Chicago Teacher Surprised With National Award

UIC College Prep's Steven Sanders was presented with the Fishman Prize during an unannounced classroom visit Monday

A Chicago teacher is one of four nationwide who will equally split a $100,000 prize and have an opportunity to share his expertise with other educators around the country.

Steven Sanders, a music teacher and department chair at UIC College Prep, was presented with the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice during an unannounced classroom visit Monday.

"This whole process has been sort of a surreal to me but I love teaching," Sanders said.

The award was presented by TNTP, formerly known as The New Teacher Project, which works to help all students get access to quality teachers. The other 2014 recipients named were Kelly Zunkiewicz of Ruskin, Florida; Laura Strait of Oakland, California; and Michael Towne of Perris, California. Nearly 1,000 teachers made up the initial pool of award candidates.

Sanders is a Chicago native, and despite the fact that nine out of 10 students never took music before entering his classroom, UIC’s ensembles rank among the best in Chicago and the state of Illinois. More than 10 percent of alumni now play a musical instrument in college.

"Steve’s success is not just about his student ensembles placing in the top ten among other bands in the city and state – it’s how he gets them there,” said Tim Daly, TNTP president. “His students learn more than just how to play a musical instrument; he teaches them critical skills like self-discipline, persistence and focus. He’s the kind of teacher students will remember later life, both for the enduring love for music he instills in them, and for the strong character that he helps them develop."

The winners and finalists were selected after a six-month selection process, which included a written application and references, a teaching video, an unannounced classroom observation, and an in-person interview in New York. 

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