Bramante turns down teaching honor to focus on students

It’s not every day when you see someone turn down the opportunity to be Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year.

But that’s just what Greenwich High School’s Andrew Bramante did, citing the very reason he was nominated in the first place as to why he was walking away from the potential honor.

Mr. Bramante, a chemistry and science research teacher, had been one of Greenwich’s Distinguished Teachers who were honored by the district last May. And from that group of six he was chosen by then Superintendent of Schools Roger Lulow to represent the town in the evaluation of who was the best teacher in the state.

This isn’t an honor the town is unfamiliar with, as in 2009 ARCH School teacher Anthony Mullen not only won the state honor, he went on to be named the Teacher of the Year for the entire country, leading to a Rose Garden ceremony with President Barack Obama. But when he did win that award, it also meant that Mr. Mullen had to spend a year outside of the classroom, doing speaking engagements and visiting other schools in the country and Mr. Bramante said last Thursday at the first Board of Education meeting of the school year that he couldn’t make that sacrifice.

“It has been an amazing experience and I want to thank everyone who put me forward for this honor and supported me throughout the process,” Mr. Bramante said. “You have no idea how much joy this job brings to me.”

Mr. Bramante spoke at the meeting of how he had recently had dinner with students who were going off to college this year and their parents.

“The parents said to me, ‘Andy, thank you so much for what you did for our sons,’” Mr. Bramante said. “And I told them, ‘You can thank me, but you have no idea how this town, the students and the parents have enriched my life.”

Mr. Bramante made this declaration as he was being honored as the district’s choice for the 2013 Connecticut Teacher of the Year and it took many by surprise. However, it was quickly said that this spoke to his dedication to classroom teaching.

Lisa Beth Savitz, president of the Greenwich PTA Council, said in her remarks to the Board of Education that night that, “This says so much about him as a teacher. He clearly was the right choice and as the parent of a sophomore going into his class for the first time this year, I am very glad he made that choice and so are all the other parents of kids in that class.”

Board of Education Chairman Leslie Moriarty also told Mr. Bramante, “You represent the very best of what Greenwich teachers are.”

It was Dr. Lulow’s choice to name Mr. Bramante to the honor, but new Superintendent of Schools William McKersie said last Thursday that he had gotten a chance to meet Mr. Bramante and hear and he “wholeheartedly agreed” with the selection. He noted that in each of the last five years, Mr. Bramante’s students have won at least one of the top four prizes in the Connecticut Science Fair and that nine of them won the chance to compete in the elite Intel Science and Engineering Fair.

Dr. McKersie praised his energy and his dedication, saying that Mr. Bramante was known for working after school, on weekends and even on school vacations to help his students with “boundless energy and enthusiasm.” In looking over his students’ work, Dr. McKersie compared them to dissertations one would see from Ivy League universities like Harvard, Yale and Cornell due to the rigorous and sophisticated topics.

“He has distinguished teaching skills and shows an outstanding commitment to his students and the school community,” Dr. McKersie said. “He is a scientist himself and brings vast knowledge and expertise in the area of chemistry and science research to the classroom. Since 2005 he has guided many students through independent and innovative research projects, many of which have been awarded prizes in the most competitive national and international science fairs.”

Dr. McKersie added that the district “honored” Mr. Bramante’s “very difficult decision” because “he didn’t want to lose time bringing new students to levels of excellence.”

“I think he would have won the honor of being Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year, but it says a lot about him that he didn’t want to be taken away from us for the hours, days and weeks it would have required,” Dr. McKersie said.

At the meeting, Mr. Bramante was still presented with a certificate of achievement as well as with the Greenwich Kiwanis Club’s Joseph Mitchell Kay Award, which is named after a club past president who also served on the Greenwich Board of Education. He was also given an award from the town’s Distinguished Teachers Committee that included a check for use in the classroom.

Angela Schmidt, principal of North Mianus School, represented the committee and said in making their honored list each year, it was a joy to review all the nominations and hear about great teaching and academic success but also a challenge to come up with only six winners. So she said she knew how difficult a choice Dr. Lulow had made when he named Mr. Bramante to represent Greenwich.

“Andrew Bramante is a superb choice who is fully supported by the members of the Distinguished Teachers Award Committee,” Ms. Schmidt said. “He is most deserving of this recognition. He exemplifies the criteria of a distinguished teachers. He inspires enthusiasm for learning and academic excellence. He elicits a very high level of achievement from his students and is masterful in guiding them to taking responsibility for their own learning.”

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