JANUARY 27, 1997
David Dwyer of Northshore Jr. High with Gov. Gary Locke.
Photo courtesy of KCTS-9.
by Deborah Stone
Picture a boat floating in the water with a ladder hanging over the boat into the water. At low tide, the water level covers all but five of the rungs of the ladder. Each rung is one foot from another rung. At high tide, the water rises three feet. How many rungs will not be covered by the water at high tide? *
This is just one of the challenging problems posed by math instructor David Dwyer during the TV Math sessions he creates at Northshore Jr. High School. Dwyer's talent for turning the abstract into something concrete and making math come alive for his junior high students won him a Golden Apple Award for 1996.
Five individuals and five projects were named winners in the fifth annual Golden Apple Awards for educational excellence, sponsored by KCTS-9 in partnership with PEMCO Financial Center. The honorees are being recognized for the significant contributions they've made to exceptional teaching and educational innovation in Washington.
The Golden Apple Awards were launched in 1992 to seek out and honor outstanding educational models, and this year, more than 200 nominations were submitted by parents, students, educators, and community leaders. Final judging of nominations was done by a panel of representatives from the Washington Education Association, the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction, school districts, and institutions of higher education, as well as past Golden Apple winners.
Recipients were honored at an awards ceremony Jan. 17. Each individual was awarded a check for $250 and PEMCO Financial Center underwrote ten student scholarships totaling $430,000 to be awarded in honor of the Golden Apple winners.
Dwyer has been a math teacher for twenty-eight years, seven of those years at Northshore Jr. High. He says he became a math teacher by default because he wasn't able to succeed in his accounting courses in college, yet liked the subject of math. Once he began student teaching, he discovered very quickly that he could communicate with his students and was successful in the classroom.
What has kept him in the field for so many years? "It's the daily continual warm fuzzies that the kids send my way. It's the laughs, the fun, and seeing them participating gladly that's so important to me," Dwyer said.
He has always taught at the junior high level because he feels that children of this age are not set in their ways and that he can get through to them. "Junior high kids change continually, but they're always fun people. They are elastic and can bounce back," adds Dwyer.
Teaching comes naturally to him, and his combination of discipline and academics makes his classroom a safe place to succeed. He respects the students and urges them on without breaking them down.
"I have an organized, strict room, but kids are at ease and will do as I ask, because they see early on that a common respect exists," says Dwyer.
While at Northshore, he has instituted weekly television presentations of thought-provoking math problems, known as "TV Math" in an effort to get more students in the building involved in math. He wanted to show them that math is fun, and that there shouldn't be any fear associated with it.
A weeekly after-school Math Club was also his brainchild, allowing students fun and competitive opportunities to review classroom concepts or delve into new material. For those who seek to develop and practice advanced math skills, Dwyer began the Math Team, and these students compete with other schools statewide. A case of trophies is evidence of their success in this challenging arena.
A fellow teacher at Northshore, Ken Mortland, nominated Dwyer for the Golden Apple Award. When Dwyer learned that he had been chosen, he says he gave out a shout. "It was pretty cool and I thought 'oh, wow,' but it was also very humbling for me. The greatest award for me is seeing students succeeding continually. That's when I know I'm doing my job."
A one-hour special combining profiles of the winners with footage of the individual awards presentations is slated to air on KCTS/9 on Feb. 24th at 8 p.m.
* Answer to the problem: Exactly the same number as at low tide, because the boat rises and falls with the tide. The tide doesn't affect the situation.