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November 01, 2000   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
November 01, 2000

"Montgomery, Ala." A science teacher at Drake Middle School in Auburn, Mark T. Jones, has been named Alfa's Teacher of the Month for November. As this month's winner, he will receive $1,000 from Alfa, as will his school. Alfa Insurance Company and the Alabama Farmers Federation began sponsoring the awards program two years ago as a way to recognize excellence in education.

Jones, who is expected to complete his doctorate studies at Auburn University next year, holds master's degrees in both zoology and education from Auburn. His teaching experience includes work as a research assistant in Auburn's College of Veterinary Medicine, and he also helps train other educators for the Alabama Reading Initiative. Jones said he tries to engage his students by relating complex scientific concepts to real-world current events. "In class I guide discussions toward relevant current topics," he said. "The students often are excited about science, but there is no match for the excitement a student gets when they go home and see what we are studying on CNN that night." Another way Jones makes science more interesting for their students is by involving them in hands-on activities. "All students should be encouraged to actively participate in learning in order to increase retention of ideas and later application," Jones said. "One type of active learning that should be emphasized is inquiry-based learning in which students take concepts and discover and explore them themselves."

Jones, who has received several grants to enhance his classes, is a candidate for National Board certification. He also is the head coach of the Science Olympiad team at Drake Middle School. During his four-year tenure as coach at Drake and at Auburn Junior High School, his science teams have twice won the state championship. Two other teams placed second, and three of his teams have been nationally ranked.

During 2000, the Alfa Teacher of the Month program will honor one outstanding public school teacher from each of the state's eight public school board districts; two private school teachers; and two principals. Each winner is chosen based on an independent committee's evaluation of the applications received.

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