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Vol. 45, No. 75

Sept. 2, 2011

Six State-Level Finalists Named for Presidential Teaching Award

Honor recognizes outstanding math and science teachers nationwide

Six Missouri educators have been selected as state-level finalists for the 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

The three finalists in the mathematics category are: Charlene Atkins, a teacher at Kingsville High School; Jennifer Baker, a teacher at Hazelwood West High School; and Melissa Livengood, a teacher at Odessa High School.

The three finalists in the science category are: Gina Johnson, a teacher at Raymore-Peculiar East Middle School; Christy Straatmann, a teacher at Valley Park Middle School; and Robert Becker, a teacher at Kirkwood High School.  (Becker was Missouri’s Teacher of the Year for 2010-11).

“We are extremely proud of Missouri’s finalists for this prestigious award,” said Karla Eslinger, assistant commissioner for the Office of Educator Quality at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  “Math and science teachers are crucial to our ability to prepare our students for the high-skill, high-wage jobs in Missouri.  Our finalists exemplify how engaging students in science and math can make these topics fun and exciting.”

A national selection committee of prominent mathematicians, scientists, educators and past awardees will review the state finalists’ applications and will recommend up to one finalist in each category from each state or jurisdiction.  President Obama is authorized to bestow up to 108 awards; the recipients will be announced at a later date.

Winners of the presidential award will receive $10,000 to be used at their discretion from the National Science Foundation. They will also receive a trip to Washington, D.C., for the awards ceremony and several days of educational events. 

Awardees have been shown to devote more time to professional development, use innovative approaches in their classroom teaching, and be more likely to use computers and other types of technology in their classrooms.  Missouri’s 2010 winner was Elizabeth O’Day, a science teacher at Hallsville Intermediate School.  She met with the president and received her award earlier this year.

The presidential award alternates each year between mathematics and science teachers in grades K-6 and those teaching grades 7-12.  Nominations for 2012 will be for K-6 teachers and will open this fall.  Teachers may be nominated by other educators, students, parents or members of the community.