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

More than 570 applied for prize honoring extraordinary teaching in low-income schools

BROOKLYN, NY – TNTP, a nonprofit organization working to ensure that all students get excellent teachers, today announced the winners of the 2013 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice, a prestigious award that spotlights 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 2013 winners are:

Javier Velazquez, 6th Grade Math at Howe School of Excellence in Chicago, IL

Originally trained as an architect at MIT, Javier Velazquez earned his teaching certification through the Academy for Urban School Leadership at the National-Louis University in his native Chicago. He has spent a decade as a middle school math teacher in the turnaround schools of Chicago, leading urban students to results that are the envy of far more affluent suburbs. Javier’s students regularly meet or exceed standards on their state assessments, and learn to use multiple approaches to solve complex problems under his instruction. “I’ve learned how to get the most out of my students,” says Javier. “By sharing my experiences, building strong relationships and helping them grow, I make my students believe their efforts directly impact their success.”

Jennifer Corroy, 11th-12th Grade English Language Arts at IDEA College Preparatory Donna in Donna, TX

Jennifer Corroy grew up and attended school in Wisconsin but has made her career for nearly a decade deep in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where she began with Teach For America and has been pushing her students to meet the challenge of college ever since. Her love of literature is infectious. She describes her instructional process as “demystifying academic writing,” as she shows students how to interpret literature, from understanding an author’s intention to seeing multiple meanings in a text. She is also a spirited advocate for professionalization in teaching. “I'm proud to say I’m a teacher,” Jennifer says. “I could be doing a lot of things, and I choose to teach.”

Josalyn Tresvant, K-5th Grade Special Education at Knight Road Elementary School in Memphis, TN

A graduate of Memphis City Schools, Josalyn Tresvant gave up a burgeoning career in banking to return to the school system and become a special educator through TNTP’s Memphis Teaching Fellows program in 2009. Each year, Josalyn sets up a class website to serve as a “hub” for tracking academic progress, and regularly videotapes and reviews her lessons to identify and correct missed learning opportunities. The message Josalyn puts forth to students is not only that they should push themselves to learn new tools, but that staying connected to their academic growth is vital to their success. It is no wonder she has also been recognized by her peers and honored by her district as a Prestige Award recipient.

Keith Robinson, 9th Grade Algebra I at People’s Preparatory Charter School in Newark, NJ

Though he once aspired to be an accountant, Keith Robinson found his passion for teaching in Harlem, where he taught for four years through Teach For America before moving to Newark, NJ. He is a voracious reader who is always looking for ways to push himself and his students further. In his classroom, where working hard is a shared value, students embrace their struggles and the risk of failure. “What distinguishes me as a teacher are the decisions I make to foster a growth-mindset in my students,” says Keith. “It’s a belief that we are not born ‘smart’ or ‘not smart’ but that we work hard to become smart.”

TNTP also congratulates the 2013 finalists for the prize, each of whom will receive $1,000:

  • Andrew Vega, 8th Grade English, Orchard Gardens Pilot School, Boston, MA
  • Marie Krueger-Miller, 4th Grade English as a Second Language, Davila Elementary School, Houston, TX
  • Nakita Thomas, 6th and 8th Grade Special Education, Cape Fear Middle School, Rocky Point, NC
  • Sasha Growick, 3rd Grade, Success Academy Bronx 2, Bronx, NY
  • Stephany Copeland, 5th Grade Reading, KIPP Rise Academy, Newark, NJ

Additional information about the winners and finalists is available at The winners will participate in a unique 6-week summer residency where they will meet with education leaders, engage in the challenge of helping more teachers improve their classroom practice, and collaborate on a paper that captures their insights and knowledge. Last year’s inaugural group of winners published Unlocking Student Effort, which documented how they motivate and engage reluctant learners.

“The Fishman Prize is not about outstanding practice in teaching but superlative practice. And these four winners are as superlative as it gets,” said TNTP CEO Ariela Rozman. “Jennifer, Keith, Josalyn and Javier are inspiring, tenacious, endlessly inquisitive. We’re thrilled to have the chance to learn more from them this summer.”

The Fishman Prize is named for nationally renowned educator Shira Fishman, a current DC Public Schools (DCPS) math teacher who entered the profession through TNTP’s DC Teaching Fellows program in 2004. She was named the 2011 DCPS Teacher of the Year and received a 2011 Milken Educator Award. Shira serves on the Fishman Prize’s expert panel of judges, which this year also included TNTP President Tim Daly and TNTP Executive Vice President Karolyn Belcher.

“It means so much to me that there is an award like this,” said Fishman. “It is unique as far as I know. The idea is to uplift outstanding practices by allowing the best teachers to share what they do with their peers, all without leaving the classroom. I could not be more proud of this group.”

The application process is open to all full-time teachers working in high-poverty public schools. This year, more than 570 teachers from nearly every state in the country submitted full applications. Winners emerge from an exceptionally rigorous process. About 100 applicants were invited to submit teaching videos and letters of reference, and 20 were selected as semi-finalists, each of whom received an unannounced observation by a TNTP staff member. Finally, nine finalists were invited to New York for interviews with the judges, who selected the four winners.

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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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