Relief Grants 2020

Please see an overview of our first Relief Grants initiative here and consider supporting our intent to provide direct assistance to more teachers!

Below are public personal statements from the six teachers across the US that our Selection Committee has chosen to assist this past summer with $500 checks. The selections were made after a thorough review of dozens of applications, a discussion of the relevant parameters over a video call, and a vote by all committee members using the Quadratic Voting method.

Teachers' Bios and Personal Statements

Darlene Bissonette

Darlene Bissonette earned her BA in biology and MS in Secondary Education from SUNY Potsdam. Mrs. Bissonette has been in the classroom for 22 years teaching Earth Science and Physics at Brasher Falls Central High School. Mrs. Bissonette is a member of the Science Teachers Association of NYS and NYS Master Teacher Program. She has served as the Myth Olympics coach, FTC Robotics coach, a class advisor, and a coach for Clarkson University's IMPETUS STEP program for high school students. After school, she enjoys providing hands-on science activities to middle school students during the extended day program. Mrs. Bissonette has completed The Maury Project: Exploring the Physical Foundations of Oceanography AMS/Navy/NOAA Workshop, AMS workshop Project Atmosphere, Monterey Bay Aquarium's Connecting with Marine Science Teacher Institute, and the Lake Guardian teacher workshop sponsored by New York Sea Grant and Center for Great Lakes Literacy on Lake Ontario. Mrs. Bissonette is always looking forward to the unique learning opportunities for both herself and her students.

Wendy Davis

I am a mathematics teacher at Woodstown High School in the southern part of New Jersey. We are the only high school in our regional district and serve approximately 650 students from Woodstown and surrounding communities. I teach algebra, honors pre-calculus, and AP Calculus. I'm a fan of group responses during lessons, and I encourage my students to work collaboratively in the classroom. This will be very difficult in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, so I am very concerned about how my students will learn and practice mathematics. We are scheduled to return to school using a hybrid model in which I will see my students for two days and teach them remotely the rest of the week. I am very grateful to Physics Unlimited to help me provide students with supplies to help find success in our new and challenging situation. I plan to provide students with individual classroom tools so they do not have to share, but because of the generosity of Physics Unlimited, I will also be purchasing white boards and markers for my students so they can easily share work and questions with me in our distanced classroom and on screen in our remote class meetings.

Robert Gordon

I have been teaching for 8 years now, the last 5 being AP Calculus BC, where students earn Calc 1 and 2 credit at university with a passing score on the AP exam. I have a good pass rate even though the school allows students to skip the prerequisite class which is Calc AB. so I teach the AB and BC curriculum in one year. I challenge the kids a lot, and the perseverance they learn allows me to get the thank yous years in down the road. Here is the most recent email I got:

Hi Mr. Gordon,

It's me, PM (hope you remember me, though I think I was too much of a handful to forget!).

In these hectic times, I've come to do a lot of thinking about my life, especially thinking about what I appreciate and all those who have helped me become who I am. I just wanted to reach out to say that you are one of those people who I attribute my character and development to. Some might argue that by your senior year of high school (as was the case for me in your class) that teachers can't really influence students that much; that students have already checked out and aren't very easily impressible. I just wanted to say that this was certainly not the case for me with your class and teachings (be it math or general life discussions). I really think that the intellectual challenges you provided for us, the right amount of pressure and uncertainty when working to solve a problem, and your good nature and respect for your students showed me what a great teacher and mentor was.

During my journey as a Computer Science student, I've used many of the problem solving techniques and lessons of determination that you taught to help me get where I am today (in fact, as I am writing this up, I am working on a pascal's triangle problem, a concept which you first showed me!). For these skills and lessons, I really want to say thank you.

And I want to thank you for treating your students with the respect and maturity that they deserve often times. Having a teacher who showed genuine respect for me made me understand the concept of an intellectual mentor, and how invaluable that can be in your career and in life in general. Additionally, thanks for just being a very friendly and personable teacher, and allowing our whole class to share some good discussions and laughs, I still hang onto some of those moments.

I hope that amid this global pandemic, you are keeping safe, and that you are preparing for another great year of teaching, even if it is virtual. Despite the virtual nature, a good teacher will always shine through and captivate students who are focused learners, so I hope that you keep your spirits high for their sake and for yours (I'm sure you will)!

Jessica Holman

I teach AP Biology, AP Physics, and on level physics at Lubbock High School. I coach the school's Science Bowl and UIL Science teams as well as sponsor the Ecology Club. I love my students and I want them to be happy, healthy, and knowledgeable about science so they can help create a brighter future.

John Macuk

I teach in a 100 year old school building that is in the process of being rebuilt: we will have a fantastic new STEAM wing next year! The architects promised me there would be lots of places to drop things from for experiments :) Arlington HS is a diverse body of 1,400 students and growing; we consistently make the Best Schools rankings, and are climbing through the ranks. My preferred style of teaching (when not under quarantine) is student-centered and project-based: students should have the maximum opportunity to learn by exploring and doing. It's also a good excuse to play with toys in class :) I encourage students to wear Hawaiian shirts on Fridays, and celebrate International Talk Like A Pirate Day, Star Wars Day and International Towel Day. Arrrrr!

Brian Pederson

I have been a physics educator for over ten years. I teach two advanced courses, Astronomy, and IB Physics as well as teaching our incoming freshman in introductory physics. As a high school educator, I use physics as a conduit to teach students to work through difficult challenges, setbacks, and initial failures to find solutions that they can truly be proud of. I'm passionate about creating an inclusive classroom, where groups traditionally underrepresented in physics and engineering feel that they have a voice. I also strongly believe in a balanced classroom, where students split their time between project based learning, and traditional structured problem solving practice and strategies.

My main goals as an educator are to empower students to take more control of their educational goals, to be more resilient when faced with setbacks, and to plan out how they will parse out tasks when the path toward a solution isn’t immediately apparent. The main strategy that I use to attain these three goals is individualized student plans. Following any exam, students who wish to improve their grade can create a plan and reassess on sections they did poorly on. The plan is created by the student and has to contain four sections: what concepts did the student underperform on; a list of resources the student has researched to help get better at the material; a specific plan outlying how the student is going to learn the material; and finally what evidence will they use to verify with me that they have gone and learned the material before the retake.

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