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Monday, June 07, 2010

Department Teachers Receive Presidential Honor

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

June 7, 2010 - WASHINGTON, June 7, 2010 - President Barack Obama today named two Department of Defense Education Activity teachers as recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation's highest honor for math and science teachers.

Timothy Kelly, a math teacher at Baumholder Middle-High School in Germany, and Ray Smola, a physics teacher at Heidelberg High School in Germany, are among the 103 recipients of the award.

Each year, the best pre-college-level math and science teachers from across the nation are selected for the award, a White House release said. The winners are selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators following an initial selection process conducted at the state or activity level.

Mike Kestner, DoDEA's branch chief for mathematics, attributed Kelly's award to his "good rapport" with students and use of technology within the classroom. Kelly and another colleague "turned the advanced math program around," Kestner added, and increased student enrollment in advanced math courses.

Kelly was nominated for the award by Diane Schnellhammer, a former math teacher from Ramstein High School, Germany, and a prior recipient of the same award, he said.

Clarence Bostic, headquarters science coordinator, called Smola an "amazing" teacher, saying he's very deserving of the top honor.

Smola makes physics accessible to students by using a combination of student working groups, laptops, whiteboards, experiments and student-facilitated questions, Bostic said. Smola serves as a guide in the classroom, he added, rather than act as a lecturer from up front.

Through the exchange facilitated by small groups, students are able to absorb information, present it to peers and develop a common understanding, Bostic explained.

"Ray Smola's personality and methodology in concert made something that seemed like a complex concept approachable," he said.

Smola was nominated by Rick Renninger, Heidelberg's assistant principal, Bostic noted.

For their accomplishments, Kelly and Smola each will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion, as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony slated for later this year, the release said. The trip includes several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and science agency leaders.

Since 1983, more than 4,000 teachers have been recognized for their contributions to mathematics and science education, according to the presidential awards website.

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