In the crowded hallways of Francis Lewis High School, it might seem easy to get lost. In some of the crowded classrooms, the same holds true. In a building that plays host to more than 4,000 students, trying to change the trajectory of a struggling class — or even just one particular student — might seem impossible.
Yunseong Esther Kim doesn’t think so, however. And last Thursday she was honored by the Fund for the City of New York and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for her work as an algebra and geometry teacher at Francis Lewis in the high school’s library.
Kim was one of seven teachers citywide given the Fund for the City of New York Sloan Award, which has been honoring excellence in teaching science and mathematics in New York City high schools since 2009.
Kim came to the school about eight years ago. One of her classes a few years ago included a group of second-year algebra students who had all failed the first-year algebra Regents. After a year of teaching them, two-thirds of those same students passed the exam.
“Francis Lewis is proud that one of our own is being recognized for the important role that she plays in the lives of our students and how that benefits society as a whole,” said David Marmor, principal of Francis Lewis High School.
Assistant Principal Joseph Chou, head of the school’s mathematics department, who hired Kim, said she possessed two traits he finds in a great teacher.
“She can teach any level of math and can also teach kids, rather than just math,” he said.
Several dozen of Kim’s students and former students attended the ceremony. The library was closed to the other students for the event.
“I felt that I had a special connection with her in a way I’ve never had with another teacher,” one of her former students said at the ceremony. “She teaches more than just math, she teaches life lessons.”
The award includes $5,000 for Kim as well as another $2,500 for Francis Lewis High School.
In her short acceptance speech, Kim said she was “honored” to receive the award and urged her students to work as hard as they had for her as they move forward in their academic lives.
“It brings me great joy and excitement to do this every day,” she said.