Top of the class

LU alumna and teacher receives presidential award

The room broke into applause after Jaunine Fouché’s lesson on Egyptian hieroglyphs.

She saw that she had impressed her audience.

Fouché was a seventh-grader at the time, and her audience was her teacher and classmates.

“I really enjoyed researching for the lesson, delivering the lesson, answering the questions from the students, and so really I was hooked from that point on,” Fouché said.

Today, President Barack Obama and the entire U.S. are her audience, and they are certainly impressed.

Liberty University Alumna Janine Fouché won the 2016 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation’s highest honor for math and science teachers, for her work at Milton Hershey School.

“I was elated, blessed and humbled,” Fouché said.

Fouché was one of 213 other K-12 teachers selected for honor by Obama, rising from among over 10,000

One of her dissertational committee members nominated her for the award by submitting her lesson on dark matter, with which she used active learning methods to teach the challenging topic.

“It’s a very abstract concept because we cannot detect it directly with any of the technology we currently have, so teaching it is rather challenging,” Fouché said.

Criteria for the award included accuracy, support of active student learning, effective use of student assessments, personal reflection on successes, areas for improvement and personal commitment to life-long learning and a solid history in leadership in education outside the classroom.

Dr. Scott Watson, one of Fouché’s professors at Liberty and a member of her dissertation committee, remarked that she had also received the Liberty University 2013 Quantitative Dissertation of the Year award during the time of his work with her.

“She had already won one award with us, so it was not a surprise to see her win the President’s Award,” Watson said. “That’s really what I’d expect from her.”

Fouché earned her educational specialist degree in educational leadership and her doctorate of education in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in science from Liberty as part of a blended degree which involved both residential and online classes.

She said she chose Liberty because she wanted a terminal degree program that would still fit into her life while she worked full-time.

“I wanted a program that was nationally accredited and very rigorous — so I didn’t just want a rubber-stamped degree — I wanted one that was really rigorous and really meant something,” Fouché said.

Her criteria went beyond the academic, however.

“It was very important to me to have a program whose leadership focus was morally and spiritually grounded and had an emphasis on transformational leadership,” Fouché said.

Watson described his first encounter with Fouché during her time at Liberty.

“The first impression was that she is very professional and very serious about what she is doing, more than most, in terms of being so serious,” Watson said. “The thing that was really interesting was that she seemed to know exactly what she wanted to do from the very beginning. Most doctoral students don’t, particularly at that stage.”

When working with many doctoral students on the dissertations, Watson said he would need to make firm recommendations to guide their work.

With Fouché, he said, his experience was different.

“It was always really interesting to work with her because I felt like I was working with a colleague, rather than a student,” Watson said. “When we talked about her design for her study, it was a discussion.”

Watson spoke of her intelligence and her understanding of research and her subject area, saying she was outstanding, even for doctoral students.

“I’ve been in higher education for nearly 30 years,” Watson said. “I’d rate her certainly one of my top five students I’ve ever worked with, maybe higher than that.”

Fouché currently works with Liberty on chair dissertations, reviewing dissertation proposals and serving as a consultant for other students, Watson said.

“It’s just been a gift having her work with us,” Watson said. “My experience with her was unlike any other, so I will never forget working with her.”

Fouché’s primary work lies in her role as the science curriculum supervisor at Milton Hershey School.

“I very much believe in student choice and student voice in the classroom,” Fouché said. “I believe it’s important to honor that, so we can’t always prescribe what students should learn.”

Fouché said she is also a proponent of the Next Generation Science Standards, structuring her whole classroom around the eight core science and engineering practices.

The private school provides cost-free education to K-12 grade students from low-income backgrounds.

“When you teach here, it’s really important to embrace and feel a part of the mission of the school,” Fouché said. “So when you work here, the relationships that you develop with your students are essential. For all intents and purposes, we develop relationships just like family, and that is not a rarity. That’s a commonality.”

Fouché said her favorite part of her job is the students she gets to work with.

“Our students are absolutely amazing, and I am blessed beyond measure to be part of shaping their future,” Fouché said. “It’s not just a job. It really is a calling and a mission.”

PORS is a news reporter.

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