Educators finalists for national teaching award

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Three Northeast Mississippi teachers are among five Mississippi educators selected as finalists for a prestigious national award.
Tupelo High School’s Teresa Ware, Saltillo High School’s Jenny Simmons and Oxford Middle School’s Lynn Speegle were all named finalists for the 2011 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
The awards were authorized by Congress in 1983 to recognize teachers for helping students make progress in math and science. Up to two teachers from each state can be chosen.
Finalists are tabbed by a state selection committee and winners by a national committee convened by the National Science Foundation.
“I am very excited for Tupelo High School,” Ware said. “I don’t think I am any better of a science teacher than anyone at the school. I am just excited about what it means for us as a school because it is nice to have representation at the state department.”
Ware and Brookhaven teacher Lucy McKone (Enterprise Attendance Center) were Mississippi’s two science finalists. Simmons, Speegle and Northwest Rankin High’s Jennifer Wilson are the state’s math finalists. Winners will be notified sometime this spring.
They will be invited to Washington for a ceremony with President Barack Obama and will receive $10,000 each from the National Science Foundation.
After being nominated last spring, the educators each filled out an extensive application that included about 20 to 25 pages of typed material and a video of one of their classroom lessons. Their application had to show their mastery of five dimensions of outstanding teaching, as outlined by the application.
Simmons, who teaches algebra 2, advanced algebra and AP calculus, said she was honored to have been nominated by a past winner, Lindy Hopkins, a former teacher at Saltillo.
“Being selected a semifinalist gives me assurance that my classroom practices are judged to be consistent with national and state standards,” Simmons said. “Being nominated by a former PAEMST awardee, Lindy Hopkins, was an honor, and then to be selected as a finalist was a surprise.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com