November 15, 2016
Albany, NY

Video, Photos & Transcript: Governor Cuomo Presents Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award

TOP Video, Photos & Transcript: Governor Cuomo...

Rochester ESOL Teacher Recognized for Exemplary Professional Work in Education

Winners Awarded $5,000 Stipend for Professional Development


Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo presented Adel Bouallagui, an ESOL teacher at Vanguard Collegiate High School, with an Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award in Rochester. The award recognizes outstanding educators who exemplify the highest professional standards and work to inspire students, instill a love of learning and ensure school is exciting, motivating and challenging. The winners hail from every region of the state, working with students in grades Pre-K-12 and teaching diverse subjects such as music, math, reading, science, technical education and art.

Adel Bouallagui

Adel Bouallagui has been an educator for the past 12 years, working in ESOL, special education, and in after school and summer programs in the Rochester and Syracuse City School Districts. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism & Mass Communication. He holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from SUNY Empire State College and a Master of Arts in Media & Arts from Long Island University.

Adel is a devoted teacher who strongly believes that all students can learn and succeed. His instructional practices and decisions stem from his firm belief that every student deserves a world-class education that meets their individual learning needs regardless of ethnic or socioeconomic background. He uses interdisciplinary approaches and inquiry-based teaching methods that aim to expand students’ knowledge, enhance their academic skills, and enable them to become college and career ready. His passion for teaching emerged from his experience as an English language learner.

Adel is currently pursuing a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Educational Leadership to expand his knowledge in instructional leadership and become an effective leader in the field of education. His areas of interest include, but are not limited to, educational policies, culturally responsive teaching, curriculum and instruction, literacy & culture, multiculturalism, pedagogies for English learners, foreign language teacher preparation programs, and issues of equity in education.

VIDEO of the Governor presenting the award to Adel Bouallagui is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the Governor’s remarks is available here.

PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor’s Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks delivered at today’s event is available below:

Thank you very much. How are we doing, Vanguard students today? Go Q-Dogs. That’s what I say. First, to all of the education officials who are here – let’s give them a round of applause and let’s thank them for what they do. We have my colleague from Albany, Assemblyman Harry Bronson who is here with us today and I want to thank him. I’m a little nervous today, I want you to know.

This is a big room and a big crowd. I got out of the car and the first thing they said to me, was, “The principal wants to see you.” They said that and it brought back a whole rash of bad memories for me. But I’m not in trouble, I don’t have detention and my parents are not going to be called. But let’s give a big round of applause for Bonnie Atkins and the great work that she does.

I’m the 56th Governor of the State of New York. How many people in this room voted for me? That’s good, that’s good. Most of you can’t vote, but I appreciate your honesty. The state government does a lot of things. We do economic development, we do all of the transportation, we do all of the emergency management, and we do all of the healthcare. But probably the most important thing we do is education. Why? Because education is about you and who you turn out to be and how productive you turn out to be and how you lead your life.

So when they say that you are the future, it is true. Education is going to shape you. And more for your generation, probably than any other. If you’re from my generation – if you’re old like me – you could find ways to make a living. You could make a living by doing manual work, you could always use your hands, use your strength. But more and more you need this to make a living. And especially with you guys going to the workforce, because you’re going to be competing with kids all across the globe. Whatever they can build in Rochester, they can build in Asia, they can build anywhere, and you compete then with every workforce. So it’s even more and more important that this is as developed as it can be.

We spent $25 billion on education, more than ever before. We paid for this beautiful building, this beautiful room, all of the meals, the chairs. The most important piece of the education system is the teacher. It all comes down to the teacher. Being a teacher is an extraordinarily difficult job. I learned that from my mother who was a school teacher, and she would talk about how hard it was and how many hours and all the heartache she had. It’s not easy being a teacher – you have to know all the material, you have to stay up on the material, and then you have to deal with a lot of students. People can be tricky. Not everybody is 100 percent well behaved all the time like you guys – you’re easy. Some students are actually hard. Being a teacher is truly a difficult profession under difficult circumstances, and it’s one of the most important jobs that we have.

