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NMSI announces teacher honoree in partnership with CFP Foundation's 'BIG DAY'

The National Math and Science Initiative, in partnership with the College Football Playoff Foundation’s BIG DAY, is proud to recognize Mt. Pleasant High School Advanced Placement® Computer Science teacher Geraldine Salazar for her commitment to professional development in STEM education. The CFP Foundation’s BIG DAY is a nationwide celebration of educators, a way of saying “thank you” to teachers, like Ms. Salazar, who work so hard to help children learn. NMSI is one of over 150 partners participating in the BIG DAY.
Salazar participated in NMSI’s 2020 Summer Series, a two-week virtual professional development conference with roughly 4,000 educators in attendance. Each participant was assigned 16 hours of professional development in the form of additional trainings and keynote addresses from education professionals from across the country.
Far beyond the 16 hours assigned to her, Salazar completed a total of 80 hours of professional development – the most of any participant. The foundation has provided a $200 gift card from donorchoose.org and NMSI has provided an additional $200 gift card to the teacher project website.
“I was thinking that I was going to learn just academically, but it was so much more than that,” Salazar said of the Summer Series. “It was really an opportunity to learn more about our students.”
Salazar says that the Summer Series helped her to gain a more complex view of her students, not just seeing them from an academic standpoint, but forming deeper relationships as the foundation for more effective teaching.
“Especially during distance learning, I’ve noticed much more of a connection between me and the students,” she says.
Salazar has been teaching for 29 years, the last 19 of which have been at Mt. Pleasant High School teaching math. This school year is her first to teach AP® Computer Science.
“I learned to love math because it’s not about memorizing things, it’s about problem solving,” she says. “And computer science is about critical thinking. It helps students to think critically, so whatever they endeavor to do, it is going to help them.”
She believes it is her responsibility to her students to take every professional development opportunity she can get, which explains why she went so far above and beyond the assigned hours during the Summer Series.
“I’m just investing my time, it’s free!” Salazar says. “It’s for me to grow professionally and to learn, and I gained a lot. But it’s not only for me, it’s for my students. Anything I learn is going to benefit my students too.”
Martha Guerrero, former principal of Mt. Pleasant High School and current director of instruction for the East Side Union High School District, was unsurprised by Salazar’s extraordinary effort.
“She’s fearless,” says Guerrero. “She’s never afraid of a challenge.”
Salazar is always the first to try something new and volunteer to lead new initiatives, according to Guerrero. She was the first to introduce new technology into the classroom like laptops, online learning materials and online testing. When the school needed someone to take the lead on the new Mathematical Reasoning with Connections classes, she stepped up.
“The first time we taught MRWC, she volunteered. It was a brand new course and she figured it out as she went along,” she says. “Now she is a seasoned MRWC teacher.”
It came as no surprise, then, that Salazar also took the lead when the school introduced Computer Science classes.
“When we started the Computer Science program at our school, she volunteered. She has put in so much time and work in becoming a Computer Science teacher,” Guerrero said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that she has invested this much time in professional development.”
Dr. Adriana Rangel, the associate principal at Mt. Pleasant High School, echoed Guerrero’s sentiment.
“I would describe her as a curious person.” Rangel said. “She is a determined lady. She’s always willing to listen to new ideas and then be the pioneer that goes into the unknown to see how she can make it work.”

As the 2020-21 school year begins, NMSI has new resources available to enhance your AP® instruction. Download our educative curricula today and find out what more than 65,000 educators already know about the support NMSI provides.