NOTE: The following press release was written by APSB Public Information Office intern Preston Wyatt, who is a senior at Dutchtown High School.
Geismar, La. — Dutchtown High School (DTHS) chemistry teacher Tabitha Vu is one of five state finalists for the 2017 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). This is the second time a teacher from Ascension and DTHS has achieved this honor in the last three years.
“Ascension is incredibly proud of Mrs. Vu. She is both an accomplished teacher and a product of our school system. Her innovative teaching method is getting much-deserved recognition," said Ascension Public Schools Superintendent David Alexander.
Vu has been with the DTHS family for the last 12 years teaching and reaching students from a number courses such as chemistry, AP chemistry, physical science, and environmental science. This award is one of the highest of honors for math and science teachers and is best bestowed on those for leadership and inspiration within the field of education. If named a national finalist, she will receive an official certificate signed by the President of the United States in addition to a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.
“It is very exciting to be a state finalist for this prestigious award, and it would be an honor to represent Dutchtown and Ascension on a national level," said Vu.
Born and raised in Prairieville, Vu grew up with a love for chemistry. While a student at East Ascension High School (EAHS), she met a unique group of science mentors: Jill Holdridge and Michael “Brendan” Simoneaux. Upon graduation at EAHS, Vu attended Louisiana State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a focus on chemistry. When DTHS opened its doors in 2003, she began her career in education teaching environmental science, physical science, and chemistry classes under another mentor, Bobbie Keller.
Vu returned to LSU to earn a master’s degree in educational leadership. In 2005, she began teaching only chemistry classes alongside her former teacher, Simoneaux, who was a 2015 PAEMST national honoree. Simoneaux encouraged Vu to pursue both National Board Certification and PAEMST.
THE MODULE SYSTEM
In the fall of 2015, she created an individualized, structured learning approach, known as the Module System. According to Vu, “the concept is designed for students who not only want to survive, but also thrive in chemistry. It creates a comfortable atmosphere for the student that wants to move at their own pace."
Students in Vu’s chemistry classes take daily assessments, called pretests. Based on the results of the pretests, students are grouped in “squads” to help each other reflect on what they missed. Once the reflection period is over, students are given a chance to retake the pretest. Vu utilizes Google Classroom to post notes, practice questions, and detailed solutions to the practice questions for each level.
The individualized teaching approach is working. Going into the first nine weeks benchmark period, Vu set a class index goal of 120.1, and initial results show students exceeded that goal with an outstanding index of 123.3.
Vu’s Module System was adopted by the entire chemistry department at DTHS. Moreover, she has enlisted teachers from different schools such as University High School and EAHS to contribute to a lesson database. By collaborating with other teachers, Vu hopes to see continued expansion of the Module System so more students can learn to love chemistry while accelerating at their own pace.