Teacher from Hollis receives award for science education

AMHERST – Jenny Deenik, of Hollis, a teacher at Souhegan High School, was recently honored in Washington, D.C., as a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

These awards are the highest honor bestowed by the government on K-12 mathematics and science teachers in the U.S.

As New Hampshire’s honoree, Deenik received a three-day trip to Washington, during which she had the opportunity to reflect on her role and responsibility as a teacher, participate in conversations about the changing landscape of science education and connect with colleagues from across the country.

As a science teacher in New Hampshire, Deenik said, she has "the luxury my colleagues from around the country lack. I do not have the pressure and constraint of high-stakes testing."

While New Hampshire students do take a variety of standardized tests for a variety of purposes – from SATs to Smarter Balanced to the MAP test – the assessment landscape in New Hampshire, unlike most other states, is rapidly changing to reflect a more balanced approach to accountability.

Deenik said she has a renewed appreciation for her school as a supportive, yet high-standards district.

"I am trusted and respected to make decisions on behalf of kids," she said. "I have choice in my curriculum; I teach with standards and expectations but without pacing guides, scripts and prescribed worksheets.

"I know my students well because of our commitment to personalization. I have a collaborative relationship with my administration where we all believe students come first. Sadly, I did not hear these sentiments among my colleagues working in high-stakes testing states."

A highlight of the trip was a visit to the White House, where Deenik was congratulated on her award by President Barack Obama. Other highlights included a series of professional development sessions,and a day at the National Science Foundation to learn more about the agency’s cross-cutting science and engineering research and education endeavors.

Awardees had the opportunity to hear from and speak to Nobel Laureate William Phillips from the University of Maryland; OSTP’s chief data scientist, Dhanurjay "D.J." Patil; and nationally recognized teacher workforce expert Richard Ingersoll from the University of Pennsylvania.