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Spotlight on Dreams

A Presidential Toast to Zachary Champagne

Each year, the President of the United States recognizes outstanding kindergarten through 6th grade or 7th–12th grade mathematics and science teachers by honoring them with the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The Presidential Awards are the nation’s highest honor for teachers of mathematics or science. Every year, approximately 100 recipients of the Presidential Awards receive the following:

  • A citation signed by the President of the United States;
  • An opportunity to join a dynamic network of awardees;
  • A $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation;
  • A paid trip for two to Washington, D.C., to attend a week-long series of recognition events and professional development opportunities; and
  • Gifts from donors to the program from around the country.

One of Duval County Public Schools’ teachers, Zachary Champagne, was one of the recipients of this prestigious honor. Champagne is a math teacher at West Jacksonville Elementary. In his class, students are taught to explore and build their own understanding of mathematics. “It has been my experience that when students construct their own understanding in mathematics, they are much more likely to remember and understand what they are learning,” explained Champagne. He went on to say, “I try to help my students understand a tough concept by placing them in real-world situations. If mathematics is applicable to their lives, then they see a reason for studying and learning it.”

Recently, Champagne traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive his Presidential Award and participate in numerous special events in recognition of the PAEMST. He wrote an e-mail to the Superintendent and other top Duval County Public Schools’ administrators describing his experiences.  Here’s an excerpt from Champagne’s e-mail:

“It was simply the most amazing week of my professional life. I, along with the 92 other awardees from around the nation, were treated like royalty for the entire week. I was able to participate in numerous professional development activities including a day at the National Science Foundation (NSF), a presentation from the National Mathematics Panel that was appointed by the President, a breakfast with 11 different Federal Agencies, meetings with members of Congress, and a private tour of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I was also privileged to meet, not only President George Bush, but also the First Lady, Laura Bush. They both spoke with us for about 15 minutes about the importance of science and mathematics education and how proud they were of our efforts. They took the time to shake our hands and thank us for our work. We then were able to go on the balcony of the White House and wave goodbye to the President and the First Lady as they departed for Texas on Marine One. It was spectacular, to say the very least. I was immensely honored to represent all of the magnificent teachers in Duval County in our nation's capital.”

Congratulations, Zachary Champagne, on this prestigious award, and thank you for representing Duval County Public Schools with such professionalism and humility. We are all so very proud of you!

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