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New York Times Names CCNY Instructor Tamara Kirson ESOL Teacher Of The Year

NEW YORK, April 6, 2009 – Tamara Kirson, the lead instructor and staff developer in The City College of New York's (CCNY) Adult Literacy Program, is The New York Times 2009 ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Kirson was recognized at a ceremony at the newspaper's headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, where she received a commemorative plaque and a $2,500 gift.The ESOL award program recognizes instructors who have consistently gone above and beyond the call of duty to help students learn English and develop the skills to create successful new lives in the United States. Winners are selected by a committee of distinguished ESOL advocates.

The committee cited Ms. Kirson for her creativity in integrating civic activities when teaching English, the extraordinary success of her students and her collaborative efforts to improve the Adult Literacy Center, which is run by CCNY's Adult and Continuing Education Program.

An ESOL teacher for 16 years, including ten at CCNY, Ms. Kirson, a Manhattan resident, thanked her students and colleagues for helping her to earn the recognition."It's not always fully understood what we do as teachers of ESOL and more importantly what our students are able to accomplish," Ms. Kirson said, adding that her initial reaction to the Times award was one of utter disbelief. "When that disbelief subsided, I realized how deeply honored I was."

Ms. Kirson was inspired to become an ESOL teacher after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer inColombia.There she discovered her love for languages and cultures. 

In her ten years at CCNY she's been instrumental in developing the Adult Literacy Program which serves, on average, 1,000 students annually. Ms. Kirson has championed a thematic and project-based teaching approach that includes students designing and writing a health literacy website, creating theatrical performances and talk shows.Many of her students have gone on to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees at CUNY campuses and other colleges.

Ms. Kirson has been published in "English Teacher Forum," "Literacy Update" and "Essential Teacher."Last year, she was recognized as an "Outstanding Practitioner" by the Literacy Assistance Center of New York.

A holder of graduate degrees from University of Maryland (M.Ed. in Counseling) and St. Thomas University(M.Ed in Bilingual Education/TESOL), Ms. Kirson taught ESOL in Houston and Paris before coming to CCNY. 

About The City College of New York

Since 1847 The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines.  Over 15,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.  For additional information, visit



Jay Mwamba
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