White House announces selection of DoDEA Pacific teacher for prestigious national honor
By Lawrence Torres
OKINAWA, Japan — Marilyn Hawks, a 3rd grade science teacher at Bechtel Elementary School in Okinawa, Japan, was selected as the 2012 DoDEA K-6 awardee of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).
Hawks was among 102 mathematics and science teachers named by President Obama on Dec. 20, 2013 for the prestigious PAEMST award which represents the highest national honor given to teachers of mathematics and science in the U.S. Each teacher was competitively selected by committees composed of prominent mathematicians, scientists, mathematics/science educators, district-level personnel, and classroom teachers.
Hawks said the PAEMST program process helped refine her teaching skills, which was a benefit for her students.
“I firmly believe that encouraging children to wonder and ask questions about their environment leads to a lifelong curiosity and interest in science,” said Hawks, who has been teaching for 36 years. “My classroom is filled with living critters, rocks, magnets, microscopes, and all things science. We are constantly asking questions and exploring the world around us.”
Sheila Reed, also a 3rd grade teacher at Bechtel ES, said her daughter Erin Walden never wanted to miss a day of school in 3rd grade because she knew there would always be something interesting and exciting to learn each day with Hawks.
“Mrs. Hawks’ habitat of hermit crabs, fish, frogs, turtles, a parakeet and silk worms is the class that students and their parents hope to be placed in,” Reed said. “This type of environment, of course, provides stimulating learning opportunities, investigations, and the chance for students to practice the responsibilities of caring for pets.”
Reed said Hawks offered formal workshops in the district, gave countless hours of her own time to organize school-wide science fairs, set up various habitats for other classrooms and designed science centers for grade-level exploration days.
Walden said there are lots of reasons that kids who were in Hawks’ class love science, but “one of those very important reasons is ‘Mrs. Hawks taught them.’”
“Mrs. Hawks didn’t teach out of the book as much as other teachers did,” Walden said. “We learned by asking questions and then doing tests or experiments to find the answer. What I have discovered is that Mrs. Hawks is a spectacular scientist!”
Reed and Walden’s comments were included in Hawks’ three letters of recommendation for the PAEMST submission. She also had to submit a resume and a video component consisting of a videotaped classroom lesson corresponding to the topic or concept chosen and discussed in the Dimensions of Outstanding Teaching written response.
Hawk’s 15-page response included her implementation of adaptive behavior studies which she observed during her visit to the Serengeti Plain in 2010, working together in small group settings in separate and distinct working stations, and the wearing of lab coats and its positive effects on each student which “demands focus and the application of scientifically-based behaviors learned and revisited throughout the year.”
“I was raised on a farm in Washington state … living on a farm in the first place really helped me,” said Hawks, a Quincy, Wash. native. “These students want to know what is going on in the world. I want to help them find answers.”
“I love it when kids come back to see me years later and say science is still their favorite subject,” said Hawks. “I just had a prior student who is in the Air Force Academy visit and tell me he still loves science.”
The Director of NSF sent Hawks’ recommendation to the Director of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy where final selections were made. This year’s winners and letter can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=129978&org=NSF&from=news
Hawks will receive her award at a Washington, D.C., event in the coming year.
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are the nation's highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science (including computer science). Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.
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