Daniel Figueroa, teacher at New Roads School in Santa Monica, was one of 10 teachers from around the country honored recently by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) for excellence in teaching students with advanced academic abilities.

Figueroa was honored during the Sarah D. Barder Fellowship Conference, held Feb. 23-24 at The Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif. This was the 30th anniversary of the conference, which brings new and past fellows from around the country together to share ideas and best practices about educating bright students.

“CTY’s mission is to discover, engage, and challenge even the brightest students to aim higher and learn more every day,” said CTY executive director Elaine Tuttle Hansen. “The Sarah D. Barder Award celebrates educators who share this commitment and documents the impact of teaching for high achievement on young people who often struggle to find the opportunities and encouragement they need.”

Figueroa, a graduate of UCLA, has focused on connecting his students with the math, science, and engineering skills that will help them solve the problems of the future. As a teacher at New Roads School, Figueroa carries out its philosophy of being a “private school with a public purpose” through his commitment to not only his school, but to communities throughout Los Angeles. He has been teaching in CTY Summer Programs for 16 years, and co-created one of its most popular courses, Numbers: Zero to Infinity. Figueroa also co-founded the Compton Robotics Club with Ben Indeglia, a senior at New Roads School, two summers ago in Los Angeles. Owen, the fifth grader who nominated him for the CTY award, said Figueroa “surprises us with activities like ‘The Statue of Liberty’s Un-Proportional Nose,’ that always make us feel like we’re going on an adventure.”

This year’s Sarah D. Barder conference theme was “Whole Teacher, Whole Child,” and the program emphasized how to promote a healthy classroom. Teacher honorees shared stories about challenges that stand in the way of a healthy learning environment, such as students’ increasing dependence on devices and its effect on their ability to focus on schoolwork; poverty and other household stressors students bring to school with them; and the expectation for teachers to be in constant contact with families. Expert speakers offered techniques through which to manage these challenges through empathy, mindfulness, self-care, stress reduction, and more.

CTY director of research and conference co-host Amy Shelton said the biggest takeaway for teachers was that supporting each other and taking care of themselves is as important as their interactions with students.

Nominations for the Sarah D. Barder fellowships come from students in CTY’s summer and online courses who live in California, Nevada, and Maryland. Nominated teachers are invited to submit an essay describing their teaching philosophy, and a panel of Johns Hopkins educators then selects educators from this group for recognition as Sarah D. Barder Fellows.

Sarah D. Barder, an educator, philanthropist, parent, and friend of CTY, endowed the fellowship in 1988 as a way of recognizing talented teachers of academically advanced students. More than 480 educators have been honored as Sarah D. Barder Fellows to date.

For more information, please visit www.newroads.org

Submitted by Alan Painter, Bob Gold & Associates