Educate to Innovate: Awarding Excellence in Math Teaching
[Ed. Note: The following blog is from 6th grade teacher Barbara Stoflet who is introducing the President at today’s White House event congratulating the winners of Presidential awards for science, math, and engineering teaching and mentoring. Watch it live at 1:35pm ET. You can also learn more about the Educate to Innovate campaign.]
As I prepared for this time in Washington DC, I was beside myself with the anticipation of everything I would be able to bring back to my students. I brought three cameras and was hoping to use at least one of them to capture a photo of President Obama. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be offered the incredible honor of introducing the President. I wish I could be two places at once so I could observe my students as they watch everything unfold on their laptops! We’ll have SO many brilliant discussions when I return! I was able to email my students before school started today so I know this will be a top dinner table topic tonight!
Here are the remarks I prepared for today’s introduction:
I can’t contemplate my career as a teacher without reflecting on my dad’s years in school. Although, naturally I wasn’t born when he was a student, his marginal education helped form my teaching.
He was from a very poor farm family. Although his parents loved him very much, they worried more about how they were going to feed and clothe him than they did about whether he could read or write. His educators’ expectations were low, and he met that low standard.
When the energy crisis hit in the 70’s, my dad tackled it as a real life math problem, but instead of picking up a paper and pencil he talked his way through it. He thought outside the box. He modeled his thinking. He built an electric car out of used Volkswagen parts and powered our house with a wind generator built from scratch. He was able to do these things in spite of the fact that he hadn’t learned how to do them in school.
In some ways, the disconnect between what my dad needed at home, and the skill set he was asked to learn at school, lives on in classrooms across America. As teachers in the 21st century we are experiencing a paradigm shift as we consider whether what we teach is relevant and if how we’re teaching it is engaging. Our focus is shifting to bringing out the true learner in our students, because within their lifetimes their ability to “learn” will surpass their need to “know”.
Although many aspects of our profession are changing, many remain the same. Each day we’re called upon to be actor, coach, finder of lost articles, psychologist, substitute parent, sales professional, and keeper of the faith. We are the most fortunate of all who labor.
Each day parents entrust us with their greatest gift, their children. As teachers we have a past that is rich in memory. A present that is rewarding, adventurous, fun and challenging, because we spend our days with the future.
And now it is with great honor that I introduce to you a man whose lessons extend far beyond the walls of a classroom, who is writing history, modeling a present that is challenging and adventurous, but also hopefully rewarding and fun, who is helping to shape the future for all of us, President Barack Obama.
Barbara Stoflet is a sixth grade math teacher at Gatewood Elementary School in Minnetonka, MN and is being honored today with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching