Middle school teacher Howle named Fishman Prize finalist _lowres

Advocate photo by HOWARD ARCENEAUX -- Heather Howle is an eighth-grade STEM teacher at West Feliciana Middle School in St. Francisville.

The New Teacher Project is a few weeks away from announcing its new class of Fishman Prize winners — extraordinary teachers working in high-need communities who are responsible for some of the best instruction happening in America’s classrooms.

The Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice was established in 2011 to shine a spotlight on great teachers across the country and to award $25,000 as well as a spot in a one-of-a-kind summer residency to four winners.

Nearly 800 teachers’ applications from almost every state have been reviewed, and 10 finalists have been selected, including Heather Howle, an eighth-grade STEM teacher at West Feliciana Middle School in St. Francisville.

“We don’t typically receive many applications from teachers in small towns, so Heather’s application intrigued us almost immediately. But more than that, we were blown away by her passion and her dedication to building a successful STEM program in her community,” TNTP’s Director of Teacher Engagement Tiffany Chen said. “She’s providing access to science and technology that her students would not be able to get elsewhere and highlighting what’s possible even when resources are so limited.”

Howle and the nine other finalists represent eight states and Washington, D.C., teach a range of subjects and have been teaching from four years in the classroom to as many as 25.

The group received the red carpet treatment over the weekend in New York City, meeting with past Fishman Prize winners and Shira Fishman herself, whom the prize is named for, and interviewing in front of a panel of judges.

Howle, whose family is from St. Francisville, grew up in Maringouin and graduated from False River Academy in New Roads. After earning a degree at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now University of Louisiana at Lafayette, she taught five years in Houston, two years in East Feliciana Parish and has spent the last 10 years teaching at West Feliciana Middle.

“It’s been a fun experience. My first time to New York was this past weekend, and I’ve been amazed by the other finalists and former winners. I’m the only rural school teacher of the bunch but excited to get back and share what I’ve learned from everyone,” Howle said on Sunday.

Howle says she got to meet Fishman personally and has learned teaching tidbits from the other educators to try in her own classroom.

In May, the four winners will be selected, each receiving $25,000 along with the summer residency. If chosen, Howle will be expected to publish an essay about the strategies she uses to achieve extraordinary results in the classroom.

The four winning teachers also will meet with national leaders and explore major education issues during the monthlong program slated for July.

“Ms. Howle has been a leader at making STEM opportunities come to life for our students,” West Feliciana Superintendent Hollis Milton said in May, when Howle received the Excellent Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Educator Award from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.