In her daily lessons at Paint Branch High School, mathematics teacher Nancy Hebdon often tells her students, “This math process will be the most exciting thing you learn today.”
The excitement that Hebdon generates in her students, along with her dedication to her colleagues and community, has earned her this year's Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award from The Washington Post.
The prestigious Agnes Meyer Award is presented annually to one teacher from each Washington metropolitan area school district. The winners will be honored by the Post at an April 12 reception.
“I believe that my greatest gift as a teacher is my absolute passion for mathematics,” Hebdon says. “I marvel at its logic, and I seek the thrill of seeing problems solved and applied.”
A math teacher for 35 years, Hebdon has had that passion ever since she envisioned herself a teacher at age 14. After receiving her BA in mathematics from Hood College, she taught in South Carolina for four years before earning an MA in secondary education from George Washington University. She began her career with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) at Parkland Junior High School in 1981 and taught there until 1986, along with serving as an adjunct professor at George Washington University. She has been a mathematics resource teacher at Paint Branch High School since 1986.
As leader of the Math Department at Paint Branch, Hebdon “has been in the forefront of ensuring that our students take algebra, the gateway to college course, and other higher level math classes,” Principal Jeanette Dixon said supporting Hebdon's nomination.
Through active recruitment and the belief that all students should challenge themselves, Hebdon has increased the number of students taking Advanced Placement math courses at Paint Branch. She is credited for helping to raise the average SAT math scores by 15 points from 2003 to 2004.
To keep math alive in the classroom, Hebdon uses humor, current events, situations that attract students' attention, and a calculator called “Irma,” which takes on human characteristics and becomes a motivational tool for students.
In a department that teaches 16 courses, Hebdon has taught 13 -- from pre-algebra for at-risk students to trigonometry to consumer math for seniors. She maintains individual student grades on the Paint Branch web site so parents have immediate access to their child's progress. She also coordinates the Paint Branch High School Mathematics Honor Society, which honors seniors who have maintained a 3.5 grade point average in mathematics.
Hebdon has mentored three student teachers and one Johns Hopkins University intern. She also serves as faculty advisor to the Key Club, an international community service club.
Fellow math teacher Jared Fribush, who had Hebdon when he was a freshman at Paint Branch, says, “I can assure you that every child who takes her class is a better mathematician and person because of her.”