Gulfport teacher tells key to her success: ‘It starts with trust’

28th Street Elementary School assistant principal Angela August greets students as they load on buses on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016.
28th Street Elementary School assistant principal Angela August greets students as they load on buses on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016.

A Gulfport teacher will be honored Thursday as a state finalist in the running for one of the highest teaching honors in the country.

Angela August, an assistant principal and former fourth-grade teacher at 28th Street Elementary School, will be recognized by the Mississippi Board of Education as one of four state finalists in the running for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

The awards are the highest honors bestowed by the United States government for K-12 mathematics and science teaching, including computer science. The National Science Foundation administers the PAEMST on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“I’m very humbled and so excited,” August said. “This has been a very rewarding experience.”

After August was nominated for the award, she said she went through an extensive application process, which included five areas of evaluation. It was comprehensive, but August drew upon what she learned about herself as a teacher.

“I had to reflect on my teaching,” she said. “So one of the things is I’m always seeking out different ways to teach my students. I make it a point to go out of my way to look at data, different teaching styles and then bring those back to the classroom. It’s OK to try something new. You don’t learn if you don’t take chances.”

August said she caters her teaching style to each individual student. While students tend to learn differently, their capacity to learn first starts with trust.

“A major part of my teaching style are the relationships I have with the students,” she said. “There’s a trust factor. That’s the biggest part.”

August said she uses a style similar to the Socratic method with her students, in which the student gains insight by asking questions.

“For some students, in order to push through to a solution to a problem, I don’t give them the answers,” she said. “We discuss strategies for solutions. I tell them it’s OK to fail as long as you keep practicing. And part of practicing is asking questions.”

As an assistant principal, August said she is in a position to have a larger effect on not just the students but the staff.

“So now I can bounce ideas off the other teachers,” she said. “I can go out of the classroom, and I feel like I’m learning from the other teachers. I’m also able to give them tips and suggestions. We all grow together.”

The PAEMST program allows each state to select up to five state finalists in mathematics and up to five state finalists in science. The finalist from each state will be selected next spring.

Winners of the PAEMST award will receive a paid trip for two to Washington to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities.

“I congratulate these state finalists who represent Mississippi and our teaching profession admirably,” state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said. “These prestigious honors confirm what we already know. Mississippi has some of the best and brightest teachers in the country.”

The Gulfport School District is well served to lead their students in the science and technology fields. Only in his fourth year as Gulfport High School’s engineering and robotics teacher, Clinton Brawley recently was named the 2016 Teacher of the Year by John C. Stennis Chapter 332 of the Air Force Association.

Brawley uses his experience as a precision technician in the Air Force as a model for his robotics classes. Every machine his students build must have a practical application for the community.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory