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Blaney teacher named state finalist for presidential math/science award

Posted: August 31, 2010 3:03 p.m.
Updated: September 1, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Blaney Elementary School (BES) science lab teacher Tonya Jackson isn’t one to brag.

When Jackson found out that she was one of only six teachers selected as a state finalist for the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, she didn’t say a word to anyone.

“Well, I found out in June that I was selected as one in seven (state) finalists for the award. Then I found out that I was one of the top three (science teachers) during the first week of school ... but I kept my mouth shut because I’ve never been the kind of person who brags,” Jackson said, laughing. “But I was absolutely thrilled when I found out. Then I immediately started looking up the other teachers who were finalists.”

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is the nation’s highest honor for teachers of math and science. This year’s award is given to teachers in kindergarten through the sixth grade.
Each year, a local selection committee picks up to three math teachers and three science teachers for recognition on the state level. The national panel comprised of distinguished mathematicians, scientists and educators then recommends up to 108 finalists to receive the award, which includes one math and one science teacher from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. territories and schools operated by the Department of Defense Education Agency.

Jackson, who was nominated for the award, has been a BES science lab teacher for the past three years and has taught at the school for a total of 10 years.

“When I found out, I was overwhelmed by the fact that a Kershaw County teacher was considered for such a prestigious award. Tonya is a really talented teacher, and I think this speaks to the high quality of teachers that we have in Kershaw County. This is a big deal,” said Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan. “Regardless of what happens from here, this is a tremendous accomplishment for Tonya.”

But as she stood in her science lab classroom, which she also calls “The Science Network,” Jackson said the magnitude of her accomplishment still hasn’t sunk in.

“It hasn’t hit me yet, but I’m sure it will hit me. We have to give a presentation at the big science conference, and that’s when I will get nervous,” she said, smiling. “Put me in front of kids and I’m completely comfortable and I love every minute of it. But when you put me in front of a room full of adults, then I’ll get a little nervous.”

If Jackson is selected for the honor, she will receive a $10,000 award, a presidential citation and a trip to Washington, D.C., for a series of recognition events, information exchange programs and an awards ceremony.

“If I am selected as the top science teacher from the state, I would be thrilled. These kids are the reason why I do this,” she said, gesturing to the busy students in her science lab. “I didn’t have a chance to do true science until I reached high school, and it’s so great that I’m able to bring that to elementary school students. I really love what I do.”

The finalists are currently being judged by representatives from the National Science Teachers Association.

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