Jane Coles, a science teacher at Good Hope School, this week was named a winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching.
The award is presented annually to the best pre-college-level science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The 103 winners from across the United States are selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians, and educators following an initial selection process at the state level.
Coles chairs Good Hope’s science department and teaches biology, environmental science, marine science, and botany to upper school students. She has been teaching for 17 years, the last nine at Good Hope.
“Being honored with this award is humbling.,” Coles said. “I work with an incredible group of people at GHS, and I don’t feel as though I’m more worthy of recognition than anyone else.”
Coles’ students do more than study in the classroom. She takes them out in the water snorkeling to observe the sea life they’ve been studying, and the annual Intel-affiliated science fair is a major effort for the students. Coles guides them through their independent study projects, coordinates teachers and independent judges for the three-day event, and makes it a showcase of scholarship and inquiry.
Those students whose work is judged the most innovative and scholarly are accompanied by Coles to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in California, where they compete with young scientists from all over the world.
“Science instruction works better with hands-on activities,” she said. “I love to take classes outside, on campus and on field trips. The botany class did quite a bit of work preparing two gardens this year. The environmental Science class started a trail guide, which they will pass on to the next year’s class. “
She is also the class advisor to the class of 2012, advisor to the school’s National Honor Society, and helps run a 4-H program for younger students at the school.
But her work at Good Hope is only the beginning.
Coles is also district commissioner of the St. Croix Pony Club and teaches Sunday school at St. Croix Reformed Church in Kingshill, where she is on the consistory as an elder.
Coles said winning the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching “gives new stature to dancing like a jellyfish and rapping about diabetes in front of teenagers. It recognizes long nights of writing comments on Science Fair reports, engaging students to watch compost rot, and holding all my classes to high standards. The application process for this award has given me time to reflect on my love of science and teaching. It is my goal for my students and me to do our individual best work each day. This award is a culmination of my ‘best work.’”
Winners receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion. They also receive an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for an awards ceremony, wich will be held later this year, and several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and science agency leaders.
Coles is married to Dr. William Coles and is the mother of two sons, Duncan, 13, and Morgan, 11.