A man who left West Africa for the Hudson Valley was named the New York Teacher of the Year.

On Monday, Alhassan Susso of Poughkeepsie, a high school social studies teacher at International Community High School in the Bronx, was named the 2019 New York State High School Teacher of the Year.

According to the New York State Education Department, Susso overcame an eye disease and difficult childhood to devote his life to changing lives in the classroom.

“Alhassan Susso has overcome obstacles that might have forced other people to give up—emigrating to the United States at age 16 and living with a rare, degenerative eye disease—instead, he chose to devote his life to helping young people,” Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said in press release. “Every day, he focuses on making the school-community connection that is critical to educating the whole child."

Susso, an immigrant from West Africa, lives in Poughkeepsie and commutes to the Bronx.

“Using his personal journey and social and emotional lessons, he expands his students’ worldview so they can find meaning in their own lives and become leaders," State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said.

In 2017, he was named one of “the Top 50 Outstanding Educators in the World” by the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize. He also received the 2017 Social-Emotional Learning Innovation Award for Teachers by Education First through the Rockefeller Foundation,  according to the New York State Education Department.

“Using the obstacles he’s overcome and lessons he’s learned in his own life, Alhassan has changed the trajectory of students’ lives and helped them pursue their dreams," New York City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza said.

He earned his Master of Arts in Secondary Education with a specialization in History from Bard College. Over the next year, he'll serve as an ambassador for teachers throughout New York and will be the state's nominee for the National Teacher of the Year.

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