Math teacher Erin Fitzgerald-Haddad has high aspirations for her students at the San Fernando Institute for Applied Media.

Teacher and Substitute Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-13, and LAUSD Daily is celebrating the classroom heroes who work every day to educate, lead, mentor and inspire the students of L.A. Unified. Each day this week, we will profile a teacher or substitute teacher selected by their Local District administrators as an example of the highly skilled and dedicated professionals who make up our teaching corps. Today, we feature Erin Fitzgerald-Haddad, a math teacher and co-founder of the San Fernando Institute for Applied Media (SFiAM) in Local District Northeast.

When teacher Erin Fitzgerald-Haddad tells her students, “Dream big – then take your dreams seriously,” it’s advice that she herself takes to heart.

Envisioning a campus with a technology-infused curriculum, Fitzgerald-Haddad co-founded the San Fernando Institute for Applied Media (SFiAM), a pilot school where students in Grades 6-8 learn to apply 21st century skills to real-world challenges.

Believing she can inspire the next generation of decision-makers, the math teacher also sponsors SFiAM’s leadership class, engaging students in activities that benefit their school and the San Fernando community.

And, hoping to motivate students and engage families about the opportunities that await them, Fitzgerald-Haddad organizes events like a Math Night for parents, “adopts” a student each year to mentor and helps youngsters from neighboring elementary schools make the transition to the rigors of middle school.

SFiAM fulfills Erin Fitzgerald-Haddad’s vision for a school with a technology-infused curriculum.

“There isn’t a single thing Ms. Fitzgerald wouldn’t do for the students and staff,” said SFiAM Principal Pearl Arredondo. “Her passion and dedication to this community are astounding. She pours so much of her heart and personal funds into making her classroom, and our school, feel welcoming to our students and families.

“She also never takes the credit for the successes,” Arredondo said. “Instead, she highlights the work of others and their contributions – just as a true leader would.”

Fitzgerald-Haddad hosts her own website where students and families can get information and advice. In her classes, she utilizes College Preparatory Math, a program in which students work in teams as they tackle real-world problems problems. By discovering solutions together – and, yes, struggling a little in the process – students learn resiliency and better retain the knowledge, Fitzgerald-Hadad said.

“I want them to be able to compete with everyone else out there and obtain whatever their dreams hold,” said Fitzgerald-Haddad, who previously taught math at San Fernando Middle School. “There is no such thing as failure. It’s just, you need to try it again.”

SFiAM is located in the heart of a low-income community, and Fitzgerald-Haddad realizes that many of them will need an extra boost to get out of poverty. That’s why she opens her classroom for informal after-school tutoring and also organizes field trips to destinations that youngsters might not otherwise experience.

Local District Northeast Superintendent Linda Del Cueto said Fitzgerald-Haddad’s students are empowered by her aspirations for them.

“She challenges them to look beyond the confines of a classroom and toward a world of amazing possibility,” Del Cueto said.