Principal at Brooklyn special education school wins Teaching Matters’ Rohatyn Prize

Regina Tottenham and her team
Regina Tottenham and her team

Contacts: Sharon Rubinstein,, 212-870-3505 ext. 8, 703-901-7947; Kate DiLello,, 212-870-3501

Teaching Matters awarded the fifth annual Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize for Schools Where Teaching Matters today to Regina Tottenham, Principal of the Brooklyn Transition Center (373K). She will take $25,000 back to her school.

Tottenham was one of four finalists for the prize, which each year recognizes a principal who advances teacher effectiveness in his or her school. The Brooklyn Transition Center has a high percentage of teachers with fewer than five years of experience and is facing impending retirements as well. Tottenham’s Rohatyn Prize submission focused on the school’s two-pronged strategy to address the problem: expanding a teacher-mentor pilot to help new teachers, and increasing internal leaders with direct leadership training, team building, and a teacher-led hiring committee.

Tottenham, a 22-year special education veteran who rose through the ranks of teaching and administration, became a principal in 2011. She was thrilled to receive the award. “The Rohatyn Prize will allow us to deepen some very powerful teacher work that is strengthening our school culture and profoundly impacting the lives of our students. It’s about creating real opportunities for leadership and professional growth,” she said. “I can’t begin to explain how important this award is to taking teacher effectiveness to a new level at the Brooklyn Transition Center,” Tottenham added.

The three other finalists for the 2015 prize included principals at schools in Philadelphia, Manhattan, and the Bronx, with projects that spanned teacher leadership, “Japanese Lesson Study,” peer coaching and demonstration classrooms.  Descriptions of all the proposals are available online.

The award luncheon at the Harvard Club featured keynote speaker Phil Weinberg, Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE). Weinberg leads the work to strengthen instruction and enhance student learning in the City’s 1,700 schools. “I’m proud to celebrate the winner of the Rohatyn award and all the nominees for leading innovative and collaborative work that will move our schools forward,” said Weinberg. “They are leading school communities around two of our most important goals: preparing young people to graduate from our schools with a deep love for learning, and providing our students with an education that enables them to have meaningful career choices for the rest of their lives. The Rohatyn award honors our belief that when educators collaborate we are able to transform teaching and learning for every single student.”

The process for selecting the Rohatyn Prize winner involves multiple rounds. The initial nomination stage accepts entries from within a 100-mile radius of New York City. That pool is narrowed by a panel of judges, who select the semi-finalists. A public vote determines the finalists, and the winner is chosen by the selection committee. This year’s committee included: Jaynemarie Angbah, Children's Aid Society; Jodie Cohen, 2014 Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize Winner; Ingrid Edelman, Co-Chair of the Teaching Matters' Chairman’s Council; Rachel Leifer, The Helmsley Charitable Trust; Christine Vernon, Howard University.

Lynette Guastaferro, Executive Director of Teaching Matters, praised this year’s pool of applicants, and the winner. “It’s gratifying to see in the submissions the prominence of models that support teacher leadership and collaborative practices,” she said. “And I couldn’t agree more with something Regina said: ‘It’s not just about opening classroom doors, it’s about opening minds’.”

The Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize is underwritten by The Elizabeth Rohatyn Innovation Fund. Mrs. Rohatyn founded Teaching Matters in 1994. For more about the prize, see



Teaching Matters is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing teacher effectiveness, one of the most critical factors in student success. Our services transform how educators work together at urban public schools, helping the most effective teachers develop the skills they need to lead their peers and drive school-wide improvement. We also partner with school leadership to create a work environment that equips teachers to succeed in the classroom. From nearly 20 years of working in New York City’s public schools, we’ve developed an understanding of realistic and lasting ways to improve student outcomes, and we’re committed to real, measurable results. Visit to learn more about how we’re making a difference for students and teachers at public schools.

Attached Photos

Recent Releases

Sep 25, 2017 9:33:00 AM

Teaching Matters Collaborates with Tennessee Department of Education to Recognize Teacher Leadership through Micro-Credentials

Teaching Matters, a nonprofit leader in the national movement to support teacher leadership as a critical means to improve ...
Jul 19, 2017 12:00:00 AM

Teaching Matters Awards $25,000 Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize to Academy of Applied Technology and Mathematics

NEW YORK, NY, July 19, 2017 – Teaching Matters, a leader in the national movement to support teacher leadership, today awarded ...
Jul 13, 2017 1:30:00 PM

Statement from Teaching Matters on House FY18 Appropriations Bill

Systems that empower teachers also empower students. Teachers need our government to support them in their work to give ...