What makes great teachers great?

This year’s seven winners of the Sloan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics have a lot in common:

A contagious passion for their subject.

Giving students daily opportunities to problem solve and experiment together.

Tireless support and guidance to make sure everyone keeps learning.

At this year’s 11th Annual Sloan Awards ceremony, sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Fund for the City of New York, the seven recipients received $5,000 each and their school’s science and math departments received $2,500 toward strengthening their programs. The awards honor creative teachers who achieve superb results in the classroom and inspire young people to pursue careers in science and math.

Fund President Mary McCormick described this year’s winners as “brilliant teachers, colleagues, and school leaders who have changed the trajectory of their students’ lives. They work each day to improve our city’s STEM education and inspire upcoming generations to become leaders in these fields.”

Learn how the winning teachers inspire their students and watch these short videos (part of the Fund for New York’s Sloan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Math and Science in NYC Public Schools):

Lori Bodner

Brooklyn Technical High School

Algebra II, AP Calculus BC

Lori Bodner teaches at the City’s largest high school, Brooklyn Tech, where she has redefined rigor in the classroom and created a culture that is exciting and demanding in equal measure. From the moment she joined Brooklyn Tech, Ms. Bodner has helped transform the way math is taught. Her students emerge both as masters of content and as mathematicians. A former student says, “Math is daunting. But Ms. Bodner was just so excited about it when she was teaching it. She gave me a real love of math and the courage and confidence to pursue it.” Ms. Bodner’s influence goes beyond Brooklyn Tech. She contributes to calculus textbooks; creates videos for DeltaMath, an online math teaching platform; developed a platform where 100-plus calculus teachers can find lessons and problems; and has run professional development for hundreds of teachers. It’s not just her passion, however, that distinguishes Ms. Bodner, it’s also her concern for her students. One student who missed class because of family illness relates, “Ms. Bodner called and emailed me often and then spent hours after school tutoring me. I worked so hard because she cared so much.”

Video by Julia Dicenza, videographer for the Fund for the City of New York

Jared Fox

Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS)

Environmental Science, Climate Science

Jared Fox is a master teacher in a school built on the foundations of expeditionary learning. His classroom walls are the starting line for scientific exploration. His environmental science course is dedicated almost entirely to one subject—water. Dr. Fox’s capacity for collaboration allows his classes to work first-hand on environmentally important assignments. His students can be found in waders collecting water samples in the Bronx River, touring the Catskills, building models of aqueducts, and assisting scientists to assess the health of the New York Harbor. From this work, Dr. Fox’s students acquire the tools necessary to become environmental activists in their own neighborhoods. A colleague notes, “Dr. Fox’s students are able to make things happen that you would never imagine would be possible for high school science students.” Dr. Fox and his students currently plan to create a “Clean Air Green Corridor” from Highbridge Park to Broadway along 182nd Street.

Video by Julia Dicenza, videographer for the Fund for the City of New York

Zach Korzyk

Manhattan Village Academy (MVA)

Pre-Calculus, AP Calculus, AP Computer Science

Zach Korzyk is an extraordinary teacher for the 120 students he sees daily at MVA. He is also a brilliant guide for the 60,000 teachers and 2.4 million students around the world who have used his DeltaMath teaching platform. Mr. Korzyk created DeltaMath to help his Algebra II students and now it is used in middle schools, high schools, and colleges worldwide. A colleague, who was one of the first adopters of DeltaMath, says, “It is really hard to understate how revolutionary DeltaMath is. Mr. Korzyk was an extraordinary teacher before DeltaMath; with DeltaMath, he is helping to create equally extraordinary teachers for generations to come.” According to MVA’s principal, Hector Geager, “Mr. Korzyk is one of the most outstanding math teachers I have ever met in my 33-year career in education. He works with students who are initially considered average and they all pass AP exams, go to college, and have successful careers in many fields.”

Video by Julia Dicenza, videographer for the Fund for the City of New York

Rachel Mancini

Tottenville High School

AP Chemistry, Regents Chemistry

Rachel Mancini is a star chemistry teacher at Tottenville High School on Staten Island, which has 3,700 students. She previously attended high school at Tottenville, where her father has taught chemistry for the last 18 years of his 31-year teaching career. Her natural aptitude for science and leadership were obvious even as a student. An assistant principal remembers thinking, “If Rachel ever decides to teach, we need to hire her.” After college, Ms. Mancini returned to Tottenville to teach chemistry and was soon recognized as a “once-in-a-generation teacher.” Successful outcomes are commonplace for Ms. Mancini’s students, who may start the year dreading chemistry, but grow to love the subject because of her interactive, challenging, and rewarding classes. Ms. Mancini also has a keen ability to reach all of her students. A parent of a student with special-needs notes, “Ms. Mancini taught completely personalized lessons to my daughter. She’s a mentor and will go above and beyond to see students succeed.”

Video by Julia Dicenza, videographer for the Fund for the City of New York

Robin Norwich

Bayside High School

Regents Physics, AP Physics

Although she was a physics major in college, it was only after an 18-year career in the private sector that Robin Norwich finally realized her dream of becoming a physics teacher. Her classes are among the most rigorous, but Ms. Norwich supports students at all levels. For those who want to review course work, she is available before, during, and after school both in person and online. For students who want to be challenged, she helps coordinate school-wide physics competitions. Ms. Norwich is not only a master of the content of her physics classes, she is a master at teaching it. In just her third year at Bayside, Ms. Norwich was voted Teacher of the Year and her acceptance speech captured her love of physics and her sense of humor; “I want you to know, each of you, that you all matter. That is, unless you multiply yourselves by the speed of light, then you are all energy. For those of you in my classes who don’t get the joke, come see me.”

Video by Julia Dicenza, videographer for the Fund for the City of New York

Aida Rosenbaum

Bronx Latin School

Regents Earth Science, AP Environmental Science

A graduate of Bronx High School of Science and Mount Holyoke College with experience working at the Biosphere 2 in Arizona, Aida Rosenbaum decided to become a teacher 16 years ago as a matter of social justice. Since Ms. Rosenbaum arrived at Bronx Latin four years ago, she has transformed the school’s science department with over 90% of all students passing the Regents Earth Science exam. But of equal importance to her is helping her students know themselves. She teaches them how to explore their values, worldviews, and aspirations. She does this as one of 25 teachers nationwide selected to teach the QUESTion Project. A current senior at Bronx Latin says, “Ms. Rosenbaum didn’t just prepare me for college, she prepared me for my future. And not just me. She makes all her students think about what really matters.

Lisa San Martin

The Queens School of Inquiry (QSI)

Algebra I, Pre-Calculus

Lisa San Martin is described as “a great teacher who changes lives” at QSI, which serves a diverse population of recent immigrants. Ms. San Martin is a master at calibrating her classes to meet the individual needs of each student. A former student, Zalal Ahmed, noted that there is no escape from her caring and attention. “I have always been good at math, which meant I could often coast through classes. No way with Ms. San Martin. She kept challenging me every second,” he explains. Ms. San Martin also coaches math teachers in the CUNY Early College Initiative, where a professor says, “She is held in such high esteem; she is not only helping to develop future teachers, she’s creating the standard for them to live up to.” As for Mr. Ahmed, who thought he wanted to be a math professor, he now says he wants to be a high school teacher to bring the same passion and connection into the classroom as Ms. San Martin.

Video by Julia Dicenza, videographer for the Fund for the City of New York

The Morning Bell

Official blog for the NYC Department of Education, home of over 1.1 million students across 1,800+ schools

NYC Department of Education, 2019