Harlem Teacher Who Found Music Program Wins $ 25,000 Prize

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HARLEM, NY – A Harlem public school teacher who transformed his school’s music department by launching a samba program has received a $ 25,000 award for “excellence in teaching,” announced the organizers this week.

Dana Monteiro, professor of music at Frederick Douglass Academy, is one of five teachers chosen this year for the FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence, which is given to an educator who has excelled in each of the five boroughs. His prize also includes $ 10,000 for his school.

Monteiro’s innovations began when he was faced with a challenge: Class sizes nearly doubled in high school, making it impossible to teach a traditional or jazz band.

Taking a vacation to Brazil over ten years ago, Monteiro had “a revelation”, realizing that samba – the genre of Brazilian dance and music – would work best for large groups, and would be “inclusive” for large groups as well. beginning students with less musical experience, according to FLAG.

Returning from vacation, Monteiro started drumming lessons and eventually “transformed” the music department by centering it around samba. He founded Harlem Samba in 2005 as a “non-traditional extracurricular music ensemble”.

In the years that followed, it grew to include over 300 students each year at Frederick Douglass Academy. Monteiro also founded a non-profit organization, “A Life with Drums”, allowing the program to expand to nearly a dozen other schools.

Monteiro plans to use the prize money to build the Frederick Douglass Academy recording studio, which will make it easier to record the samba group and teach a course in digital music production.

the FLAG Award started last year, funded by the nonprofit FLAG Foundation for Educational Excellence and the Fuhrman Family Foundation. The organizers asked students, parents, principals and colleagues to nominate deserving teachers. They ultimately received over 1,000 nominations.

From the nominees, FLAG chose 35 semi-finalists who were required to complete a full application, do interviews and submit other documents.

“Teachers, students, administrators and families are ending a school year like never before, and it is important that we take the time to honor what has been accomplished,” said jury member Dr. Betty A Rosa, commissioner. of Education and President of the State University of New York.

“I am delighted with this opportunity to recognize and celebrate our inspiring teachers.”

Patch reporter Anna Quinn contributed.

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