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President Bush Honors Local Teacher


May 3, 2005 – President George W. Bush is honoring Science teacher Phyllis Rey-Bryan, from Michael J.Kirwan Elementary School on St. Thomas, with the 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation's highest honor for teaching in these fields. Rey-Bryan is the only science winner from the Virgin Islands and one of 95 elementary and middle school teachers nationwide to receive the prestigious award.
In a citation given to Rey-Bryan, President Bush commended her "for embodying excellence in teaching, for devotion to the learning needs of the students, and for upholding the high standards that exemplify American education at its finest."
As an awardee, Rey-Bryan receives a $10,000 gift from the National Science Foundation, the independent federal agency that administers the awards program, and an all-expenses-paid trip to D.C. for this week's celebratory events and professional development activities.
"This award recognizes the contributions that teachers make to America's legacy of progress by encouraging young people to study and understand math and science," Bush wrote in a letter to all awardees. "With a strong foundation in these critical subjects, today's students will be able to better compete and succeed in the 21st century workforce."
Established by Congress in 1983, the annual presidential awards program identifies outstanding mathematics and science teachers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Territories, and the U.S. Department of Defense Schools. This year's recipients—chosen by a panel of leading mathematicians, scientists, and educators in conjunction with the White House—are K-6th grade teachers.
"These outstanding teachers show us what excellent teaching looks like," said Mark Saul, program director of elementary, secondary, and informal education at NSF. "They have a passion for their subject and a dedication to their students. They know how to bring out the best in every student, in every kind of school. We hope their example will stimulate the creativity of other teachers and help attract new recruits to the mathematics and science teaching profession."
Over a 21-year career, Rey-Bryan has become an effective but demanding teacher. "I definitely see myself as a mentor," Bryan said. "My kids should look up to me as a role model. I want to be a nurturing and caring person, but I also want my kids to respect me."
Rey-Bryan tries to anchor her lessons in the world her students come from. She may use fish from the Caribbean to exemplify animal adaptation, or study coral reefs in a lesson on the fragility of the environment.
Although Rey-Bryan is utterly in command in her classroom, she makes sure that her students feel comfortable exploring. "I make the classroom fun, so that the kids can relax," she said. "You have to make the lessons as interesting as possible to keep the kids' attention."
Rey-Bryan admits the awards application process was "tough work," but says it was a welcome chance to reevaluate her teaching methods.
The weeklong celebration in D.C . includes an awards ceremony, professional learning opportunities, conversations with leaders in education policy, and opportunities to meet dignitaries from the executive and legislative branches.
"The most important reward the teachers will receive is the ability to talk with each other, swap ideas and techniques, and bring everything they learn in D.C. home to their students," Saul said.
As a presidential awardee, Rey-Bryan receives numerous gifts from corporate and government donors, including science and mathematics curricula from the JASON Foundation for Education, an overhead projector from 3M, and a professional development opportunity sponsored by EF Educational Tours, the nation's leader in educational tours and intercultural exchange. Later this year, all the presidential awardees will travel to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida to participate in the Disney Youth Education Series programs, where the teachers will go behind the scenes of the theme parks to examine and explore science, leadership, history, and art.
The NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering with an annual budget of nearly $5.47 billion. Its funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. The foundation also awards over $200 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
The 2005 Presidential Award nominations are currently open for mathematics and science teachers in grades 7-12. Public, private, and parochial school teachers can be nominated by anyone, except themselves. For more information, visit www.paemst.org


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