By Pat Loeb

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The White House has announced that a Conestoga High School chemistry teacher is one of the Pennsylvania winner of this year’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

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Derrick Wood is just 33 years-old, but he’s already won three major Chemistry teaching awards. The Presidential Award is his fourth honor but he says it feels completely different.

“This is the most prestigious award that can be given to a math or science teacher in the United States,” says Wood. “It crosses so many different disciplines and there’s so many great educators. I teach alongside many of them every single day and I just marvel at them all and am continually inspired by the work they do so to be selected from among them really signifies a great accomplishment.”

Wood graduated from Drew University. He majored in chemistry– his first love– but Drew offered him a chance to try teaching and he found his passion.

“I really liked connecting with the students,” he says. “I felt I had a real connection and a real deep understanding of how education is supposed to work.”

His approach is to bring the real world into the classroom. No textbook recipes, his labs are inquiry-based, purposeful case studies, a strategy that delights students.

Conestoga student Brendan Tierney says Wood is known as cutting edge and caring.

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“He’s willing to do almost anything for students: stay after class, help someone, make sure every student succeeds.”

The Award is given annually but alternates between K-8 teachers and high school teachers. The Pennsylvania Math teacher being honored is Susan Higley of Hughesville.

The New Jersey teachers are Kathleen Carter of North Hunterdon High School and
Michael Lawrence of West Orange High School.

The Delaware honorees are Kristin Carmen of Sussex Technical High School and
Christopher Havrilla of Woodbridge High School.

The awards ceremony is later this summer. Winners receive $10,000.

Hear the extended interview in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 5:27)…

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