Top Maine science, math teachers honored

Maine's four finalists for the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching: Karen Jagolinzer, Elizabeth Vickery, Sally Plourde and Lauree Gott.
Maine’s four finalists for the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching: (from left) Karen Jagolinzer, Elizabeth Vickery, Sally Plourde and Lauree Gott.
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AUGUSTA – Today, the LePage Administration honored three science teachers and one math teacher from Maine as finalists for the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen recognized the educators at the Maine Science Teachers Association conference in Gardiner, which focused on rigorous new science standards.

The National Science Foundation, which is known for its rigorous selection process, will select up to one mathematics and one science winner per state to be recognized next spring in Washington, D.C.

The four Maine teachers are Lauree Gott, a science teacher at Veazie Community School in Veazie; Sally Plourde, a second grade teacher at Prides Corner School in Westbrook; Elizabeth Vickery, a kindergarten teacher at Cushing Community School in Cushing; and Karen Jagolinzer, a fifth grade teacher at Frank H. Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth.

“Thank you for what you do for our students, and for your colleagues,” Bowen said. “We like to talk a lot at the Maine DOE about sharing best practices. You are living, breathing, walking best practice machines. It is evident that you do and will continue to share your practices and your example with teachers across Maine.”

Notable conference attendees included keynote speaker Yvonne M. Spicer, Ed.D, of the Museum of Science in Boston, who discussed STEM awareness, standards and opportunities to inspire 21st-century students; and Stephen Pruitt, vice president for content, research and development at Achieve, who shared information about the development of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Science educators in attendance participated in four breakout sessions, ranging in topic from the ethical issues of genetics to using iPads for engineering to understanding LEGO robotics.

Maine is a lead state in the effort to develop and implement new, more rigorous and relevant science standards. These standards define the science content and concepts that students need to learn in order to be successful in the workforce, economy and society of the coming decades.

The award winners were selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators following an initial selection process carried out at the state level. Each year, the award alternates between elementary and secondary education, going either to science and math teachers in grades 7 through 12 or to those teaching in grades K through 6 (as it did for the current finalists).

Winners of the Presidential Teaching Award receive $10,000 awards from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion. They also receive an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for a White House awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and science agency leaders.

“These teachers are four great examples of the caliber of teaching that will both prepare and inspire Maine students to follow careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics [STEM],” said Anita Bernhardt, science and technology specialist at the Maine DOE. “We are fortunate to have them in our schools.”

Finalists will be honored at a Presidential Awards Recognition Dinner at Maple Hill Farm in Hallowell in November.

Detail on finalists

Gott, who teaches science in grades 5-8 at the Veazie Community School, has been teaching for 19 years and was nominated for Maine Teacher of the Year in 2002.

In 2008, Gott coauthored an article that ran in Maine Policy Review, issue 17, titled “A Revolutionary Model to Improve Science Education, Teachers, and Scientists.”

In addition to her responsibilities to her middle school-aged students, Gott teaches science methods courses at Husson College and participates in the University of Maine National Science Foundation Physical Science Partnership Grant and the Vital Signs Project with the Gulf of Maine Research Center. In 2010, The Honeywell Educators Space Academy named Gott a recipient of the “Right Stuff” award.

One former student described Ms. Gott as “amazing. She didn’t make science interesting just for those of us who loved it–she helped everyone love science.”

Second grade teacher Plourde, of Prides Corner School, has been teaching for 26 years and is nationally board certified. In the past, she has mentored student teachers from the University of Southern Maine and the University of New England. Plourde has been recognized for her outstanding work many times; she was inducted into the Unum Teachers’ Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the Catherine Sullivan Professional Service Award.

“Sally’s lessons are motivating and creative, often using our natural environment for hands-on experiences,” said Pamela Ridley, Plourde’s colleague at Prides Corner School. “Sally created (along with parent and student volunteers) a nature trail behind the school: The Prides Corner Panda Path.”

Plourde also represented her district at the Harvard Teaching for Understanding conference, and she has served on the Professional Education Review Board at the University of New England in Biddeford.

Kindergarten teacher Vickery is nationally board certified and has been teaching 18 years. She received the National Semiconductor Internet Innovator Award from the National Semiconductor Corporation in 1999.

Vickery has presented at several education conferences, and she has served on her district’s curriculum science committee since 2007, acting as team leader from 2005 to 2010.

“Beth Vickery’s classroom is a dynamic environment where her students are challenged to think and reason while also enjoying the wonders of being five years old,” wrote Marguerite Murphy of Camden Hills Regional High School. “I believe a big part of her students’ measured success is because she brings the world of science into her classroom.”

Jagolinzer, who teaches fifth grade in Yarmouth, has been teaching for 17 years and serves as a math learning area liaison for the grade 5 team and as a member of the fifth grade team professional learning community.

“When you walk into Karen’s classroom, the students are being challenged to think, represent and share their thinking, and apply that thinking,” said Bruce Brann, Jagolinzer’s principal at Frank H. Harrison Middle School.


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