For the Media

Bronx Educator Honored for Cultivating Community of Learners and Inspiring Immigrant Students

Washington, DC (February 10, 2020) – On Friday, February 7, at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala  in Washington, D.C., Alhassan Susso, a 12th grade social studies educator at International Community High School in the Bronx, NY, received one of public education’s most prestigious honors: The NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000.

“Alhassan’s powerful work to educate and inspire immigrant students and the diverse community he serves has been transformational,” said Sara A. Sneed, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “By sharing his own experience as an immigrant and his passion for motivating young people, he has helped his students to see the potential for excellence within themselves. He is living proof that every child in this country deserves a quality education and an opportunity to thrive.”

An author, speaker, and educator, Susso immigrated to New York from The Gambia at age 16, confronted the challenges of homelessness and vision impairment, and was inspired by one of his public school teachers to pursue his vocation in the classroom. He works with a diverse population of students, some of who are dealing with challenges adapting to the school setting, financial insecurity, and other hurdles to realizing their potential. In his school, Susso has helped foster a community of learner, providing students with the social and emotional skills to succeed.

This support for professional development empowers educators to implement project based learning, which is key to student success. The NEA Foundation grants enable educators to collaborate on STEM learning across schools in their district and to build their programs to meet the specific needs of their educators and students.

The 2019 New York State Teacher of the Year, Susso has received numerous honors for his work. He was named as one of the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize Top 50 Finalists in 2017. He is the recipient of the Daylight Africa Award and the United Federation of Teachers’ Audrey Chasen Award. He was recognized by the Dutchess County Legislature, The Bronx Borough President, the New York City Mayor’s Office and the New York State Comptroller as the Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 2019.

Susso was nomiated for the NEA Member Benefits Award by the New York State United Teachers and is one of 45 public school educators selected by their state education associations who were honored on stage by the NEA Foundation and more than 800 guests.

He was also one of five finalists for the top award. Each finalist received special recognition at the gala, the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, and $10,000.

The other four finalists included:

  • Kerisa Baedke, an 8th and 9th grade foreign language educator at Prairieview School in Waukee, Iowa, nominated by the Iowa State Education Association;
  • Patricia Hannon, a reading intervention specialist at Hohenfels Elementary School in Hohenfels, Germany, nomiated by the Federal Education Association;
  • Jessica Jernegan, director of school and community engagement, Bixby Public Schools, Bixby, Oklahoma, nominated by the Oklahoma Education association; and
  • Elizabeth Sked, instructional literacy coach at CB Jennings Dual Language and International School in New London, Conn., nominated by the Connecticut Education Association.

The NEA Foundation’s gala is an annual celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools. The NEA Foundation presented awards to exceptional educators and dedicated supporters of public education from across the country. Susso’s award was the evening’s finale.

During the gala, the NEA Foundation also honored Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond with the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education for her accomplishments as a lifelong educator and influential education policy writer and researcher. Memphis educator Melissa Collins received the Harriet Sanford Award for Global Learning for her contributions to furthering global education in her community and beyond.

The event was hosted by John W. Marshall, motivational seaker and son of Thurgood Marshall, our nations first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice. It also featured performances by the Counterpoints.


Editor’s Note: Please use our correct name, the NEA Foundation. The “NEA” is never spelled out in our name. It is not the National Education Association Foundation. Many thanks!

About the NEA Foundation

The NEA Foundation is a public charity founded by educators for educators to improve public education for all students. Celebrating our 50th anniversary this year, the Foundation has served as a laboratory of learning, offering funding and other resources to public school educators, their schools, and districts to solve complex teaching and learning challenges. We elevate and share educator solutions to ensure greater reach and impact on student learning. We believe that when educators unleash their own power, ideas, and voices, communities, schools, and students all benefit. Visit for more information. Find us on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to our blog.

About the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala

The NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala is a national celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools and of the unique bonds that educators and students share. At this annual event, the Foundation recognizes and promotes excellence in teaching, attention to diversity, and advocacy for the profession. The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from NEA Member Benefits, The Horace Mann Educator Corporation, California Casualty, and First National Bank of Omaha. Other major sponsors of the event include American Fidelity, Bank of America, and Southwest Airlines.

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