Carol Pleninger, a chemistry teacher at Havre High School, can already count most of her students and colleagues among her fans, but now she can add President Barack Obama to the list.
The White House announced this week the 97 recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, including Pleninger as the premier science teacher in Montana.
“These teachers are the best of the best, and they stand as excellent examples of the kind of leadership we need in order to train the next generation of innovators and help this country get ahead, ” Obama said in the press release announcement.
Pleninger and Stevensville math teacher Tammy Johnson received the award, which brings both “a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion, ” and a trip to Washington, D.C., later this month for an awards ceremony, meetings with education policy makers and members of Congress, and, according to Pleninger, a possible meeting with Obama himself.
The process began with a nomination more than a year ago, which was narrowed to six finalists from each state last fall. Aside from relief at the end of the long process, Pleninger said she is excited for both the paid four-day trip with her husband and the prize money.
Although she doesn’t know if the money is to be used personally or professionally, she is aware of how much her classroom could use it.
“In this day and age with limited funding in your classroom, keeping up to date in a science classroom is expensive, ” Pleninger said. “There’s a lot of things you could do with these awards. ”
While it’s her name on the award, she recognizes that it is really an award for the district.
“This, in my mind, is not a personal award. It’s an award for your district, ” Pleninger said. “It’s an award for your colleagues because none of us do this by ourselves.
“It really is an affirmation of the quality district-wide that the whole team does for your students. ”