Going the extra mile to make math and science interesting for elementary school students took two Utah teachers all the way to the White House Tuesday.
President Bush honored Gayle C. Cloke of Joseph Cook Elementary in Syracuse as the state's top elementary math teacher and Peggy Searle Crandall of Cherry Hill Elementary in Orem as the state's top elementary science teacher.Bush spoke to them and the 106 other winners of Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching in the Rose Garden after other administration officials gave them their certificates.
Cloke and Crandall were given an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, where they will participate in a variety of seminars. They also received a $7,500 National Science Foundation grant to spend at their schools, and a variety of books, films and computer equipment from private companies.
"Teaching is hard work, and it's great to receive recognition like this. They stressed to us that we are not here because we are the best, but that we are representing all the teachers in the state," Crandall said.
Cloke added, "I'm grateful to have this recognition, and bring attention to needs we have in the state."
Both Cloke and Crandall submitted sample lesson plans to the contest that showed creativity to catch students' attention with edible - and inexpensive - props.
For example, Cloke's lesson calls for students to use cereal to make graphs and learn to classify and order groups. Crandall's lesson also used cereal and other edible props from noodles to marshmallows for students to try to pick up with props ranging from spoons to clothespins to demonstrate how different bird beaks work.
"Hands-on learning helps children take something that interests them to learn about something less familiar," Cloke said.
Crandall added, "It helps them work through problems themselves. Discovery is the big thrill. . .. We teach them that wondering is as good as knowing, and that a lot of science comes from just asking questions."
But Cloke said, "It's tough to teach math and science with just cereal. I'm glad programs like this focus on the needs we have for other scientific equipment and resources." Or, as Crandall added, the need also for smaller class sizes to give more individual attention.
Cloke and Crandall also noted they have found in recent years that more young girls are interested in careers in math and science - which both said they also encourage strongly.
"When I started teaching 18 years ago, stereotypes would not allow that as much. But it's changed," Cloke said.