Pennsylvania Teacher Guides Formerly Struggling Student All The Way to Princeton

Receives $5,000 award and story by award-winning journalist

WASHINGTON, DC - December 1, 2018

Alyssa Cotton, a math and computer science teacher at Trinity Area High School in Washington, Pennsylvania, has been given the prestigious national Honored teaching award for November.  As part of her honor, Cotton received a $5,000 cash award and a $1,000 gift card, and was profiled by journalist Bianca Bosker, a New York Times best-selling author and Contributing Editor at The Atlantic.

The student who nominated Cotton, Zach Dinch, entered his junior year at Trinity Area High School dreading math.  He’d once dreamed of being an astronaut, or working for a tech company; but ever since he had foundered in a basic algebra class, math seemed increasingly obtuse.  Zach’s confidence was at an all-time low when he enrolled in Cotton’s AP Calculus AB class. “I thought I didn’t really belong in her class. I was in over my head chasing these subjects,” Zach recalled.

Alyssa Cotton, however, was determined that Zach, like all her students, would succeed.  Cotton, a 10-year teaching veteran, teaches math and computer science at Trinity. Cotton is known among students, teachers, and administrators alike for her tireless dedication to her students: “I always tell my students, if you are willing to work, I will be right there with you,” she says.

Cotton spends her own money purchasing computer programs and test prep books for her students, and she posts videos to YouTube of each day’s lessons so students can review thorny subjects on their own. Besides opening up her lunch and prep periods to tutor students, she is in her classroom by 6AM daily and stays to offer one-on-one coaching.  Cotton lives and teaches by the mantra she often tells her students: “Hard work beats ability when ability doesn’t work.”

For Zach, Cotton’s support helped him exceed his wildest goals in math.  Now a freshman at Princeton University studying math, Zach says he feels “a responsibility to pay it forward,” and since arriving on campus, he’s been training to become a counselor to low-income high school students, and to handle calls at a local emotional support hotline. As he says, “Hopefully I can be the difference in someone else’s life the way Ms. Cotton was the difference in mine.”

Read the full story of Alyssa Cotton and Zach Dinch here.

About Honored

Honored is a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping great teachers in the classroom and to inspiring a new generation of talent to pursue teaching. Each month, Honored shines a spotlight on a teacher who has changed the life of a single student. The Honoree receives a $5,000 cash award, and Honored partners with a world-class writer to tell their story. Honorees are selected from K-12 teachers of all subjects at public, private and charter schools across the country. Honored’s National Advisory Board includes luminaries such as the internationally best-selling author Michael Lewis, founder Charles Best, Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp, and FEED cofounder Lauren Bush Lauren.

For more information about Honored, visit For regular updates on Honored and our monthly Honorees, follow and like us on, and

Honored Press Contact

Karen Sonneborn