NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Steven Goldberg readily admits he’s not one to get surprised. The Secondary Social Studies Department Chairman has been at New Rochelle High School for 30 years, after all. On Wednesday, while attending an assembly at the request of Principal Reggie Richardson, Goldberg got the surprise of a lifetime.
He learned that students, led by teacher Anthony Stirpe, had created The Steven A. Goldberg Art of Change Award in his honor for a lifetime of achievement. It will be awarded annually to someone who changes the world through their art or who has an impact through their craft.
“This was a total surprise,” Goldberg said. “And, it is hard to surprise me.”
Judine Somerville, a theater dance teacher at the Ailey School in New York City, was named the first recipient of the award.
Goldberg, who is retiring at the end of this school year, has had an impact across disciplines – such as history, arts, technology, film, psychology – in the school district and in the community. This award celebrates that impact across disciplines.
“Working here in New Rochelle has been phenomenal,” Goldberg said. “This district has been just an amazing place to work, with great kids, passionate colleagues and dedicated administration, all very much supported by a community that believes in public education, and particularly recognizes the continually growing diversity. I’ve been very, very fortunate that I have worked with great superintendents, great principals and great teachers. Not just in my own department but in other departments. This is a very unique place to work.”
“I am not in Mr. Goldberg’s department, but that does not matter,” Stirpe said. “He has a desire to help every teacher unlock the full potential of their students. He donates time and effort to people he is not obligated to help, and I think that this kindness had a profound impact on so many teachers and students. I know that Mr. Goldberg’s support has fundamentally transformed my New Rochelle experience.”
Goldberg has been a member of numerous local to statewide professional organizations. He has advocated for social studies education, especially civics and human rights education. Goldberg has served as president of the National Council for the Social Studies and the New York State Council for the Social Studies. He has been a consultant for the NYS Education Department and currently chairs the Content Advisory Panel for Social Studies which oversees the implementation of a new social studies framework and accompanying assessments.
He is currently co-director of education of the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center in White Plains, where he will continue to focus his efforts in developing programs for teachers during his retirement. This work includes coordinating educational study trips to Germany and Poland to provide teachers with first-hand exposure to the impact of the Holocaust and contemporary human rights issues. He will also continue working on the Center’s student programs, which teach them about human rights and the importance of becoming Upstanders.
“I really believe we have a responsibility to work with kids and make them better citizens,” Goldberg said. “To me, that is what it is all about. That is our primary role as social studies educators – to create better citizens. I also believe very strongly in educating the total child. That is why the arts are so very important. And, I don’t believe in complacency. You have to be proactive and make a difference.”
Somerville was previously the assistant choreographer to Otis Sallid on the Fox Searchlight movie musical “Black Nativity” and was part of the original cast in the Tony Award-winning musical, “Hairspray.” She was a Rockette, a seven-time Broadway performer and a recipient of the Actors’ Equity Gypsy Rose Award, among other accomplishments.
“What people don’t know about Judine, and what we hope to bring attention to today, is the work that Judine does for young people from all walks of life,” Stirpe said. “Judine travels the country talking to students and inspiring. Judine has created a number of original programs, and she donates her time and effort trying to help kids reach their full potential.”
Her effort to intersect art with changing the world led her to one of her most successful programs – the You Can’t Stop the Beat initiative. Somerville works with high school students addressing the challenges of bullying, self-acceptance, self-confidence and she helps young people of all ages and types defy gravity through song, dance and scene work. She has also created the Bridges in Rhythm program, which allows young male students to commit to their education through movement on playgrounds before the school day begins.
Goldberg has created a legacy in the district, and this award now ensures that people have a way to acknowledge that legacy going forward.