KIPP Ujima math educator named Baltimore City's Teacher of the Year

A mathematics educator whose students have consistently scored among the highest in Baltimore and Maryland on state assessments was named the city's 2012 Teacher of the Year.

Bradley Nornhold, a seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher at the high-performing charter school KIPP Ujima Village Academy, was surprised with the honor Wednesday by a visit to his classroom — which immediately erupted in cheers — from city schools CEO Andrés Alonso.


Alonso called Nornhold a "tremendous educator," saying that he was told that to watch Nornhold teach is "like magic." "I was told that that I should walk into his classroom if I'm having a bad day because his teaching is like alchemy," Alonso said. "So I'm just very happy for him."

Nornhold, 34, who has taught in city schools for 12 years and was one of the founding teachers at KIPP Ujima, is also the first teacher from a city charter school to receive the honor in the past decade, school officials said.


Nornhold said he was inspired to become a teacher at the Northwest Baltimore school after reading the book "Savage Inequalities," which he said emphasized the idea that "the ZIP code you're living in shouldn't impact your education."

KIPP is part of a national network of charter schools whose trademarks are a stringent college-preparatory curriculum and structured school environment. KIPP primarily serves students who are from low-income neighborhoods and performing below grade level.

"For me, it's never about awards," Nornhold said. "It's about getting them prepared for high school and beyond."

Jason Botel, executive director of KIPP Baltimore, said Nornhold has more than fulfilled his goal.

"He focuses on every single student, and he makes sure they learn every single standard and skill," Botel said, adding that Nornhold can tell you at any time how a student is progressing in a certain math skill.

Nornhold's middle-school students score among the highest on the math portion of the Maryland School Assessments. His eighth-graders also perform well on the algebra High School Assessments — a state graduation requirement that students normally begin taking in ninth grade. In January, 51 of his students took the algebra exam and passed. Last year, only 68 percent of the city's 12th-graders passed it.

Students said while they appreciate having a teacher who pushes them in the classroom, it's the role Nornhold plays in their lives that makes him just as deserving of the title.

Each student has Nornhold's cellphone number in case they run into trouble with anything from homework to life. That way, Nornhold said, "there can be no excuses."


"He tries really hard to make sure we're good people, not just smart people," said eighth-grader Artisha Harrison.

Nornhold was among 43 applicants and 60 nominees for the honor this year, officials said. He was one of three finalists; the others were Mark Miazga, an English teacher at City College, and Whitney Ward, a seventh-grade humanities teacher at Midtown Academy.

He will advance to compete for the title of Maryland State Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in the fall.

Linda Eberhart, executive director of teaching and learning for the school system and former Maryland Teacher of the Year, said she is eager to see what the future holds for Nornhold.

"The Teacher of the Year experience changes your life, and you never know where it's going to take you," said Eberhart, who was recruited by Alonso to head up instruction for the entire system after being in the classroom for 30 years.

"You never think what you do in the classroom will somehow make an impact across the city, the state, the country," she said. "I don't know where he'll go, but I know he'll have that impact."