$100,000 Prize Will Reward “Teaching Excellence”
Optional weekend advanced math problems on a fifth-grade blackboard inspire appreciation, and an award, decades later.
A new prize will honor teaching excellence with a $100,000 award.
Glenn Fuhrman, who is funding the prize with his wife Amanda, told Education Next the idea for what will be called the Flag Award for Teaching Excellence grew out of a similar prize they started for artists.
Teaching, Fuhrman said, is “difficult, and not a job that’s getting as much positive attention as it should.”
Teachers, in general, are “underpaid, underappreciated, and underincentivized,” he said. Yet “almost every successful person traces their success back to teachers.”
Fuhrman himself is an example of that phenomenon, crediting Stephen Kriss, his fifth-grade teacher at the Hewitt School in Rockville Centre, N.Y., for having a “very, very powerful impact” on his life. “He really got me excited about math and about numbers,” Fuhrman said. That helped Fuhrman to an eventual career in finance. The “founder’s statement” for the award has Fuhrman remembering Kriss taking students to the beach “hunting for owl pellets on a weekend field study trip,” and putting an optional advanced math problem up on the blackboard on Fridays for students to grapple with over the weekend.
Fuhrman said he hopes the prize will pay off not only for the one $100,000 winner, whose school will also receive $20,000, or even for the other four finalists, who will each receive $10,000, with their schools getting $2,000. He said that he hoped that the process of thinking about who to nominate would have hundreds or thousands of people pausing, pondering, and taking some time to think appreciatively about a teacher. He also said the prize might inspire more people to go into the teaching profession.
Both Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman’s mothers were public school teachers. In 2020, the award is open to teachers in grades K-12 in Manhattan. The press release announcing the award says the prize will expand to other New York City boroughs and cities in future years.
Nominations for the award are due by January 13 via the Flag Award website. The winner will be chosen by a jury that includes the chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, the 2019 New York State Teacher of the Year, and executives at several New York-based nonprofit organizations. The criteria include challenging and inspiring students of all abilities and embracing the role of educator with “tireless, devoted dedication.”
Ira Stoll is managing editor of Education Next.