Marking a Year of Accomplishments

Cal Teach and Math for America Berkeley showcased teachers of today and tomorrow in two recent events marking the end of a successful academic year.

On April 29, Cal Teach honored 28 students graduating with a Cal Teach minor—the largest number in a single year since the program started at Berkeley in 2005. In addition, the event recognized a dozen new teaching credential candidates—another Cal Teach record—and the local teachers who have contributed to these positive outcomes by individually mentoring as many as 40 Cal Teach students.

The event also celebrated the achievements of smaller groups of Cal Teach students. They included the winners of Noyce and Koshland scholarships, who were recognized for their outstanding academic performance and commitment to science and math teaching, as well as the recipients of the Project-Based Instruction Award for distinction in the Cal Teach capstone course, the Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Outstanding Future Teacher Award for newcomers to Cal Teach who are already demonstrating exceptional enthusiasm, effort, and potential. Also acknowledged was Tina Huang, the first undergraduate to come to Berkeley for a teaching credential through a recently created partnership with the University of California, Merced.

“When we started Cal Teach nine years ago, I could only have hoped to see so many of you here today,” Cal Teach faculty co-director and professor of mechanical engineering George Johnson told the attendees. “It’s fantastic to have such a family—a community—to join in a program that has such a benefit to Berkeley and the Bay Area.”

New Cal Teach graduate Larissa Walder and teaching credential recipient Cris DeLeon also addressed the audience. Larissa advised her peers, “Be yourself, but if as a teacher and an individual you want to connect with the people around you, the single most important thing is to be interested.”

Cris described what he learned both from his mentor teacher in Berkeley and the school dropouts he met during travels to Mexico. He said, “Teaching is about building relationships. Everyone wants to be cared for, understood, and heard. The effort you make to reach out to students and make them feel they matter has an impact.”

Berkeley High School science teacher Kate Trimlett spoke about her experience mentoring Cal Teach students for the past seven years, saying, “I gain as much from Cal Teach as the students do from me. They give me a fresh perspective on the classroom. When I’m asked to evaluate Cal Teach, I write the same thing every year: I ‘heart’ Cal Teach.”

Many of the mentor teachers recognized at the Cal Teach reception also have been awarded Master Teacher Fellowships from Math for America, a program introduced at Berkeley as a complement to Cal Teach in 2010. Like Cal Teach, Math for America Berkeley helps to develop leaders in science and math teaching, but it focuses on teachers who already have at least three years of full-time classroom experience.

Also like Cal Teach, Math for America Berkeley held events to close out the year: an academic colloquium on May 10 and a social gathering on June 2. The colloquium titled “Equitable Outcomes in Education: Social Justice in Mathematics and Science Classrooms” featured guest speaker Pamela Harrison-Small, executive director of the Berkeley Alliance, an organization seeking to close the achievement gap for students in Berkeley public schools. Her presentation examined the influence of power and privilege on the education process.

“Social justice is a focus for Math for America, so inviting her to speak to the group was fitting,” says Math for America Berkeley director Kate Reid. “It was also our goal to close out the year by sharing what people have done throughout the year.”

Poster sessions showcasing research projects by teachers in the first of the five-year fellowship program addressed topics such as video as a vehicle for invention, the impact of arts integration strategies on the enhancement of student learning in a high schools science classroom, independent learning coaching in the college-bound classroom, and motivating reluctant learners in science. Fellows further along in the program, including those who had been third-year Teachers in Residence at Berkeley, participated in roundtable discussions of their activities.

Kate notes, “As Teachers in Residence, they usually teach a Cal Teach class, and many continue that relationship with Cal Teach after that year. They discover they like it, and some decide to teach every semester.”

Sometimes the connection between Cal Teach and Math for America Berkeley grows even closer: Cal Teach graduate Stephanie Morgado is among the 32 teachers to receive a Master Teacher Fellowship so far. Though the Mare Island Technology Academy science teacher is the first to make this transition, others are likely to follow.

“With both programs at a relatively young stage and continuing to grow, we expect to have many more,” Kate says.