Jay Weisman has a superpower: He makes students want to learn, no matter what he’s teaching. Weisman has taught both math and social studies at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, bringing creativity and enthusiasm to geometry, advanced math, geography, and AP U.S. Government. In geometry, students assemble proofs on the floor from giant pieces of paper. To kick off review for summative assessments, Weisman dresses in all black and steps from desktop to desktop as the theme from “Mission Impossible” plays in the background. Students use their knowledge of points, lines, planes and angles to solve “clues” that help them make their way through a series of lasers protecting a “secure vault.” In AP Government, Weisman explained the 2020 Presidential elections with a “King Cake Caucus” and virtual debate watch parties. He creates a collaborative, joyful classroom culture where students work together to find solutions, verbalize their thought processes, and have time to reflect on their learning. Weisman’s approach works: His students’ geometry mastery scores topped 95% for multiple years, and during the pandemic in spring 2020, 83% of his AP Government students passed the AP exam, with 33% earning a 5, the highest score.
Weisman has served as math department chair for several years and meets bimonthly with the school leadership team, where he speaks up for students and advocates for advancing equality and supporting families in need. He created a universal calculator policy, giving all ninth graders a graphing calculator to support them through their high school STEM classes. Weisman successfully advocated for a new testing coordinator position to organize all the state, national and college preparatory exams, writing the job description and sitting on the hiring committee. He is proficient with educational technology, so colleagues leaned on him when school shifted to virtual instruction during the pandemic. On the last day of in-person classes in 2020, Weisman gathered frazzled students and showed them how to use Zoom so they were prepared to learn from home. Committed to sustaining student engagement, he tracked students’ contributions in Zoom chats and used breakout rooms for digital icebreakers. Weisman has led professional development for Franklin colleagues and presented at the Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators conference on using technology for grading, student collaboration and assessment, plus strategies for Zoom classrooms.
Weisman is at the center of Franklin’s community, leading welcoming weeks for new students, announcing at sporting events, and sponsoring the Jewish Culture, Young Musicians, Mock Trial, and Spirit clubs. Determined to give the class of 2020 a proper sendoff, he organized and led a spirited drive-through graduation ceremony that students deemed better than the typical commencement. Weisman is committed to students’ success and well-being: He created a summer enrichment program to help students who struggled with math and ELA during the pandemic, holds after-school ACT prep classes, and launched an open-access food pantry as a discreet way for students in need to get food, clothing and personal hygiene items. During college exams, which Weisman knows students find stressful and daunting, he stands on his desk channeling Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society,” motivating students to believe in themselves. As they leave the room, each one jumps up to high-five a sign above the doorway with a quote from parenting expert Dr. Benjamin Spock: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”
Weisman earned a bachelor’s in history and political science in 2012 from Louisiana State University.
"I teach because I love it. I show up every day because I get excited to see my students, excited to work with them, and excited just..." (read more)
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