Bayside High School math teacher Bobson Wong will be recognized by Math for America on Oct. 18 for excelling in influencing the teaching profession in an exceptional way. Wong will receive Math for America’s Muller Award for Professional Influence in Education, which comes with a $20,000 prize as well as a $5,000 grant for Bayside High School. The award is given to New York City public school teachers who are also Math for America Master Teachers, having taken part in the four-year Master Teacher Fellowship Program.
Wong has spent each of the last 17 years teaching math at Bayside High School, with 13 of those years being as a Master Teacher. Over those years, he’s become a leader in the profession, earning the role of an education specialist for the New York State Education Department. In this role, he helps to come up with questions for each New York State Math Regents.
Additionally, Wong serves on the New York State Education Department’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures, where he undertook a thoughtful and inclusive process exploring what a state diploma should signify to ensure educational excellence and equity for every student in the state.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized for all the work I’ve done for math education over the years,” Wong said. “This award reflects all the different types of work I’ve done over the years.”
Wong is the chair for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics‘ Nomination and Election Committee. He also serves on the advisory council for the National Museum of Mathematics. In addition to lecturing his students at Bayside High School, he frequently speaks on the subject of math at conferences all across the country. He is also the co-author of two mathematics books: “The Math Teacher’s Toolbox,” which provides tips on teaching math, and “Practical Algebra: A Self-Teaching Guide,” which is a review book for algebra.
Despite Wong’s success as a math teacher, this wasn’t the subject he originally intended to teach. He received his bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University before earning his master’s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduating, he had trouble finding work as a history teacher, spending time instead working for an ad agency and in web design.
Wong eventually applied for the NYC Teaching Fellows Program. It was during this program that he was told there wasn’t much of a need for history teachers in schools across the city. However, math teachers were a hot commodity. Having taken and enjoying several math classes throughout his collegiate career, Wong felt comfortable enough to try teaching in that field. He would go on to earn his M.S. Ed. in mathematics and adolescent education at St. John’s University. Shortly after that, he received his first teaching position and hasn’t looked back since.
“Over the years, my colleagues have helped me realize that math should be taught as a language that all students can access,” Wong said. “When we teach students how to read, write and speak math, they strengthen their mathematical confidence and can use it to improve the world.”
According to Math for America President John Ewing, the Muller Award has been given out to one New York City math teacher and one New York City science teacher each year since 2018, with the exception of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of the estimated 1,000 Master Teachers in New York City, candidates are selected for consideration before a winner is eventually chosen. In order to earn consideration, a candidate must be nominated by someone via a written letter describing the work the candidate has done. This is typically done by a teacher’s colleague or principal.
In addition to Wong, the other teacher being honored in the science category is I.S. 223 Montauk science teacher Sarah Slack. Both teachers will receive their awards, including the $20,000 prize, Tuesday during a reception at the Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium at 160 Fifth Ave. The reception is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.
“[Wong and Slack] are really incredibly accomplished teachers,” Ewing said. “They affect their whole profession. They’re laying the foundation for the next generation of mathematicians and scientists.”
Math for America is a nonprofit organization that works to build communities of mathematics and science teachers through its teacher fellowships. Its model is based on the belief that collaboration, continued learning and genuine respect can enable teachers to grow professionally and provide long-term satisfaction in their careers.