Tahoe teacher among 108 elite educators to be honored at White House | SierraSun.com

Tahoe teacher among 108 elite educators to be honored at White House

Margaret Moran | mmoran@sierrasun.com

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — A North Lake Tahoe woman specializing in science education is among an elite group of teachers who will be honored at the White House this summer.

Jan Hrindo, who teaches sixth-grade earth science, seventh-grade life science and eighth-grade Spanish at Incline Middle School, and 107 other teachers in the country will be awarded the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

"I use a lot of engagement strategies," said Hrindo, explaining her teaching method. "I want everything to be a hands-on experience that they can remember, that they can use. I don't use textbooks much at all. We might get some background information from a textbook, or look at a diagram or look at a picture, but I try to make everything something that they can do, or hold or (be) memorable."

Lessons can range from students trying to identify concealed objects using deduction skills to performing a cheek swab and examining their sample under a microscope to gain a better understanding of cells.

"Teenagers are so impressionable, and I just feel that I am at a time to make it or break it for them," said Hrindo, who lives in Incline Village with her husband, Brian, and two children, Parker, 4, and Madison, 1.

"I can either make science something they want to continue for the rest of their life, or I could make them read and memorize and drill and make it boring for them, and then they are never going to want to pursue (science)."

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Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching winners are selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators following an initial selection process done at the state level.

Each year, only two teachers are selected from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools.

Sharon Kennedy, site administrator at Incline Middle School, credits Hrindo's contemplative nature for what makes her a stand-out educator.

"I think she is a very reflective teacher," she said. "She thinks about her classes, her students, and which strategies and lessons she presents. She is always researching new strategies and lessons."

Hrindo has been an educator for 20 years, starting her career at Cardinal Valley Elementary in Lexington, Ky., teaching science lab before moving to Incline Village and teaching in Incline Elementary School.

She took a full-time life science position at IMS in 2003. In addition, from 2002-09, she taught at Sierra Nevada College in its teacher education program.

"This is like the pinnacle of my career," she said, referring to winning the presidential award. "… The years of career development, working with colleagues, working with administrators in different schools, learning from the people around me, and having the families of the students and the community's support allowed me to be the recipient of this award.

"Without this support from all those people around, I wouldn't be in this position."

Before the 2015-16 school year starts, Hrindo will travel to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony, educational and celebratory events, and an opportunity to meet members of the Obama Administration.

Winners of the presidential award also receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion.

As for what's next, Hrindo said she plans to continue teaching.

"This is it," she said. "I plan to hang around, learn more, work harder and continue to make it fun and educational, engaging and memorable."

The other Nevada award recipient is Carrie Hair, who teaches mathematics in the Gifted and Talented Magnet Program at Swope Middle School in Reno, which also is part of the Washoe County School District.

"Carrie is an amazing practitioner with the ability to meet students at their present ability level and move students ahead to greater understanding of mathematics," Swope Middle School Principal George Brown said in a statement. "For students who have difficulties with mathematics she is able to clarify concepts using multiple pathways for solving any given problem, or she will provide a hands-on or visual approach to help students make the necessary connections.

"For high ability students, Carrie has the background and expertise to enrich any concept or skill, thus deepening students' mathematical experience."

Award background

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are the nation’s highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science, including computer science.

Each year the award alternates between kindergarten through sixth grade, and those teaching seventh through 12th grade. This year’s awardees teach seventh through 12th grade.

Since 1983, more than 4,300 teachers have been recognized. Visit paemst.org to learn more.