SOUTH BRONX, New York City (WABC) -- For the first time in decades, a teacher in New York City has been named the New York State Teacher of the Year.
The inspiring instructor in the Bronx overcame a debilitating eye disease and a difficult upbringing in West Africa and is now helping immigrant children achieve their dreams.
Alhassan Susson has been teaching at the International Community High School in the South Bronx for just seven years.
"The last person who won this award has been teaching for 23 years, the one before that 26 years, and the one before that, 48 years," he said. "I was stunned, because there are 215,000 teachers in the state of New York."
It's an indication of how how extraordinary the West African History and Social Studies teacher is and the mark he has made.
"The way he is with every student is like a different way," former student Eric Parache said. "He has a way of talking to every student."
Susso was rated on his leadership, innovative approach and dedication to his students.
"It feels gratifying, because the work that my students and I have done over the past seven years," he said. "And to get this kind of recognition is something the community is deeply grateful for."
This is the first time in more than 20 years that a teacher from New York City has won.
"When we come from another country, we are not confident about ourselves," former student Maria Feliz said. "So we doubt ourselves because we don't speak the language. We feel like we're not going to get to the point that we want to, and he gives us the tools to reach those goals. He gives us the confident to reach it."
Susso will now compete with educators from around the country for the National Teacher of the Year.
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Bronx teacher named New York State Teacher of the Year