Honoring Three Gifted Education Rock Stars

October 10, 2017

by Abby Daniels, Director of Development & Communications

On Friday, November 17th, the Institute for Educational Advancement (IEA) will honor three tremendous individuals who have worked to address the needs of gifted education in our community. Here’s a little bit more about them.

Raising the Bar for Gifted Students: Jason and Sandy Roberts

Jason and Sandy Roberts, recipients of this year’s Community Advocate Award from IEA, have worked diligently to ensure that the needs of highly able learners are met in Pasadena Unified schools. Initially coaching elementary and middle school students in mathematics, Jason and Sandy launched Math Academy to provide mathematically gifted middle school and high school students with the skills and insight needed to excel in honors math and science programs at the most elite universities in the world.

Math Academy partners with Pasadena Unified School District in reaching students starting in the 6th grade, and offering them sequenced mathematics coursework that culminates in completing Calculus in the 8th grade. But while the Roberts remain dedicated to serving students in Pasadena, they envision being able to expand Math Academy to other districts. “Our belief is that once enough parents become aware of what’s being achieved at a struggling, under-resourced district, they’ll have no choice but to pressure their respective school boards to follow suit, which will mark the beginning of a sea change in mathematics education across America,” Jason told Pasadena Now this past summer.

And enabling large-scale change is nothing new to the Roberts family. Jason designed and developed much of Uber’s original real-time and global “air traffic control” technologies. With a mathematics degree from the University of Chicago, Jason has also launched technology startups and built high-frequency trading systems. Sandy is no stranger to effecting change, either. With a degree in economics from University of Chicago, she also shares her love of math by teaching at the Math Academy and raising funds to support the new organization. Sandy has spent the last ten years on nonprofit boards, holding leadership positions with the Junior League of Pasadena, Young & Healthy and the Pasadena Educational Foundation.

Parents to three children, the oldest of whom is a student in Math Academy, Jason and Sandy exemplify the values that IEA holds dear, namely helping every child reach their potential and providing them with the skills and tools to flourish intellectually, creatively, socially and emotionally.


Photo courtesy of Sandy and Jason Roberts

Inspiring Joy in Gifted Youth for Science and Math:  Tony Travouillon

Physics. Electrical Circuitry. Astronomy. These are not typical topics covered in elementary and middle school. But thanks to Tony Travouillon, Ph.D., our fortunate IEA student community gets to explore the universe and learn how to build electrical circuits through our Academy program. Beloved by IEA students and parents, Tony will receive this year’s Educator Award at our Awards Dinner & Celebration next month.

Since 2011, Tony has been delighting gifted young minds through his IEA Academy classes, held in the Pasadena area. According to one parent of a student in Tony’s Astronomy class, “Mr. Tony inspired my child with his passion and knowledge of science and made learning fun.”

An astrophysicist, he is a System Scientist at Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory, where he conducts experimental research on atmospheric turbulence and its repercussions for astronomy, image degradation, adaptive optics and interferometry. Since receiving his Ph.D. in astrophysics and undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy at the University of New South Wales, Tony has remained devoted to sharing his knowledge and experience with others. In addition to teaching at IEA, he holds a Visiting Associate position at Caltech and is an Adjunct Professor at College of the Canyons.

Tony’s passion for teaching is evident in the classroom, and on the inquiring, curious faces in his classes. “In IEA I found the perfect place to teach the way I want to teach,” said Tony. “I can take full advantage of the small classes to really cater for each individual, adapting to the need of every student and offer an experience that is tailored to my audience.”


Photo credit: Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News/News/SCNG

Join the Celebration!

Join us on November 17th at our Awards Dinner & Celebration, to be held at The University Club of Pasadena, and show your support of these and other exceptional advocates for gifted education.

To sponsor and/or purchase tickets or a program ad, click here.

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