Two Queens math teachers to receive prestigious award for excellence in achieving high results

Photo by Julia Discenza

Two Queens teachers are being honored for their excellence in teaching and receiving high results in mathematics at an upcoming awards celebration at Cooper Union on Wednesday, Dec. 11. 

The awardees, Lisa San Martin, an algebra I/pre-calculus teacher at The Queens School of Inquiry (QSI) in Flushing, and Robin Norwich, a Regents physics/AP physics teacher at Bayside High School, will be honored at The Fund for the City of New York 11th Annual Sloan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics in New York City Public High Schools. 

San Martin and Norwich are among seven recipients selected to receive the prestigious award and $5,000, and their mathematics department will receive $2,500 toward strengthening their program. 

“The 2019 Sloan Award winners for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics in New York City Public High Schools are a deeply impressive and inspiring group of teachers who represent their colleagues in all five boroughs,” said Mary McCormick, Fund for the City of New York president. “All are 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. New York is a better place because of their passion for teaching, and the lives of thousands of students and their families have been enriched because of them.”

For 11 years, the Fund for the City of New York’s Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics in New York City Public High Schools Award Program has honored creative teachers who achieve superb results in the classroom and inspire young people to pursue careers in science and math. In honoring this year’s winners, the Fund also acknowledged the contributions of the many thousands of dedicated teachers who demonstrate excellence in teaching and achieving high results in New York City Public High Schools. 

Honoree San Martin, who has been teaching for 10 years, is described as “a great teacher who changes lives at QSI,” which serves a diverse population of recent immigrants. San Martin is a master at calibrating her classes to meet the individual needs of each student. 

“In the beginning of the school year I take a Learning Style Inventory, so I gauge what kind of learner the kids are — if they’re tactile learners, visual learners, and I create my lessons based around that set data,” San Martin said. “Oftentimes, I incorporate students getting up and doing scavenger hunts, working in groups and doing exploration activities on the laptop.” 

San Martin has also developed Success Criteria, a system now used by schools throughout the city, which enables students to monitor their own progress throughout the year. She also coaches math teachers in the CUNY Early College Initiative and spends most of her summers tutoring her students and working with their strengths and deficits identified in the Success Criteria she had created. 

“For me to be recognized, it’s not something I thought I would ever get because teachers are not actors and singers that aim for a Grammy … I do my job just to help kids,” San Martin said. “This prestigious award makes me reflect on my professional career for the last 10 years and how much it’s grown, and it’s nice to be recognized and with this award I hope to meet new people and share my expertise and vice versa.”

Meanwhile, 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, Norwich was voted Teacher of the Year and her acceptance speech captured her love of physics and her sense of humor. 

“Being voted Teacher of the Year was special because it was something picked by the students,” Norwich said. “That to me was more valuable than really anything I could get … that they appreciated me and as hard as physics is, they still appreciate what they’re learning and how I try to engage them.” 

Her classes are among the most rigorous, but 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 schoolwide physics competitions. 

“I think that teachers all together need to be respected and I don’t think anyone ever realizes the work we do everyday and it’s such an important job,” Norwich said. “I’m shocked and honored the state selected me, but I hope that I represent teachers all around the city and maybe motivate more students to choose a career path that’s being a teacher because they see the value and importance of it and carry over into that.”

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