Pamela Sussman Paternoster
Pamela Sussman Paternoster’s work with the Algebra Project helped teach thousands of disadvantaged students math skills that could open up the possibility of a college education. Sussman Paternoster’s involvement with social justice began when she became the first white teacher assigned to an all-black school in Cleveland during desegregation. In 1982 she moved to Massachusetts and took a job at the King Open School, where she met Bob Moses, an icon in the civil rights movement. Passionate about mathematics, Moses asked teachers to pilot a curriculum he developed which would help middle school students transition from arithmetical to algebraic thinking. Those pilot lessons became the Algebra Project, a program that aims to help disadvantaged and minority students develop math skills that are vital for entering college. As a program manager for the Project in Cambridge, Sussman Paternoster’s work ranged from program design and implementation to community organizing across the country. She and her colleagues have helped the Project reach approximately 10,000 students and 300 teachers across the United States.