Byng teacher among five finalists for a presidential award

Jayci Harris teaches her first-grade class Tuesday at Homer Elementary School. She is a scholarship recipient for the Engineering Is Elementary program and won a $50,000 Collaboration Nation grant for her school. She also serves as vice president of the Byng Educators Association and sponsors the robotics club at her school.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announced the names of five finalists for a presidential award Monday. Among them was Homer Elementary School first-grade teacher Jayci Harris.

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching at the elementary level is the highest recognition a K-12 mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States, Hofmeister said in a prepared statement. Awards alternate each year between elementary and secondary teachers.

“These educators represent some of the finest teaching talent in Oklahoma,” she said. “Their contributions to math and science instruction are helping to place our schoolchildren on the path to a great future, which includes college and careers in high-demand fields like science, technology, engineering and math. I applaud them on receiving this well-deserved national recognition.”

Hofmeister said the finalists were chosen by a local selection committee of teachers, district-level personnel, representatives from higher education and past awardees... for demonstrating a mastery of math and science instruction and effective use of student assessments to improve student learning.

Finalists were required to submit a 45-minute videotaped lesson plan and a written reflection on their personal teaching methodology, engagement with students and how professional development has affected their classroom instruction.

Award winners will receive a paid trip to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities, a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation and a certificate signed by the president of the United States.

Jayci Harris

“I am most passionate about providing students with opportunities that build skills in critical thinking, perseverance, cooperative learning and creativity,” Harris said.

Harris is an Engineering Is Elementary program scholarship recipient and has won a $50,000 Collaboration Nation grant for her school. She also serves as vice president of the Byng Educators Association and sponsors the robotics club at her school.

“I feel very blessed to have received this award. I had a lot of really great mentors that helped me with the process, and a lot of people chipped in and gave me input, and that was so helpful,” Harris said. “I’m really thankful for those people.

“The whole application process really made me more conscientious of everything I do related to science, literacy and math, because every single step plays into another step, and that’s very important.”

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Carl Lewis is the editor of The Ada News. He's an aspiring photographer, an unabashed fan of Apple products and an avid coffee swiller. Contact Carl at (580) 310-7520, or by email at clewis@theadanews.com.