Students, chancellor surprise Bronx teacher with Big Apple Award

MORRIS HEIGHTS, Bronx (WABC) -- A beloved New York City teacher was surprised by staff and students with the news that she had won a prestigious award Wednesday.

Emilie Jones, a 10-year teacher at Intermediate School 303 Leadership & Community Service in the Bronx, was nominated by three students for the Big Apple Award -- a citywide recognition program celebrating New York City teachers who inspire students, model great teaching and enrich their school communities.

"She's really entertaining, and she likes to make everything fun," seventh grade student Raihana Aliyu said. "She's really funny, even though her jokes are always corny."

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced the big news to the English teacher.

"Do you realize there are 79,000 teachers in New York City, and there are only 17 that are chosen as Big Apple Award winners," Carranza said. "And you have one of them."

An estimated 7,000 teachers are nominated for the award every year.

"It's a pat on the back and a moment not just to celebrate just not me, because I would not have gotten this by myself, but to celebrate our entire community," Jones said.

She is actually the third teacher in three years at IS 303 to win, and now, she will sit on the chancellor's Teacher Advisory Board.

"She is amazing at her craft," IS 303 principal Monica Brady said. "She's really one of the best teachers I've ever seen, and I've done this for a very long time. But she also makes sure that they feel really loved and important, each of them, for who they are."

Aside from teaching, Jones is very involved in extracurricular activities and has gotten grants to put on musicals.

"She's always there for you when you need her," eighth grader Litzy Perez said. "And you can count on her, and if you need good advice, you can always go to her."

Jones, a gay woman who grew up in the south, also started the first gay-straight alliance at the school.

"I grew up in South Carolina, and I never heard the letters LGBTQ in a classroom," she said. "And as a young gay person myself, that really left an impact on me."

Her goal is to include as many voices as possible in her classroom and to get students to advocate for themselves.

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