Westdale Heights Academic Magnet Teacher Receives State-Level Finalist Presidential Teaching Award
- September 8, 2010
The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is the nation's highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science. The Award, sponsored by President Barack Obama through the National Science Foundation, recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession. For the second time in recent years, Westdale Heights Academic Magnet (WHAM) School can claim a candidate teacher of excellence with Mary Legoria, who has been named Louisiana state-level finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching by the State Selection Committee.
WHAM Math teacher Debra Reynolds received the 2008 national level Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching and met President Barack Obama when she represented the state in Washington, D.C.
Legoria will be honored September 16, along with other 2010 state-level finalists and the 2009 Awardees, at the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) meeting at 9 a.m. in the Louisiana Department of Education’s Louisiana Purchase Room of the Claiborne Building. A luncheon follows at noon in the Governor’s Mansion. Legoria will be presented that day with a BESE certificate, a complementary membership in the Louisiana Science Teachers Association and complementary registration in the State Science Institute to be held in Monroe, November 4-6.
At the state level, coordinators convene local selection committees, which include prominent mathematicians, scientists, mathematics/science educators and past awardees. These committees select up to three finalists from each category (Mathematics or Science) for recognition at the state level. As a state-level finalist, Legoria automatically became a candidate for the state’s Presidential Award winner for the national event. National winners to represent each state will be announced later in the year.
WHAM Principal Norma Church can’t say enough good things about Legoria, a Science teacher at the school. Legoria also was nominated in 2008 for the Presidential Award in Science Teaching. She was the lead teacher in assisting the school in attaining its Intel Elementary School of Distinction in Science Award, and the school was one of the three national finalists in 2010. In addition, she was a finalist for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System’s Teacher of the Year in 2000 and 2005.
Legoria is the science specialist at Westdale Heights Academic Magnet. Under her direction, science learning for WHAM students occurs 24/7: in the classroom, science lab, community and at home. She collaborates with classroom teachers on science instruction and teaches science lab to all K-through-fifth-grade students at WHAM. In the lab, students use cutting-edge technology such as video microscopes, digital dissection, plant and bird cams, data loggers, computers, weather monitoring instruments and Starlab; interact with real animals (reptiles, spiders, chinchillas, sugar gliders and more); learn sustainable living methods (recycling, energy conservation and organic gardening); participate in “real-world” science projects (such as Coastal Roots, Monarch Watch and Wildlife Warriors International); and work and learn with Louisiana State University (LSU) biologists, oceanographers, and soil scientists.
In addition, Legoria develops and directs special programs to instill in her students a sense of environmental stewardship. Students remember the crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin, by raising money to save endangered animals with Wildlife Warriors International; participate in activities at the LSU Veterinary and Wild Animal Hospitals; operate a school recycling program; raise seedlings for coastal restoration in conjunction with the LSU Coastal Roots program; raise and tag butterflies to help Monarch Watch track their migration patterns; and instruct K-12 students at LSU’s Ocean Commotion Day. This year, students will study bird migration patterns by recording sightings with a bird cam in conjunction with Cornell University.
Legoria’s goals are first to nurture the inquisitive minds of our students then provide a base knowledge of concepts through hands-on inquiry, inspire students to choose science-related professions and instill in students a sense of environmental stewardship. She has presented at the National Science Teachers Association and Louisiana Science Teachers Association conferences and presently is a member of the Louisiana Environmental Literacy Plan Committee.
While there is a national trend for instruction to focus on Language Arts and Math more than Science, this is not the case Westdale Heights Academic Magnet. WHAM’s school Science scores on state accountability tests have risen from a school index of 126.9 in 2007-2008 to 151.0 in 2008-2009. Church said Legoria’s expertise and leadership, along with the collaboration of WHAM classroom teachers, has made the difference.
Legoria also took the lead on WHAM’s Metamorphosis Children's Garden (Legoria is pictured in the garden, center, with students) located in the center of our school. The garden includes a registered Way Station for Monarch butterflies, 16 raised vegetable beds, a tree nursery, flower beds, a wildlife feeding station and a pond. Students learn about Science, Math and Language Arts in the garden.
“This is my seventh year in this position as a science specialist, which I truly love,” Legoria said in her application. “I have the best job in the world. Teaching all of our students, I get to watch them bloom into little scientists and environmentalists. Seeing their love for our environment grow through the years, I truly believe that our students will grow up to be environmental stewards and scientists that will solve the present and future environmental issues on this planet. I believe that our students and teachers should be connected with real science to realize that they can make a difference on this planet.”
Legoria has two Bachelor of Science degrees in Human Ecology and Elementary Education, a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, an Educational Specialist Certificate in Science Education and will graduate with a doctorate in Science Education in the spring of 2011. For more information, call Church or Legoria at (225) 926-5421.
Principal Brister in Washington, D.C., to Accept McKinley Middle School’s Second Blue Ribbon Award
On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, Principal Herman Brister (pictured, left) and the school’s Teacher of the Year, Lynn Williamson (right), were in Washington, D.C., accepting McKinley Middle Academic Magnet School’s National Blue Ribbon Award from U.S. Department of Education’s Director of National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Aba Kumi (center). The event, which recognized some 314 schools from across the United States, was held at the Omni Hotel. Click herefor story.
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