Everyone told Joyce Faye Bruchey that teachers never win the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics on a first nomination.
At a reception for semifinalists last June, the Keymar resident met several teachers who had been nominated numerous times.
"I truly did not expect to win, but I still went to the mailbox every day in August to see if there was a letter from the White House," Ms. Bruchey said.
She is an elementary enrichment teacher at Green Valley Elementary School in Monrovia, Frederick County. She provides supplemental programs for all students in the school and spends extra time with gifted children.
Just after Labor Day, the letter arrived, telling Ms. Bruchey she was one of the four Maryland teachers recognized. Another was Robert Foor-Hogue, science teacher and chairman at South Carroll High School.
The more than 200 teachers from all over the country were scheduled to receive their awards this evening from the National Science Foundation, which sponsors the award.
Also this week, they were to meet President Clinton in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House.
In addition to the $7,500 for her to spend on her school, Ms. Bruchey got a $1,000 cash award and several other gifts of educational materials from private companies.
Ms. Bruchey believes that what swayed judges in her favor was her parent-appreciation unit.
Despite the innocuous title, the unit requires students to try out such adult tasks as filling out income tax forms, figuring out a mortgage and even drawing plans for a house.
The math part, for which Ms. Bruchey is recognized, was not a separate unit. It was integrated into the program, along with non-math assignments such as carrying around an egg for two weeks as if it were a child.
Students had to think about things such as paying a baby-sitter to watch the egg if they couldn't take it with them somewhere.
Ms. Bruchey said she and other teachers decided to spend most of the $7,500 award on substitutes so that teachers can have more time to plan math lessons.
She has lived in Keymar for 20 years and has been a teacher for 25 years. She has never taught in Carroll County, although she applied in her 11th year as a teacher.
She said the man who interviewed her said she appeared to have good credentials, but that Carroll schools would probably hire less experienced, less expensive teachers before one with as much experience as she had.