Six Superhero Educators Recognized For Helping Struggling Students Develop Math and Reading Literacy

BOSTON – Global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) today announced the six teachers that have been named recipients of the prestigious 2016 180 Educator Awards, which recognize teachers who have encouraged struggling students to turn their lives around by helping them develop reading and math skills.

The awards, now in their tenth year, honor educators who have fast-tracked the progress of students enrolled in reading and math intervention programs READ 180, MATH 180 and System 44. These solutions use adaptive technology to personalize learning and raise reading and math success for struggling students in grades 3-12, combined with an ecosystem of support for educators to ensure that they have the tools and resources necessary to accelerate this achievement.

“National Teacher Appreciation Week is an ideal time to cast a spotlight on these extraordinary educators who have such a significant impact on the lives of their students,” said Margery Mayer, EVP, Intervention Solutions Group at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “Teachers are a driving force when it comes to improving students’ lives and we cannot do enough to celebrate and honor the hard work they do every day. Teaching a child how to read or develop math literacy can change a life in profound ways and we thank all our educators for their constant dedication to their students.”

The six 180 Educator Award winners were selected using data that demonstrates significant reading or math improvement based on students’ average Lexile™ or Quantile™ gains, as well as colleague and student referrals. Each winner received an invitation to attend the 2016 Model Schools Conference in Orlando, Florida in June, where an awards ceremony will be held to recognize their achievements. They will also be awarded with a classroom library of HMH titles that are selected specifically for their students’ ages and reading levels.

The 2016 180 Educator Award winners are:

Cynthia Berg

McKinley Elementary School, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Ms. Berg’s average classroom Lexile™ growth is 128 points. She sets high expectations of her students, which encourages them to have high expectations of their own. Known as a “rock star teacher” amongst her students, Ms. Berg’s colleagues marvel at her willingness to go above and beyond on multiple levels with both students and other educators.

"I made teaching a career when I noticed the lives I was influencing and that is when it became a calling," says Ms. Berg. "The joy I experience everyday as I watch what my students are able to achieve is overwhelming."

Trenquilla Francis

Vista Del Lago High School, Moreno Valley, California

Every decision Ms. Francis makes has to do with finding ways to help her students succeed and because of this her average classroom Lexile™ growth is 263 points. Ms. Francis’ colleagues admire her “exceptional classroom management and powerful, loving, driving force,” while her students recognize her as a person who “expresses empathy, enthusiasm, patience, humor and supportiveness.”

“My students don’t have the option to NOT believe in themselves,” says Ms. Francis. “For the past decade, I have told every new student they are new members of my family and if they ever struggled with reading, that will change. No one in my family is going to fall through the cracks.”

Julie Gallegos

Bernalillo County Juvenile and Youth Service Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Ms. Gallegos is relentless in providing skill building programs that have resulted in a 170 point average classroom Lexile™ growth among her students in a juvenile detention center. Despite the challenging nature of her work, Ms. Gallegos is a “passionate, dedicated and talented reading teacher, who constantly celebrates her students’ success,” according to her colleagues.

“One of the main goals I have for my students is to increase their confidence in reading,” said Ms. Gallegos. “I feel that it is extremely important to teach the incarcerated student population how to use technology that is found in a traditional school setting and in the workplace so they can broaden their life opportunities once they return to the community.”

Olga Pacot

Citrus Elementary School, Fontana, California

Ms. Pacot is a distinguished educator who provides effective instructional practices that has resulted in a 211 point average classroom Lexile™ growth. Her colleagues describe her as “a teacher who excels in all areas of the California Standards for the Teaching Profession.” They also admire her commitment to provide the necessary scaffolding to ensure students experience success with effective instructional practices such as Close Reading.

“As a reading and intervention teacher, I am in a position to give hope and inspiration to the students who have the greatest academic challenges,” she says. “I want to encourage my students to believe in themselves and know that they can and will succeed in life through literacy.”

Eric St. Clair

Central Daughin School District, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Mr. St. Clair’s goal is to show the growth of his students through the use of MATH 180, which has resulted in a 179 point average class Quantile growth. Mr. St. Clair’s colleagues refer to him as an “innovative and caring” teacher and they admire his commitment to his students and their overall success in and out of the classroom. His students appreciate his ability to make them feel confident and enjoy when he “high fives you as another act of encouragement to push harder.”

“I make it a point to build positive teacher/student relationships every day,” says Mr. St. Clair. “This program has given me a new lease on education and has made me so much more aware of each student’s goals, deficiencies and dreams than ever before in my career. It is humbling to have such a profound effect on students who can now cherish their own successes.”

Craig Topolski

Floyd Light Middle School, Portland, Oregon

As a reading teacher, Mr. Topolski has helped grow his classroom Lexile™ growth by an average of 212 points. His earnest, open and appreciative demeanor provides a welcoming classroom for his students, who say that Mr. Toplski “makes their day better and always keeps it positive.”

“My expectations are high for all of my students and I believe in growth and achievement,” says Mr. Topolski. “READ 180 facilitates growth that is quantitative and tangible both to me and to all of my students. Students in my class ‘buy in,’ believe in themselves and express pride in the gains they make.”


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Meghan Kelly Daly

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt