South Charleston, WV
2006 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching
Each year the President of the U.S. recognizes outstanding K-12 science
and math teachers throughout the country. One math and one science
educator is chosen from each state who exemplifies deep content
knowledge combined with the ability to motivate students in science and
Cathy Walker said that a class favorite is Painting Faces, an activity that exposes students to finding patterns and expressing those patterns with variables and algebraic notations. “In the past, my students have heard and believed that algebra is hard and inaccessible to all but a few gifted students,” she explained. “They are shocked and enlightened during Painting Faces when they find out that they have been successful with an algebra problem.” She has an inquiry-based teaching method, which often puts students into small groups to think, justify, or explain their reasoning. “I find that students reach a deeper understanding of the mathematical concepts, and connect to their learning, when they have followed this discovery method,” said Walker.
At the start of each year, I concentrate on building a classroom climate that encourages student cooperation and discourse. I spend a lot of time talking with my students about how to make the classroom safe for them to speak out and make mistakes without censure or ridicule. Once this safe classroom atmosphere is established, students are willing to try anything.