A billionaire math genius uses his own money to give hundreds of teachers a $15,000-a-year raise.

Jim Simons might be the richest man you've never heard of.

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.


Dubbed the world's smartest billionaire by the Financial Times, Simons made obscene amounts of money, in large part, by being better at math than pretty much everyone else.

Photo by Gert-Martin Greuel/Oberwolfach Photo Collection.

In the early 1980s, Simons started a hedge fund. But instead of hiring the usual finance experts...

Pictured here: Business. Photo via iStock.

...he decided to work with mathematicians and scientists to build algorithms to model the behavior of markets to determine the best investment strategy.

Pictured here: Science. Photo via iStock.

His plan totally worked.

As of September 2015, Simons was the 76th wealthiest person in the world, and his former company was worth over $22 billion.

Searching stock photo sites for "raining money" yields a surprising amount of results. Photo via iStock.

So yeah, dude knows a thing or two about the importance of math and science.

But even more importantly, dude knows a thing or two about the importance of people who teach math and science.

Since 2003, Simons has been using a portion of his vast fortune to do something unusual: increase the salaries of New York City math and science teachers the tune of $15,000/year. Each.

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His organization, Math for America, currently pays around 1000 standout New York City public school STEM teachers the annual stipend. Just because they're awesome.

"Instead of beating up the bad teachers, which has created morale problems all through the educational community, in particular in math and science, we focus on celebrating the good ones," Simons said in a recent TED interview.

Teachers in New York City are invited to apply annually for the fellowship.

The organization doesn't look at test scores. Instead, it tries to find educators who have strong backgrounds in their content area, excellent teaching skills, and empathy for students. Those admitted receive the $15,000 stipend each year for four years and are invited to re-apply at the end of the fellowship.

Publicly dissing teachers has become kind of fashionable, especially in politics.

Calls to weed out bad-apple teachers, break up teachers unions, and determine pay based on test outcomes have grown loud in recent years. Between 2000 and 2013, the average teacher salary actually declined, when adjusted for inflation.

"It's hard right now to be really excited to be a teacher nationally," Megan Roberts, executive director of Math for America, told Upworthy. "We really think that, especially in STEM, our role is that we really want to value excellence in teaching and we want to do everything we can to keep teachers in the classroom."

Simons and his staff know that teaching is a important, complicated, and difficult profession — and that part of attracting the best people is making them feel valued.

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That means not only paying them more, but giving them opportunities for continued skill development and a strong professional network.

"I hear people say all the time, 'Oh, he's just a teacher.' Or, 'I'm teaching now, until I do something else,'" Roberts said. "So nationally, the conversation across the country has always been that it's either a field where people go to if they can't do something else, or it's something they do as a pathway to something else."

"Teaching is enough. It's more than enough."

Math for America hopes that Simons' generosity can serve as a national example.

Despite having extensive resources, one man can only do so much. In order to improve the state of America's classrooms, Math for America works to make changing the conversation around teaching a priority nationwide.

"A huge number of our teachers say that they only stay in the classroom because of Math for America," Roberts said.

In the meantime, cheers to Jim Simons for demonstrating what respect for teachers, and the hard work they do, looks like.

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.

"When someone like Jim Simons puts his energy behind a really important initiative on education, it's just profound," Roberts said.

Somewhere in New York City, a few thousand public school teenagers are rolling their eyes.

But secretly, I'm sure they couldn't agree more.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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