Minneapolis teachers honored for math and science teaching

Two Minneapolis teachers won the highest national honor for math and science teaching.

South High School math teacher Morgan Fierst and Webster Elementary Spanish teacher Carissa Tobin have been named recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

“To be an effective educator is to be superhuman,” according to a statement from the presidential recognition program. “This award honors the sacrifices made by educators and their families. It validates the countless unpaid hours, energy, reflection, and commitment needed to engage in the relentless pursuit of achievement for all of our students.”

Fierst teaches advanced algebra and advanced placement statistics through the lens of social justice. She aims to make math relevant to her students by showing them how the subject allows them to think critically about and engage in the social, economic and political facets of their community.

“My students were a big part of the curriculum,” Fierst said. “It was students who made it happen the first year and we’ve been doing it since then.”

Cultivating relationships with each student is Fierst’s key to developing socially aware mathematicians who understand the subject within a culturally relevant context.

Tobin was recognized for teaching first grade math in the Spanish/English Transitional Dual Language Program at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School, where she taught for nearly a decade. She is taking on a new role this school year at Webster Elementary School as a Spanish teacher.

Ed Graff, Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent, visited Tobin on the first day of the 2016-2017 school year.

“I want to thank you for your excellent work,” Graff said. “I know you won the award last year, but it is worth celebrating.”

Tobin collects and analyzes data to track students’ learning and reflect on her teaching.

President Obama said in a news release that recipients of the award are integral to ensuring our nation’s continued success.

“As the United States continues to lead the way in the innovation that is shaping our future, these excellent teachers are preparing students from all corners of the country with the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills that help keep us on the cutting-edge,” Obama said.

A total of four honors were awarded to Minnesota teachers. Frances Stang, a science teacher at O.H. Anderson Elementary School in Mahtomedi, and St. Paul Central’s Lisa Houdek were also recognized.

Graff described Fierst and Tobin as “outstanding role models who provide passionate, student-focused education.”