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West Greshams Cooke wins state teaching award

First-grade teacher Jackie Cooke is champion of math literacy
by: Carole Archer, West Gresham Elementary School first-grade teacher Jackie Cooke is congratulated by fifth-grader and former student Tristin Heartley, 10, after winning the 2006-07 Oregon Teacher of the Year award.

Most teachers push literacy in their classrooms. West Gresham Elementary School teacher Jackie Cooke pushes math, or, as she likes to call it, 'numeracy.'

'… I'm convinced that one of the most important issues in education today is improving students' performance in mathematics,' Cooke wrote in a recent essay for the Oregon Department of Education. 'It has been shown in numerous reports that mathematics is a 'gatekeeper' to economic access, full citizenship and economic advancement.'

Imagine Cooke's shock when she came across this quote at a recent math teacher convention: 'By 2010, if current trends continue, more than 90 percent of all scientists and engineers in the world will be living in Asia.'

Cooke is working to change these trends. In her first-grade classroom at West Gresham Elementary School, Cooke tries to ease 'math anxiety' early on by playing games with the children and urging parents to hide their own math fears. When she's not in the classroom, Cooke is coaching other teachers and co-editing the Oregon Mathematics Teacher magazine.

West Gresham Principal Debra James says Cooke is 'constantly researching, reading and inventing new and better ways to increase the math literacy of students.'

And for this, Cooke is being rewarded.

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, Oregon Superintendent Susan Castillo presented Cooke as the 2006-07 Oregon Teacher of the Year.

'(Cooke's) ability to lead other teachers has resulted in the re-energizing of math instruction in the Gresham-Barlow School District,' Castillo told the students and staff members at West Gresham. 'Her passion for math will help in the preparation of our state's workforce.'

Cooke came out on top of more than 100 candidates for the Oregon Department of Education's Teacher of the Year. She is the third East County teacher in as many weeks to receive a prestigious teaching award.

'We have the best teachers in the state, and we hope they will continue to do the work they do,' said Gresham-Barlow School Board member Terry Reynolds.

Cooke will travel to Texas and Washington, D.C., later this year to speak at various education ceremonies and to meet the president of the United States. She will also give a speech at the Oregon School Board Association's annual convention.

Standing before a school full of children, Cooke said she was surprised and excited about her award, but 'a little scared too.'

'It's a little scary to me because now I have to make a speech,' Cooke told the children, many of them former students. 'Can you guess what I'll probably talk about?'

The children shout.

'Math!'

And Cooke grins.