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Math Teacher Honored for Helping Students From War-Torn Countries

By Janet Upadhye | December 3, 2014 12:34pm
 Megan Driscoll Berdugo teaches geometry and calculus at Brooklyn International High School.
Megan Driscoll Berdugo teaches geometry and calculus at Brooklyn International High School.
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Sarah Shatz

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A teacher at Brooklyn International High School is being honored as one of the the city's top science and math teachers, for helping children from immigrant families learn geometry and calculus.

Megan Driscoll Berdugo, 31, is a recipient of the Sloan Award and helps students who have recently immigrated to the United States.

Many of her students, who speak English as a second language, come from refugee camps in their home countries.

Some were child soldiers, most are from war-torn areas and others are living with family members they had never met.

"Our students are coming from difficult situations and some are afraid of math or think they just can't do it," she said. "My job is to get them excited about it and let them know it doesn't have to be scary."

Driscoll Berdugo was nominated for the award by her school's principal and then chosen by a independent panel of distinguished scientists and mathematicians.

She is one of seven winners representing schools around the city.

“These outstanding educators are exactly the teachers we all hoped to have had in high school," Mary McCormick, president of the Fund for the City of New York, which sponsors the award, said in a statement.

Driscoll Berdugo, who has been teaching in Downtown Brooklyn for nine years, uses a combination of technology and hands-on teaching to guide her students through geometry.

She films herself giving lessons so students can review them at their own pace and then she checks in at the end of each session.

"When they are able to watch a lesson on say, ratios, then they have the chance to rewind and listen again if they don't get it or fast forward through the parts they already know," she said. "This system allows them to go at their own pace."

The Park Slope resident said she is most proud of the moment when her students graduate and glance her way as they cross the stage to receive their diplomas.

"After four years of pushing them to stay in school and hoping to inspire them, there's that moment of 'Look at you now," she said. "And I can see they're thinking the same: 'Look at me now.'"

Driscoll Berdugo's students have gone on to colleges like Bard, Skidmore and Long Island University — many on full scholarships.