MAD-teacher Spotlight In Celebration of Black History Month

Every year in February, people in the United States celebrate the achievements and history of African Americans as part of Black History Month. As part of MAD-learn’s Black History Month Celebration, we would like to recognize the hard work and achievements of some of our African-American MAD-teachers who are dedicated to enriching the lives of their students.


Duval County Schools’ GEAR UP School Counselor Traci Zamor is a graduate of the University of South Florida and has been in the field of education for 15 years. Traci supports GEAR UP activities across all seven GEAR UP sites to assist students with promoting to the next grade level. Traci has shared her expertise with others in diverse ways, one of which was at the 2020 NCCEP Conference in a session entitled “Nurturing a College-Going Culture that Ignites Engagement, Involvement, and Buy-In”. She has been a critical part of MAD-learn’s partnership, which began as a summer “virtual camp” and continues as a bi-weekly after-school tech club. She not only brings a huge amount of enthusiasm to the project but also works tirelessly to keep the participants involved and engaged. She obviously appreciates what MAD-learn provides for these high schoolers, and their appreciation of her is obvious in every session. Our partnership with GEAR UP programs across the country has been rewarding for everyone involved, and we thank Ms. Zamor for her love of teaching!


It is said that “Persistence is most often the key to long-term success. This has been demonstrated perhaps nowhere else as it has at Jupiter Middle School in Florida, under the leadership of Irma Dixon who has put forth a strong and consistent effort to make sure that not only her students “get” MAD-learn but that she does, as well.” It has been a joy to see all the amazing apps her students have created to address social issues and overall effect positive change in our world. MAD-learn truly appreciates Irma’s hard work and determination in the classroom and beyond.


Oceanside Middle School (NY) math teacher Kimberly Epps has been a true partner and visionary educator who has had great success in bringing the MAD-learn program into the core curriculum. In a May 2021 blog, Kimberly talked at length about the value of MAD-learn. “As a mathematics teacher with several years of teaching experience, I have always made it my goal to explore the use of various tools that make learning fun for my students.  One such educational tool is MAD-learn…” adding “In order for MAD- learn to impact my teaching, it had to first impact me and it did.  This program has all of the characteristics to help develop the character of a student.  An app creator must be analytical, organized, create, communicate effectively, able to work in a team, and persevering.  The biggest issue for students is developing creativity skills and patience in planning their projects.  They learn how and why planning is so important and learn to appreciate the process.” You can read more about Kimberly and her thoughts about MAD-learn by reading her blog entry from earlier in the year. She defines what true partnership means, and we appreciate her efforts!


It has been said that the quality of a teacher is best measured by the outcomes realized by her students. Lawanda Stephens-Sanford, from Arabia Mountain High School near Atlanta, is a testament to this. We had the honor of serving on judging panels for a virtual set of Shark Tanks in which her students shared their work in an authentic “pitch” situation. We were impressed not only by the apps they created but by how they presented themselves in such a professional manner. These qualities are part of what Lawanda expects of her students, beyond attention to working at their highest level. A Marine Corps veteran, Lawanda also spent 23 years in health care before becoming a teacher. She refers to her current career as “not only my passion but my calling”. She further said, “I love learning and I love teaching and helping others in the classroom and in ministry.” As for using MAD-learn, she shared that “[the] experience has stretched me because it’s gotten me out of my comfort zone and encourages me to try new things and to be creative. I enjoy sharing MAD-learn with the students because I’m able to stretch them as well. Allowing students to see the [MAD-learn] team in person or virtually in the Shark Tank or in the classroom gives them hope and helps them connect with something real from a business or app perspective.” Lawanda added, “Thank you for introducing MAD-learn to me and for having such an awesome tool to engage students and help them to think creatively.”


Alisa Wright’s Roosevelt Middle School (Palm Beach) students have created nearly 100 apps in just the second half of the school year. These apps have covered a wide range of topics, though many are of a social entrepreneurial bent. Alisa’s energy, positive attitude, and involvement make her a valued member of her school, as well as to us here at MAD-learn. Brad Henry once said,  “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” – and that is what Alisa is doing. We appreciate all her efforts.


Gwendolyn Reynolds of Avondale Elementary School is committed to the success of all her students and goes above and beyond to ensure that students are engaged and thinking outside the box in fun, meaningful ways. She used MAD-learn in an after-school flash app class.  Within her classroom, she had between 2nd-5th graders.  Principal Dr. Dontae Andrews said he was very impressed by how engaged his students were. We applaud her enthusiasm and dedication to teaching.


These are just a few examples of the amazing work that our Black MAD-teachers are doing in the classroom. The entire MAD-learn team would like to say a big THANK YOU to you for all you do. YOU ROCK!