A+ math fellowship

Multiple perks to add talented teacher

By NICOLE BODE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

Add an all-expenses-paid master's degree, a five-year, $65,000 stipend and one strong mentoring program - and what do you get?

A slew of highly trained and committed math teachers, according to the formula proposed by a newly created foundation that hopes to improve the quality of math education in the city's public high schools.

The nonprofit group Math for America is kicking off its first Newton Fellowship grants by selecting seven budding math teachers from around the country to start their training at Queens College and New York University this summer.

Students - who include recent graduates as well as returning professionals - will spend the next five years working toward a master's degree while also teaching in Region 9 public high schools in Manhattan and the Bronx.

"We are trying to have a program that has a chance of working in the long run," said Irwin Kra, executive director of the Math for America Foundation. "We're trying to fill a niche that is not filled by other programs."

Unlike other teaching fellowships, which pick up just a portion of education costs, the Newton Fellowship covers full tuition for master's degree training at Queens College or New York University.

In addition, Newton Fellows get a five-year stipend of $25,000 for the first year while they study full time, and $10,000 per year for the next four years while they teach - on top of their teacher's salaries.

According to Paul Mojaven, one of the fellows selected to start training this summer, the free education and stipend made his decision to become a teacher even easier.

"The main thing to me was the scholarship and getting the graduate school fully paid," said Mojaven, 25, a former tech consultant turned personal trainer from Bayside. "But I feel money isn't everything - the sense of personal fulfillment that I get from teaching really outweighs everything else."

Mojaven credited Queens College Prof. Alice Artzt - one of the advisers for the Newton Fellows who also helped Math for America President James Simons shape the initial fellowship - with encouraging him to apply to the program.

"It's very, very exciting," said Artzt, who has long made it her mission to increase the number of well-prepared math teachers. "We're happy to be doing our part to deal with the problem."