The Presidential Award is an incredible honor. It is a testament to the hard work of my students, colleagues, administrators, and mentors. I love being surrounded by professionals who are working together to improve student learning. The award means I can continue collaborating with educators and policymakers to share what successful mathematics education looks like. The whole process has energized me, readying me to take on new challenges both inside and outside of the classroom.
Lisa Nicks has been a secondary mathematics educator for eight years. For the last six years, she taught Algebra I to freshmen and Algebra II to sophomores and juniors at Thornton Township High School.
Lisa challenged students to continuously use the Standards for Mathematical Practice. In her classroom, students led the discourse about complex mathematical tasks and continuously learned about their misconceptions. Students supported one another and pushed their learning forward by adopting a growth mindset. Students often shared multiple approaches to the same problem. Lisa’s classroom was proof that at risk, low income students can persevere through complex problems and succeed in algebra.
As the Algebra I Teams Core Course Coordinator, Lisa facilitated meetings and workshops, designed curriculum and mathematical tasks to align with the Common Core, and analyzed data to improve instruction. A large part of Lisa’s work was centered on working with other teachers to reflect on what succeeds with students, identifying their conceptual understanding, their challenges, and productive responses. For five years, Lisa worked with the South Cook Math Initiative as Thornton’s Teacher Leader for Mathematics.
Lisa earned a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Illinois, and a M.S. in education from the University of St. Francis. She is certified to teach grades 6–12.