Stephanie Tello-Lopez had the signs of a future teacher at an early age.
“I always read a lot,” she told the Chronicle in a telephone interview last week. “In school, I was the kid who in summer missed homework and the teachers. I did hang out with my friends, but I always loved books.”
Tello-Lopez has been an English teacher for 14 years, the last 12 at Preparatory Academy for Writers in Springfield Gardens.
And the National Society of High School Scholars must believe she does it very well — the organization this year awarded her its Claes Nobel Educator of the Year Award, founded by the great nephew of Alfred Nobel, who created the Nobel Prizes.
Tello-Lopez received a $1,000 grant to spend on making what had been recognized as a great classroom even better. She purchased two tablets; a projector that is linked to one of them; and some books and other classroom supplies.
“I have a Smart board, but the tablet lets me move around the classroom,” she said.
Tello-Lopez said she first applied about three years ago when she was looking for any grants that might be available either to her or the school.
She was not the top designee this year — she said that teacher was awarded $5,000 for the classroom — but that any teacher will appreciate the assistance, as many must augment school budgets with their own money and time to improve their classrooms.
The NSHSS cited the personal connections Tello-Lopez has made with her students, whether they have disabilities; are English language learners; are general education, gifted and talented and Advanced Placement students; or students considered at risk.
Tello-Lopez’s parents immigrated to the United States from Ecuador. She is a native of Flushing and attended St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows.
It was there, she said, that a teacher impacted her the way she has always tried to help her students.
“I remember being in Shakespeare Class listening to Mr. Masselli reading a play,” the honored educator said. “Doing that senior year is what made me want to be an English teacher.”