, pre-service teachers, educational professionals, or any member of the community. 

Nominations will be reviewed by the Western New York English Teachers officers according to the standards set forth by the organization.

How does WNYNET define meaningful teaching in the English Language Arts classroom?

To define what constitutes meaningful English teaching, The Western New York Network of English teachers draws from standards set forth by the National Council of Teachers of English as well as leading researchers and teachers in the field of secondary English education.

While meaningful teaching can be described in many ways, the following characteristics may be helpful in determining potential award recipients. Teachers that may qualify for these awards are teachers who:

Past Winners

2023 WNYNET English Teacher Awards

Diane Meaney, Lifetime Achievement Award

Mike Gunsolus, Early Career Teacher 

Brandy Kinney, Experienced Teacher

Diane Meaney, Lifetime Achievement

Jason Marchioli, Administrative Leadership

2023 English Education Student Association Awards

Scott Reiman, Community Award

Darla Schultz-Bubar, Inspirational Teacher Award

Melissa Meola Shanahan, Alumni Award

2016 WNYNET English Teacher Awards

Dr. Wendy Paterson, Lifetime Achievement Award

Chelsey Nabozny, First Year Teacher

Amanda Thompson, Early Career Teacher 

Kristen Pastore-Capuana, Experienced Teacher

JoAnn Wiatrowski, Lifetime Achievement

James Mule, Administrative Leadership

2017 WNYNET English Teacher Awards

Felice Brandy, New Teacher 

Natalie Schnorr, Early Career Teacher

Paul Endres, Experienced Teacher 

Tom O’Malley, Lifetime Achievement 

Dr. Michael Gruber. Administrative Award 

2018 WNYNET English Teacher Awards

Regina Derrico, Lifetime Achievement 

Colleen Duggan, Administrative Leadership

Petrina Scaglione, New Teacher

Angela Waligora, Early Career Teacher

Liz Lyons, Experienced Teacher

2019 WNYNET English Teacher Awards

William O'Neil-White, New Teacher & Early Career

Gary Terhune, Experienced Teacher 

Pamela Fordham, Lifetime Achievement

Gretchen Cercone, Administrative Leadership 

2022 WNYNET English Teacher Awards

Rachel Robinson, Early Career

Sara Krajewski, Mid Career

Kevin Starr, Lifetime Achievement

Kevin Ryan, Administrative Leadership

2022 English Education Student Association Awards

Jevon Hunter, Community Award

Deborah Bertlesman, Inspirational Teacher Award