During the Colleges’ 2017 Commencement ceremony, two New York teachers were honored with the Touching the Future Award, which recognizes early childhood educators for the significant and enduring role they have played in the lives of Hobart and William Smith students.
This year’s recipients are Carlos Mendez, a music teacher and coordinator of music for Fayetteville-Manlius School District in Central New York, and Anggela Sanchez, a bilingual studies teacher at the School of Leadership Development in Bronx, N.Y. Christopher Demas ’17 nominated Mendez, and Jerlin Garo ’17 nominated Sanchez.
Established in 2004, the Touching the Future Award celebrates and honors the many early childhood educators – those with whom HWS students interacted in elementary, middle and high school – who have led graduates to HWS and to crossing the stage at Commencement. It derives its name from the famous words of Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher selected to participate in the space shuttle program who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. McAuliffe expressed the sentiments of many teachers when she said, “I touch the future, I teach.”
For Demas, who studied violin with Mendez for nearly 10 years, Mendez was not only a music teacher but mentor who modeled values of “compassion, generosity, personal sacrifice, empathy, kindness, pride in work, dignity, honesty, truthfulness, sincerity and respect. He taught me through example the benefits of getting something based on your own merit,” Demas says. “He encouraged all of his students to always do their best and put in the time and energy to make beautiful music.”
Mendez has been teaching orchestra and string instruments for 27 years at the elementary, middle and high school levels. In addition to his roles as district coordinator and teacher, he directs the string orchestra, symphony orchestra and chamber orchestra at Fayetteville-Manlius High School. He is also the director for the Ithaca College Summer Music Academy, where he has spent the past six summers working with Ithaca College administration, faculty, staff and alums to offer a high quality summer music experience for students. He earned a bachelor of music in music education from Ithaca College and a master of music in viola performance from Binghamton University. In 2005, he was honored with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra Outstanding Music Educator Award for Orchestra. In 2015, he was a quarter-finalist for the Grammy Music Educator Award.
“My students mean the world to me and it brings me great joy to hear about each and every one of their successes; in music or otherwise. I can remember that one teacher that profoundly impacted my life. I continue to draw upon things I learned from her. It is humbling to know that I may have impacted students in a similar way,” says Mendez.
Garo nominated her eighth-grade teacher Anggela Sanchez for the academic support and personal confidence she instilled in Garo.
“Ms. Sanchez showed me that one of her priorities was and is seeing her students succeed in this new country that we called home,” says Garo, who, like Sanchez, immigrated to the U.S. as a child. “She encouraged me to believe in my abilities as a student.”
Sanchez’s guidance helped Garo excel across academic disciplines, especially in reading and writing, and enforced “a sense of security” that helped Garo overcome her fears as she delivered her valedictory speech to a crowd of more than 500.
Sanchez says that her philosophy as an educator aligns with Malcolm X’s notion of education as “the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
“I know, firsthand, how difficult it could be for an incoming immigrant to achieve in a highly demanding society like ours, where education has been the passport for my future,” she says. “I came from a family of immigrants, from Ecuador and I was the first to graduate from college.” This background, Sanchez says, led her to volunteer to help our new students improve their reading and writing skills. With Malcolm X’s words in mind, Sanchez “knew that what I was doing with them was investing in their future.”
With 17 years of teaching experience, Sanchez holds a bachelor’s degree in bilingual/bicultural education and a master’s degree in education from Lehman College. She has been presented with the Excellent Service Award for teaching reading and writing to newcomers. In 2005, she was recognized with the Sigma Delta Pi Award, the Theta Alpha Award and the Sociedad Nacional Honoraria Hispanica Award during the same year. In 2010, she was selected for the lead teacher position as the SES Academic Enterprise, and this year was asked to apply for the lead teacher/coaching position for the School of Leadership Development.