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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

Four Top Public School Teachers Win $25,000 Fishman Prize from TNTP

May 15, 2014

More than 820 applied for prize honoring extraordinary teaching in low-income schools

Today, we are thrilled to announce the 2014 winners of TNTP’s $25,000 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice.

Now in its third year, the Fishman Prize spotlights excellence in teaching and the practices of the nation’s most effective educators. It is one of the most prestigious awards for practicing teachers and the only one exclusively for those working in high-poverty public schools. This year, we saw record numbers for the Prize, with nearly 4,300 nominations and over 820 applications from teachers in 46 states.

The four winners will each receive $25,000 and participate in a one-of-a-kind summer residency with TNTP, during which they will reflect on their work in the classroom, author a paper on their teaching strategies, and meet with national education leaders. Please join us in congratulating them:

Kelly Zunkiewicz, 9th-12th Grade Precalculus and AP Calculus at Earl J. Lennard High School in Ruskin, FL
Kelly Zunkiewicz has taught at Lennard High since it first opened seven years ago and is now both a classroom teacher and math coach. She is passionate about expanding STEM opportunities to all students, and has developed a highly successful calculus program at her school that fills half its seats with young women. In her AP Calculus class last year, the exam pass rate increased from 11% to 80%, and this year her students have already beaten out every one of the other 26 schools in Hillsborough County on their winter benchmark exam.

Laura Strait, 4th-5th Grade at Aspire ERES Academy in Oakland, CA
Laura Strait followed her principal from Massachusetts to California in 2007 to help form a new school as part of the Aspire Public Schools network. Always seeking to learn from others and hone her craft, she has mastered the use of meticulous planning, data analysis, and blended learning to give every student the support they need to learn with confidence. At a school where 97% of students are eligible for Free- or Reduced-Price Lunch, on average, 84% of Laura’s students achieve "Advanced" or "Proficient" in math, and the vast majority grow two to five levels in reading.

Michael Towne, 10th-12th Grade Physics and Engineering at Citrus Hill High School in Perris, CA
Following careers in the U.S. Marine Corps and as a small business owner, Michael Towne joined the teaching profession in 2001. In the last eight years, he has built an outstanding physics and engineering program at Citrus Hill that has become a pipeline for students into college science majors. Last year, an astonishing 26% of the Mexican-American students who passed the AP Physics Electricity and Magnetism exam in the entire state of California came from his classroom.

Steven Sanders, 9th-12th Grade Band at UIC College Prep in Chicago, IL
Steven Sanders has taught for five years at UIC College Prep, Chicago’s highest performing non-selective enrollment high school. Most of his students are encountering musical instruments for the first time. Yet, with nearly 200 students, he has led the school’s ensembles to first and second place rankings in city and statewide competitions. Along the way, he’s also taught them critical life skills like self-discipline, persistence and focus.

“This is a dream team of teachers,” said TNTP CEO Ariela Rozman. “They were selected from an incredibly diverse and talented applicant pool that represents the very best of what is happening in classrooms across the country. It’s an honor and a privilege for all of us at TNTP to recognize their hard work, dedication and results with this prize.”

We are also proud to recognize six 2014 Fishman Prize finalists, extraordinary teachers in their own right, who will each receive a $1,000 award. They include:

  • Amy Myers, 2nd Grade at Powder Springs Elementary School in Powder Springs, GA
  • Ashley Hinton, 4th Grade at North Star Academy – Vailsburg Elementary in Newark, NJ
  • Cynthia Burke, 7th-9th Grade Math at Sherrard Middle School in Wheeling, WV
  • Jonathan Johnson, 8th Grade Social Studies at KIPP Central City Academy in New Orleans, LA
  • Katherine Arbuckle, K-1st Grade at Ellen Mitchell Elementary School in Chicago, IL
  • Melissa Bryant, 4th Grade Math and Science at Stanton Elementary School in Washington, DC

The winners and finalists were selected after a six-month selection process, which included a written application and references, a teaching video, an unannounced classroom observation, and an in-person interview in New York. This year’s judges included TNTP President Timothy Daly, TNTP Executive Vice President for New Teacher Effectiveness Karolyn Belcher, and Washington, DC, McKinley Technology High School math teacher Shira Fishman, for whom the Fishman Prize was named.

We hope you’ll join us in thanking all of these phenomenal educators, as well as our semi-finalists and the teachers on our Honor Roll, for the work they do every day to ensure their students a brighter future.

About TNTP

TNTP believes our nation’s public schools can offer all children an excellent education. A national nonprofit founded by teachers, we help school systems end educational inequality and achieve their goals for students. We work at every level of the public education system to attract and train talented teachers and school leaders, ensure rigorous and engaging classrooms, and create environments that prioritize great teaching and accelerate student learning. Since 1997, we’ve partnered with more than 200 public school districts, charter school networks and state departments of education. We have recruited or trained more than 50,000 teachers, inspired policy change through acclaimed studies such as The Widget Effect (2009) and The Irreplaceables (2012), and launched one of the nation’s premiere awards for excellent teaching, the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice. Today, TNTP is active in more than 30 cities.