Cooperman honored with prestigious Max Sobel Award

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MILLBURN, NJ — The Association of Mathematics Teachers of New Jersey has chosen Neil D. Cooperman as the 2018 recipient of the prestigious Max Sobel Award for Outstanding Service and Leadership in mathematics education. Cooperman is currently a mathematics teacher and department chair at Millburn High School; formerly, Cooperman, a graduate of Columbia High School, taught in South Orange and Maplewood for 28 years.

Max A. Sobel, for whom the award is named, was an internationally renowned scholar who taught at Montclair State University, preparing many mathematics educators to follow in his footsteps. During the course of his 50-year career, Sobel served NCTM as president from 1980 to 1982 and as a member of the board of directors. He contributed to the work of numerous other mathematics organizations, and he wrote or co-authored more than 60 books.

Cooperman graduated from Columbia High School in 1965 and completed his undergraduate degree at Rutgers College in 1969. That fall, he began his teaching career at Barringer High School in Newark. After a brief stint on active duty in the U.S. Army Reserves, he continued his teaching at Millburn Junior High School covering a six-month maternity leave. From 1971 to 1999, Cooperman returned to South Orange-Maplewood and taught in the school system from which he had graduated. After a short sojourn in Mahwah as the mathematics department supervisor, he returned to Millburn in 2002. Cooperman is now in his 17th year at Millburn High School and his ninth year as the department chair. Cooperman earned his master’s degree from Montclair State College in 1980.

Cooperman was encouraged to expand his professional involvement by his wife, Stephanie, another accomplished and recognized mathematics teacher and current president-elect of AMTNJ. The two first met as sophomores in honors geometry at Columbia High School and have been married since 1987. an As an undergraduate at Montclair State College, Stephanie Cooperman was a student assistant for both Sobel and Evan Maletsky, who were the first two recipients of the Max Sobel Award in 1990 and 1991, respectively; both were also recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award from NCTM.

Both Neil and Stephanie Cooperman were members of the team that wrote The New Jersey Mathematics Curriculum Framework, which was subsequently adopted by the New Jersey Department of Education as the first set of standards for the state. Neil Cooperman began his professional activities with AMTNJ and started presenting at the state, regional and national level in the early 1990s. In 1993, he received a National Dodge Award for Authentic Assessment from the Center for Learning, Assessment and School Structure under Grant Wiggins’ oversight. In 1994, he was recognized as New Jersey’s Presidential Awardee in Secondary Mathematics. Subsequently, he was one of the original six authors who wrote the National Board Certification for AYA/Secondary Mathematics for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In 1997, he served as one of three emissaries to Bulgaria on a National Science Foundation Grant to compare geometry curricula.

Neil Cooperman served AMTNJ as the state representative to NCTM from 2002 until 2009 when he was tapped to serve on the Affiliate Services Committee representing NCTM back to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., from 2009 to 2012. In 2010, he stepped onto AMTNJ’s leadership team and served as the 100th president of AMTNJ during 2014, its centennial year. Since 2016, he has resumed his role as the NCTM liaison, and continues to serve AMTNJ as the By-Laws Committee chairman, as co-treasurer and as conference liaison. He is currently coordinating 45 full-day professional mathematics workshops on the Rutgers campus, which are co-sponsored by AMTNJ, the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science, and the Rutgers Department of Mathematics. He also is co-chairman of the annual Rutgers Precalculus Conference.

Back on the home front in Millburn, in addition to teaching advanced placement statistics and serving as the department chair, Neil Cooperman is the Math Club/Team adviser, a role he shares with Rebecca Fiorillo, another Millburn mathematics teacher, and he has been the Key Club adviser for the past 17 years, assisted by special education teacher, Bridgette Nevola. In 2013, Neil Cooperman received the Domenico Gatti Faculty Advisor of the Year Award from the New Jersey District of Key Club.

“A high school education is about learning how to learn, understanding why things work the way they do, and becoming a self-sufficient and respectful citizen and active member of society,” Neil Cooperman said. “Education is only fun and beneficial when one becomes thoroughly engaged in the process.”

Photos Courtesy of Nancy Dries