Lessons That Last

"Knowledge is empowerment. The more you know, the more doors that open for you," says James Brown '90, a sixth-grade science teacher at Sand Creek Middle School in Albany, N.Y.

For his successful efforts at "opening doors" for his students, Brown was honored last fall with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching by President Obama, placing him among the best pre-college-level science teachers in the country.

Brown believes in showing his students the applications of what they learn. For the past 15 years, he has taken the entire sixth grade on a four-day outdoor educational field trip to the Adirondacks. He has also started an after school program, the Bike Club, which reinforces science topics through real-world activities while improving the local community by fixing bicycles for charity.

Being a role model to his students is also important. "In addition to being a teacher, I have been the energy manager for all 10 buildings in our school district since 2001," he says. "Since then, seven out of teaching_matters_headseight educational facilities have earned an Energy Star rating from the Environmental Protection Agency. We have reduced energy consumption by almost 30 percent and avoided over $2.5 million in utility expenses."

Brown graduated from Clarkson University in December 1990 with a B.S. in industrial distribution and from SUNY Plattsburgh in 1992 with a master's in science and teaching.

Regardless of what his students choose for careers in the future, Brown knows that his lessons will last. He says, "Ultimately, they might not have a career in math or science, but they will use the skills they've learned in these disciplines and in these experiences in some way during their lives. That's the most important part of being a teacher."

A Great Reward

Each year since 1997, as many as 17 mathematics education students have enrolled in Ellen (Douglas) Moreland's '77, '78 capstone course at Angelo State University to take the state certification exam. And since 1997, 100 percent of them have passed the exam on the first try.

That's pretty impressive for an exam with a statewide pass rate of 65 percent. No wonder Moreland was named the 2009 Texas Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Behind the perfect record is Moreland's dedication, the real force behind her award win. She has been known to spend afternoons, evenings and weekends helping her students become certified high school math teachers.

"It's not about the record. I believe that teachers touch more lives than any other profession," she explains. "I really try to impress upon my students how much difference a teacher can make in the life of a student."

Moreland has been an instructor at ASU for over 21 years. She graduated with a B.S. and an M.S. in mathematics from Clarkson in 1977 and 1978, respectively, and then accompanied her husband, Patrick Moreland '77, to Germany with the Army Corps of Engineers.

While in Germany, she taught a variety of courses to military personnel for the University of Maryland Overseas Division and the Boston University Overseas Division.

In 1981, she and her husband returned to the U.S., living in Virginia, Kentucky and finally, San Angelo, Texas, in 1982.

"I think I always knew I wanted to be a teacher," she says.  "It is a great reward to see my students walk the stage and know that I have helped them reach their dreams."