COMET • Vol. 6, No. 12 – 22 April 2005


(1) District of Columbia Mathematics Educator National Teacher of the Year at White House Ceremony

Source: Council of Chief State School Officers

Having a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a master’s from Harvard meant Jason Kamras, 31, had many career options. His decision to choose teaching was influenced by a college experience as a Volunteer in Service to America teacher in a Sacramento (California) Unified School District community learning center. Through this work, Kamras became convinced of one thing–limited access to well-funded, high quality schools for economically disadvantaged students is the greatest social injustice facing America today. And every day for eight years he has helped chip away at that inequity in his work as a teacher at John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington, DC.

For this devotion and helping his students feel constantly engaged in learning, Kamras was named 2005 National Teacher of the Year by President George W. Bush at a White House ceremony on April 20, 2005. Also recognized at this event were the 2005 State Teachers of the Year.

The National Teacher of the Year Program, presented by ING FN-NAIC, is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and is sponsored by Scholastic Inc. The program focuses public attention on teaching excellence and is the oldest awards program for teachers. Kamras, the 55th National Teacher of the Year and the first to represent the District of Columbia, begins a year as a full-time national and international spokesperson for education on June 1, 2005.

“My intense desire to see my school excel comes not only from an unwavering belief that all students deserve an excellent education, but also the unique role Sousa played in the civil rights movement,” he says. Bolling v. Sharpe, the 1954 Supreme Court case that paved the way for the desegregation of all DC public schools, arose from a challenge to segregation at Sousa. “To honor the school’s unique role in the movement, I feel compelled to guarantee that it serves as an agent of social change, advancing those who have been ignored or constrained,” Kamras says.

To this end, he has worked diligently to raise math achievement at Sousa. He successfully lobbied his principal to double the instructional time allotted for the subject and redesigned the math curriculum to emphasize the increasing use of technology, meet all learning styles, and provide instruction with a real-world context.

The curricular changes, piloted with his own students in 2002, helped the percentage of students scoring “below basic” on the Stanford 9 test to fall from approximately 80 percent to just 40 percent in one year. Additionally, his students have met the school district’s math average yearly progress target every year since the No Child Left Behind Act was implemented. He is now working to expand the program to the entire school. Kamras also taught an “early bird” (before school) advanced math classes to prepare students for the Stanford 9. This spring he is focusing on Algebra preparation with a group of eighth-grade students.

In an effort to share his love of photography and expand his students’ knowledge of the broader DC region, Kamras co-founded in 1999 and has since directed the EXPOSE Program. Through this program, Sousa students learn to use digital cameras as well as image-editing and DVD-creation software to create autobiographical photo-essays about their lives and their communities. The students share these photo-essays with the larger Washington community through public exhibits. An integral part of their training is a series of photo field trips that take the students to a diverse array of neighborhoods, historical sites, and outdoor treasures throughout the Washington area…

A committee of representatives from 14 national education organizations chooses the National Teacher of the Year from among the State Teachers of the Year, including those representing American Samoa, the Department of Defense Education Activity, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The other 2005 National Teacher of the Year finalists are Stanley Murphy, a social studies teacher at San Diego High School in San Diego, California; Vicki Goldsmith, an English, women’s studies, and theories of knowledge teacher at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa; and Tamara Steen, an English and art teacher at Mabton Junior-Senior High School in Mabton, Washington.

State Teachers of the Year are selected on the basis of nominations by students, teachers, principals, and school district administrators throughout the states. Applications are then submitted to CCSSO, where the national selection committee reviews the data on each candidate and selects the finalists. The selection committee then personally interviews each finalist before naming the National Teacher of the Year. Additional information on the National Teacher of the Year Program can be accessed at

(2) White House Honors America’s Best Mathematics and Science Teachers


Ninety-five outstanding elementary and middle school teachers were honored last week with the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation’s highest honor for teaching in these fields.

Awardees received a $10,000 gift from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the independent federal agency that administers the awards program, and an all expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, for last week’s celebratory events and professional development activities.

“These outstanding teachers show us what excellent teaching looks like,” said Mark Saul, Ph.D., 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.”

In a citation given to all awardees, President Bush commended them “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.”

“The way we teach math and science is changing,” said Saul. “It’s not enough for a teacher to lecture from a blackboard and get students to memorize facts. Children learn best when these complex concepts are made real for them, when they can see how math and science are present in their everyday world.”

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.

The week-long celebration in Washington, DC included 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 DC home to their students,” said Saul.

Awardees received numerous gifts from corporate and government donors, including science and mathematics curricula from the JASON Foundation for Education, overhead projectors 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 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 (3) Program Director Positions Available at the National Science Foundation

(3) Program Director Positions Available at the National Science Foundation

Source: National Science Foundation – 19 April 2005

The Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education (ESIE) announces a nationwide search for a number of Program Director positions at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

NSF Program Directors bear the primary responsibility for carrying out the Agency’s overall mission: to support innovative and merit-reviewed activities in basic research and education that contribute to the nation’s technical strength, security, and welfare. To discharge this responsibility requires not only knowledge in the appropriate disciplines, but also a commitment to high standards, a considerable breadth of interest and receptivity to new ideas, a strong sense of fairness, good judgment, and a high degree of personal integrity.

