For helping students take a calculated, scientific approach to success, Utah math and science teachers Carletta Elich and Thomas Phil Talbot were honored by President Bush Tuesday.
Elich of Logan High School was recognized as Utah's top math teacher in secondary schools, and Talbot of Skyline High School was recognized as the state's top science teacher.They were among 107 teachers nationally to whom Bush gave Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching, which are sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Similar awards for elementary school teachers were given earlier this month.
Elich and Talbot each received an expense-paid trip to Washington for a week of seminars, a $7,500 grant for their school and an assortment of other private company gifts, including computers, calculators, software, books and subscriptions.
"I'm happy for the award, but even happier for the money to spend on equipment at school," Talbot said.
Elich added, "I think this award helps raise awareness about teaching, and gives it some prestige."
Talbot, a biology teacher, said he believes he doesn't teach much differently than any other science teacher in the state. "I do a lot of workshops around the state and am impressed with the quality I see statewide. I just happened to be lucky enough to get the award this time."
He said he tries to help students understand sometimes abstract scientific concepts with real-life examples. "I work at LDS Hospital, and I use real-life examples from patients there to catch their interest."
Elich - who teaches algebra, trigonometry and computer programming - takes a little different approach. "Everyone can be successful with math at some level. I try to help them find that level. When they do, the excitement of math takes over and they have more success."
An example of the two teachers' own success - for which they both give credit to parents, administrators and students - is the growth in the numbers of students taking advanced courses from them.
Talbot said in his 14 years at Skyline, the number of students taking Advanced Placement biology has grown from 14 a year to 120. Elich said the number of students in her advanced trigonometry classes has gone from about 16 in 1975 to 140 or so a year now.
Both teachers also said they hope awards can draw attention to the good job they say teachers in Utah do with often few resources and large class sizes.
Elich added, though, "I think it is important to pay attention to those (low) rankings. They won't get many of us already in teaching to leave, but they may discourage some from entering teaching."