WASHINGTON -- President Bush has lauded two Maryland high school teachers for excellence in the teaching of science and mathematics.
In a chilly Rose Garden ceremony yesterday, Mary Jo Messenger, a math teacher at Centennial High School in Ellicott City, and Nusret Hisim, a chemistry teacher at Walkersville High school in Walkersville, were among 108 educators who received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching.
Later, Ms. Messenger and Mr. Hisim revealed the secrets of their success. They both said that they integrate different subjects with innovative classroom techniques. They make sure their students have hands-on experience with computers and other hi-tech tools.
Ms. Messenger, 48, chairs Centennial's math department. She has developed an experiment that integrates technology and algebra.
In the experiment, students measure the force of a magnet by moving it away from a compass and reading the compass at each distance. Students then plot the data using graphing calculators, and determine the mathematical functions involved.
Mr. Hisim, 31, has found fame at teaching workshops around the country for his ability to bring technology to the classroom in a cost-effective way. He discovered that he can make a photogate timer -- a very sophisticated stopwatch that uses infrared beams -- from a kit for two dollars; the timers cost $100 ready-made, he said.
Mr. Hisim said the award was timely. "Nowadays, there's so much doom and gloom," he said. "We hear a lot about how poorly children are doing in this country, [but] there are so many good things going on in classrooms."
The award recipients -- two from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Territories and Department of Defense Dependent Schools -- are being wined and dined for a week in Washington. They are meeting scientists and educators from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and agencies and organizations.
The schools of each of the teachers who were honored receive $7,500 each to be administered by the award recipient for equipment, books and other teaching tools.
The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., the primary sponsor in Maryland, gave each Maryland winner $1,000 as a personal gift. Other private sector supporters, such as textbook publishers and computer companies, have donated over $100,000 worth of gifts for the teachers to take to their classrooms back home.