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Charlotte Amalie
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Boschulte Math Teacher Wins Top Honors from White House

May 4, 2008 — Merlene Jones was catching her breath Sunday night. The middle school math teacher from Bertha C. Boschulte School had just arrived home from a whirlwind week in Washington D.C., where she was honored as one of the top math teachers in the nation.
Jones won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation’s highest honor for teaching in these fields. She was the only math winner from the Virgin Islands, and one of 99 teachers nationwide to receive this prestigious award.
"I met new friends, built professional relationships, went to new places and picked up new strategies that I can take back to my fellow teachers and students," Jones reflected. "I had a wonderful time. I wouldn't exchange it for anything. It was really good."
A citation from President George W. Bush to Jones commended her "…for embodying excellence in teaching, for devotion to the learning needs of the students, and for upholding the high standards that exemplify American education at its finest."
In addition to the award, Jones received $10,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the federal agency that administers the awards program on behalf of the White House.
Jones said she intends to use the money towards a doctoral program in education. She holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education, and a master's degree in supervision and administration in education, she said.
The last 13 years of her 27-year career as a teacher have been spent teaching seventh and eighth grade math at Boschulte. Prior to that, she taught elementary school, experience that she credits for her success in teaching older children
"I think maybe it's a more hands-on manipulative approach, where you start from using the concrete stuff and building that until you get to the abstract," Jones said. "They're handling things using manipulatives, and that's the way you teach smaller children. And reviewing — constant reviewing as you go along."
Jones says it's the "ah-ha moments" when a child grasps a concept that inspire her. She said she always urges her students to keep trying, and it's because she followed her own advice that she won this award.
"In 2005, I attempted the same award, the presidential award, and was the territorial finalist," Jones explained. "I say to my children in school, 'If you try and don't succeed, you try and try again,' and I used my own words and motivated myself and I was successful. It's really an honor."
Among the activities Jones enjoyed this past week was a day with scientists and science educators at the NSF, meetings with members of Congress and federal agency leaders; and a reception and dinner at the U.S. State Department featuring guest speaker Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, a NASA astronaut-mission specialist.
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