Stephen Ritz is a South Bronx educator / administrator who believes that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn, and earn in a better one. Moving generations of students into spheres of personal and academic successes which they had never imagined — while reclaiming and rebuilding the Bronx — Stephen’s extended student and community family have grown more than 40,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance. Recently named a 2015 Top Ten Finalist for the $1m Global Teacher Prize, Stephen’s accolades include a 2016 ProjectBased Learning Champion Award, 2016 Health Champion Award, 2016 Dr. Oz Award, 2015 BAMMY Laureate – Elementary Educator of the Year Award, 2014 Greenius Award, 2014 Green Difference Award, 2013 Latin Trends Award, ABC Above and Beyond Award, Chevrolet / General Motors National Green Educator Award, USS Intrepid Hometown Hero Award, NYC Chancellor’s Award and various others.
Affectionately known as “America’s Favorite Teacher,” Stephen has moved attendance from 40% to 93% daily, helped partner towards 2,200 youth jobs in the Bronx and captured the United States EPA Award for transforming mindsets and landscapes in NYC. A strong advocate for Project Based Learning, Stephen is an annual presenter for the Buck Institute and works with school districts and universities across the country. Stephen has worked with and conducted professional development for the AFT, UFT as well as charter, independent, public and private schools around the world. American Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom identified and featured Stephen as one of the top fifty teachers in America. Internationally, he consults with Instituto Thomas Jefferson in Mexico, lectures for the Hebrew University, was named a Delegate at WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education), and recently spoke at Congreso Nacional de Educacion in Medellin, Colombia. Stephen has received standing ovations from coast to coast, continent to continent and around the globe.
Stephen’s 2008 speech at Columbia University, entitled “From Crack to Cucumbers,” along with the release of a YouTube Video, “Urban Farming NYC,” resulted in a national following, including an invitation to the White House Garden. Dubbed the Pied Piper of Peas by Lorna Sass, Stephen launched Green Bronx Machine to a national audience and was selected as a national Green Apple Education Ambassador for the US Green Building Council and Center for Green Schools. Currently, Stephen is working on embedding the concepts of sustainability, food, energy and environmental justice aligned to content area instruction into K-12 programming and beyond. In 2015, Stephen launched the first ever independently financed National Health, Wellness and Learning Center in a 100+ year old reclaimed school library in the South Bronx at Community School 55. Green Bronx Machine celebrated a 2014 Best of Green Schools Award — one of only ten recipients across the United States.
Watermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad
1 medium seedless watermelon, cut into 1” cubes
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
1 lb Feta cheese, cut into small cubes
½ red onion, chopped
1 medium bunch of mint, chopped
1. Cut up the watermelon into 1” cubes. Drain in colander for ½ hour with a bowl underneath (this way, you can drink the juice!)
2. Whisk together the white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and lemon juice in a bowl.
3. Mix the watermelon, feta, onion, and mint in a large bowl. Chill in refrigerator.
4. Drizzle with dressing, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and toss right before serving.