Mr. Sangiorgi honored in library ceremony

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Representatives from The Fund for the City of New York honored chemistry teacher Thomas Sangiorgi with the Sloan Award for his excellence in teaching science and inspiring students. Having already been recognized at Cooper Union during the citywide awards ceremony, the THHS community was now able to congratulate him for being one of the seven recipients of the math and science award.

Mr. Sangiorgi is the second teacher presented with this award, following biology teacher Katherine Cooper, who received it in 2009. “There are literally thousands of teachers out there and we have the privilege of getting it again,” noted Principal Anthony Barbetta. Dr. Mary McCormick, President of the Fund for the City of New York, commented on the fact that THHS has received the Sloan Award twice since the award’s inception five years ago: “It stands to reason that if we could go to another school for the second time, it ought to be Townsend Harris.”

Students, teachers, and other distinguished guests gathered in the library to hear a vast collusion of speakers praise Mr. Sangiorgi for his hard work and dedication to his students. Assistant Principal of Math, Science, and Technology Susan Brustein served as mistress of ceremonies, welcoming each speaker to the podium, including Mr. Sangiorgi’s former student teacher and current physics teacher Joel Heitman, former student and current Science Olympiad communications secretary, senior Alessandra Taboada, New York State Assemblywoman and THHS alumna Nily Rozic, and CUNY Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Ruth Stark.

Various guests spoke about Mr. Sangiorgi’s uniqueness and individuality, emphasizing his various demonstrations of chemistry in action that set him apart from other science teachers. Mr. Heitman stated, “He makes the science fun, makes it come alive, and brings it to you.” Alessandra recounted some of Sangiorgi’s memorable escapades in the classroom, including setting water on fire, letting his students throw foam balls at him, and setting off the fire alarms by burning gummy bears.

But more than offering a fun interpretation of formulas and the periodic table, Mr. Sangiorgi compels his students to push themselves to their limit, and think beyond the classroom. Alessandra spoke about how Mr. Sangiorgi reminded her that “success is not something that’s handed to you.” She likened him to a father figure, saying, “Through all of high school, he has protected and looked after me, reminding me and other students to constantly learn from our mistakes, never dwell on a bad situation, and when in doubt, to use science to answer any questions you had.” All the chairs in the library were filled by students, past and present, perhaps demonstrating the lasting impact Mr. Sangiorgi has left on his students’ lives.

Dr. Stark, who first met Mr. Sangiorgi when they both judged a competition together, mentioned that her admiration for Mr. Sangiorgi stems from “his ability to get kids involved who didn’t want to, or were reluctant, and to keep them coming back until they loved it.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Mr. Sangiorgi described the awe he felt at how much distinction he was receiving from the THHS community as well as those outside of it, saying, “I’m overwhelmed by this experience because it’s never me, it’s always about the students.”