We wanted to honor teachers and make that point in the state – we wanted to say thank you and we know how hard you work and how special you are. We said, “We’re going to pick a small handful of the best teachers in the state of New York to honor and really honor them as a reflection of honoring all teachers, because they all deserve to be honored.”

There are 200,000 teachers in the state of New York – 200,000. We picked the best 60 of 200,000 – what percent is 60 of 200,000? Who’s good in math? Who’s fast on a device? 0.03 percent. Not exactly sure about that but it sounds right, and if you said it with authority, maybe no one will challenge it. 60 of 200,000, and one of those 60 is in your school, and that’s why we’re here today.

This gentleman is highly, highly educated – Bachelor’s degree in journalism, Master’s in media, going for Master’s in administration, has a Master’s degree in teaching, teaching English as a New Language, which is a challenging occupation to begin with. His name is Adel Bouallagui. Let’s give him a big round of applause.

Before I bring him up here to join us, it’s very fitting, let me note one last point – it’s very fitting that we honor an English as a New Language teacher. Because one thing I want you to remember about in these times, something that this state says more than almost any other state in the country. We understand that this state and this country are made up of people from other places. This country is very unique on the globe. Almost every other country is about one religion, one culture. This country is built on a different premise. This country said to existing countries all around the world, "Come here. I don't care where you come from. I don't care if you're rich. I don't care who you are. I don't care what religion you are. Come join this country." Many of them first came to New York because of our location, and that's why New York has such diversity, and that's the premise of who we are.

So when they start to say, "Well, you're from this place. You're this religion. You speak this language. You're different than me. You don't belong here." Nothing could be further from the truth, because that is what made America America. That's what made New York New York. We said, "We open our arms. We invite everybody and we judge nobody. You come, and if you're willing to work hard and join with us, you come be part of the American family, the New York family."

Remember that. Especially now, especially with a lot of what you read in the newspaper and you hear on the news, where people want to point to differences and people want to separate. We are one community, and the diversity is our beauty and is our asset. We're black, we're white, we're brown. We're gay, we're straight. You put all of that together. We're Christians, we're Muslims, we're Jews. You put all of that together, and it's called America and it's called the state of New York. So we invite you to this country and we say, "We'll give you a free education, and with that free education you can become anything you want to be, and starting, we'll teach you the English language because it will be a new language for you." And that's what Adel does and that's what we honor him for. We also, as part of this honor – remember that 60 out of 200,000 is extraordinary – we're going to give him a gift from the state of $5,000 to pursue his educational career. Ladies and gentlemen, Adel Bouallagui.

About the Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award

A total of 61 winners were selected from all ten regions of the state. These individuals have been selected as representative of the over two hundred thousand dedicated teachers across New York who work nights and weekends correcting papers and writing lesson plans; teachers who take time from their families in the evening to call parents to talk about students’ progress; teachers who come in early and stay late to tutor students who need extra help, and much more. A list of this year’s winners by region is available here.

Awardees will receive $5,000 to use for professional development activities, including coursework to enhance expertise, attendance at a state or national education conference, or enrollment in a summer institute or certification program. In addition to the award of professional development funds, winning teachers will also serve as Teacher Ambassadors be invited to share insights and knowledge with university, workforce and policy leaders around the state. Awardees will receive additional information on these activities throughout the year.

Winning teachers were selected by a panel of education leaders with diverse expertise across the state. Members of the panel include:

  • Kevin Casey, Executive Director, School Administrators Association of NYS
  • Catalina Fortino, Vice President of the New York State United Teachers
  • Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers
  • Robert Reidy, Executive Director of the NYS Council of School Superintendents
  • Bonnie Russell, President of the NYS Parent Teacher Association
  • Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of SUNY

For more information on the Empire State Excellence in Teaching Program, please visit:

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office