“It’s really, really fun to watch them discover their learning and become young scientists,” said Throop, who teaches at the Marietta Center for Advanced Academics.
That method has earned her recognition as one of only three Georgia finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. According to the award’s website, www.paemst.org, it is the highest honor given to K-12 math and science teachers by the United States government. “Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education,” the website states.
Throop encourages her students to be inquisitive as well. Through journals where the fourth-graders write down “wonderings” about their science projects, Throop says she’s teaching her students to be problem-solvers. They later select one of those questions for their science fair projects at the end of the year.
“Our children, who are in third, fourth and fifth grade here, when they get into the workforce will probably be doing jobs that aren’t even invented yet,” Throop said, so she encourages them to be collaborators as well as critical thinkers.
She also practices what she preaches by going out into the field to study different areas of science and bringing those lessons back to the classroom.
Throop described going on the Georgia Aquarium’s Creeks to Coast seminar this past summer, saying she was in creeks, rivers and woods to learn about the region’s watershed.
“I was so dirty this summer! I’ve never been so hot and dirty in my whole life,” Throop said with a laugh.
She’ll bring those lessons back for a class called “schoolyard ecology” where her students will monitor water quality once a month for Georiga Adopt-A-Stream, a volunteer organization that keeps track of things, such as acidity and oxygen levels in the state’s waterways.
“It helps the children understand in order to keep the water clean you need to keep the schoolyard clean,” she said, adding their findings have alerted state officials about antifreeze that was spilled into Victory Creek.
Throop also enjoys teaching about outer space and called a trip to Space Camp in Huntsville this summer a “highlight of her life.”
Her passion for teaching is what spurred Principal Jennifer Hernandez to nominate Throop for the national award, which includes meeting President Obama and a $10,000 prize. The 2012 winner was just announced, so it may be another two years before they learn if Throop wins.
“She’s an engaging teacher who cares about her students,” Hernandez said, adding that Throop is positive person who is excited to go to work every day.
Both have been at the school since its first year a decade ago, and Hernandez’s daughter had Throop as a teacher.
While Throop said it would be exciting to meet the president and mingle with other teachers from around the U.S., she said winning would be good for her school and the Marietta school district because it would be a reflection of what she does as an educator. She called being nominated the greatest honor she has had as a professional teacher.
As for the prize money, if Throop wins, she hopes to sponsor a teacher to attend the Georgia Science Teacher Foundation conference or take her students to space camp.