The School of Education Awards Ceremony Celebrates Achievements of Future Educators

April 30, 2024

The School of Education (TSOE) at St. John’s University honored 27 highly accomplished students with bright futures at the annual SOE Awards Ceremony on April 18 in the D’Angelo Center on the Queens, NY, campus.

As he welcomed the gathering, James D. Wolfinger, Ph.D., Dean, recalled, “The philosopher John Dewey once said that education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. We who go into education fundamentally understand this. We devote ourselves to a life of teaching others and listening to and learning from others in our communities.”


He added, “This is a lifelong endeavor. It is also a sacred trust. Here at St. John’s, we have a mission inspired by our patron St. Vincent de Paul to work in the community, listen, learn, and work together so that our common humanity makes us all better and creates stronger communities.”

Dr. Wolfinger stressed that at St. John’s, “We must prepare great teachers, school leaders, and counselors to do this work out in our communities every day. We do our best as faculty, staff, and administrators but are only as good as our students.”

Student speaker Thomas P. Blanc ’23Ed, who will graduate in May with his master’s degree in Literacy, told his fellow students that his journey differed somewhat from the expected path a future educator might take. He attended a different School the first two years at St. John’s and was on a completely different career path. During the remote learning that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas realized he was on the wrong path.

“Education was my first choice when determining a new major,” he observed. “I come from a long line of educators, including aunts, cousins, my mother, and my sister, a St. John’s graduate. Naturally, I was terrified of switching that late into college. I was afraid that I waited too long and that switching majors at the end of my second year of college would add on two more years until my expected graduation, but still, I pushed through.”

Thomas spoke highly of his professors and advisers, who encouraged him and helped clear the way of any roadblocks he encountered. “I can’t put into words the help my classmates in The School of Education gave me just by knowing that I wasn’t alone and that someone was going through these challenges with me.”

Student teaching, Thomas stressed, cemented his decision. “Being in the field and experiencing life as a teacher for the semester not only made me more thankful for my decision to switch but also solidified that this is my calling.”

Liyuan Zhu received the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Master’s Degree Award. “This award holds immense significance for me, as it reflects my dedication to my studies and the fruitful outcomes of my efforts. As a wife, mother, and full-time bilingual paraprofessional, balancing school, family, and work has been incredibly challenging. After fulfilling my family responsibilities, I spent countless hours studying at the library, often the last one to leave each night. Receiving this award has reaffirmed that every effort was worthwhile.”

“This has truly been a dream come true,” stressed Claudia Rose Addeo, who received the John Beach Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Ph.D. in Literacy program. “As someone who has navigated learning challenges for the entirety of their academic journey, this award has proven to me that through hard work, strong faith, and the support of some wonderful educators, success is attainable. I feel so lucky to have chosen a professional and doctoral program that not only allows me to pay it forward, but to use this award as an opportunity to show others who also have faced learning challenges that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.”

Dr. Wolfinger concluded, “This is an exciting time. Many of you are starting your careers. Others are taking the next step in those careers. Here at St. John’s, we have done our best to prepare you throughout that journey, and you have done very well in your work here. Now it is time to go out there. Get that first job. Get that promotion. Make yourselves and your family proud. Make St. John’s proud of the work you do.”