DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA MATHEMATICS EDUCATOR TO BE NAMED
NATIONAL TEACHER OF THE YEAR AT WHITE HOUSE CEREMONY
DC, April 19, 2005
-- Having a bachelor's degree from Princeton and a master's from
Harvard meant Jason Kamras had many career options. His decision
to choose teaching was influenced by a college experience as a Volunteer
in Service to America teacher in a Sacramento (California) Unified
School District community learning center. Through this work, Kamras
became convinced of one thing-limited access to well-funded, high
quality schools for economically disadvantaged students is the greatest
social injustice facing America today. And every day for eight years
he has helped chip away at that inequity in his work as a teacher
at John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington, DC.
For this devotion
and helping his students feel constantly engaged in learning, Kamras
will be named 2005 National Teacher of the Year by President George
W. Bush at a White House ceremony on April 20, 2005. Also recognized
at this event will be the 2005 State Teachers of the Year.
Teacher of the Year Program, a project of the Council of Chief State
School Officers (CCSSO) is presented by ING FN-NAIC and sponsored
by Scholastic Inc. The program focuses public attention on teaching
excellence and is the oldest and most prestigious awards program
for teachers. Kamras, the fifty-fifth National Teacher of the Year
and the first to represent the District of Columbia, begins a year
as a full-time national and international spokesperson for education
on June 1, 2005.
desire to see my school excel comes not only from an unwavering
belief that all students deserve an excellent education, but also
the unique role Sousa played in the civil rights movement,"
he says. Bolling v. Sharpe, the 1954 Supreme Court case that paved
the way for the desegregation of all District of Columbia public
schools, arose from a challenge to segregation at Sousa.
the school's unique role in the movement, I feel compelled to guarantee
that it serves as an agent of social change, advancing those who
have been ignored or constrained," Kamras says.
To this end,
he has worked diligently to raise math achievement at Sousa. He
successfully lobbied his principal to double the instructional time
allotted for the subject and redesigned the math curriculum to emphasize
the increasing use of technology, meeting all learning styles and
putting instruction into a real-world context.
changes, piloted with his own students in 2002, helped the percentage
of students scoring "below basic" on the Stanford 9 test
to fall from approximately 80 percent to just 40 percent in one
year. Additionally, his students have met the school district's
math adequate yearly progress target every year since the No Child
Left Behind legislation was implemented. He is now working to expand
the program to the entire school. Kamras also taught "early
bird" (before school) advanced math classes to prepare students
for the Stanford 9. This spring he is focusing on Algebra preparation
with a group of eighth-grade students.
In an effort
to share his love of photography and expand his students' knowledge
of the broader DC region, Kamras co-founded in 1999 and has since
directed the EXPOSE Program. Through this program, Sousa students
learn to use digital cameras as well as image-editing and DVD-creation
software to create autobiographical photo-essays about their lives
and their communities. The students share these photo-essays with
the larger Washington community through public exhibits. An integral
part of their training is a series of photo field trips that take
the students to a diverse array of neighborhoods, historical sites,
and outdoor treasures throughout the Washington area.
Over the past
four years, Kamras has received about $65,000 in grants for this
program from the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities, Apple
Computer, and local foundations and businesses.
of his work with the EXPOSE program, he was awarded the 2001 Mayor's
Art Award for Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education, the highest
arts honor bestowed by the District of Columbia.
A former teaching
colleague, Saba Bireda, calls Kamras an "extraordinarily devoted
advocate" of public, and especially urban, education.
is no lack of opportunity for Jason, but he stays at Sousa year
after year because he believes in his ability and the ability of
his students to succeed despite the challenges presented to himself,
his students and the school," she says, adding, "I can
honestly say Sousa would not run effectively without Jason. Through
the years he has become a de facto assistant principal, extracurricular
coordinator, testing specialist, dean and new teacher mentor. He
exudes all of the qualities an excellent teacher should possess-student-specific
instruction, classroom management, leadership, and above all else
a devotion to see every student, regardless of school or status,
reach the fullest possible potential."
was born in New York and moved to California with his family when
he was three years old. He was graduated in 1991 from Rio Americano
High School in the San Juan Unified School District in Sacramento.
During the summer between his sophomore and junior years at Princeton,
he joined the university's Student Volunteers Council, serving as
a tutor for elementary school students in Trenton, New Jersey, and
as a Graduate Equivalency Diploma (GED) counselor for inmates at
the Mercer County (New Jersey) Correctional Facility.
in the spring of 1995 with a degree in public policy, Kamras spent
some time traveling before returning to Sacramento that fall. Then
he decided to apply to Teach for America, a program that places
recent college graduates in under-resourced urban and rural public
schools. Before his acceptance into that program and his placement
at Sousa in the fall of 1996, Kamras worked in Jerusalem for the
Israel Democracy Institute, a non-profit, research-based organization
that aids Israel as a democracy.
years at Sousa, in which he taught sixth-grade mathematics, Kamras
briefly left the school in 1999 to earn his Master's in Education
at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He returned to Sousa
in 2000, where he filled a need for two years to teach social studies.
As a social studies teacher, he had seventh and eighth grade students
in a "looped" class in which he taught the same students
for both years. Then in 2002-2003 he returned to teaching mathematics
exclusively, at both the seventh and eighth-grade levels.
of representatives from 14 national education organizations chooses
the National Teacher of the Year from among the State Teachers of
the Year, including those representing American Samoa, Department
of Defense Education Activity, District of Columbia, Northern Mariana
Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands. The other 2005 National Teacher
of the Year finalists are Stanley Murphy, a social studies teacher
at San Diego High School in San Diego, California; Vicki Goldsmith,
an English, Women's Studies and Theories of Knowledge teacher at
Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa; and Tamara Steen,
an English and art teacher at Mabton Junior-Senior High School in
of the Year are selected on the basis of nominations by students,
teachers, principals, and school district administrators throughout
the states. Applications are then submitted to CCSSO, where the
national selection committee reviews the data on each candidate
and selects the finalists. The selection committee then personally
interviews each finalist before naming the National Teacher of the
Year. Additional information on the National Teacher of the Year
Program can be accessed at http://www.ccsso.org/ntoy.
of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a bipartisan, nationwide,
nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments
of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District
of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five
U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy,
and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council
seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses
their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies,
Congress, and the public.
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(NASDAQ: SCHL) is the world's largest publisher and distributor
of children's books and a leader in educational technology. Scholastic
creates quality educational and entertaining materials and products
for use in school and at home, including children's books, magazines,
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