MSED Student Wins Knowles Teaching Fellowship

MSED Student Wins Knowles Teaching Fellowship

Bradley SmithNorthwestern University’s Bradley Smith, a future high school math teacher who is pursuing his master’s degree through the Accelerated Master of Science in Education program, has received a five-year fellowship from the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation.

The Knowles Teaching Fellows Program network is designed to support early-career, high school math and science teachers who aspire to become leaders in the classroom and beyond.

Smith, who received his bachelor’s degree in math from the Weinberg School of Arts and Sciences, hopes to help shape curriculum, in part by incorporating social justice curricula into math classes.

“There is so much more we can do with math for students who don’t go into STEM fields,” said Smith, who envisions connecting geometry to gerrymandering or combinatorics to Spotify playlists. “I want to take math into other disciplines to look at social issues – everything from the wage gap and gun violence to drug patents. You can look at everything in this world through a mathematical lens.”

Smith’s honor marks the fourth consecutive year – and the sixth time in the last seven years -- that a School of Education and Social Policy student or alumni has received a Knowles. Previous winners include Rohan Prakish (2018), Mason Rocca (2017)Dan Voss (2016), John Holcombe (2014) and Liz Smith (2013).

A native of the Detroit area who loves theater and art history, Smith enrolled in the accelerated master’s program as a senior. The program, already known for forward-thinking pedagogy, excellent supports, and systems in candidates' practicum and student-teaching, allows students to get a bachelor’s, master’s and teaching license in five years.

Math was particularly appealing, Smith said because it can be a barrier to graduation and higher education, particularly for marginalized students.

“I want to help break this cycle,” he said. “I want to help my students find their own identities as mathematicians, to change and redefine what it means to do math or take a math class, and to help my students use mathematics to reanalyze and act on the world around them.”

As a teaching fellow with Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia in 2017, Smith taught “Statistics and Social Justice” to eighth graders, helping them use mathematical evidence to better analyze the ethics and effectiveness of stop-and-frisk programs in New York City. 

At Northwestern, one of Smith’s most memorable classes was Social Contexts of Education, taught by Marcus Campbell and Shanti Elliott. The class examines how education intersects with social factors like race and socioeconomic status through personal stories and field trips, including excursions to events at the Chicago Teachers Union or public speaking events featuring people like journalist and author Ta-Nahisi Coates.

“This class helped me see the inequalities present in our education system and it altered the type of educator that I want to be,” he said. “It kickstarted a level of thinking and action against racism and other systems of marginalization that makes me all the more excited and humbled to be an educator.”

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 5/24/19