- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Three area teachers have received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

“I’m on cloud nine right now,” said Melvina Jones, 31, a science teacher at John Burroughs Elementary School in Northeast. “It’s overwhelming to receive such a big honor. As the only nominee chosen from D.C., I’m really proud.”

Miss Jones, Anita O’Neill — a seventh-grade science teacher at Neelsville Middle School in Germantown — and Joy Wolfe — a fourth-grade math teacher at Pinecrest Elementary School in Silver Spring — were among 95 elementary and middle school teachers across the country who received the award.

The winners came to the District this week on an all-expenses-paid trip for the awards ceremony in which they each received a $10,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

They will also go to Walt Disney World in Florida later this year to participate in the Disney Youth Education Series programs.

“This award recognizes the contributions that teachers make to America’s legacy of progress by encouraging young people to study and understand math and science,” President Bush said in a letter to the winners.

“With a strong foundation in these critical subjects, today’s students will be able to better compete and succeed in the 21st century work force.”

The awards were established by Congress in 1983 and are administered for the White House by the foundation. Candidates must have at least five years of experience in teaching mathematics or science.

Miss Jones, 31, called the award a “pat on the back to let me know I’m going in the right direction.”

“It makes me want to do more,” she said.

Miss O’Neill, 40, said winning was “reassuring” because the competition was the “cream of the crop.”

“You can stand a little bit taller [because] it recognizes a level of teaching,” she said. “It definitely instills a sense of pride.”

Miss Wolfe, 36, said the award was like “the Nobel Prize for teachers.”

She began teaching at Pinecrest this year, but was nominated for her work at Boone Park Elementary in North Little Rock, Ark.

Miss Wolfe said her Pinecrest students were “thrilled” that she had won the award.

“As teachers, we receive our awards every single day,” she said.

Miss Jones agreed with Miss Wolfe that a student’s gratitude is the ultimate reward.

“As a teacher, I’m not used to being treated this way,” she said. “Teaching is the most thankless job you can have. But the thanks from the children, that is what keeps me going.”

Among the other winners was Francine Plotycia, a second-grade math teacher at Abingdon Elementary School in Harford County, Md., north of Baltimore.

Mrs. Plotycia, 49, said she will throw a party for her students from last year, whom she filmed for her application video, to fulfill a promise she made if she won the award.

“We’ve been treated like royalty all week,” she said.

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