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 in her fifth year at Brea-Olinda.
"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."
In March, Bell, who started teaching at age 21 in her hometown of Savannah, Ga., will be in Washington to receive a Presidential Award for Excellence in teaching science and math.
She is one of four California teachers selected after 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; the grant will be used to improve the school's mathematics and science programs.
Each winner also gets an expenses-paid trip to Washington with a spouse or guest for a week of activities, including the award ceremony, reception and short conferences and workshops.
Bell spent 12 years at Brea Junior High School. She transferred to Brea-Olinda High in 1987, where she 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."
"Mathematics has given economics rigor, but alas, also mortis."