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Published May 13, 2011, 09:51 AM

ND has no teachers win presidential awards

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Eighty-five elementary school educators across the country are being honored with the nation's highest award for math and science teaching. For the first time in decades, none is from North Dakota.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Eighty-five elementary school educators across the country are being honored with the nation's highest award for math and science teaching. For the first time in decades, none is from North Dakota.

The state has no recipients of the 2010 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching because none of the dozen or so nominees applied, said Valley City State University associate science professor Donald Hoff, the state coordinator for the presidential awards program.

"I got a number of people who responded they were too busy, some who just didn't do it," said Hoff, who won the award in 1986 as a high school science teacher in Velva. "It's a very demanding application process. It requires a commitment of time."

An online application packet posted on the presidential awards website is 16 pages long. It details numerous requirements, ranging from filling out various forms to compiling letters of recommendation to videotaping a classroom lesson.

"I think the standards are very high," National Science Foundation spokeswoman Maria Zacharias said Thursday. The award winners are selected by a panel of scientists, mathematicians and educators and ultimately announced by the nation's president, who welcomes the teachers to a White House ceremony.

Winners also receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation to do with as they choose. North Dakota is the only state that did not have at least one winner this year.

Zacharias said officials "certainly get feedback that there's a lot" to the application process and have taken steps to help teachers, including introducing webinars.

Hoff said he had not personally viewed the webinars but thinks they could be a useful tool for teachers with the required time.

Both Zacharias and Hoff said they believe the fact that North Dakota had no winners this year is an anomaly. Hoff said that with the exception of this year, North Dakota has had at least one winner every year since the awards began in the mid-1980s.

"I think we've represented ourselves fairly well over the years," he said.

Primary and secondary teachers are honored in alternating years. Zacharias said it is not unprecedented for a state to have no winners one year, especially in a year such as this when primary teachers are honored.

"In elementary school there are teachers who don't necessarily identify themselves as specialists" in a certain teaching area such as math or science, she said.

Zacharias also said that since anyone can nominate a teacher, including the teacher, there is no rush for an educator strapped for time to complete the application process immediately.

"We do have people who don't follow through one year but come back the next," she said.

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