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

Nearly 800 teachers applied for prize honoring extraordinary teaching in low-income schools.

Today we are thrilled to announce the 2015 winners of the $25,000 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice.

The Fishman Prize spotlights excellence in teaching and the practices of the nation’s most effective educators. With over 5,000 nominations this year and nearly 800 applications from across the country, the Fishman Prize continues to grow as one of the most prestigious awards for practicing teachers and the only one exclusively for those working in high-poverty public schools.

The 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.

“From early in the application process until now, we’ve simply been blown away by these educators,” said TNTP Vice President Ana Menezes, one of this year’s Fishman Prize judges. “They are the epitome of reflective practitioners, models of inspiration and the types of teachers we want for each child in this nation. We are humbled to honor them with the Fishman Prize and privileged to work alongside them during the residency this summer.”

This year’s winners include:

Erin Dukeshire
6th Grade Science at Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury, MA

Whether helping her sixth graders explore photosynthesis or the melting points of different materials, Erin’s passion is not merely teaching science, but cultivating future scientists. She focuses her students not just on content, but also practice and the opportunity to build inquiry and lab skills. They regularly write their own hypotheses, collect and analyze data and draw conclusions. In 2014, she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Now in her 10th year in the classroom, Erin has helped transform her school in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood from one of Massachusetts’ lowest-performing to one of its fastest-improving, not only dramatically increasing her own students’ proficiency but also supporting the success of her colleagues as a coach and leader of the school’s science and instructional leadership teams.

Erica Mariola
Kindergarten at KIPP East Community Primary in New Orleans, LA

Throughout her seven years as an educator, Erica has held a deep commitment to rigorous early learning. “People tell me that my kindergarteners can’t do this, but I know they can,” she says of the high expectations she holds for her students. “I see them do it every day.” That spirit defines her classroom, where she taps the endless energy and curiosity of her five year-olds to jumpstart their first year in school. Her students aren’t just learning about shapes; they’re learning about the vertices and sides of triangles. And they’re thriving. On average, students enter her class in the 20th percentile in math nationally. After a year with Erica, they rank in the 90th percentile. This year, they’re on track to be among the top kindergarten classes in New Orleans in learning growth.

Zeke Phillips
5th Grade English at Excel Academy-Chelsea in Chelsea, MA

Zeke is a classroom craftsman—meticulous, persistent, and determined to get it right. “There are not many nine-year veteran teachers who still crave feedback on plans, course materials and lessons regularly,” says his principal. “Zeke’s hunger to grow and develop has not done anything but get stronger.” That drive for continual improvement, a hallmark of all Fishman Prize winners, shines through in the success of Zeke’s predominantly low-income, Latino students at Excel Academy-Chelsea, who routinely achieve over a year and a half of progress in a single year. Zeke’s remarkable dedication to his work also carries over into many other roles he holds at his school. Whether he’s coaching the cross country team, leading the school newspaper or serving as his grade level chair, he gives his all to his students, families and colleagues.

Stephanie Sun
5th Grade English at Achievement First Brownsville Middle School in Brooklyn, NY

Affectionately nicknamed “Ms. Sunshine” by her students, Stephanie brings joy, warmth and a sharp sense of focus to her 5th grade classroom. In a typical minute, it is not uncommon to see silent ’raise the roof‘ gestures to praise a student, high-fives for great answers, and endless smiles. At the same time, she continues to hold her students to high expectations and lead them to monumental gains. On the new, Common Core-aligned 2014 state exam, Stephanie’s students achieved nearly four times the proficiency rate of other 5th grade English students from the same neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Only in her fifth year teaching, Stephanie is adamant about sustaining and growing that impact over the long term. “I’ve known since I was 10 years old that I wanted to teach,” she says. “I know I have to do this for as long as I can. There’s no other job in the world.” 


We are also proud to congratulate six 2015 Fishman Prize finalists, extraordinary teachers in their own right, who will each receive a $1,000 award. They include:

  • Isagani Celzo, 11th–12th Grade Math at the School of Social Justice at Linda Marquez High School in Huntington Park, CA
  • Benjamin Das, 9th-12th Grade Band at Pritzker College Prep in Chicago, IL
  • James Sheridan, 11th Grade AP English Literature at YES Prep Southeast High School in Houston, TX
  • Chantrise Sims-Holliman, 8th-9th Grade English at Westlake High School in Atlanta, GA
  • Jennifer Stocklin, 11th-12th Grade AP English Language and English at KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate in Lynn, MA
  • Destiny Woodbury, 5th Grade Science at KIPP Liberation College Preparatory in Houston, TX

The winners and finalists were selected after a seven-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 Vice President Ana Menezes, TNTP Vice President David Keeling and Washington, DC, McKinley Technology High School math teacher Shira Fishman Printup, 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 teachers on the Honor Roll, for the work they do every day to ensure their students a brighter future.

View All 2015 Honorees

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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