Hillsboro teacher wins presidential teaching award
A Hillsboro School District teacher has received a prestigious national award for her dedication to her job, going above and beyond in teaching science at a local elementary school.
Sharon Angal — an educator of 26 years — has been teaching math and science at Quatama Elementary School in Hillsboro since it opened in 2008, while helping the school become a full (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) school, working on special assignment to support other teachers in STEM learning. Last month, her efforts earned her the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
The awards, established in 1983, is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government for K-12 mathematics and science teachers.
The award is given to teachers who "develop and implement a high-quality instructional program that is informed by content knowledge and enhances student learning," according to organizers. "Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of STEM (including computer science) education."
Angal was flown to Washington D.C. to accept the award, representing Oregon elementary schools on Tuesday, June 26, in a trip she described as "surreal." She also receieved $10,000 from the National Science Foundation along with her award.
"You felt kind of like a rockstar at times," she laughed. "It was quite an honor to be there."
During the Washington, D.C. visit, recipients toured the White House and got to take part in a discussion on math and science teaching at a national level, among other things, Angal said.
"It just felt really special," she said. "We were able to participate in a discussion about the next five year plan for STEM in education. The plan under Obama ends this year and so it worked out we were able to talk about the previous one and look ahead to the next five years and give our opinion."
Angal was nominated for the award in 2016 by a teacher on special assignment at Quatama, but didn't receive the award until this year because of the labor intensive review process for each applicant, which involve letters of recommendation, essays, videotaped classroom lessons and reviews at the state and national level.
"As an educator, it's really nice to give your opinion of what you see for STEM at the national level — share some ideas that you have, and just be able to talk with people from all over the nation and hear what they're doing compared to what we're doing," Angal said.
Other teachers from across the nation were impressed with what was happening in the Hillsboro School District, she said.
"I felt very lucky talking to people about how much STEM the Hillsboro School District has been doing," she said. "I would talk about what we've done and they'd sit there and their mouths open, like 'You've done that? How did that happen?' I felt like we are in a really good place in Hillsboro with that going on."
Angal, a Next Generations Science Specialist, said the presidential award commitee looked into what teachers were doing outside of the classroom, as well as their teaching style.
Across her science teaching career, Angal said she is most proud of her developed partnership with the Oregon Zoo and the zoo's education outreach coordinator, Alison Heimowitz.
"She brings in salmon eggs every year for our third graders," Angal said. "Each student puts an egg in the tank giving it a name and a wish for its life. Students then release them in the Tualatin River."
Second graders at Quatama also got to pick an animal from a habitat they had studied and make a mask of that animal, which were shared, along with their research, to the public at the zoo's education center, Angal said.
Her students also participated in a habit restoration project with the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department where they helped remove invasive species from Orchard Park.
Hillsboro Superintendent Mike Scott has publically thanked Angal for her efforts teaching local students, but Angal credits the opportunity back to the district.
"Hillsboro has offered so much to enrich people's learning," she said. "The reason I'm here is because of so many amazing teachers who've helped me along the way, who've mentored me, supported me, who've educated me and allowed me experiences to really understand science better at the elementary level."
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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