By Wendy Brown, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsOctober 31, 2019
CAMP ZAMA (Oct. 31, 2019) -- Michael Pope, who has taught math and science at Zama Middle High School for 14 years, received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Oct. 17.
"Science has always been my passion, ever since I was a young kid, since undergraduate, since graduate, since post-graduate, since the research that I've done," Pope said about his life and work leading up to the award. "It's always been a passion."
Pope was among 215 science, technology, engineering and mathematics--or STEM--and computer science teachers to receive the award this year, and it is the highest recognition that teachers who teach those subjects in kindergarten through 12th grade can receive in the United States, according to the PAEMST website.
Wayne Carter, principal of Zama Middle High School, said he is extremely proud of Pope's accomplishment.
"He truly deserves the award," Carter said. "He is an accomplished science teacher and a math teacher and it is a recognition of his professional qualities and capabilities. It's also a reflection of the quality of instructors at DODEA and here at Zama Middle High School."
Pope, a teacher for 21 years, said he discovered his love for teaching when he took a job in college as an assistant math teacher at Southwest DeKalb High School in Georgia. A premed chemistry major at the time, Pope said the job changed his life.
"I thought, 'Wow. This is where I need to be,' and from there I switched into education and finished out my last year and a half and went straight into science teaching," Pope said.
Although he is teaching math this year, as a science teacher he particularly enjoys challenging students to make a difference, Pope said.
"As we all know, kids are the future--it's not a cliche," Pope said. "… If we start young enough, then they have that inspiration at a young age to just transfer and carry throughout the rest of their school years, and hopefully they'll become a scientist or a doctor or an engineer because of the inspiration we gave them at a younger age."
Pope said he particularly enjoys learning about the geosciences.
Pope, a native of Queens, New York, holds a bachelor of science in engineering in middle school education from Georgia State University and a master's of education from Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia. He is also certified in middle school social studies, science, mathematics, gifted education and Japanese studies.
In addition, Pope continuously expands his knowledge outside of the classroom.
This past summer, for example, Pope said he traveled to Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, through the Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program, facilitated through National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions, to study climate change, and to South Africa through the National Education Association Global Education Association to study ways to incorporate global education into classrooms and school teaching.
According to the PAEMST website, awardees receive a certificate signed by the President of the United States, a trip to Washington D.C. for recognition and professional development opportunities, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.
The award recognizes teachers who demonstrate a deep content knowledge of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate and enable students to be successful in those areas. The program has recognized more than 5,000 teachers since it began in 1983.