Applicants must have a Ph.D. or equivalent experience in a science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) discipline, STEM education, or informal science education, plus six or more years of successful research, administration or managerial experience pertinent to the position within academe, the non-profit sector, industry, or government. Formal (K-12) education positions require an understanding of related research and/or extensive knowledge and experience of teacher education or instructional materials development. Informal science education positions require extensive knowledge and experience with education applied to public audiences in interactive educational exhibit development/management, large film/radio/TV production, web-based/virtual environments, or community/youth/family programming…

In addition to addressing current openings, our intention is to develop a candidate pool for consideration as other Program Director positions become available in ESIE. We are looking for individuals who have a compelling interest in the challenges and opportunities facing the education community and are interested in the stimulating challenges of an appointment with the Foundation.

For additional information on NSF’s rotational programs, please see “Programs for Scientists, Engineers and Educators” on the NSF website at For additional information about the ESIE, please see the Division’s website at .

Individuals interested in applying for a Program Director position should visit for more information and application instructions.

(4) “Campus Lights up to Remember Einstein” by Brett Amelkin

Source: Daily Princetonian – 20 April 2005

The lights of [Princeton University’s] Jadwin Stadium, Fine Tower and the Graduate College’s Cleveland tower lit up Monday night [April 18] for the 50th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s death and the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s annus mirabilis, or ‘miraculous year,’ during which he published three seminal papers that revolutionized the study of physics.

The light relay that traveled west around the globe between Monday and Tuesday night began and ended at Princeton. The idea was for one place to light up and then the next location would join in, until the light stretched around the globe.

The worldwide event–sponsored by the Austrian Physical Society–chose Princeton as the beginning and the end of the relay because Einstein lived in Princeton for twenty years before dying here, electrical engineering professor Claire Gmachl said.

“Einstein is so closely related to Princeton,” she said. “This was a celebration for the Princeton students to celebrate Einstein and physics.”

Gmachl said the lights illuminated around the globe took the form of “actual light”: telephone calls, which are signaled by fiber-optic cables, and emails, whose signals sent under the Atlantic Ocean count as light.

Locally, the Princeton Society of Physics Students organized the event that, in addition to the lit buildings, included a laser show, a reception and a lecture about Einstein…

Adrian Liu ’06, co-president of the Princeton Society of Physics Students, said that he was excited to get involved with the relay because of the contributions Einstein made to the study of physics and to science in general.

Gmachl said 120,000 people worldwide participated in the global lighting event…

The relay ended Tuesday night when a team in France emailed a video of their celebration to Princeton, Gmachl said.

Related Articles:

(a) Physics Enlightens the World
Source: Society of Physics Students

(b) “Einstein’s Legacy, Like the Universe, Keeps on Expanding”

Source: – 18 April 2005

(5) NASA Awards Education Grants to States

Source: NASA (via Rick Scott, UMSU & TODOS member)

NASA, in cooperation with the National Alliance of State Science and Mathematics Coalitions (NASSMC), Arlington, Va., has awarded grants to several state education coalitions. The purpose of the grants is to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Funded by NASA’s Education Office NASSMC State Summit Implementation Program (NSSIP), the grants address the critical need to improve STEM education for students in underserved and underrepresented communities.

NSSIP is a two-year program. It provides assistance with planning, developing, administering, and implementing STEM activities for state based organizations. NSSIP programs also include comprehensive public awareness and engagement plans to promote active participation of state business, education and public policy leaders.

“This is another example of NASA’s commitment to improve our nation’s scientific literacy, address the needs of the 21st century workforce, and motivate students to connect and participate in the future opportunities of the Vision for Space Exploration,” said NASA’s Chief Education Officer, Dr. Adena Williams Loston. “These state-based coalitions demonstrate a capacity for like-minded organizations to come together and leverage their unique resources to help NASA sustain the Vision,” she said.

NSSIP is open to state-based organizations that comprise a coalition of business, education and public policy leaders united by a vision for improving STEM education. The proposing coalition must represent all three constituencies and must be statewide in scope. Additional support is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Grants were awarded to:

*  Alabama Mathematics, Science and Technology Education Coalition

*  Colorado Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education Coalition

*  Connecticut Mathematics, Science & Technology Leadership Council, supported and administered by the CT Academy for Education in Mathematics, Science & Technology, Inc.

*  Iowa Mathematics and Science Coalition

*  New Mexico Partnership for Mathematics & Science Education

* South Carolina’s Coalition for Mathematics and Science

* Tennessee Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education Center

For information about further NASSMC solicitations, visit

For information about NASA’s education programs on the Internet, visit

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Internet, visit