DODEA Teachers Win $10,000 Presidential Math and Science Award
Lachanda Garrison’s math lessons for elementary school students in Bahrain School often begin with a story.
Presenting a photo of a student – shared with parents’ permission – Garrison asks questions to get the rest of the group thinking about what is happening in the image. It could be a family celebration or a holiday, for example.
“I ask simple questions: what do you notice? What are you wondering?” she says. Everyone can answer regardless of their math abilities. She then asks a math problem that relates to the photo.
“Stories are known to be an effective learning tool,” Garrison said. “Mathematics connects to something real.”
In the process of strengthening academics, “we celebrate … and highlight that student,” she said.
Garrison’s inclusive approach to math education is gaining national attention.
Last month, she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education. The program is the highest award math and science teachers can receive from the US government, according to the White House. The award alternates between K-6 and 7-12 teachers each year.
Garrison, a math instructional coach, was one of two educators from the Department of Defense’s Education Activity to receive the 2020 award, which comes with a $10,000 prize. The prices, announced last month, were delayed by the pandemic. Nationwide, 117 individuals and organizations were recognized.
Antoine Sharpe, specialist in mathematics education systems at DODEA headquarters in the United States, was also recognized by the White House. Prior to his current job, he spent the past four years teaching math at Humphreys Middle School in South Korea, according to DODEA.
Garrison and Sharpe have 31 years of teaching experience.
Last year, Garrison was also named 2021 DODEA Teacher of the Year. At the time, she was teaching second grade in Bahrain. She also taught in Rota, Spain for DODEA.
The application process for the White House award was rigorous, Garrison said.
After someone named her – she doesn’t know who – she responded to a series of written essays and submitted a 30-minute video recording of one of her lessons.
“I didn’t win this award on my own,” she said. “There are a lot of people who support me, who advise me, who are thinking partners for me.
“This is a collective, collaborative effort with all of these amazing educators and students around me,” she said.