KIPP Redwood City teacher wins $25,000 Fishman prize

ByJacqueline Lee

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A fourth-grade math teacher at KIPP Excelencia Community Prep has won the national Fishman Prize for educators that carries a $25,000 award.

Erica Stewart was one of four national winners selected from nearly 800 applicants. The other teachers are from New York, Louisiana and Georgia.

This summer Stewart and the other winners will participate in a summer residency with TNTP, a national education nonprofit.

School officials and award representatives, along with Stewart’s family, surprised her with the award on Tuesday morning at the charter school in Redwood City.

“Ms. Stewart’s class is truly magical,” Principal Kyle Shaffer said in the news release. “Over the past 11 years, I have never seen anything like it. At the root of the magic lie her intentionality, creativity and tireless work ethic. She’s passionate about excellent instruction and about all kids learning.”

Students in Stewart’s classes typically enter her classroom two grade levels behind, KIPP officials said in a news release Tuesday. By the end of the year, more than 90 percent of students pass their state math exams and a quarter of those students earn advanced status.

Stewart started her career as an educator as a sixth-grade math teacher for Teach for America eight years ago.

She said the best part of her job is helping kids realize that even if math isn’t easy or intuitive, they can still do it.

“Getting into the messy process of math is so much more important than getting to the answer,” Stewart said in the news release.

Stewart also prioritizes engaging parents in the classroom and building an environment where students help each other when they’re stuck.

Parents are encouraged to help during the first 20 minutes of class with activities such as working with students with flash cards or returning later in the day to spend lunch or gym time with students.

“It’s an important message to send to kids,” Stewart said. “We’re not just saying we’re a community, we’re showing them.”