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Local Mathematics Teacher Nominated for Presidential Award

California’s superintendent nominated Eastside College Preparatory School teacher Marianne Chowning-Dray for a Presidential Award for Excellence. She formerly taught at Gunn High School.

Marianne Chowning-Dray, Eastside College Preparatory mathematics teacher, as seen in her 2012-2013 school portrait.
Marianne Chowning-Dray, Eastside College Preparatory mathematics teacher, as seen in her 2012-2013 school portrait.
Written by Vanessa Casteñeda

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction nominated Eastside College Preparatory School teacher Marianne Chowning-Dray for a 2013 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching on Tuesday.

Chowning-Dray teaches AP Calculus and Algebra to students from all over the Peninsula. She was delighted to be considered for the award.

When asked to describe her teaching style, she said she is endlessly interested in thinking about learning ways to make mathematics interesting to students.

“I think about ways of getting students to engage in the material and make it accessible and hope that they learn to value mathematics in their lives and feel like it’s something they all have the capacity to learn,” she added.

The National Science Foundation bestows the award on behalf of the White House. 

The California Department of Education selected nominees for the award based on a video of a lesson that each teacher submitted and a series of qualifications.  A panel of the teacher’s peers watched each 45-minute video and judged whether the teacher understood the topic they were discussing and effectively relayed the information. Their levels of professional involvement and leadership qualities were also taken into consideration.

Since 2007, Chowning-Dray has taught in East Palo Alto, California bringing her exposure to multiple cultures into her classroom. 

“I taught in three different states while my husband was pursing his M-D,” she said. She has taught in Utah, Vermont, and Washington. She said teaching in different school environments helped her build her repertoire. “It can be hard going into a new school and figuring out the system and students and how things work," she said. "By default, I ended up benefitting from that quite a bit.” 

Prior to teaching at Eastside College Preparatory School she taught at Gunn High School in Palo Alto.  She earned her masters degree from the Stanford University Teacher Education Program in 1988. Her undergraduate coursework she completed at Smith College in Massachusetts. 

While Eastside College Preparatory School does not make students take state mandated exit exams such as the STAR, they do measure student success through SAT scores, AP scores, and other internal assessments.  

Chowning-Dray measures her own success by looking at data, reviewing student assessments, and engaging her peers and supervisors in feedback sessions.  

“We figure out things that are going well and also identify areas that need improvement,” she said, highlighting the fact that she tries to gain as much data as possible before forming conclusions.

What advice would she give to new teachers?

“Stick with it because the first year or two can be really challenging and sometimes it can be really easy to be disillusioned. But if it’s the right career fit for you, I cannot think of a more rewarding and meaningful career. There’s never a day that I wake up and wonder ‘Why am I doing what I’m doing?’ 

I’m always challenged and excited about and inspired by my job and my students. So, if it’s the right fit for you, it’s worth the process.”  
The others mathematics teachers nominated for the position are Michelle Katz, teacher at Northridge Academy High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and Andrew Walter, teacher at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in the Stockton Unified School District. 

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