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Local Teachers Recognized for Outstanding Teaching Innovation

Santa Clarita teacher is rewarded for success in using innovative methods and strategies in classroom.


Did your teacher ever take you to a theme park or use a model of a rollercoaster to teach physics concepts in class, allow you to learn fractions and angles by building a gingerbread house, or measure force and motion on the basketball court?  Highly qualified science and mathematics teachers bring these types of lessons to life for their students.  Three of these remarkable teachers from the Los Angeles area are being rewarded for their success in using innovative methods and strategies in their classrooms.  One of the teachers, Catherine Nichols, is from Santa Clarita’s own Rio Norte Junior High School.
The following Los Angeles-area teachers have been named state finalists for the
2005 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), the nation’s highest honor for K-12 teaching in these fields. 
Catherine Nicholas, a Science teacher at Rio Norte Jr. High School in Santa Clarita.  When asked why she became a teacher, she said, “Even as a young child, teaching was just something I always knew I would do.  I say it is in my blood.  I love teaching science to middle school students because it is the first time, for most of them, that they get to experience doing science and learning about the how and the why life functions as it does.”
Margaret Cagle, a Mathematics teacher at Lawrence Gifted and Highly Gifted Magnet School in Chatsworth.  “I see my role as the person who frames the work, then gets out of the way so the students can engage with the material,” said Cagle.  “It is then my job to eavesdrop and act as interpreter and demystifier, to redirect discussion through probing questions, and to ask why and how.”
Sally Heinz, currently a Mathematics teacher at Hamilton High School in Anza, is a Nevada state finalist. Prior to moving to California, Heinz was a teacher at Advance Technologies Academy in Las Vegas.  “I am a facilitator of knowledge.  I can’t force students to learn; however, I can show them why math is important,” said Heinz when describing her teaching style.  “That age-old question, ‘when am I ever going to use this?’ is so critical to the students.  It is the abstract thinking and reasoning skills that math develops which are most important.”
“The state finalists represent exceptional professional models of what we are looking for in science and mathematics teachers.  They are highly qualified in their fields, deeply knowledgeable about their subjects, and equipped with the methods and strategies that improve teaching and learning in science and mathematics,” said Celeste Pea, Ph.D., Program Director of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education programs at the National Science Foundation.  “They strive to provide opportunities for their students to reach their potential in their respective schools and communities.  Through this recognition, we hope to motivate similar creativity in other teachers, and to attract new recruits to the mathematics and science teaching profession.”
Established by Congress in 1983, and administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation, the Presidential Awards allow for each state to select up to three mathematics and three science teachers as state finalists. 
From this field of state finalists, a maximum of 108 Presidential Awardees are selected representing the 50 states and four U.S. jurisdictions.  Recipients of the 2005 Presidential Awards will be announced during a week of celebration events in March 2006 in Washington, DC.  Nationwide, there are 253 state finalists for the prestigious Presidential Award this year.
The goal of the Presidential Awards is to identify and recognize highly qualified teachers.  As part of the recognition process, Awardees will take part in a weeklong series of networking and professional development activities in Washington, DC.  In addition, each Awardee will also receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation.  For more information about PAEMST, see forms and instructions available at:

Local Teachers Recognized for Outstanding Teaching Innovation

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