JIC resident Nancy Bourne Receives Nation’s Highest Teaching Honor for Math
Beacon Cove Intermediate science and math teacher Nancy Bourne is a 2014 Recipient of a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).
This is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government for K-12 mathematics and science teaching. The competition is fierce and the vetting process rigorous. There are only two from Florida and “we’re thrilled our own Nancy Bourne is one of them,” says neighbor Sue Fine.
The award recognizes those teachers who develop and implement a high-quality instructional program that is informed by content knowledge and enhances student learning. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education. President Obama will present the award, along with a $10,000 stipend, to those honored from each state at the White House in March 2014.
Nancy developed her deep interest in math and science as a child. “I was always curious, wanted to know ‘Why!’ and ‘How!’ My parents gave me a microscope when I was in elementary school and I have it now in my classroom. It was very cool then— and really still is!”
She was always encouraged to explore. “My mom brought HOME a baby shark that she and my dad accidentally caught while fishing on a commercial vessel. The Captain said it was trash, so she asked if she could take it to me. I remember examining it for a day (over ice in a cooler!) with my buddies.”
Bourne says her mother, also a teacher, took great care to do special things to promote learning for her friends in the neighborhood. “She would take us on ‘discovery’ walks to make us aware of our surroundings. "See the bird? What type is it? Can it be identified by sound only?"
With the nation’s employers urging greater mastery of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, what else can parents do to help their children develop a love of math and science?
Starting when they are young, make these subjects part of daily conversation, says Bourne. “You don’t need to be an MIT professor to point out math and science each day and make inferences. After the weather report, say, “So the temperature will be 52 degrees Fahrenheit tonight and 11 degrees Celsius. No rain. What should we wear when we go to the movies?”
“Make a math game of adding, subtracting the numbers on license plates as you walk through a parking lot. Have kids estimate the total bill at Publix as you select items in the aisles.
“Build structures whether with sticks and palm fronds or Legos and test their strength. There are many fun science activity books with fun experiments to do on the rare rainy day. When buying gifts for kids, choose something that stimulates their curiosity – a magazine subscription such as Kids Discover, or a science kit, or a trip to the Science museum, the Lighthouse or the Marine Life Center. All these experiences develop background knowledge that kids can use in their science and math classes. It makes them more successful and more likely to do well in the subjects in the upper grades.”Parents who talk with their children more, getting them to disengage from their digital devices, can find many opportunities for incidental learning, suggests Bourne. “They can ask questions that don’t allow a yes or no answer. For example asking ‘Tell me the best question you asked in school today” gets your child thinking a lot more than “Was school fun today?” When kids describe their days, explain their thinking and aren’t afraid to put forth their ideas, they become much more confident learners.”
Nancy hasn’t decided what to do with her stipend yet. But her husband Russell bets that whatever she decides to do, “it will somehow benefit her students. “She might decide to go study striped glaciers in Canada this summer. And all her students next year will learn about glaciers, Canada, climate, geology, loonies and a host of other things Nancy will have observed!”
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