Castro Valley elementary school teacher Charles Reynes was one of 100 teachers across the nation honored yesterday by President Barack Obama for excellence in mathematics and science teaching.
Reynes teaches more than 600 fourth- and fifth-graders at five Castro Valley Unified School District schools in a once-a-week program that enhances whatever the students are learning in science that week.
Jim Negri, former assistant school superintendent in Pleasanton and now superintendent of the Castro Valley district, said that Reynes, who works with another specialist who joins him in visiting schools, "does an absolutely tremendous job."
Negri said Reynes "is so enthusiastic about teaching that when I visit schools to see him teach I want to get involved myself."
He said Reynes admits that he struggled as a student himself and therefore wants to make sure every child is engaged in learning.
"Charles is one of those gems whose enthusiasm for learning comes across to the kids. They almost don't know they're learning science," Negri said.
Reynes previously won an Alameda County teacher of the year award in 2006 and a California teacher of the year award in 2007.
In a statement given after his national award was announced last year, Reynes said, "Teaching's great reward is that while we devote our lives to helping our students grow academically and socially, we inadvertently grow
"Teaching is reciprocal by nature and as we strive to create a world without limits for our students they build one for us," he said.
Also recognized at the White House ceremony were Frank Bayliss, of San Francisco State University, and physicist Kennedy Reed of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who were honored for excellence in science, mathematics and engineering mentoring.
Bayliss has taught at San Francisco State University for more than 25 years, establishing its first genetic engineering research laboratory.
He also established a student enrichment opportunities program that aims in part to help minority students get into doctorate programs at top research universities.
Reed has worked to broaden the participation of women and minorities in disciplines relating to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Richard Zare, chair of the Department of Chemistry at Stanford University, was also honored. Zare focuses on gender and ethnic equity in science, technology, engineering and math.
In a statement issued by the White House, President Obama said, "The quality of math and science teachers is the most important single factor influencing whether students will succeed or fail in science, technology, engineering and math."
The president said educators who have passion and expertise prepare students "to tackle the grand challenges of the 21st century such as increasing energy independence, improving people's health, protecting the environment and strengthening national security."