Bayside High School math teacher earns $20K award for educational influence

Photo courtesy of Math for America

Bayside High School math teacher Larisa Bukalov on Tuesday was named a winner of Math for America’s (MƒA) Muller Award for Professional Influence in Education. In addition to getting the award, Bukalov also received a $20,000 prize for her work in influencing the teaching profession in exceptional ways.

Bukalov has been teaching math across all levels, from pre-algebra to calculus, in New York City for 25 years. Over the years, she has coached numerous math teams and created math research programs. She has acted as a mentor to student teachers. Other achievements include facilitating professional development workshops, presenting at national conferences, and co-authoring “The Math Teacher’s Toolbox” alongside fellow Bayside High School teacher and 2022 MƒA Muller Award winner Bobson Wong and “Practical Algebra: A Self-Teaching Guide,” also with Wong along with Stephen L. Slavin.

Bukalov was born in the USSR. She simultaneously graduated from a specialized math school in Ukraine and a distance learning school at Moscow State University before emigrating to the United States. She then earned a bachelor’s degree in math as well as a master’s degree in math education from Queens College, all while learning to speak English.

“I am truly grateful to be recognized for winning the MƒA Muller Award, acknowledging my leadership and commitment to helping teachers and students in need of academic support,” Bukalov said. “As a first-generation American, I had personal experience struggling in school because I wasn’t proficient in English. By working with colleagues at institutions like Bayside High School, Queens College and MƒA, I have learned that incorporating literacy and language teaching methods in our mathematics classrooms provides better support to all students and alleviates their math anxiety. As teachers, we must share ideas and practices to better build our students’ mathematical identity.”

After Russia invaded Ukraine, Bukalov was assigned as the Mathematical Association of America’s liaison to Ukraine. Under this position, she has collaborated with university professors from Kiev State University and the Ukrainian Ministry of Education to help educate Ukrainian teachers on best practices to foster equity in the classroom. She has also provided support to Ukrainian students on an academic, social and emotional level.

Bukalov receiving the 2023 MƒA Muller Award is meant to honor her commitment to developing current and future mathematics teachers through mentoring, modeling, authorship and the design of professional learning experiences.

MƒA is a New York City nonprofit organization that builds communities of mathematics and science teachers through its teacher fellowships. The organization’s model is based upon a belief that collaboration, continued learning and genuine respect enables teachers to grow professionally while also providing long-term career satisfaction.

The MƒA Muller Award is given out each year to two teachers in New York City who have taken prominent roles as leaders among the MƒA teacher community and beyond. The awards are given out to one in the field of math and another in the field of science.

The other 2023 MƒA Muller Award winner, in the field of science, was Ellie Williamson of the Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction in Manhattan.

The finalists for each award are chosen by an external committee. The committee members decide upon the nominees based on their contributions to the math or science teaching profession. Such factors may include their ability to have a positive impact within their school community and drive change outside of their own classroom, leadership within the broader math or science community and influence on inspiring other teachers to stay in the profession. Once the finalists are decided upon, a committee of the MƒA Board of Directors then choose the winners.