Four Superlative Teachers Surprised with $25,000 Fishman Prize

In schools across the country today, family and friends joined local civic and community leaders and TNTP representatives to surprise four teachers with the 2017 Fishman Prize, a $25,000 award recognizing the nation’s most effective teachers working in high-need public schools. These teachers are:

  • Brett Noble, 11th Grade English, KIPP Pride High School, Gaston, NC       
  • Joshua Martinez, 4th Grade Generalist, KIPP Raíces Academy, Los Angeles, CA                            
  • Maria Morfin, 5th Grade English, KIPP Sol Academy, East Los Angeles, CA
  • Milton Bryant, 4th – 5th Grade Math, Ketcham Elementary School, Washington, DC         

The Fishman Prize is extremely selective, boasting thousands of nominations each year and nearly 800 applications in 2017. It’s also the only national award that evaluates teaching excellence through the lens of relationship building and strong academics.

Applicants undergo a rigorous six-month selection process in which they must demonstrate quality instruction, mastery of their chosen content areas, and a commitment to creating life-changing relationships and learning experiences for all students. Along the way, they submit essays, classroom videos, samples of student work, and letters of reference. Those who advance agree to an unannounced, in-person classroom observation focused on the quality of the work their students are doing in the classroom. The nine finalists were selected for in-person interviews with an expert panel of judges in New York City.

This summer, the winners will come together for a six-week residency with TNTP. During this time, the winners will grapple with current issues in the teaching profession, meet with education leaders across the country, engage in the challenge of helping more teachers improve their classroom practice, and collaborate on a short paper that captures their insights as expert classroom practitioners.

More on the winners:

Brett Noble
11th Grade English, KIPP Pride High School, Gaston, NC            

In Brett Noble's eleventh-grade English classroom, students’ stories are inextricably linked to the American story—a rich history in their own backyard. What does the American Dream mean at a school built on a former plantation? How does a teacher explain to students why the three school districts in their county remain largely segregated in 2017? How can students grapple with those big questions through literature, turning the answers into college essays that earn them a place at the college of their choice? “It’s the first basis for how we examine a text,” says Noble. “How does it relate to our community?”
Joshua Martinez
4th Grade Generalist, KIPP Raíces Academy, Los Angeles, CA      

There’s a public school in East Los Angeles where fourth graders are independently reading 1 million words a year—three times more than typical students their age. That’s where 2017 Fishman Prize winner Joshua Martinez teaches his students to stretch their thinking—and never stop asking questions.

“When I go on home visits at the start of each year, I make it a point to get to know the particular stories of my families,” says Martinez. “What you find are families with different traditions and values, but each one cares deeply about the quality of education their child is receiving.”

Maria Morfin
5th Grade English, KIPP Sol Academy, East Los Angeles, CA    

For Maria Morfin, teaching literacy is all about helping her fifth graders in East Los Angeles find their voices—and she knows from growing up nearby that she can rely on the support of parents to help. “I feel like there's no better way for me to help those who may not have a voice right now,” Morfin says. “Five, ten years from now when they're in high school and college, they can come back to their community, and they can stand up for what they believe is right for their community, for people who look like them.”

Milton Bryant
4th – 5th Grade Math, Ketcham Elementary School, Washington, DC

What does Milton Bryant’s elementary school math classroom have in common with the college football team he used to coach? A contagious team spirit, a relentless belief in the value of practice, and an understanding that stumbles are inevitable on the way to achieving your goals. “My students are no different than kids from affluent areas,” he says. “They are great problem solvers. They’re just solving different types of problems. But they have all of these phenomenal skills you wouldn’t think a 10-year-old kid would have.”

Learn more about TNTP’s Fishman Prize, including past winners, finalists, and honorees here.

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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