Two Howard County middle school teachers have been selected as Presidential Award finalists in science and mathematics.
Susan M. Howe of Oakland Mills Middle School, Columbia, and Robert W. Keddell of Patuxent Valley Middle School in Jessup are among 12 Maryland finalists who have been recognized for their teaching ability, experience, professional and community activities.
There are 648 finalists nationwide.
"I'm really, really thrilled," said Howe, who was chosen as Maryland's Outstanding Middle School Math Teacher in 1990. "I'm really pleased that I got this far."
Keddell, a science teacher for 15 years, said the award means a great deal to educators.
"It's a reflection of incredibly hard work," said Keddell, who said teaching methods have changed dramatically since the advent of computer games like Nintendo.
"Kids are much more visual and independent," Keddell said. "You really need to rise to that challenge."
The competition is open to science and mathematics teachers in elementary and secondary schools. To enter, teachers must be nominated by their supervisors and submit applications for evaluation by state selection committees. The committees are composed of leading mathematics and science educators, education administrators and previous Presidential Award recipients.
In September, 216 mathematics and science teachers will be chosen to receive the awards, said Debbie Murray, associate director of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching program.
Recipients will each receive a $7,500 grant and participate in an expense-paid, week-long trip to the Washington, D.C., where they will attend an awards ceremony, meet President Bush, discuss teaching and tour the city.
The grant may be spent on any school-related activity or item, such as a field trip or computer equipment, Murray said.
Both county teachers describe education as a pioneering field in which they are integrating math, science and other disciplines in the classroom to re-create the real world for students.
Keddell, for example, is using math and science to simulate a wetlands environment in his classroom, complete with invertebrates, reptiles and insects.
Howe is also using a new approach to teaching.
"When I first started teaching, the main thrust was back-to-basics teaching," said Howe, who began teaching in 1976. "Now, you're trying to take a problem in the real world and teach them to solve it from all content areas. It's much more dynamic."
Janie Zimmer-Long, coordinator of mathematics for Howard County, described Howe as a dedicated teacher who stays after school to tutor students and seeks out math workshops without the encouragement of district officials.
"Susan is a wonderful teacher," Zimmer-Long said. "She wants to learn more about mathematics and she's very caring of the kids."
Howe said she's simply doing her job. "Mathematic problems are a great challenge, and that's what I try to show my children."
Other Maryland finalists include three teachers from Prince George's County, two each from Baltimore City and Frederick County, and one each from Carroll, Montgomery, and Washington counties.