Why My Teacher Deserves the Fishman Prize
Today, we’re opening our sixth year of applications for the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice. Since 2012, the prize has celebrated educators who have one thing in common: the ability to create challenging and engaging classrooms that push all of their students to succeed. But beyond that, our winners are different from each other in every possible way—from the kinds of schools where they work to the subjects they teach to their reasons for getting into the profession in the first place.
In the past, we’ve asked previous winners to share why they applied. We’ve also said plenty ourselves. But who better to explain what makes a teacher worthy of recognition than the students they teach? This year, we asked them.
Jacques Gadson, Senior at Benjamin Banneker High School, College Park, Georgia
Student of Matthew Patterson, 2016 Fishman Prize Winner
I've only had Mr. Patterson in class this school year, but I’ve known him since I was a freshman. I would come to school and my mood wouldn't be the best and he’d always uplift me. He’d speak to me and make sure I was okay. He’d let me know he was there to talk. He's very comical and knows how to make me laugh and forget about anything that is troubling. He also gives really good advice. He's a jack of all trades and seems like he has knowledge about everything. You can be talking about the paint on the wall, and Mr. Patterson will be interested in it. The other day we were talking about basketball for a whole hour after school, and then the conversation connected back to an author we were discussing in class. When we talk, I always leave feeling like I learned something.
In class, we go over a lot of modern topics and there is never a dull day. I know school is supposed to be serious, but in Mr. Patterson’s class we learn a lot and it's fun at the same time. He promotes an environment conducive to thinking and learning. You never feel judged. In literature classes I've had in the past, I’ve received negative feedback for expressing my opinion. Mr. Patterson doesn’t allow that. I’m free to say whatever I'm thinking or feeling in his classroom.
When I first came to this school, everyone was talking about "Oh, Mr. Pat, I want Mr. Pat's class." Everyone knows he teaches with energy and everyone knows he is special. So although he won the Fishman Prize last year, he was always an award-winning teacher in our eyes—the recognition just further proved it. Still, I think it's important for him to be awarded for the brilliant things he does because, in a sense, him winning motivated other teachers in the building. The students can notice them innovating in the classroom and revamping the way they teach. I guess before they never thought they could be recognized for their efforts, but I think Mr. Patterson winning an award motivated everybody else to want to win one, too.
Leslianna Allen, Senior at Bronx Arena High School, Bronx, New York
Student of Evelyn Rebollar, 2016 Fishman Prize Winner
Evelyn always wants to make sure I’m okay. If I have a problem or need help, she is always there. That's what I need in a teacher. Other teachers I've had never really had the same level of care she does. Evelyn cares about her students and their outside lives. She notices if I’m having a bad day and asks me if I want to talk about it. If I say no, she’ll leave it alone, but eventually I talk to her because I feel comfortable. She's a great listener.
She also pushes me. If I’m slacking she says, "Leslie, you're slacking." That makes me want to do better. I’ve had her for three years now, and I've definitely done a lot better in school ever since she became my teacher. In addition to grades, she has also helped me with my patience. She knows how to calm me down and always reminds me that getting angry is not worth it. She has helped me channel my anger and come up with ways to control it. My past teachers would just kick me out of the class, suspend me, or call my house.
In our school, Evelyn's basically our mother. We all have a bond with her and when she won the Fishman Prize we were so proud. We know she comes in every day and gives us her all. Teachers like Evelyn need to be recognized. People need to know there are teachers out here doing more than just their job. Me, personally, I live on my own. I don't have my mother. I don't have adults I speak to. So to go to school and have a teacher who asks me about my day or how my weekend was, it's nice. It's nice to know somebody cares about more than just my schoolwork.
Do you know a teacher who builds strong relationships with their students and pushes them to reach their highest aspirations for themselves? Nominate them for the Fishman Prize today.