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Westchester Honors Most Innovative Teachers

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino named two teachers as the inaugural winners of the WISE Award.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino named two teachers as the inaugural winners of the WISE Award. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – A pair of local educators are to be honored Wednesday as innovators in their field, according to Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino.

Astorino and the Westchester County Youth Board are to honor the educators with the inaugural Westchester Innovative School Educators (WISE) Awards, according to a statement from Astorino’s office.

The honorees were identified Monday as Dean Saghafi, a science teacher at Lincoln High School in Yonkers, and Michael Garcia-Wing, an earth science teacher at Hommocks Middle School in Mamaroneck, according to Astorino.

“Congratulations to Dr. Saghafi and Mr. Garcia-Wing, two innovative educators who go the extra mile to help their students achieve," the county executive said. “Through their unique ability to inspire students, and commitment to carry their passion beyond the four corners of the classroom, these two educators have had an astonishing impact on their communities and beyond.”

WISE Awards are to be given to certified professionals currently working in educational settings or alternative education pathways, according to Astorino, who said WISE Award winners have developed “innovative solutions to challenges facing young students through the educational system that serves them.”

Having taught at Lincoln High School for the past decade, Saghafi serves as director of the Program for Scientific Inquiry, a science research academy that he developed some time ago, according to Astorino.

Saghafi is a Young Science Achiever’s Teacher of the Year award winner and was named the 2012–2013 Outstanding Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year. Last year, he was the recipient of the Yonkers Public Schools Teacher of the Year award, according to Astorino’s office.

“Teaching is a divine calling, which has provided me an incredible opportunity to mold the lives and the careers of the future generations of our society,” Saghafi said. “It is the most wonderful profession in the world.”

Garcia-Wing, an eight-grade teacher at the Mamaroneck middle school, works directly with the Westchester County Youth Bureau and the City of White Plains, according to Astorino, who said the teacher has served as director of informal science programs at the STEM Leadership Center.

"I am deeply honored and grateful to Westchester County for recognizing my efforts,” Garcia-Wing said. “My approach to teaching STEM is driven by my personal commitment and necessity to be innovative in both my classroom and as a non-profit director of informal science education."

The awards reception, which is to be held at Beckwith Pointe, 700 Davenport Ave., in New Rochelle, also will allow for the presentation of the Milly Kibrick Youth Service Award, according to officials. Ebony White, workforce development coordinator for the Business Council of Westchester, will provide the dinner’s keynote address.

“It is an honor to serve as the Keynote Speaker for the Youth Service Awards Dinner,” said White, who has helped developed more than 700 jobs for young people in Westchester. “I am truly inspired by the impactful work being done by the student honorees. Through their passion, dedication and hard work they are changing the lives of those they encounter. These young men and women are the future leaders of our communities and I am so grateful to be a part of celebrating their achievements.”

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