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Two Southeast Teachers Chosen as Award Finalists

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

Three California science teachers, two of them from the Southeast, have been nominated for national honors from the National Science Foundation.

Betty DeWolf, who teaches science at Tracy High School in Cerritos, and Maria Lopez-Freeman of Montebello High School were chosen from more than 400 science teachers 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 who have demonstrated extraordinary talent in those fields. A national panel will choose DeWolf, Lopez-Freeman or Wilton Wong, a science teacher in Daly City near San Francisco, to represent the state.

The 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 be used 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.

A teacher since 1970, DeWolf teaches science at a continuation high school in the ABC Unified School District. DeWolf, 41, said she especially 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."

Three of her Tracy 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 bachelor's degree in biology from San Diego State University and 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 to 1987. She also serves as a science education consultant for the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Lopez-Freeman, 45, has been a teacher since 1966. A science mentor teacher in 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.

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