Bronx band teacher wins $35,000 award


THE BRONX — A joyful chorus of celebration for a teacher in the Bronx who is creating a legacy of music for her students.

Penelope Smetters-Jacono, a band teacher at Celia Cruz High School of Music, was chosen as the teacher of the year.

The prize — and it’s reward of $35,000 — were quite a shock.

“I was just flabbergasted!,’ said Smetters-Jacono.

For her students, it’s no such surprise.

“She should have gotten this years ago,” said Pierre Thompson, member of Celia Cruz Class of 2020. “She didn’t just impact me, she changed me.”

Smetters-Jacono has been teaching for 22 years, saying that being among five Flag Award recipients in New York City is an honor but that the true high note is daily knowing she’s truly changing lives. 

“I’m very fortunate to do what I do, where I do it,“ she said.

The real high note? Seeing former students excel in more than just music.

“I have one student who is a doctor, others have doctorates in music,” Smetters-Jacono added.

One hundred current and former students, teachers and friends were all there to celebrate her excellence.

Smetters-Jacono announced that $10,000 of that prize money is going to the school for things like new instruments for the students, as well as an artists-in-residence.

The rest? It will go to some travelling with family and saving for her own children’s college education.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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