Teachers College - Columbia University
Alan Mather, a 2012 Cahn Fellow at Teachers College, became the first recipient of the Stanley C. Golder Award for Principals and Heads of Schools from the Golden Apple Foundation in Illinois. Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago presented Mather with the award on May 7 in a surprise visit to a school assembly at Lindblom Math & Science Academy in Chicago, where Mather is principal.
The Golden Apple Foundation said Mather was “selected for his dedication and leadership at Lindblom,” which he took from being a defunct, former vocational and skilled-trades high school on Chicago’s South Side to the city’s top-performing majority African-American school and the only top-20 ranked school in Illinois with 60 percent of its students on free or reduced lunch.
Mather joined Lindblom in 2005, re-opening the public school after it had been shuttered for two years and launching its transformation into a highly selective school that enrolls approximately 97 percent minority and 80 percent low-income students from across the city. All core courses in Lindblom’s demanding college preparatory curriculum are honors and Advanced Placement.
Under Mather’s leadership, the school has built the largest Mandarin program in the Chicago public schools and the largest non-heritage Arabic program in the United States. In addition, Mather was instrumental in the seven-year, $2 Million contract Lindblom signed with Baxter International to host the Biotechnology Center of Excellence, a teacher training center in biotechnology.
Mather said receiving the Golder Award was “certainly a thrill” and recognition of the entire faculty and school community at Lindblom. “Teachers can be outstanding on their own and win an award such as this,” he said in a phone interview. “It would be impossible for a principal to win this without being a whole-school award.”
The Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished Principals at Teachers College was founded in 2002 as a result of the vision and generosity of Charles and Jane Cahn to recognize outstanding principals and aspiring principals and develop them as leaders. Cahn Fellows work collaboratively with their peers to develop their ability to improve school climate and culture, teacher effectiveness and ultimately student learning and achievement.
For his Cahn Fellows project, Ramping Up Coherence: Using Cross Curricular Teams to Improve Instructional Practices and Student Achievement, Mather and Kelly Mest,a former assistant principal at Lindblom who has since become principal at Chicago’s Northside College Prep, studied an effort at Lindblom to support teacher collaboration and professional development using cross-curricular instruction.
Mather, who was in the first cohort of Cahn fellows from Chicago, said the fellowship “was perhaps the most meaningful professional development I’ve ever had.” Working in small groups of “dedicated, committed principalson real issues we had in our schools with critical friends” was particularly valuable, he said, and “something I feel is missing in general in education.”
Meeting and working with principals from New York City and Newark, New Jersey—the two other cities where Cahn Fellowships are given—taught Mather that “the issues in urban education are the issues in urban education. While there are nuances in policy, the issues are the same.”
Mather will receive a $10,000 cash award to be used for professional development and a school project of his choosing. The Golden Apple Foundation was founded 29 years ago to recognize outstanding schoolteachers and engagement in education reform in Illinois by establishing the annual Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching. This year, the foundation created the Annual Stanley C. Golder Principal/Head of School Award and chose Mather as the award’s first recipient.