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Science Teacher Vies for National Award

June 16, 1988|PATRICIA WARD BIEDERMAN | Times Staff Writer

A Monterey Park woman is one of three California science teachers vying for national honors from the National Science Foundation.

Maria Lopez-Freeman, who teaches at Montebello High School, is one of three science teachers chosen from more than 400 statewide to compete for the 1988 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching, a program sponsored by the foundation.

Begun in 1983, the national competition is designed to improve the teaching of math and science by recognizing teachers in those fields who have demonstrated extraordinary talent.

A national panel will choose Lopez-Freeman, Cerritos teacher Betty DeWolf or Wilton Wong, a science teacher in Daly City, near San Francisco, to represent the state.

Awards Ceremony

The state's outstanding science teacher will travel to Washington in October for an awards ceremony at the White House with other state winners. The schools of each of the state winners will receive $5,000 to improve their math or science programs according to plans submitted by the winning teachers.

The California nominees were honored June 10 at the State Board of Education meeting in Sacramento. The teachers were originally nominated by school administrators and others.

Lopez-Freeman, 45, has been a teacher since 1966. A science mentor teacher in the Montebello Unified School District, she says she would like to see more minority students study science. "I'm really concerned with providing equal access to all kids," she said.

She organized the Ad Hoc Committee for Hispanic Gifted Students for the California Assn. for the Gifted.

Lopez-Freeman, who has a bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics and a master's degree in education from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, also trains teachers to work with students from groups under-represented in science and to teach science to young children.

DeWolf, 41, a teacher since 1970, teaches science at a continuation high school in the ABC Unified School District. She said she likes working with students who are not necessarily college bound.

"I believe science is for everyone," she said. "The problem-solving skills you learn can help you solve any problem in your life, whether it's a personal relationship or why your cake didn't come out right."

Students Honored

Three of her Tracy High School students recently won a national contest sponsored by the Weekly Reader for their invention of a woman's shoe that can be converted from a flat to a high-heeled pump.

DeWolf said one of the pleasures of her job is occasionally seeing a student who hadn't planned on college change his or her mind.

DeWolf, who has a master's degree in counseling from the University of La Verne, wrote and self-published a book for fellow teachers called "Teaching the Process Skills in Science." She founded and ran a districtwide training center for science teachers from 1985-87. She also serves as a science education consultant for the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

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