Position: Executive Director
School: National Health/Wellness/Learning Center at CS 55
School District: New York City Department of Education #9
City, State: Bronx, NY
Music that Describes Stephen
Stephen Ritz was nominated by his friend, Brian Copes.
"COVID-19 has changed our world and has thrust educators to the front line of community health and wellbeing," Copes said. "Today, education is much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. It's now focused on meeting the basic needs of students and the community. Often, the poor communities are hit the hardest with rampant unemployment, causing many great stresses on the students and families. Many families do not have the means to provide food. Many students are now more focused on where they may acquire their next meal, putting education on the side burner.
Mr. Ritz is making a LifeChanging difference for thousands of students and families in this situation. He's an educator with the title “Executive Director of the National Health, Wellness and Learning Center” at Community School 55, Bronx, NY. He is also the founder of the nonprofit Green Bronx Machine. Mr. Ritz truly cares for the whole child. He firmly believes a well-fed child will learn exponentially more than a child who is hungry. This past year, he and the Green Bronx Machine:
Mr. Ritz is a South Bronx educator who believes that students should not have to leave their community to live, learn, and earn in a better one. An internationally acclaimed award-winning educator, he's the author of the best-selling book, The Power Of A Plant. Known as “America’s Favorite Teacher,” Mr. Ritz is responsible for creating the first edible classroom in the world, which he has evolved into the National Health, Wellness and Learning Center. He and his students have grown more than 100,000 pounds of vegetables in the South Bronx, and in the process, Mr. Ritz has moved school attendance from 40% to 93% daily. His work as also helped provide 2,200 youth jobs in the Bronx.
Mr. Ritz was a Top Ten Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, named Global Humanitarian, Food Tank Hero, TEDx Prize Winner and a Global Food Educator, and has presented at the Obama White House three times. A replica of his classroom was installed in the US Botanic Gardens in Washington, DC. His curriculum is being used in hundreds of schools across the United States, and internationally from Colombia to Dubai, from Canada to Cairo, to Doha, and beyond.
To date, Mr. Ritz work has been featured by Forbes, Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, TNT, Disney, Discovery TV, NPR, Teach Middle East, The Gulf National, and countless others. His TED Talk boasts more than 1 million views, ranks in the Top 10 Food/Education TED Talks of all time, and is used for teacher training/workforce development globally. Mr. Ritz was featured in the film adaptation of Michael Pollan’s best-selling book, In Defense of Food, and he has appeared on ABC’s The Chew, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Food for Thought, NPR’s 50 Great Teachers, All Things Considered, and American Graduate. The State University of New York uses his curriculum to train teachers in all content areas. His recent appearance on PBS’ Growing A Greener World (Episode 808) won an Emmy Award, and he and his students were recently featured on the covers of TIME for KIDS and Scholastic Magazine.
Mr. Ritz splits his time between his home in the Bronx and his residence in The Sustainable City in Dubai, UAE, where he serves as Director of Health, Wellness and Innovation for Esol Education at Fairgreen International School. Currently, he is working with Anthem Blue Cross / Blue Shield to bring Green Bronx Machine programming to 22 American cities across 19 states.