McKinley teacher Shira Fishman wins $25k price

A math teacher at McKinley Technology High School in Northeast got a surprise Thursday.

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The math teacher and her students went to the gymnasium for what they thought was a schoolwide assembly with the state superintendent of education. Then Lowell Milken announced that his foundation had selected Shira Fishman for a national honor with a $25,000 cash prize.

When she first heard her name, Fishman says she was excited and a little embarrassed.

“I'm good in front of my kids in the classroom, I'm not shy at all. But in front of this kind of stuff is not what I'm used to. I'm very flattered but I'm also very overwhelmed,” she said.

“She's a great mentor to other teachers and someone who we're particularly looking for is someone engaged in her community and she is involved in so many activities so that all adds up to one outstanding teacher,” Milken explained his family foundation’s decision.

Fishman was also selected because of her non-traditional approach to teaching geometry and algebra.

“She explores the logic of every student's answer. Regardless of how off it is. And I think it makes them so comfortable that they're willing to explore difficult concepts because they know it's a safe place to learn,” said the school’s principal David Pinder.

Teaching is Fishman's second career. About five years ago she walked away from her job as a mechanical engineer and came to McKinley as a math teacher because she says teaching has always been her passion.

“I was coaching basketball at my old high school. I grew up in Silver Spring so I was working with the kids and coaching them in basketball and I thought this is my passion what I want to be doing,” she said.

Fishman waited tables at night for her first few years of teaching to make ends meet.
The foundation’s money will also come in handy in May when she and her fiance are getting married.

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