Phila. teacher Sherif one of 16 named Teaching Ambassador Fellows

Gamal Sherif is spending the summer learning about educational policy through meetings in Washington.
Gamal Sherif is spending the summer learning about educational policy through meetings in Washington. (U.S. Department of Education)
Posted: August 02, 2011

Gamal Sherif is spending part of his summer break in Washington.

The purpose of the Philadelphia teacher's trip is not sightseeing, though. It's sitting in meetings with leaders of the U.S. Department of Education, learning about how policies are made and shaping them at the highest level.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced Monday the selection of Sherif and 15 others as Teaching Ambassador Fellows. Sherif will remain in the classroom and participate in the program part-time.

"I am committed to listening to teachers' voices as we work to develop policies that will support reform and strengthen the teaching profession," Duncan said in a statement. "I look forward to working closely with this year's Teaching Ambassadors, particularly as we work to fix the No Child Left Behind act."

Sherif, 46, is a history and biochemistry teacher at Science Leadership Academy (SLA), a Center City magnet high school that emphasizes project-based learning. He was recently given the Award for Excellence in Inquiry-Based Science Teaching from the National Science Teachers Association, and has consulted on curriculum and professional development issues across the country.

Sherif, who helped design SLA's curriculum, began his second stint in the district in 2006. He has also taught at Episcopal Academy and served as a regional curriculum director for Mosaica Education Inc., for which he opened a charter school.

He said Monday that this honor is "really exciting."

"It's part of getting teachers' voices elevated," Sherif said. "Teachers need to be involved in policy formation and reflection."

Policy formation will be particularly crucial this year, as Congress could reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. That legislation, commonly known as No Child Left Behind, is the main federal law governing public education and has been criticized as relying too heavily on standardized tests.

The Philadelphia School District has agreed to give Sherif up to 10 days of unpaid personal time for the fellowship.

SLA principal Chris Lehmann hailed Sherif as "an outstanding teacher and an outstanding thinker" who has much to contribute to discussions about public education.

"It's a great thing for Philadelphia to see that one of their teachers is an important part of the national debate," Lehmann said. "I think that's an incredible victory for the School District."

Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146,, or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at

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