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Making Our Mark: How Teachers Grow With, and Within, the MƒA Community

Teacher Voices | January 11, 2018

At the 11th Annual MƒA Fall ƒunction gala, MƒA Master Teachers Giselle George-Gilkes and Patrick Honner were invited to speak about the power of the MƒA community as our featured teacher presentation during the event. The Fall ƒunction is meant to celebrate and honor the 1,000+ MƒA teachers within our community. Watch their speech and read their (edited) remarks below.


Patrick Honner: Giselle and I are thrilled to be the teacher speakers for the 11th Annual Math for America Fall Function. We have both been a part of Math for America for a long time – over a decade – and we are excited to talk about the impact that the MƒA community has had on us and on our careers.

Giselle George-Gilkes: I joined this community in 2004, as a Newton Fellow, before the Master Teacher program even existed. There were literally nine of us - all math teachers. Now we have grown to over 1,000 exceptional educators, inspiring students on a daily basis.  

Patrick: I was awarded my first Master Teacher fellowship in 2006. It’s been twelve years and three fellowships for me. With so much invested in Math for America, Giselle and I naturally have a lot to say about how we have grown with, within, and because of the MƒA community. Because of so many of you.

Giselle: This is a picture of us in DC, in 2012, where Patrick and I officially met. We were invited by MƒA to speak to the Obama administration about educational policy. The White House. We were teachers. And we were at the White House. I remember feeling so proud to be in that room.

Patrick: It was really exciting to be asked by MƒA to represent our community, and teachers everywhere, before politicians and policy makers. And it was great being there together. Giselle and I got on the train as strangers, but by the time we got back we were doing TV interviews together.

It was one of many times MƒA expanded our professional networks. And these kinds of experiences exist everywhere in our community. Who has MƒA put you together with? What opportunities to speak and be heard has MƒA created for you?

Giselle: Through MƒA I’ve found my home at East Side Community High School. I have the pleasure of working alongside amazing teachers, some of whom are here tonight. Together we teach, create projects and lessons. We participate in math competitions with our students. (Middle school teachers, if you haven’t heard of it, please look up Pi 5!). Most of our math and science teachers are members of this MƒA community.

Patrick: MƒA is a huge presence at my school as well. Over 20 teachers in Brooklyn Tech’s math department have MƒA fellowships. These are people that I get to collaborate with and learn from every day. They make our school a better place, and they make me a better teacher. And my professional relationships with many of them started in MƒA.

Over the years, I’ve taken so much from this community. But I always have the chance to give back – leading workshops, giving talks, writing, and advocating. It’s the opportunities to both learn and lead that make this community so unique, and so important, to us and our profession.

Giselle: I’ve learned so much from people in this community. The best math and science teachers in New York are in this room. I’ve facilitated numerous workshops and taken others from many of you. I interview teachers who are applying to MƒA. I’ve mentored Early Career teachers and so much more. Through all of these experiences, I realize that the power of this community is two-fold. We grow as leaders as well as learners. 

Patrick: Think about how you’ve grown in this community. Think about what you’ve taken and whom you met.

Now, what do you have to offer? Where are your opportunities to lead in our community?

Giselle: In 2015, some of us were asked, by MƒA, to present at MSRI – to talk with college professors about how we teach math and prepare our students for college. We worked tirelessly to prepare our presentation in Berkeley. And it was so worth it. I again realized the power of my MƒA professional community and how important it is to me.

Where are your opportunities in this community to find your voice? To broaden your impact?

Patrick: And MƒA has helped prepare me for bigger stages, too. I’ve spoken at NCTM and SIAM. I’ve been asked to keynote at conferences, to write for the New York Times and Quanta magazine, to speak to members of Congress. And I even got to meet President Obama, when I received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2015.

I’ve dedicated myself to both leading and learning as a math teacher. And this community helps prepare me for those challenges every step of the way. This community makes me feel like a professional. A difference maker. And it makes me feel like I always have more to offer, both in and out of the classroom.

Giselle: What this MƒA community has given to me is immeasurable. I’m a female mathematician. A woman of color. An immigrant, making my mark. And it’s my humble hope that somewhere along my MƒA journey, I’ve inspired not only students through my love of teaching, but fellow educators in this room, to make their mark.

Patrick: Giselle and I have talked about how we have grown alongside this community. Now think about how this community changed you: whom have you met? How have you grown? And more importantly, what will be your impact on our community?

Giselle: The success of MƒA begins with the tremendous vision, generosity, and commitment of Jim and Marilyn Simons and the many great people who have led and served the organization over the years. And this Fall Function is our annual celebration of that success.  This celebration is for us.

Patrick: But the lasting impact of Math for America will come from what we will build together as a community. So we leave you with this:

Patrick and Giselle: How will you make your mark on Math for America?

Patrick Honner teaches mathematics and computer science at Brooklyn Technical High School, where he also serves as instructional coach. He is a three-time MƒA Master Teacher and recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Patrick is active in the MƒA community, frequently presenting on mathematics and technology, speaking at events like MT2, and constantly learning from colleagues. He blogs regularly at MrHonner.com and is active on Twitter as @MrHonner.

Giselle George-Gilkes teaches mathematics at East Side Community High School. She is a four-time MƒA Master Teacher and is a key collaborator within the MƒA community, taking and facilitating MƒA courses, advising early career teachers, and participating in the selection of new MƒA teachers. Her classroom work has been featured in the New York Times and on ABC News.