BCHS math teacher wins U of Chicago top educator award

teacher working with two students woman sits at table

A longtime math teacher at Bethlehem Central High School has received the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award. Mrs. Durray Mahmood was nominated for the award by her former student, Juliette Thibodeau, who graduated from Bethlehem last June and is currently enrolled at the university. It is the second time Mahmood has won the prestigious award.

In a letter to BC Superintendent Jody Monroe announcing Mahmood’s honor, University of Chicago’s Dean of Admissions James Nondorf said that each year, the school invites entering first-year students to nominate an educator who has “influenced them, challenged them, or helped them along the path toward intellectual growth.”

In nominating Mrs. Mahmood, Thibodeau had this to say:

“I am profoundly grateful for having had the fortune of being one of your students for the past two years,” said Thibodeau. “You have had an enormous impact on my life, not only teaching me math but also instill in me a curiosity and a drive to pursue the challenges that will come my way. You have been so much more than a teacher.

“You have been a mentor, a friend, and a mother. I hope to use the lessons I have learned as I begin the next chapter of my life,” said Thibodeau.

Mahmood has been teaching math — including high-level courses such as Calculus BC, Calculus 3 and Linear Algebra — at the high school for 19 years. 

“It brought tears to my eyes to read Juliette’s words,” said Mahmood. 

“I am very proud of my students’ accomplishments,” she added. “I forget about my worries when I am with my students. There is so much stress everywhere, but when I can help my students, that goes away. It is my goal to help my students learn.”

During her two free periods and after school, students often file into Mahmood’s classroom for extra help or to simply seek out a quiet place to get some work done.

Mike Guyette, a junior in one of Mahmood’s Calculus BC classes who stopped in to study during his own free period, said, “She cares so much about the students and about the class. She goes out of her way to make sure we learn the material.”

When Mahmood was asked what her secret was to helping students achieve success, she said it was a combination of high expectations and teaching them with the future in mind.

“I tell my students, ‘you may not like math now or think it is important, but someday you could change your mind,'” said Mahmood. “This way they are prepared no matter what path they choose.”