2011-05-12 / Front Page

Island teacher one of 85 recipients of Presidential Award

By Geoff Campbell

Charlene Tuttle Charlene Tuttle Melrose Avenue School fourth-grade teacher Charlene Tuttle was recently named a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

“It was just magnificent actually, it felt great,” Tuttle said. “I found out at my chiropractor’s office on the phone.”

Using her smart phone, Tuttle opened the last one of a series of e-mails first, which informed her on the process for filing taxes on her prize. Hopeful, but not sure of the meaning of the e-mail, Tuttle scrolled up to the first e-mail from President Barack Obama’s office that clearly announced her award.

“I went outside and called my husband and called my mother,” she said.

Tuttle is headed to Washington, D.C. on May 15 for a week of what she described as “celebratory activities, professional development and networking.”

“The last day,” she said, “We might get to go on a tour of the White House and meet the president.

That’s very exciting.”

Tuttle, who teaches fourth grade science and math at Melrose Avenue School, is one of 85 science and math teachers in grades K-6 who received the award. The teaching standouts will receive their award during the weeklong celebration.

Selection is the result of a multi-part process that includes screening at both the state and national levels. “A panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators” are involved in the final phase of the selection process.

Award recipients have earned a $10,000 prize and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington for the activities, which will surround the award cer- emony.

Tuttle described the nearly 18-month-long process in detail. She said that it began with an initial nomination made by a colleague. The application required a 40-minute video of Tuttle teaching a lesson on the reflective qualities of light. Applicants were not permitted to edit their videos.

A Web site, meetings at the state level and a mailing list informed the process along the way. Tuttle said that there were long periods of non-communication from Washington and then occasional requests for more information.

The written sections of the application allow for a limited word count so Tuttle used the opportunity to teach her students the importance of revising.

Uploading student work and writing a “30- to 40-page paper” analyzing the video were substantial elements in the application process, said Tuttle.

The official announcement included Obama’s appreciation of the recipient’s talents and efforts. “The teachers we honor today have demonstrated uncommon skill and devotion in the classroom, nurturing the young minds of tomorrow’s science and math leaders,” Obama said. “America’s competitiveness rests on the excellence of our citizens in technical fields, and we owe these teachers a debt of gratitude for strengthening America’s prosperity.”

Melrose Avenue School Principal Carole Melucci described Tuttle as an “amazing teacher with a natural ability to engage all of her fourth graders.” Melucci added that Tuttle “creates a positive environment” and articulates concepts in such a way as to “tap into the student’s higher order thinking skills.”

“As a school,” Melucci said, “We are very pleased that one of our teachers has won such a highly prestigious award.”

One of Tuttle’s current students, Abigail, said that Tuttle “is awesome that she understands kids and shows us how to do it and then we do it.” Abigail added that Mrs. Tuttle expands the classroom to include the great outdoors, allowing her students to explore scientific concepts in the real world.

Melucci said that Tuttle also received the Amgen Award in 2009, which recognized top science teachers in the country. The award included a $5,000 unrestricted cash award for the recipient and a restricted award of the same amount for the school. Tuttle, who is known for her commitment to meaningful professional development, accompanied a number of her colleagues to the National Science Teacher’s Conference in 2010, which was funded by part of her Amgen Award.

Charlene Tuttle is originally from Newport and now lives in Warwick. A local celebration of the award will be held at the school on June 2.

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