2009-03-19 / News

Island science teacher wins prestigious teaching award

By Eileen M. Daly

Charlene Tuttle reacts to the news that she won the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence in Rhode Island. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten Charlene Tuttle reacts to the news that she won the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence in Rhode Island. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten Fourth grade science teacher Charlene Tuttle was honored at a special surprise celebration at Melrose School on Monday. During the ceremony Tuttle received the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence in Rhode Island.

Tuttle applied for the award months ago, a laborious process that she said took numerous hours to complete. "It took many days of writing, crossing out and revising," Tuttle said. She hadn't expected to hear anything more about the contest until April or May. "We were told we'd receive notification by letter."

According to Tuttle, she had no idea that a ceremony was being held in her honor. "We received a notice that there was going to be a special assembly with a 'secret guest,' but I had no idea who it was. I thought maybe she was a former student who was about to be published or something. When she mentioned Amgen my heart jumped a little and I wondered if this was it," Tuttle said. What really gave it away for certain, according to Tuttle, was when the woman made reference to one of Tuttle's personal struggles as a student. "I used to get in trouble all the time in school for asking too many questions and now I get paid to ask questions. I tell the kids that all the time, so when she referred to that we all knew it was about the award," Tuttle said.

It was a very fitting reference, as Tuttle said she has been extensively trained in the process of inquiry as a teaching model and also that she trains other teachers in the inquiry method. "With the process of inquiry, you set out to answer a question," Tuttle said. "Part of the process is to facilitate students' own questions and that can lead to many levels of learning."

The Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence is given to only 34 teachers nationwide and to four in Rhode Island. Melrose Principal Carole Melucci said that everyone was thrilled about the award and that it was "well deserved." "She is an amazing teacher," Melucci said.

The award includes a $5000 award for Tuttle and a $5000 award for Melrose school.

As part of the application procedure Tuttle had to specify exactly how she would use the award money. According to her application, Tuttle plans to use the award money to "provide materials and experiences that extend student learning." Tuttle also would like to use some of the money for "professional development experiences for teachers."

Specifically, Tuttle said, the money will be used in the area of earth and life science to extend the study of rivers, using the Blackstone River. The grant money will pay for a visitor from the Blackstone River Explorer Program and also for a field trip where students can conduct tests on water quality and study the ecosystem.

In the area of physical science, Tuttle said, she will expand the electricity unit to become an energy unit, looking at different types of energy and how they can be transformed one to another.

A special dinner sponsored by Amgen to honor the four Rhode Island award winners will be held at the Providence Biltmore in May, Tuttle said. "Amgen will come out to film our class and make a vignette. During the dinner they will show the vignettes and we'll each be asked to make a speech," she said. Tuttle and Melucci will both be attending and Tuttle said that she is looking forward to the dinner, however she has some pressing concerns to attend to first. The National Science Teacher's Association National Convention is being held in New Orleans this month. Tuttle left for the convention yesterday.

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