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Schools and teachers collect prizes for math, science instruction

Michelle Persaud of Murry Bergtraum High School of Business Careers is one of seven math and science teachers to win an annual award for their work.

Scott Elliott

A leading nonprofit thinks one of the city’s very best science teachers works at one of the city’s most struggling high schools, and it’s putting its money where it’s mouth is.

For the fourth straight year, the Fund for the City of New York and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation are giving city teachers awards for excellence in teaching science and mathematics. One of the seven winners is Michelle Persaud, whose school, Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in Manhattan, received a “D” from the city last week.

The honorees were nominated by students, parents, colleagues, and administrators and then selected by a committee made up of representatives from local science museums and universities, based on their students’ achievement, their involvement in extracurricular activities, and their efforts to promote math and science inside and outside the classroom.

Schools with winning teachers each receive $2,500 to support their math and science programs. They are honoring their winning teachers in a series of assemblies today and Wednesday, and the teachers will receive their prizes — $5,000 to $7,500 each — at an award ceremony on Wednesday.

Here are this year’s recipients, along with a highlight about each that we pulled from longer biographies compiled by the Sloan Awards:


Teacher: Neal Lutchme Singh
School: Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Arts and Performing Arts
Subject: Earth Science, Environmental Science, AP Environmental Science

Why his school thinks he’s great: Singh revamped LaGuardia’s environmental science program, increasing enrollment sixfold by focusing on environmental justice issues, bringing in outside speakers, and taking students upstate to study for the Advanced Placement exam in the ecosystems they have learned about.


Teacher: Cameron H. Cassidy
School: Gotham Professional Arts Academy
Subject: Geometry, Pre-Algebra, Robotics

Why his school thinks he’s great: Cassidy brings nontraditional approaches to math to his alternative school, exposing struggling students to robotics, other hands-on approaches, and the relationship between mathematical concepts and art through a partnership with the Whitney Museum.

Michelle Persaud of Murry Bergtraum High School of Business Careers is one of seven math and science teachers to win an annual award for their work.

Scott Elliott

Teacher: Michelle Persaud
School: Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers
Subject: Living Environment, Earth Science, Forensic Science, Bio-Med Tech, Chemistry, Anatomy & Physiology, Research Methods, Psychology

Why her school thinks she’s great: In addition to revamping Bergtraum’s science program to include new courses such as biomedical technology and forensic science, Persaud is helping to lead a broader effort to bolster the curriculum in all subjects at the large, struggling high school.


Teacher: Naoual Eljastimi
School: Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences
Subject: Chemistry, AP Chemistry

Why her school thinks she’s great: Students say they beg to get into Eljastimi’s chemistry class because it is so engaging, and she also leads the school’s Science Olympiad team, oversees the science section of the student newspaper, and keeps students in the loop about science-themed events in and around the school.

Teacher: C. Anthony Finney
School: Flushing International High School
Subject: Living Environment, College Now

Why his school thinks he’s great: Even though they are all recent immigrants who are still learning English, two thirds of Finney’s students pass the Living Environment Regents exam and some also participate in an after-school science investigation club through Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Teacher: Eyal Wallenberg
School: Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice
Subject: College Math Prep, AP Microeconomics

Why his school thinks he’s great: In Wallenberg’s math classes, students are pushed to solve problems, think critically, and discover concepts on their own, and he also created a microeconomics course in which nearly all students passed the Advanced Placement exam, earning them college credit.

Teacher: David Griffin
School: Collegiate Institute for Math and Science
Subject: Chemistry, AP Chemistry

Why his school thinks he’s great: Griffin opened advanced chemistry courses to all students at CIMS, regardless of their academic achievement, and students of all skill levels have taken him up on the offer to experience engaging lessons that have used taste tests, cooking, and explosions to illustrate various concepts and principles in chemistry.