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During my professional career, I have been rewarded with many honors. I have received wonderful pictures and letters from my incredible students, amazing thank-you letters from parents, and words of encouragement from colleagues. All of those honors have humbled me and encouraged me to work harder to become a better educator. But the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is the highest honor I have ever received in my professional career and the highest honor I can imagine receiving as a science teacher. When I told my students about my trip to Washington DC to receive my award, they were so excited and proud of me. They had more questions than I could answer. Most of my students asked, “Do you think you’ll meet the President?” I told them I hoped so, and if I saw President Obama in person I would ask to shake his hand.
From the grocery store to NASA, science is an integral part of our everyday lives. Whether we realize it or not, science is all around us, and it influences decisions we make every day. A quality science education is imperative for our students to become successful, productive citizens who can make good decisions and compete in the global economy. That is why I believe it is essential that young students have meaningful science experiences in the classroom. Teachers should satisfy their students’ natural curiosity about science and inspire them to learn.
Like my students, I am curious about and fascinated by science. I believe students learn best when they are involved in their learning. I institute a system of hands-on, minds-on. In my classroom, I actively engage my students to facilitate learning. My students work in cooperative learning groups to complete different science activities and experiments. They use the scientific method to hypothesize answers to different scientific problems. Then they conduct experiments and observe closely to discover the empirical answers to those problems. My students must think critically to understand the results of their experiments and draw feasible conclusions from those results. For example, instead of telling my students how electrical circuits work, my students use science equipment and materials to discover different ways they can make an electrical circuit work. Then we have scientific discussions about the implications of their findings. Other ways I assist my students to master different science skills are by observing, classifying, dancing, producing art, researching scientific topics, using different forms of media, and creating models.
The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching demonstrates the United States’ dedication to math and science education. Over the past 25 years, this award has acknowledged outstanding math and science teachers who find creative and innovative ways to motive their students to learn. I am truly honored to be in Washington this week to receive this award and to meet and network with other exceptional math and science educators from around our great nation.
Kendra Pullen is a fourth-grade science teacher at Riverside Elementary School in Shreveport, LA and is being honored this week with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching