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

More than 400 teachers nationwide applied for prize honoring extraordinary teaching

BROOKLYN, NY – TNTP, a nonprofit organization working to ensure that more students learn from excellent teachers, today announced the winners of the 2012 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice, a prestigious new award intended to spotlight excellence in teaching and the practices of the nation’s most effective educators. The winners will receive $25,000 and the opportunity to complete a special summer residency with TNTP. The $25,000 award places the Fishman Prize among the largest monetary awards for practicing teachers in the nation.

Meet Our 2012 Winners

Katie Lyons, 6-8th Grade Literacy and Social Studies Teacher at National Teachers Academy in Chicago, IL
Since 2008, Katie Lyons has taught middle school students and coached new teachers at National Teachers Academy, a 97 percent low-income school near Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood. Katie, however, is no stranger to the pressures of creating vibrant classrooms in difficult circumstances. Her teaching career began in 2005 with DC Public Schools, where she won Ward 5’s “Outstanding Teacher of the Year” Award after just her second year as a DC Teaching Fellow. Soon after, she took on mentorship positions in addition to her work teaching students. By the time Katie moved to Chicago, she had developed a passion both for teaching and for preparing new teachers to be effective in high-need schools. “I’m passionate because my students deserve it,” she says. “Providing equal access to education as well as rigor and high expectations – that’s what we need to do for students and our communities.” Katie literally goes the extra mile for her students; in 2011, after winning a fellowship to explore the ancient cultures of Mexico, she took her students along virtually through daily video lessons, blog posts and photographs of her journey. Last year, her students achieved an average of two years of growth in reading proficiency and she was honored as a Teacher of Distinction by the Golden Apple Foundation.

Jamie Irish8th Grade Math Teacher at KIPP Central City Academy in New Orleans, LA
Jamie Irish began teaching in New York City in 2003, working in public schools in the Bronx. He went on to teach in Washington, DC before moving to New Orleans to help rebuild the devastated city’s school system. He now teaches at KIPP Central City Academy in New Orleans. Located in the vicinity of the Louisiana Superdome, which infamously became a chaotic refuge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the school enrolls 400 middle school students, 96 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Despite the challenges, Jamie's meticulously-planned, fast-paced lessons have led his students to achieve greater academic gains in math than all others within the KIPP network for two years in a row. Jamie starts by getting his students deeply invested in the goal of catching up to their peers at other schools, then makes the most of every minute in the classroom to do just that. “He is better at using time than almost anyone I've seen,” says Fishman Prize judge and TNTP president Tim Daly. “It’s really impossible to be in his class and not learn.”

Leslie Ross9th Grade Biology Teacher at Ben L. Smith High School in Greensboro, NC
When Leslie Ross first heard of the Fishman Prize, she was scanning through a school newsletter in hopes of finding yet another grant that would allow her to buy lab equipment for her biology classroom at Ben L. Smith High School in Greensboro, NC, where beakers too often feel like luxuries. Leslie has spent her entire 15-year career teaching in Greensboro, actively seeking out schools where the students need her most. Asked why, she says, “I was just like them. I owe it to them.” Her current school is one of the nine lowest-performing schools in the county and Leslie works with quiet determination to foster nurturing relationships with her students and help them beat the odds. In 2011, Leslie’s biology students outscored all other students on district-wide assessments by more than 25 percentage points on average. All told, 100 percent of her students passed their state-mandated, end-of-course exams despite data from the state’s predictive model suggesting that fully 3 in 10 would not. In talking about her key to success, Leslie says, “If they say it can’t be done, I sure would like to be the person to do it.”

Whitney Henderson7th Grade Writing Teacher at KIPP Central City Academy in New Orleans, LA
Whitney Henderson started her teaching career in 2007 through TNTP’s teachNOLA program and currently teaches 7th Grade Writing and serves as the 7th Grade Team Leader at  KIPP Central City Academy in New Orleans. Like fellow Fishman Prize winner Jamie Irish, Whitney has been able to lead her students and school to extraordinary success; last year her 6th graders attained no less than 3.6 years of growth in writing in one year, and beat district and state averages in 6th grade ELA scores. It only takes a visit to feel the influence Whitney has on her students. As Fishman Prize judge and TNTP’s President, Tim Daly, notes, “She has perfect instincts for what her students need. She leads sustained, whole class exercises that involve complex material, and doesn’t lose anyone.”

Meet Our 2012 Finalists

Ami Patel, 4th Grade Language Arts Teacher at Achievement First Brownsville Elementary School in Brooklyn, NY

Benjamin Sinwell, 9-10th Grade Math Teacher at Pendleton High School in Pendleton, SC

Carol Wingard, 8th Grade Math Teacher at Dealey International Academy in Dallas, TX

Karen Ziminski, 6-8th Grade Science Teacher at Clarence Edwards Middle School in Boston, MA

Lindsay Hawkins, K-5th Grade ESL Teacher at Gypsum Elementary School in Gypsum, CO

Paul Friedmann, 7th Grade Math Teacher at Brooke Charter School in Roslindale, MA

Rachel McClam, 5th Grade Math Teacher at DC Prep Public Charter School in Washington, DC

Ryan Hall, 8th Grade Math Teacher at Williamsburg Collegiate Charter School in Brooklyn, NY

About the Fishman Prize

The Fishman Prize is named for Shira Fishman, a current DC Public Schools (DCPS) math teacher who started teaching through TNTP’s DC Teaching Fellows program in 2004. Before she became a teacher, Shira was a mechanical engineer. She now works at McKinley Technology High School in northeast Washington, D.C., where as Chairperson of the math department she has helped make McKinley one of the top-performing schools in the district. She was named the 2011 DCPS Teacher of the Year and was one of 40 teachers nationwide to receive a 2011 Milken Educator Award.

The winners will be joining Ms. Fishman in an intense, six-week summer fellowship where they will engage in the critical challenge of helping more teachers improve their classroom practice and collaborate on a short paper that captures their insights and knowledge of effective teaching.

“These teachers astonished us,” said TNTP President Tim Daly. “They engage their students in dramatically different ways, but they all get amazing results. It has been so inspiring to spend time with them and to see them at work in their classrooms. We couldn’t imagine a more deserving group of educators to honor with this award.”

This is the first year of the Fishman Prize. The application was open to all full-time teachers working in public schools where 40% or more of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, including public charter schools. In just over a month and a half, 1,600 teachers registered to apply and more than 400 teachers from 39 states submitted full applications. Fifty semi-finalists were invited to submit teaching videos and letters of reference, and a dozen were selected as finalists, each of whom was observed at work in the classroom by TNTP staff and interviewed by an expert panel of judges including:

Shira Fishman, High School Math Teacher at McKinley Technology High School, Washington, DC

John King, New York State Education Commissioner and former director of Uncommon Schools

Tim Daly, TNTP President and former teacher

Layla Avila, TNTP Executive Vice President of New Teacher Effectiveness and former teacher

“The quality of the Fishman Prize finalists is extraordinary,” said guest judge and NYS Commissioner John B. King, Jr. “These are really impressive, dedicated teachers who work hard every day to achieve incredible results with their students. They deserve all the recognition we can offer.”

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.

Learn More About TNTP