Middle school teacher gets national award | RecordCourier.com
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Middle school teacher gets national award

by Joyce Hollister

Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School teacher Jeff Johnston hopes a national award he earned for teaching science and math will benefit the entire school.

Johnston is the Nevada 2000 Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching at the secondary level.

The award includes an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where the honored teachers will receive a citation signed by President George W. Bush, attend seminars and engage in professional discussions with other teachers and with national legislators and policymakers.

Johnston said Monday he hopes the $7,500 award will be used to beef up science and math programs at PWLMS.

“It’s going to be a group decision. The whole process started with Charlie Condron nominating me about a year and a half ago. All of us, we’re always looking for ways to obtain supplemental funding. I always looked on this award as a grant for our site and department,” he said.

Johnston, along with Gaye Tyndall of Douglas High School and Lynn Egan of Jacks Valley Elementary School, were chosen as state-level winners in June 2000. With that honor came $750, which Johnston used for a computer and a science conference.

“The whole purpose of an award like this is to rejuvenate math and science teachers,” Johnson said. “It’s a bit of a pat on the back, and it’s nice. It represents a bit of supplemental funding that is controlled strictly at the site, and we have five years to spend it. I keep saying ‘we’ on purpose because it would be out of line for me to say, ‘This is how we will spend it.'”

Johnston said because the teachers have five years to spend the money, they will look for other grants to add to the funds, to get “more bang for their buck.”

“We need to sit down – the math and science teachers – and see what we can do,” he said.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching program was established in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan and Congress and is administered by the National Science Foundation for the White House.

Nominees must complete what Johnston calls a “an intimidating” application packet.

“That’s often the reason really good teachers don’t ever try for it. It’s incredibly time-consuming to fill out,” he said, adding, “I’m honored to get it. It’s something I really did want. Anyone who fills out this application, when you’re done with it, you cross your fingers and hope for the best.

“I can think of several math and science teachers in Douglas who certainly would be of the caliber that could absolutely win at the state level and probably win at the national level.”

Johnston and his wife Donna will leave Monday for their five-day trip to Washington.

“What makes it extra nice, she is a special education teacher at GES (Gardnerville Elementary School),” he said Monday. “A lot of the events she will go to will be a bit of professional development for her. It’s a very full itinerary.”