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WHEELS Teacher, Erick Espin, To Receive National Award from EL Education

“Energetic, admirable, trustworthy, reliable, persuasive, persistent, enthusiastic, and thoughtful are only some of the adjectives that I would use to describe Mr. Espin. I am extremely grateful that I was able to start and end my high school journey alongside him. He taught me confidence in my performance as a student and has been a massive mentor during this pandemic. Of all the amazing things Mr. Espin is, the one thing I think makes him a special teacher is how much he cares inside and out of the classroom.”
12th-grade WHEELS Student



Born and raised in the Washington Heights/Inwood community where he teaches, Espin taps into the local community to make connections in the classroom.

“I am extremely grateful for all of my students and professional community. WHEELS gave me the freedom and support to design history curriculum for the upper grades. I have taken that opportunity to tie the study of historical content to relatable, contemporary issues."

Erick Espin, , 2021 Klingenstein Teacher Award Recipient


Espin’s family immigrated from the Dominican Republic in the 1970s and settled in the neighborhood as it was becoming an enclave for many from the island. He has vivid memories of New York from childhood and by the time he was an adult, gentrification was taking shape.

“The city was changing for the better but not necessarily with its Black and Latino residents in mind,” says Espin. Having spent his personal and professional life living in and serving the communities he calls home, Espin says he is “learning each day how to harness the knowledge of history to leverage the agency of the community to no longer accept ‘less than’ as its normal.”

Espin will accept his award and co-present with fellow panelists about the power of identity and belonging in education at the EL Education 2021 Virtual Summit on October 28.

“He has a way of making everything relevant by giving examples of history happening in our own neighborhood so we can relate.”
12th-grade WHEELS Student

About The Klingenstein Teacher Award

The Klingenstein Teacher Award is given annually to an outstanding teacher who brings to life in the classroom the spirit and values of EL Education. The recipient is selected by a committee of teachers. The award includes a $5,000 cash prize. The award was established with generous support from Lee Klingenstein, Founding Chair of the EL Education Board of Directors (1927-2020), with continued support from the Klingenstein Foundation.

Past recipients

Espin is the 10th teacher to receive the Klingenstein Teacher Award from EL Education. Past recipients include:

  • 2020: Tawana Jordan, Burns Elementary Middle School, Detroit, MI
  • 2019: Sara Boeck Batista, Leaders High School, Brooklyn, NY
  • 2018: Annie Holyfield, Joe Shoemaker School, Denver, CO
  • 2017: Lindsay Slabich, The Springfield Renaissance School, Springfield, MA
  • 2016: Chris Dolgos, Genesee Community Charter School, Rochester, NY
  • 2015: Jon Exall, Odyssey School, Denver, CO
  • 2014: Beth Mowry, Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, Brooklyn, NY
  • 2013: Merry Byles-Daly, Grass Valley Charter School, Grass Valley, CA
  • 2012: Susan McCray, Casco Bay High School, Portland, ME

2021 Finalists

EL Education proudly recognizes and congratulates all finalists for the 2021 Klingenstein Teacher Award. These finalists, who were nominated by their peers, stand out for their remarkable service to their school communities, as well as their passion to provide students with transformative educational experiences—steeped in challenge, leadership, and contribution.

Finalists for the 2021 Klingenstein Teacher Award are:

  • Lucia Campbell, Glenwood Springs Middle School (Glenwood Springs, CO)
  • Derek Castaneda, August Boeger Middle School (San José, CA)
  • Pamela Ferrill, One City Schools (Madison, WI)
  • Renee Hill, Palouse Prairie Charter School (Moscow, ID)
  • Andrea Moore, River Bluff High School (Lexington, SC)
  • Shatera Weaver, MELS, a NYC Outward Bound School (Queens, NY)


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    EL Education