When Patrice Bridgewater-Daniel ’10, M.S.Ed. ’13 was a student at Bedford Academy High School, her math teacher Cluny Lavache—a Brooklyn College alumna, and now the school’s assistant principal—recognized her passion for the discipline, and encouraged her to pursue teaching as a profession.

Bridgewater-Daniel followed that advice, receiving a scholarship to attend the Brooklyn College School of Education, and earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. After graduation, she returned to her high school alma mater as a math teacher, focusing on integrated algebra, trigonometry, and intensive Regents prep. Her exceptional work there has garnered her the Sloan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics (pdf).

“I have students who come back to the school after graduation to thank me,” says Bridgewater-Daniel, one of seven awardees statewide. “And that’s very rewarding, but so is this award.”

The Sloan Awards recognize creative public school teachers in science and math who inspire students to pursue careers in math and other STEM fields. Qualified teachers must have taught for at least five years. An independent panel of educators and scientists chooses the winners, who receive $5,000, while their schools math or science departments receive $2,500.

She recalls the important grounding she received at Brooklyn College. “I became part of the first class of the Teachers’ Academy program in the School of Education,” she says. “We were able to see all angles of teaching. They provided a group of peers to support us and assist us to overcome any obstacles.” The program, no longer active at the college, exposed students to different teaching styles and provided internship opportunities at different New York City schools. She adds that her professors tried to prepare students for a wide range of situations that could happen in the classroom and also shared their life experiences so that their students could learn from them.

Bridgewater-Daniel decided to return to Brooklyn College to pursue her master’s in special education. “There’s a need to have more African-American teachers in special education in our communities,” she says.

A Bedford Academy student who asked to remain unnamed said Bridgewater helped her wrap her head around seemingly difficult math problems and overcome her fears. “She transmits her love for teaching math to all of us,” says the student, who also participates in Bridgewater-Daniel’s after-school tutoring sessions.

“I’m happy to share that I have students in college who are sticking to the program,” says Bridgewater-Daniel, adding that making sure students don’t give up is a very important part of her personal mission. “The student who introduced me at the awards ceremony, Jason Abreú, for example, is in Baruch pursuing a degree in accounting.” For Bridgewater-Daniel, it can’t get any better than that.