Texas AP® Teacher of the Year Honored

Prestigious Honor Includes $30,000 Cash Prize

Jan 07, 2011, 14:30 ET from Communities Foundation of Texas

DALLAS, Jan. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Penny Smeltzer, an Advanced Placement (AP®) Statistics teacher at Westwood High School in Round Rock, has been named the recipient of the third annual O'Donnell Texas AP Teacher Award for her outstanding record in helping high school students master college-level work through rigorous AP courses.  Mrs. Smeltzer received a $30,000 cash prize at a luncheon held in Austin on January 7, at The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas' (TAMEST) annual membership conference.  

Award finalists also included Dixie Ross and Nancy Scoggin, educators from Pflugerville High School and Joshua High School, respectively. They also received cash prizes.

The prizes are from the O'Donnell Texas AP Teacher Award Fund at Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT), with support for the program provided through The David Nathan Meyerson Private Foundation.  The award is presented annually through CFT to one AP teacher in a Texas public high school who made remarkable contributions to the teaching profession and community. These teachers instill confidence in their students that prepares them for successful college careers and beyond. In addition to recognizing teachers, the award serves as a tribute to Peter and Edith O'Donnell, whose Dallas-based foundation has long supported improving education in Texas.

"AP teachers make their students successful well beyond high school.  Passing AP exams gives them confidence to attend college and earn a degree. That college degree will change their lives," said Peter O'Donnell, Jr.  "AP teachers prove that we can have excellence in public education.  They give us assurance about the future of our young people."

"The three finalists have had astounding careers, and they each bring unique and intangible teaching techniques to the classroom every day," said Morton Meyerson chairman and CEO of 2M Companies, and chairman of The David Nathan Meyerson Private Foundation.  "I want to personally thank each of these educators for their passion, and I know their students will be esteemed leaders in college, their careers, and life."

"The time and energy these teachers devote to the AP program, their students, and communities deserves to be awarded," said Brent Christopher, president and CEO of CFT. "Every year, it is a great pleasure to work with Morton Meyerson on the O'Donnell Texas AP Teacher Award, and we consider it an honor to recognize the teachers, the significance of the AP program, and the O'Donnells."

In preparing students for education beyond high school, the College Board's AP program has been flourishing.  Over the past decade in Texas, the number of students who passed AP exams in math and science increased approximately 145 percent, from a little more than 11,000 in 2000 to more than 27,000 in 2010.

The Winner and Finalists

Penny Smeltzer been has been teaching for 31 years, including 14 years of teaching AP Statistics. She earned a BS in Mathematics, History and English from Western Michigan University. Smeltzer has grown the AP Statistics program at Westwood to one of the largest in the nation. She brings a confident, can-do approach to teaching, and gets her kids out of the classroom, teaching in cross-curricular ways that are more in touch with real-world work. Her lesson plans rarely include sitting at a desk, and students are often seen in non-traditional settings gathering data while doing a variety of activities. Her achievements include extensive work with the College Board presenting at conferences and authoring materials. In 2009 she was named the Texas Exes Outstanding Teacher by the University of Texas and was the National Winner of the Siemens Award for Science and Math Advanced Placement Teaching in 2008.

Dixie Ross has led the AP Calculus program (both AB and BC) at Pflugerville High School for the last eight years. This year, the AB Calculus scores at Pflugerville were tenth best in the state and third best in terms of minority student success. Ross earned her BA in English and her BS in Secondary Education from the University of Texas at Austin and has been teaching for 26 years. She is described as an educational cheerleader for her unmatched ability to recruit students to the AP program and her infectious passion for math. To assist in her goal of recruiting students to AP classes, she developed a panel of students called the AP Ambassadors to ignite interest throughout her district. In addition to Ross' success at Pflugerville High School, her achievements include extensive work with the College Board leading summer institutes and authoring materials. She conducts spring prep sessions in districts without an experienced AP Calculus teacher, and received the Raytheon Math Hero Award in 2008.

Nancy Scoggin has spent 36 years teaching, 14 of those dedicated to teaching AP Music Theory. She earned her BA of Music Education from the University of Southern Mississippi. For the last 30 years Scoggin has taught at Joshua High School and is currently the Head Director of Bands and the Director of Fine Arts.  She believes in a "no child left behind" approach which focuses on developing every student that comes through the door no matter their background or skill level.  She has provided consistent, quality instruction and attained remarkable results as 100% of her AP classes have passed the AP Music Theory exam, two out of the last three years. Other achievements include extensive work with the College Board presenting at conferences and authoring materials. In February 2010, Scoggin completed the AP Music Theory Guidebook written for and published by Barron's Educational Publishers; a product she hopes will be a major contribution to the AP Music Theory community.

About the O'Donnell Foundation

Edith and Peter O'Donnell, Jr. established the O'Donnell Foundation in 1957 to focus on improving education in Texas. The Foundation develops and funds model programs designed to strengthen math, engineering, science and arts education.  One such program is the Advanced Placement Incentive Program, which has led to a dramatic increase in the number of high school students, especially minorities, passing college-level courses in mathematics, science and English.  It has been so successful in Texas that the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report released by the National Academies in 2006 recommended it for replication, and the National Math and Science Initiative is implementing the incentive program in six states.

About Communities Foundation of Texas

Since its founding in 1953, Communities Foundation of Texas has grown to become one of the nation's largest community foundations.  Through its work, the foundation enhances the experience and impact of charitable giving.  It serves as a hub for collaboration between donors, nonprofits and other funding organizations to stimulate creative solutions to key community challenges.  This is accomplished through a variety of donor-advised, designated and discretionary funds.  The foundation professionally manages more than 800 component funds and has awarded over $1 billion in charitable grants.

SOURCE Communities Foundation of Texas