Area teacher up for national award

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 10, 2006

An Enterprise Attendance Center science teacher is amongfinalists who have been honored for their innovative teachingtechniques.

Kathy McKone is one of six teachers selected to representMississippi as finalists for the 2005 Presidential Awards forExcellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation’shighest honor for K-12 teaching in those fields.

“The Presidential Award is like the Nobel Prize of education,”McKone said. “I was very humbled knowing the quality of teachersthat apply.”

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McKone, 41, is one of 253 finalists nationwide for theprestigious award, which is administered by the National ScienceFoundation (NSF).

Each participating state selects three teachers in both math andscience to advance. Program directors in Washington, D.C., thenreview those applications and a video produced by the applicant toselect the two winners, one each in the math and sciencedivisions.

“Presidential awardees represent exceptional professional modelsof what we are looking for in science and mathematics teachers,”said Celeste Pea, program director of elementary, secondary andinformal education programs at the NSF.

McKone, a 2003 nationally certified teacher, was selected as afinalist for the Presidential Award because of her innovativeteaching program.

“My teaching style is interactive and it helps prevent studentsfrom checking-out during the time they need to be focusing on thetopics at hand,” she said. “I like to write science songs. The kidslearn it and I bring my guitar and we sing it. I think that sort ofpiques their interest.”

“The Protein Song” and an accompanying skit performed by thestudents explain the cellular synthesis of protein.

“I think role-playing is the best way to teach that,” McKonesaid. “A lot of them have told me they understand it after we’veacted it out.”

Robert Hodges, a junior at Enterprise, took McKone’s class lastyear and said her teaching methods really helped him to understandthe process. He still remembers portions of the song.

“She made science a lot more fun than other science classes inthe past,” he said.

Sophomore Courtney Pepper said she was excited when she learnedMcKone would be her science teacher this year. The skits and songcan be embarrassing sometimes, she admitted, but added that theyreally do help her grasp the science behind the lessons.

“I’m glad Mrs. McKone is my science teacher because no otherteacher has helped me as much,” she said. “It’s a different way oflearning.”

McKone has taught for 20 years, with the past 18 years atEnterprise. The Bogue Chitto native and graduate of Bogue ChittoHigh School is named for both her grandmothers, Lucy Kathleen, andanswers to both names.

She is married to Kevin McKone, a physics instructor atCopiah-Lincoln Community College, and has two children, Haley andNoah. Both attend Enterprise.

McKone said she originally intended to teach social studies. Itwas two instructors at Co-Lin, Dr. Donny Lawson and Jane Smith, whogave her the confidence she needed to pursue her real interests inscience. Both instructors still teach at Co-Lin.

A lack of confidence in science is a common obstacle manystudents face, she said, and it is part of her job to help themovercome that.

“I know a lot of students do not take chemistry because they donot believe in themselves,” she said. “One of the most rewardingthings is when they realize they can do it. Sometimes things justtake work. There’s not an easy way.”

The state finalists will attend a luncheon in Washington, D.C.,in March, where the Presidential Award will be presented. The statefinalists will also receive $10,000 from the NSF.