Department of Defense Education Activity

Baumholder Math Teacher Receives Presidential Teaching Award

Media Advisory: June 15, 2012

WASHINGTON — A high school math teacher at the Defense Department's Baumholder Middle-High School in Germany has been chosen to receive the 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Spencer Bean found out this week he has been selected among 97 middle and high school math and science teachers to receive the award, which is administered by the National Science Foundation. He plans to travel with his wife here on June 27 for an all-expense paid, three-day session for the winners. The foundation gives a $10,000 grant to each recipient, who will attend a ceremony at the White House and possibly meet President Barack Obama, according to award officials.

"It is great honor," Bean told American Forces Press Service. "It really is the highest honor a teacher can win in our field."

Bean credited his success to his collaboration with others at Baumholder, saying the award "feels a little misplaced" by recognizing only an individual.

But Bean is not the first Baumholder teacher to receive the award. In fact, his recognition marks the second consecutive win for a teacher from Baumholder, a 7th- through 12th-grade school with 380 students in Germany's Kaiserslautern district.

Indeed, Bean said it was his good friend and fellow Baumholder math teacher, Timothy Kelly, who received the award in 2009, who nominated him.

The awards are granted in alternating years between elementary and secondary teachers. Teachers -- one each from math and science -- are nominated from each state, four territories, and Defense Department Education Activity Schools. More than 4,000 teachers have received the award since it began in 1983.

The national judging panel did not choose a science teacher among the DOD teachers, Bean said.

Bean, who teaches algebra II, pre-calculus, and advanced-placement calculus, said it is his collaboration with Kelly and others and their ability to know all the students and faculty that has made him successful. Bean and Kelly are in their mid-30s and both started teaching at the Baumholder school in their 20s, Bean said.

"We're real excited about finding out the best ways to do things," he said, "and we're really excited about technology."

The pair created a "vertical team" in which teachers from fifth grade through high school collaborate on the best ways to teach individual students, Bean said. "We all talk together about the issues we face with our students," he said. "We target individual students and their needs. Because we are a small school, we can do that easier."

The citation for Bean's award credits him with "stretching all students' abilities" by reinforcing basic math skills, while also helping them progress to advanced math.

"He built a program of reinforcing basic skills while still helping students progress," Bean's award said. "As a result, his school increased course offerings in advanced mathematics from one to three. With his mathematics department, Spencer created a vertical team to ensure a better education and more seamless transition between grade levels."

Bean also was the lead evaluator for developing an online course in math analysis and was chosen for the school's textbook selection committee. He has given presentations to educators and administrators on vertical teaming, mastery learning, and building a rigorous school mathematics climate, the award's website says.

Bean, who holds degrees in history and education, said he had planned in college to go into accounting or business. It was only after a mentor urged him to go into a field he would enjoy every day that he chose teaching.

"I've never regretted it," he said. "I've loved it ever since. I'm 13 years in and I've rarely ever missed a day of work; I just love it that much."

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