A Lafourche Parish School Board member has been named a finalist for the 2021 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
Tyler Dufrene represents District 8 on the School Board, which covers the Raceland area.
He is one of three state finalists for the national award for science, considered the highest honor bestowed on a teacher in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.
“To be named a finalist among the nation’s most distinguished and devoted educators is truly awe-inspiring and humbling,” said Dufrene, who teaches physics and chemistry at Hahnville High School in St. Charles Parish. “I enter my classroom each day constantly questioning if what I am doing is enough for my students. Am I truly preparing my students for success once high school is over? Being named a finalist for this prestigious award proves that my efforts and strategies are effective. Despite this affirmation, I will always seek continuous improvement and never rest on my laurels.”
The other Louisiana science finalists are Amanda Dolph of Shreveport and Steven Babcock of Baton Rouge. There are also three math finalists from Louisiana: Dawn Jacobi of Destrehan, Lainey Hodge of Monroe and Thomas Wright of New Orleans.
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Six finalists in each state are selected through a rigorous peer-review process, Dufrene said. The applications are then submitted to the National Science Foundation, which makes the final selection.
The awards were established by Congress in 1983 and recognize up to 108 teachers each year across the country. Each honoree receives a certificate signed by the president, a $10,000 prize from the National Science Foundation and an all-expenses-paid trip to the award ceremony in Washington, D.C.
The nomination comes during a challenging time for teachers. Like most teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dufrene had to change his approach to reach his students.
“COVID-19 changed the way I did everything in my classroom,” he said. “It was almost like being a first-year teacher again. As such, it was quite challenging to think of the lesson I wanted to video and write about for the award. When I presented the idea to my students, they didn’t hesitate one bit.”
Dufrene credits much of his success to the willingness and resiliency of his students.
“While having a video camera in front of the room may be intimidating to some, I asked my students to just be themselves and ask their questions as they normally would,” he said. “Reflecting back on the lesson, as well as this past year, I could not be prouder of my students. Their work ethic and tenacity are truly admired and appreciated. So while many congratulate me on being a finalist for this presidential award, the distinction and honor really goes to them. They are the reason why I do what I do. I’m eternally grateful to God for blessing me with phenomenal students and the most rewarding career this life can offer.”
The winners will be announced later this year.
— Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.