BURBANK, Calif. - Disney heroes have been capturing children’s hearts for generations, but the newest Disney hero is reaching them in ways that Cinderella or Aladdin never could. Michael Lampert, a teacher at West Salem High School, has been chosen from more than 50,000 nominees nationwide to receive the 2005 Disney Teacher Award in celebration of his creativity, innovative teaching methods, and ability to inspire his students.
As one of only 45 Disney Teacher Honorees, Lampert receives $10,000 from The Walt Disney Company and a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. for a week of fun and celebration from July 23-28. In addition, Disney awards $5,000 to West Salem High School.
"Disney was founded on creativity, and we feel it is vital in helping children learn in ways that both engage and challenge them,” said Terry Wick, vice president of Disney Worldwide Outreach. "Creative teachers like Mr. Lampert open up new worlds to students through their creativity and passion for learning.”
Disney Teacher Honorees are selected by their peers—former Disney Teacher Honorees and representatives of leading educational associations from across the United States. Honorees come from every subject field and every level of K-12 teaching. Lampert is one of three Honorees being recognized for High School Science education.
Science is an adventure for Lampert and his students. In order to get beyond tight budget constraints, Lampert has arranged private grants to teach his students subjects like robotics and sports physics. But it isn’t just the fun lessons in the classroom that make him successful. "What makes me different is that I spend time after school with kids, and we involve ourselves in projects,” he said. "We’ve won national awards. Right now we’re making a watermelon evaluator where we thump watermelons to determine their ripeness. The kids had to learn a lot of electronics to build it, and we’re going to MIT to present it soon.”
That creativity is present in the day-to-day lessons as well. Lampert cites his optics unit as an example. "What makes it unique is that instead of just doing the standard labs with lasers and prisms, at the end of the unit we do a dissection of a cow eye. Kids always remember that lesson. I play music all the time in my classroom, we make a bunch of fun about cows, and I show The Terminator scene where Schwarzenegger dissects his eye. It’s a lot of fun.”
Established in 1989, the Disney Teacher Awards do not simply honor one teacher, they also make a permanent investment in that teacher’s educational community. In addition to the monetary awards for Lampert and his school, Disney will also fly Lampert and his principal to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. this October for a six-day professional development institute where they can refine their own innovative teaching approaches by sharing ideas and learn how to engage other teachers to build an effective collaborative teaching culture at their school.
Once they return, Lampert and his principal will work with experts from the Center for Collaborative Education in Boston to design a schoolwide plan for making teaching more effective. Lampert will take a leadership role, educating his fellow teachers in the creative techniques that have made him so successful at connecting with students.
Lampert is excited about the professional development aspect of the Disney Teacher Awards. "I’m delighted because I’m going to be with elementary teachers and now I’ll be able to talk with them personally,” he said. "Every year I take my kids down to the elementary schools and we’ll teach things to the elementary kids. The best thing I’m going to get out of this is the contacts with elementary and middle school teachers.”
Fellow teacher Jan Olinger has a unique perspective on Lampert's teaching ability. "As a parent of one of Mr. Lampert's physics students, his knowledge and dedication to teaching impress me,” she said. "His students, both gifted and challenged, are given the opportunity to be involved, to enjoy learning science, and to achieve success. He is an inspiration to his students and his colleagues.”
During the week of celebratory events in Anaheim, five exceptional teachers will be chosen from the 45 Honorees. Four Outstanding Teachers and one Disney Teacher of the Year will receive an additional $15,000 from Disney. Nominations for the 2006 Disney Teacher Awards will be open in mid-August. For more information on the awards process, please visit www.disneyhand.com.
"Winning the Disney Teacher Award means a lot to me,” Lampert said. "There’s a great public perception about Disney. People associate Disney with kids, and teachers with kids. It’s a natural match. To be recognized by Disney as a stellar teacher means a lot for the kids, because they’re proud of their teacher.”
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