IDEA Donna teacher among 4 national award recipients

| The Monitor | Jacqueline Armendariz

DONNA — A far cry from the sometimes disparaging attitude toward teaching noted by IDEA Donna educator Jennifer Corroy, officials surprised her with a prestigious national award on Monday and she beamed while surrounded by students.

The New Teacher Project — a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based nonprofit more commonly known as TNTP — selected Corroy along with three other public school teachers from across the nation. They will each receive the $25,000 Fishman Prize in recognition of their excellence in teaching and their practices as effective educators. They’ll also participate in a TNTP summer residency program. More than 570 full-time teachers working in high-poverty public schools applied.

The other award winners this year came from well-recognized urban areas like Chicago, Memphis and Newwark, N.J., according to a news release from TNTP.

“It makes me proud to teach you,” the public charter school teacher said as the senior students packed into her classroom applauded and cheered for her. “It’s just such a privilege to work with you guys.”

Other accolades Corroy has recently earned include the teacher of the year at the campus and the Teach for America alumni award. TNTP was initially founded by controversial reformer Michelle Rhee, who was chancellor of District of Columbia public schools from 2007 to 2010 and a TFA corps member at one point.

“I think the fact of doing something really special like this is just more of a testimony to how much I think TNTP cares about teachers and making it really, truly special,” Corroy said.

She acknowledged teaching can be complicated, including the criticism of Teach for America in that sometimes recruits are only educators for a short time.

Corroy said teaching is often degraded by the public.

“Teaching is not glamorous work. People don’t honor teaching as something that people choose to do because they’re smart, hard-working, dedicated people,” she said. “But, I think that for me, choosing to teach means choosing to become the best professional I can be.”

The 32-year-old has taught at the Donna campus for three years and worked for IDEA for the past six. She teaches English and International Baccalaureate English for seniors.

Last year, 80 percent of Corroy’s class received college credit via their IB exams, an unheard-of statistic, said Christina Cavazos-Escamilla, principal at the IDEA College Prep Donna campus. All IDEA students are required to take IB programs.

“There’s not a more deserving individual and someone who I think has been super-incredible in really, truly closing that gap in helping children be successful through college, not just to college,” Cavazos-Escamilla said of Corroy.

There are 781 students in grades six through 12 at the IDEA Donna campus, which also has primary school students. While the campus expects its new building to open this summer, allowing them to forgo the multiple portables in use now, the organization also has a presence in Austin and plans for significant expansion in San Antonio.

JoAnn Gama, IDEA co-founder and chief of schools, was one of several officials there to surprise Corroy on Monday. She said Corroy is believed to be the first teacher in the Valley, and perhaps Texas, to receive the award. It is also the first time an IDEA teacher has received the award, she said.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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