High School Chemistry Teachers Shine | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: July 2, 2012

High School Chemistry Teachers Shine

Honors: Presidential award winners for math and science teaching include four members of the American Chemical Society
Department: ACS News
Keywords: education, high school teachers, awards
Pleninger (from left), Pezzi, Grunden, and Martínez.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
Carol Pleninger (from left), Kara Pezzi, Eric Grunden, Judith Martínez
Pleninger (from left), Pezzi, Grunden, and Martínez.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

Four ACS members were among the 97 math and science teachers honored last week with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics & Science Teaching, presented annually to outstanding K–12 science and mathematics teachers from across the U.S.

The ACS member recipients are Eric Grunden, a chemistry teacher at Raleigh Charter High School, in North Carolina; Judith Martínez, a chemistry teacher at Colegio Católico Notre Dame High School, in Caguas, Puerto Rico; Kara Pezzi, a chemistry teacher at Appleton East High School, in Wisconsin; and Carol Pleninger, a chemistry teacher at Havre High School, in Montana.

“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,” President Barack Obama said in an award announcement.

The teachers were honored during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 28. Each winner receives $10,000 from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion.

Receiving this award “is a validation that what you’re doing does make a difference,” Pleninger says. “Our world is changing so quickly, and so drastically, and as educators, we have a humongous challenge ahead of us to keep up with that change if we’re going to prepare our students for the world they’re facing.”

Martínez agrees. “For us to be competitive in the future, we have to stay up with the science and the math, those two areas are essential for developing the kind of society that we would like to have in the future, and science is the answer to most of our problems,” she says.

“I want to change the whole paradigm that chemistry is hard because it’s what life is built on, and people just have to be aware that everybody needs to be scientifically literate; they have to make decisions in their lives, and having that science background will make sure these kids can make those decisions,” Pezzi says.

“One of the most important things that I can do as a teacher is to enable STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] opportunities for students, to convince them that to be a scientist you don’t have to have a specially folded brain,” Grunden says. “It’s something that anybody can achieve, and it’s just a matter of having a good teacher.”

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