People who work in schools have a unique and lasting effect on children and the adults they will later become. We all remember at least one person who was there for us, who inspired us, who made the school a better place and seemed to make us better, too. For a number of students in New York, that person is Angela Renz, a school social worker who splits her time between the Robert F Wagner Middle School and PS 59, the Beekman Hill International School.

Angela Renz won the Local Hero award at our inaugural Change Maker Awards ceremony in recognition of work she is doing. She was a natural fit because for decades she’s been a hero for at risk children in New York. Renz has a reputation for keeping up with the lives and family situations of hundreds of kids and leads group and individual therapy sessions for students. She has also turned her attention to her fellow educators, advocating for staff workshops on self-care, understanding trauma, and classroom management for teachers who are burning out. In the words of Ali Wentworth, host of the Change Maker Awards, “Angela Renz is the kind of woman you want at your school. She moves mountains for kids every day.”

In her speech at the awards ceremony Renz said, “Too often, we forget that personal development and happiness are at least as important as academic progress and achievement.” She acknowledged some of the traditional challenges that kids face, like social or academic issues, and also mentioned some new ones, like cyberbullying and social media. “Because there are so many pressures, it’s important that we teach children resilience,” said Renz. “Learning how to cope with everyday life is a critical skill, and it’s one we can teach if we have the right resources.” Thanks to Angela Renz, hundreds of kids in New York City public schools are learning how.