Sussex Avenue School NEwark
Sussex Avenue School Newark 2020 winner

Mosaic - Sussex Avenue School - Kit Sailerbooper AIE PD

Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA – AIE Residency Champion Award

Nelson Alvarez was born in Havana, Cuba.  He immigrated to the United States in 1996 and moved to New York City in 2003. He is a full time art educator, artist and art curator. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Kean University and a Master of Fine Arts from Lehman College.

Since 2012, Mr. Alvarez has been the Visual Art teacher at Sussex Avenue School. He collaborates with art institutions, community organizations and individuals to create a successful, cohesive and sustainable art program in the school. Working in a series of mural and public art projects, Mr. Alvarez has helped to establish a strong school culture and improve the relationship between the school and the greater community. In addition, he works with different artists in residency who are funded through grants and art institutions.

Mr. Alvarez’s artwork depicts the impact of rampant industrialization upon urban landscapes. The images render and expose post-industrial ecological blight, as well as examine and focus on the growing “post-manufacturing” environmental problems. Mr. Alvarez’s interest in creating work from an ecological environmental perspective results from his early environmental and social-activism in his native Cuba.

Nelson Alvarez served as a member of the advisory committee for the non-profit organization BX Arts Factory and also as member of the board of directors for the Brooklyn Waterfront Artist Coalition.


Personal quote

As art educators we have the responsibility to focus more on developing learners that think like artists. Created individuals that are capable to generate ideas, develop transdisciplinary research and conform with ambiguity.


Darleen L. Gearhart – bio
Darleen Gearhart has worked for Newark Public Schools for over twenty-five years.  She began working to improve the lives of inner-city children as a high school mathematics teacher at Weequahic High School in Newark, New Jersey.  In 1997 she sought to impact a larger scale of students in mathematics by serving as the district Mathematics Supervisor where she developed and provided professional development for classroom and resource teachers, coaches, and principals in mathematics content, pedagogy, pedagogical content knowledge, and assessment.  In that role, she co-authored, implemented, and served as Project Director for the Local Systemic Change Project, NPSSIM, a five year, $6.5 million NSF-funded project to reform mathematics in grades K through 8.  In 2011 she was selected to support failing schools in turnaround efforts by serving as the Director of School Improvement Grants and subsequently in 2012, she was selected to serve Newark’s children as the Principal of Sussex Avenue School.  In that role she has dramatically turned Sussex Avenue School from a failing urban school to a thriving community.  In August 2019 she was again selected as the Director of Mathematics for Newark Public Schools.  In this role she serves as Newark’s leader and expert in the area of Mathematics, developing a comprehensive instructional program in mathematics.  Currently she serves a dual role in serving students as both the Principal of Sussex Avenue School and the Director of Mathematics.
In January 2014 she received the Leadership Matters Award from the Newark Trust for Education, the Stretching Minds Award from the Newark Yoga Movement in September 2014, the Ercell Watson Memorial Award for Distinguished Service from Montclair State University in April 2015, the My Principal Matters Award in June 2016, the Outstanding Leadership Award in June 2017, the Academic Achievement Award for Highest SGP in Mathematics in November 2017, the Attendance Innovation Award in April 2018, and the Educator of the Year Award in June 2018.  Darleen holds a Bachelor in Pure Mathematics from Lock Haven University, a Masters in Education from Saint Peter’s College, and a Masters in Applied Mathematics from NJIT.


The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education began in 1980 to promote awareness and appreciation of the arts, recognizing the creativity, talent and leadership of the award winners. Each year, awards are presented to approximately 20 educators and 80 students. National and statewide organizations select the students for their exemplary work in creative writing, speech, dance, music, theatre and visual arts and the leaders for their exceptional commitment and contribution to arts education. The program also recognizes arts educators and arts education advocates, whose leadership has helped nurture the development of students in the arts across the state.

16 Mount Bethel Road Suite 202, Warren, NJ 07059
(908) 542-9396

The Governor’s Awards event is a partnership of the Arts Ed NJ, the Department of Education, Art Pride New Jersey Foundation, the Department of State and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Additional support is provided by: the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics; Art Educators of New Jersey; Art Administrators of New Jersey; Dance New Jersey; New Jersey Council of Teachers of English; New Jersey Speech and Debate League; New Jersey Music Educators Association; New Jersey Performing Arts Center; Writer's Theatre of New Jersey; Speech and Theatre Association of New Jersey; New Jersey Thespians and Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. The cooperating organizations, award sponsors and individual members of the planning council dedicate their time to make sure that excellence in the arts is rewarded, and work tirelessly throughout the year to plan this special event. The Governor's Awards in Arts Education ceremony are a major collaborative effort of the arts, education and state government.