Two TN Teachers Pack for White House

Amber Hodge is the Tennessee mathematics winner for the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.

“Will you get to meet the President?” That was the first question Amber Hodge’s fourth-grade students asked her when she announced she had won the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

Hodge, a Knoxville fourth-grade teacher, and Margie Hawkins, a sixth-grade science teacher from Lebanon, join the ranks of 102 educators from all 50 states that were recognized for their excellence in teaching math and science.

The educators were nominated in early 2012, Hodge by her former principal, and Hawkins by an anonymous party. After receiving the notification that they were being considered for this national award, both describe being intimidated by the daunting application process: a fifteen-page paper, a 45-minute taped lesson, and three letters of recommendation. While hesitant to commit their limited free time to an unknown opportunity, both decided they couldn’t pass up the chance to apply.

Margaret Hawkins is the Tennessee science recipient for the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

“My daughter, also a teacher, nagged me relentlessly for months, and now, I am so grateful she did,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins daughter, Adrienne Gifford, says her mother's commitment to education has always been obvious.

“She was in my school everyday teaching struggling students to do things they never thought they could do,” said Gifford.

After spending more than 20 hours on the application, Hawkins finally clicked submit in Lebanon just an hour and a half before the deadline.

Hawkins and Hodge then waited patiently for word for more than a year and half. Hodge says the biggest clue came when a White House security clearance letter arrived in her Knoxville mailbox, a major give away that they might soon be traveling to D.C, still, the official word came just weeks ago in December.

While Hodge isn’t sure if she can tell her Knoxville fourth graders she will actually meet President Obama, the two will travel to Washington D.C. for a multi-day celebration and visits with members of Congress and the President’s administration. The award also comes with a $10,000 cash prize from the National Science Foundation.

Both educators say this is an incredible honor and hope they have many more years ahead to impact Tennessee education.

“This award validates that I am doing the very best by my students in Lebanon and, for a teacher, there is no greater feeling in the entire world,” Hawkins said.

Hodge’s biggest hope is that more Tennessee educators are nominated for this award in the future.

The nomination window for the 2014 PAEMST awards is open until April 1. Find out how to nominate a K-6 math or science teacher in your area on the PAEMST website.