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L-EHS science teacher to be honored in Washington

Posted: June 14, 2012 4:58 p.m.
Updated: June 15, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) science teacher Holly Sullivan will be honored with the 2011 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) from July 27-29  in Washington, D.C.  

Sullivan, along with 96 other teachers from across the county, will each receive a $10,000 award, to be used at their discretion; a certificate signed by the president; and a trip for two to participate in various educational and celebratory events later this month.

Awardees will get to meet with National Science Foundation (NSF) staff members and are scheduled to meet with the Obama Administration and various policy makers at the Willard Hotel. As of Thursday, a “possible” meeting with members of Congress on Capitol Hill, tour of the White House and picture with President Barack Obama have not been confirmed, according to a staff member from the PAEMST recognition committee. The awards ceremony will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Sullivan submitted her application to the NSF in May 2011. She had a friend who works in the Sumter County School District who previously won the award and encouraged Sullivan to apply. Sullivan submitted 45 minutes of unedited video addressing organic chemistry; a 15-page analysis of the lesson and her influence in education within her school, the state of South Carolina and the U.S.; and six pages of supplemental materials. One of Sullivan’s former students, the L-EHS science department and a Kershaw County School District (KCSD) administrator wrote letters acknowledging her contributions to science and her students.

Last June, Sullivan was selected as one of three science-nominees from South Carolina. In November, three nominees were recognized at the South Carolina Science Council Conference as a finalist. Sullivan said she has known for several weeks that she won the award, but wasn’t able to tell anyone but her family.

“I love my kids more than I love my content,” she said. “I meet them where they are.”

The “connection” she has with her students helps Sullivan understand how to reach students better she said. Her students are willing to learn and she “loves to light the fire of learning and knowledge, she said.

Sullivan has taught advanced placement and honors chemistry, as well has honors physics at L-EHS for 10 years. She was the KCSD Teacher of the Year in 2007 and has been a KCSD induction teacher for two years. Sullivan has served on the executive board of the South Carolina Science Council and has previously helped organize the annual state science teacher conference. She holds a B.S. in chemistry from North Carolina State University, an M.B.A. from East Carolina University, and an Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University. She is National Board Certified in adolescent/young adult science. She is a certified chemistry and physics teacher.

In a White House press release, President Obama said, “America’s success in the 21st century depends on our ability to educate our children, give our workers the skills they need, and embrace technological change. That starts with the men and women in front of our classrooms. These teachers are the best of the best, and they stand as excellent examples of the kind of leadership we need in order to train the next generation of innovators and help this country get ahead.”

The PAEMST award is given annually to K-12 science and math teachers, chosen by distinguished professionals and educators in the science and mathematics fields. Each year, the program alternates between awarding kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers and seventh- through 12th-grade teachers. The award was established by congress in 1983. Teachers can be nominated and/or apply directly. Applications are reviewed at the state and national level, according to the PAEMST website.

Sullivan said the award is an opportunity to reflect on what’s best for the children. She hopes to encourage other KCSD teachers to “step out and do more” to improve their instruction techniques.

“I like to make my school and my district look good, but I really did this for my students,” she said.

Matthew Owens, a math teacher at Spring Valley in Columbia, is the other award winner from South Carolina.

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