An innovative teaching style might garner Grovetown Middle School educator Susan Cottingham national recognition.
Cottingham, a seventh-grade science teacher, was recently named one of three state finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Training.
The award is administered by the National Science Foundation on behalf of the White House.
The foundation allows states and U.S. territories to select up to three math and science teachers for the honor. From the field of state finalists, a maximum of 108 presidential awards, worth $10,000, are handed out. Winners will be announced in March.
Using indoor and outdoor labs, Web-based projects, and 11 different animal dissections each school year, Cottingham was recognized for her hands-on approach to teaching biology.
"Very rarely do I read and answer questions out of a textbook," she said. "Not only are they bored, but I get bored, too."
Kim Hampton, a seventh-grade math teacher at Grovetown Middle, nominated Cottingham for the honor last year.
"I haven't worked with many science teachers who are as hands on as she is," Hampton said. "She takes a lot of her own time to plan a lot of really good, interactive lessons for the kids."
In addition to her work ethic, Hampton said she also is constantly inspired by Cottingham's attitude.
"She just enjoys teaching," she said. "She's always excited about teaching and the kids love her."
Despite Hampton's confidence in her, Cottingham said she was surprised to be named a finalist.
"When I was chosen for the top three I was totally shocked," she said. "I was just doing my job."
Should she receive the award, the cash prize will go toward her son's college tuition. It also will help pay for her to receive an education specialist degree and for her husband, Thad, who also is at science teacher at Grovetown Middle, to receive a master's degree.
"Education is a tad bit important in my family," she said.
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