Two borough schoolteachers are being recognized for excellence in sparking their students’ interest in math and science and for getting positive classroom results.
Jason Garofalo, a mathematics teacher at Marble Hill School for International Studies at the JFK High School campus and William Lynam, a science teacher at Gotham Collaborative High School at the Adlai E. Stevenson Educational Campus were announced the winners of the prestigious Sloan Award for Excellence in Teaching Math and Science.
Garofalo and Lynam are two of seven teachers from around the city who won the honor, which comes with $5,000 prizes for the teachers and $2,500 awards for their schools to strengthen science or math departments.
These were the ninth annual awards Sloan awards, which are sponsored by the Fund for the City Of New York. They were awarded on Monday, December 4.
Garofalo and Lynam were selected after interviews with school officials, students and colleagues.
Garofalo teaches Algebra 2, mostly to 11th graders, and is in his tenth year at his school and his 13th year teaching.
The teacher said he likes to engage the students by encouraging them to experiment with mathematics and learn to solve problems in different ways.
“A lot of my students come in thinking they need to memorize steps to learn mathematics,” said Garofalo. “I want my students to have the mindset that they can figure out mathematics based on knowledge they already possess.”
He encourages a collaborative classroom setting where interaction can take place between students.
“When it comes to mathematics, (my educational philosophy) is basically to have my students be mathematicians,” said Garofalo.
The collaborative environment in his classroom also is helpful for many of his students who are English language learners, he added.
“It not only helps their communication skills, but sometimes I think they can explain things to each other better than I can,” he said.
Garofalo said just being considered for the award was both humbling and an honor.
He added that he works with an excellent staff of fellow teachers and that any of his colleagues could have won the award as well.
An administrator at his school nominated him for the award. Garofalo is a Math for America Master Teacher.
Lynam teaches Environmental Science to 11th and 12th graders and helps run a student internship program with a three-acre outdoor ‘laboratory,’ a garden on the school’s campus.
His teaching methods involve bringing out non-stressful moments of learning in the school’s vast outdoor garden that includes an orchard he created from an abandoned lot that now boasts over 250 fruit trees, as well as an organic vegetable garden and other bucolic facilities with rabbits and chickens.
Lynam said that when he was in high school he got great grades and was on the honor roll, but he recalls nothing really all that remarkable about the experience. He doesn’t want his students to have that same memory.
“I want my students to think back on high school about crazy, instructive moments that they can carry with them and potentially use to their own betterment,” said Lynam.