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HGSE Alum Named National Teacher of the Year at White House Ceremony

By Newseditor on April 21, 2005 4:19 PM

Harvard Graduate School of Education alumnus, Jason Kamras, Ed.M.'00, was named the National Teacher of the Year by President George W. Bush in a ceremony at the White House on April 20. Kamras currently teaches mathematics at John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington, DC.

Kamras has worked diligently to raise math achievement at Sousa. He successfully lobbied his principal to double the instructional time allotted for the subject and redesigned the math curriculum to emphasize the increasing use of technology, to meet all learning styles, and to provide instruction with a real-world context.

The curricular changes, piloted with his own students in 2002, helped the percentage of students scoring "below basic" on the Stanford 9 test to fall from approximately 80 percent to just 40 percent in one year. Additionally, his students have met the school district's math average yearly progress target every year since the No Child Left Behind Act was implemented. He is now working to expand the program to the entire school.

"My intense desire to see my school excel comes not only from an unwavering belief that all students deserve an excellent education, but also the unique role Sousa played in the civil rights movement," said Kamras referring to a challenge to segregation at Sousa that culminated in Bolling v. Sharpe, the 1954 Supreme Court case that paved the way for the desegregation of all DC public schools. "To honor the school's unique role in the movement, I feel compelled to guarantee that it serves as an agent of social change, advancing those who have been ignored or constrained."

Kamras, 31, was born in New York and moved to California with his family when he was three years old. After graduating in the spring of 1995 from Princeton University with a degree in public policy, he applied to Teach for America, a program that places recent college graduates in under-resourced urban and rural public schools. Before his acceptance into that program and his placement at Sousa in the fall of 1996, Kamras worked in Jerusalem for the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonprofit, research-based organization that aids Israel as a democracy.

After three years teaching sixth-grade mathematics at Sousa, Kamras left the school to earn his Ed.M. at HGSE. He returned to Sousa in 2000, where he filled a need for two years to teach social studies. As a social studies teacher, he had seventh and eighth grade students in a "looped" class in which he taught the same students for both years. Then in 2002-2003 he returned to teaching mathematics exclusively at both the seventh and eighth-grade levels.

"Today, America expresses its appreciation to Jason, and to every one of our outstanding State Teachers of the Year," said Bush at the Rose Garden ceremony. "You give our young people the benefit of your knowledge, your support, your friendship. Your students are fortunate, really fortunate, to have you in their lives. And our nation is fortunate to have you guiding the next generation of Americans."

The National Teacher of the Year Program, presented by ING FN-NAIC, is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and is sponsored by Scholastic Inc. The program focuses public attention on teaching excellence and is the oldest and most prestigious awards program for teachers. Kamras, the 55th National Teacher of the Year and the first to represent the District of Columbia, begins a year as a full-time national and international spokesperson for education on June 1, 2005.

For more information on Jason Kamras, please visit http://www.scholastic.com/administrator/teachyear/year2005.htm

or http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/04/20050420-1.html.