Two weeks after she was named one of the nation's best math teachers by the National Science Foundation, Glenys Bell of Brea Olinda High School says it hasn't sunk in yet.
"I never thought I could get this kind of recognition. Maybe for someone else, not for me," said Bell, 43, who is into her fifth year at Brea Olinda High.
"Teaching is a continuous learning experience," she said. "I am constantly amazed at what I learn, not only from my experiences, but also from my students and what they teach each other."
Next March, Bell, who started teaching at age 21 in her hometown of Savannah, Ga., will receive a Presidential Award for Excellence in teaching science and math in Washington.
She is one of four California teachers selected following a stringent process that involved review of the teachers' educational and professional background, analysis of their classes and lessons taught, and an essay on education and the classroom.
The award carries a $7,500 grant from the National Science Foundation to each recipient's school, which will be spent to improve the school's mathematics and science programs.
Each winner also gets an expense-paid trip to Washington with his or her spouse or guest for a week of activities, including the award ceremony, reception and short conferences and workshops.
Bell said she is going with her husband of 18 years, Russell. "I'm excited. It will be the first time for both of us in Washington, D.C.," she said.
It was while in junior high, Bell said, that she decided to become a math teacher. "I was not a whiz at math. It was something I had to work on. It was a challenge," she said.
She received a bachelor's and a master's degree from Armstrong State College in Savannah in the early 1970s. She taught math at the high school from which she graduated and then moved to California after getting married in 1974.
Bell spent 12 years at Brea Junior High School. She transferred to Brea Olinda High in 1987, where she now teaches five math and algebra classes.
She said that math scares a lot of people but that it's something everyone can do. "I really believe that. As a teacher, you should have the intuition to convince the student that he or she can do math," she said.
"The key," Bell said, "is to build self-esteem to the point that the student feels good about the subject. Some kids will learn no matter what you do. Some will resist you. They are always a challenge."