Memphis Teacher And Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow Wins National Award

Memphis Teacher And Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow Wins National Award

Josalyn Tresvant McGhee is one of only four teachers nationwide awarded TNTP’s prestigious Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice

MEMPHIS, TN – Josalyn Tresvant McGhee of Knight Road Elementary School is one of four teachers nationwide to be awarded the 2013 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice, a prestigious award that spotlights excellence in teaching and the practices of the nation’s most effective educators. She will receive $25,000 and participate in a special summer residency with TNTP, the nonprofit organization that offers the award. The Fishman Prize is one of the most selective awards for practicing school teachers in the nation and is open only to those who teach in high-poverty public schools.

Kevin Huffman, Tennessee Commissioner of Education, offered his praise for Josalyn’s achievements. “Congratulations to Josalyn on this incredible honor,” he said. “Her dedication to special education is a testament to our belief that all students are capable of academic growth. We are proud to have Josalyn represent Tennessee; her efforts to support student learning and grow as an educator are a model for effective teaching, and this award is a well-deserved recognition of those efforts.”

In a surprise visit to Ms. Tresvant McGhee’s classroom on Monday, Regional Superintendent Dr. Terrence Brown joined TNTP Vice President of Performance Management Victoria Van Cleef, Knight Road Elementary Principal Dr. Yvette Renfroe, Teach Plus Executive Director Lisa Watts, and Memphis Teaching Fellows Director Melissa Williams to inform Ms. Tresvant McGhee that she had won the award.

Upon hearing that their teacher had received $25,000, Ms. Tresvant McGhee’s students exclaimed that she was rich. “I’m rich because I get to come here and teach you every day,” she replied.

“We are so proud of Ms. Tresvant’s achievement – a result of her hard work, dedication and commitment. She is an extraordinary teacher and we appreciate everything she’s done for her students and the district,” said Dorsey E. Hopson, II Esq. – Superintendent, Memphis City and Shelby County Schools.

A graduate of Memphis City Schools, Josalyn Tresvant McGhee gave up a career in banking to return to the school system and become a special educator through the Memphis Teaching Fellows program in 2009. She enlists students in their own learning by having them sign their big goals for the year and by having candid conversations with them about their progress. Her students, who typically enter her classroom 3 to 4 years below grade level, regularly leave her class having gained 1.5 to 2 years of growth in reading, and with proficient or advanced scores on their state assessment. In addition to being a highly effective classroom teacher, she is also engaging with education policy issues through the Teaching Policy Fellowship with Teach Plus, a nonprofit that works to improve outcomes for urban children by ensuring that a greater proportion of students have access to effective, experienced teachers.

“Showcasing and rewarding the work of excellent teachers like Josalyn is a critical lever in raising the status of the teaching profession,” said Teach Plus CEO Celine Coggins. “We are thrilled for Josalyn, and we’re proud to do our part to elevate the profession by recruiting phenomenal teachers like her for our leadership programs. These teachers are poised to be national leaders in effecting positive, lasting change in their profession.”

Ms. Tresvant McGhee will be joining three other winners for an intensive, 6-week summer residency, during which they will meet with leaders in education, engage in the challenge of helping more teachers improve their classroom practice, and collaborate on a short paper that captures their insights and knowledge. Last year’s winners wrote Unlocking Student Effort, which focuses on the challenge of engaging reluctant learners.

This is the second year for the Fishman Prize. The application process is extremely rigorous and open to all full-time teachers working in high-poverty public schools. This year, more than 570 teachers from 42 states submitted full applications. About 100 were invited to submit teaching videos and letters of reference, and 20 were selected as semi-finalists, each of whom was observed at work in the classroom by TNTP staff. Nine finalists, including Andrew Vega, an alumnus of the Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellowship in Boston, were then interviewed by a panel of judges.

“Josalyn’s thoughtful use of technology for classroom purposes is years ahead of its time,” said TNTP President and Fishman Prize Judge Timothy Daly. “The message Josalyn puts forth to students is not only that they should push themselves to learn new tools, but that staying connected to their academic growth is vital to their success. It’s no wonder that she is one of the faces of her district’s recruitment campaign to attract irreplaceable teachers.”

Ms. Tresvant McGhee was quick to credit her colleagues and students with supporting her and helping her to excel. “They will not let me fail,” she said.

To learn more about the Fishman Prize, visit