The accolades keep coming for Christopher Merkert, who heads the science department at the East Hampton Middle School.
Mr. Merkert was recently nominated for a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science. It’s the federal government’s highest honor for kindergarten through 12th-grade math and science teachers.
According to Mr. Merkert, 40, who has taught at the middle school since 1994, it’s the first time a teacher at his school has been nominated for the prestigious award. Though Mr. Merkert received word of his nomination in last week’s mail, the person who nominated him remains a mystery.
“I’ll definitely give it a shot,” he said. The application is due on May 1, with winners announced later in the spring.
He went on to say that innovative teaching doesn’t exist in silos but is part of a shared culture where individuals are given the freedom to pursue their varied interests.
“Over the years, I’ve received such great support from administrators and parents,” said Mr. Merkert, a resident of East Hampton. “If you encourage a student, you’ll be amazed at what a kid will do. And the same thing goes for teachers.”
In October, Mr. Merkert was one of 50 educators chosen to attend Google’s Teacher Academy in New York City. In May, the Science Teachers Association of New York State named him Suffolk County’s science teacher of the year for his use of “flipped teaching,” where students can watch short, instructional videos at home rather than using valuable class time.
Mr. Merkert, who teaches eighth-grade science, is an advocate of bringing technology into the classroom whenever possible. He routinely posts questions related to his teaching on Twitter — allowing him to instantaneously interact with educators from around the country and improve upon his lesson plans accordingly.
For the Presidential Teaching Award, applicants must demonstrate mastery of content, the use of instructional methods and strategies to track student achievement, and leadership outside the classroom, among several other factors.
Since 1993, more than 4,200 teachers have received the award, with more than 100 educators from around the country chosen every year.
In addition to receiving a signed certificate from President Obama, honorees will receive a $10,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and a trip to Washington, D.C., this summer.