When educators create a positive emotional climate in the classroom, where children feel safe—both physically and emotionally—almost anything can happen.
That’s the general philosophy of Andi Webb, a math coach at Alderman Road Elementary School in Fayetteville, N.C., and recipient of the 2015 Career Award for Science and Mathematics Teachers from The Burroughs Wellcome Fund.
“I work really hard to build a relationship with the children and treat them like children, not just students,” said Webb, who this year won a number of accolades for her teaching in addition to the award from the Fund.
The Career Award for Science and Mathematics Teachers recognizes teachers who have demonstrated solid knowledge of science and mathematics content and have an outstanding record of educating children. It provides $175,000 in support over five years to eligible teachers in the North Carolina public school system.
Webb’s record of achievement in education is well documented. This year alone, she was awarded the following prestigious honors:
● Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program, encouraging excellence in teaching in the U.S. and abroad.
● Fulbright Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development, encouraging cultural exchanges
● Honeywell Educators Space Academy, supporting professional development for science and math teachers
Webb, a K-5 teacher and instructional coach who has 17 years of experience in education, has a proven track record of leadership at many grade levels and in different subject areas. She is an instructional coach and mentor for other teachers, and she has led professional development opportunities for teachers. She said she has rarely won an award on her first try, and has found persistence pays off when applying for professional enrichment opportunities.
“For me personally,” Webb said. “I am an extremely passionate person and I feel that if I am going to do something, I am going to do it to the best of my ability.”
Webb makes a big effort to connect with students and teachers on a personal level. She’s the type of teacher to meet with parents before class begins and to keep in touch with them by sending students home with personal notes to show that they are cared for. She also writes personal notes for her colleagues.
Lisa Popish, a colleague of Webb’s, says Webb’s personal style is summed up nicely by a Mahatma Gandhi that she keeps in her email signature: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
“As an educator, she has a kindness and gentleness about her which has enabled her to build strong, positive relationships with everyone she encounters,” Popish said. “She has and continues to dedicate her professional (and personal) life passionately in pursuit of making a difference in the life of each and every child. Every grant, fellowship, lesson plan or decision she has ever made is based solely on how it will benefit children, not only for the students that enter into our school building but those she has touched around the world.”
Webb works with students and teachers today in teaching the Singapore style of math instruction, spreading best practices of the teaching style popularized in the Southeast Asian nation that aims to instill number sense in learners by building understanding around sets of ten. In doing so she continues her approach to make real connections with both teachers and students.
Webb has fond memories of the connections she was able to make with students and parents when she participated in the practice of looping with a class several years. Essentially, Webb was the students’ teacher for kindergarten, first, and second grade. She said it was one of the best decisions she ever made as an educator.
Over the time that she was a teacher for this class, Webb created memory books for each of her students—maybe 24 in all—and input different mementos for each student throughout the year. In October, for example, the students made imprints of their hands with white paint and decorated the prints to look like ghosts. Sometimes Webb would host a “cooking” session in class where the class would make a dish, such as ice cream and toppings, and write down the ingredients of the recipe to be included in their books.
The students Webb looped with are in high school today, and some of them are still in touch with her.
““There are a lot of things that aren’t in the curriculum that people care about,” Webb said.
“So I had Ms. Webb for Kindergarten, First and Second Grade and she was definitely one of my favorite teachers,” says one of Webb’s former students in a video that Webb recently published to YouTube. I am a junior in high school now and I would definitely say that Ms. Webb is definitely one of my favorite teachers.”
In addition to the awards and scholarships Webb received this year, she has accrued a number of teaching honors over the course of her career.
She has traveled to Nova Scotia to study small mammal populations. She has participated in the Sino-American Bridge for Education and Health, a professional development organization for K-12 teachers in the U.S. and China. She participated in the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Teachers at Sea Program. She won first place in the 2014 Teaching Excellence in Global Education competition from Fayetteville State University. She traveled to other educators to learn about education, religion, and politics.
Webb relishes these opportunities to expand her skills outside of the classroom, and she regularly looks for opportunities to find ways to grow.
“Going to professional development in other places where people are choosing to be there to be can be really rejuvenating.”
Working with the Burroughs Wellcome Fund has been a standout among her experiences
“Working with Burroughs Wellcome Fund is actually the one place that I feel not only appreciates ingenuity of teachers but encourages it I feel extremely supported by them and it’s a just such a blessing to be working with them.”