A Turlock teacher and a former Modestan will head to Washington, D.C., to take a bow after earning the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
Jamie Garner, a sixth-grade teacher at the Discovery math-science magnet at Walnut School in Turlock, was one of 51 winners in math. Julie Hammari, a sixth-grade teacher in Utah who hails from Modesto, was among 51 winners in science.
Both will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation and a trip to Washington. These teachers are inspiring todays young students to become the next generation of American scientists, mathematicians and innovators, President Barack Obama said in announcing the awards.
Hammari teaches at East Meadows School in Spanish Fork, Utah. She graduated from Modestos Johansen High School in 2000, after attending El Vista School and La Loma Junior High School, said her mother, Susan Hammari of Modesto.
The teachers in Modesto City Schools who taught Julie are greatly responsible for this award, Susan Hammari said via email. I can go back and identify several teachers who were a great influence on Julie.
Second-grade teacher Wendy Robertson, she said, taught her to take a risk to try something rather than do nothing. Many teachers encouraged her love for science by pushing her to participate in the Science Olympiads through the years. Of particular importance was (Dawn) Pitcock in the seventh- and eighth-grade science classes.
Garner won with a math lesson on surface area for geometric solids a hands-on lesson, created on a shoestring budget and perfected with colleagues input, three signature components of Garners teaching style.
Shes the best teacher weve had, honestly, said sixth-grader Dion Skaria .
My teaching style, I change every day. I like to be dynamic, Garner said. But one thing is constant. Making connections with my kids theres no other way to get them to buy in. Its important to know there was a soccer game and ask them how that went, and know theres a new baby in their house.
Her class does special projects like Market Day, where they set up an economy in the classroom. Businesses have to pay overhead, such as electric bills and taxes, and conduct a class auction to check their marketing skills.
Its a more hands-on, kid-connected way to teach math. Its not all about staring at their books and adding minus-2, she said. I dont know how you do this if your kids dont love being here.
Last month, her young team took second in the Northern California Future City competition for middle schoolers. Though only first-place winners will get to go to the national competition in Washington, competitors said they learned a lot.
Even if we dont go (on), weve had a great experience, said Dion, a team presenter.
The engineering competition gave Garner a way to encourage hands-on, analytical learning, a focus she said will be even more pronounced with the switch to Common Core standards. It also appealed to boys, who make up three-quarters of her 32-kid class this year.
Getting up and physical, dancing and running, were really important this year, she said.
Fellow teachers in the magnet collaborate on lessons, commiserate on challenges and cheer on kids when they soar, Garner said.
I am surrounded by greatness, she added with a contented smile.