Bronx middle school math teacher wins $20K education award

Bushra Makiya, a math teacher in the Bronx, was awarded the MƒA Muller Award for Professional Influence in Education by the nonprofit Math for America on June 18, 2024.
Photo courtesy Math for America

Bushra Makyia, a 20-year math teaching veteran working in Morris Heights, has won a prestigious education award that comes with a $20,000 prize for her and $5,000 for her school.

Makyia, originally from Cambridge, Mass., was one of two New York City educators to receive the MƒA Muller Award for Professional Influence in Education from the nonprofit Math for America (MƒA), which supports math and science teachers through fellowships and community-building. 

Makiya has been involved with Math for America for 16 years and just finished her 18th year of teaching at C.I.S. 303, a middle school also known as The Leadership and Community Service Academy. She holds a degree in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and master’s degrees from Pace University and Bank Street College of Education, along with numerous honors and distinctions in education. 

The past 18 years have been challenging but rewarding, Makiya told the Bronx Times. In addition to her teaching load, she has a leadership role within the math department, working with colleagues on curriculum and instruction and handling some administrative duties.

“I feel like I’ve grown with the school,” she said. 

In teaching middle school Algebra at C.I.S. 103, where many students come with significant learning gaps and academic struggles, Makiya said the old-school model based on rote memorization and “skill and drill” learning need not apply. While some may be successful with that kind of learning, “for the majority of kids, that doesn’t work,” she said. 

Instead, Makiya teaches based on student inquiry and exploration — and said “when [students] work hard at it, they see it pay off.” 

Makiya said she is fortunate to be working with great school administrators who support teachers while also allowing autonomy, and she credits Math for America for the longevity of her career. Through professional development, stipends and relationship-building, “[The organization] is really making teaching more sustainable,” she said. 

Throughout the city, 396 schools have teachers involved with the MƒA program who teach over 98,000 students per year, according to their website. Math for America has invested more than $300 million into its fellowship program since the nonprofit was established in 2004. 

That type of support is needed more than ever — especially amid high rates of teacher attrition in New York City and across the country. Teacher shortages are especially common in the STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math) fields because those who have STEM degrees can usually make more money in jobs outside of teaching, according to the U.S. Department of Education. 

Teacher shortages are a “huge problem,” said Makiya. “I wish I had a better answer for it.” 

Teaching is hard work for those like Makiya who remain in the profession — and while the award is special, it has been the ongoing years of support from school administration and Math for America that has gotten her this far, she said.  

“Having a community you can lean on is so important,” said Makiya.

Reach Emily Swanson at or (646) 717-0015. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes