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Saint Anthony Park Science Teacher Honored with Presidential Award

Saint Anthony Park Elementary School Teacher Jim Schrankler

Posted by Saint Paul Public Schools on November 1, 2018

Saint Anthony Park Elementary School Teacher Jim Schrankler loves to get students excited about science.

“My goal as an elementary science teacher is for my students to have a greater respect and appreciation for the world they live in,” said Mr. Schrankler. “As they grow older, I hope students continue to ask questions and be curious about their surroundings. I hope that students think and act like scientists and engineers -- even if they do not pursue careers in science.”

Mr. Schrankler recently became the fifth science teacher from SPPS to be honored with the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Only 102 people in the United States received this year’s award -- with Mr. Schrankler being one of two educators in Minnesota to receive the honor.

“I honestly feel that this award represents the work of all the amazing educators in my life and my students,” said Mr. Schrankler. “I have been fortunate to work alongside excellent teachers who have inspired me and shared their expertise. My students have driven me through their sense of curiosity and enthusiasm.”

“Every time I walk into Mr. Schrankler's room, I see engaged, culturally-responsive teaching and learning,” said Saint Anthony Park Principal Karen Duke. “I see students active and engaged with hands-on experiments, approaching tasks with curiosity and a desire to do well. I see students who struggle at school feeling valued and successful. I always think to myself, ‘I wish I could be a learner in Mr. Schrankler's classes!’”

Earlier this month, Saint Anthony Park Elementary School surprised Mr. Schrankler for his award. Students made presentations and presented him with a banner, a personalized lab coat and a check to fund a new Schrankler Science Section in the school library.

“I was in awe,” Mr. Schrankler said about the surprise assembly in his honor. “Being recognized by the students and staff was a very humbling experience. I have tremendous respect for all of the staff and students in attendance and feel that every staff member in the room deserves that kind of recognition.”

“Mr. Schrankler doesn’t want science to just stay in our classroom,” said Harper, a third-grader at Saint Anthony Park Elementary School. “He wants us to observe science everywhere, every day of our lives. He is very, very nice and I am thankful that he is our science teacher. I think we are very lucky because he teaches us a lot.”

To put it simply, “He makes science fun,” said Gus, a third-grader at Saint Anthony Park Elementary School.

“We always do really fun experiments in class, and learn new things every day,” added Tariq, a third-grader. “My favorite experiment was learning about centripetal force.”

The Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching was established in 1983, and is the highest award kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics and science teachers can receive from the U.S. government. The award alternates years between kindergarten through sixth grade and seventh through twelfth grade teachers.

“I’m very proud of him,” William Schrankler, James’ father and a former SPPS principal said of the award. “I was flabbergasted when he told me he received this award. He works hard at his craft, and he is very good at it.”

Mr. Schrankler is not only an outstanding teacher in his classroom; he is a valued colleague and teacher leader, said Duke.

“We all learn from his balanced approach to professional learning,” Duke said, “his commitment to equity, and his ability to form strong, positive relationships with all students.”

James Schrankler speaks thanks students and staff at the end of a surprise all-school assembly in his honor.

Mr. Schrankler took the time to answer a few questions about teaching science at Saint Anthony Park Elementary School:

Q: What do you enjoy most about being an elementary school science teacher?
A: I really enjoy the variety. I appreciate the opportunity to work with all of the grade levels in the school while working with all of the students and staff in the building. I appreciate the challenge of finding multiple ways to effectively teach a given concept. I also appreciate the opportunity to teach multiple disciplines (physical, life and earth science, and engineering).

Q: What excites you most about being an elementary science teacher?
A: There are multiple factors that make working as a science specialist exciting. Having the opportunity to work with students and families for a number of years is very rewarding. The ability to see the excitement students demonstrate when they experience or discover a new phenomena and can make multiple real-world connections keeps me going.

Q: How do you work to engage students in science?
A: I like to engage my students through discrepant events or have them immerse themselves in investigations that challenge their thinking. 

Q: What is it like for you to see students be excited about science?
A: Student excitement towards science is what drives me to continue to provide the best learning environment I possibly can. Their excitement always leads to new questions, which drives future investigations.

Q: Anything you’d like to add about teaching at Saint Anthony Park Elementary School, relating to the students, staff and families in that community?
A: Saint Anthony Park is a wonderful school and community. Our school community is not only represented by families that live in the neighborhood, but also by families that come to SAP from other neighborhoods in Saint Paul and the surrounding areas. Our school community values learning and one another. Students care about their community and feel supported. Saint Anthony Park Elementary offers a multitude of learning opportunities for students with a variety of interests.

What students say about Mr. Schrankler’s science class:

  • His class is fun and I learn a lot of stuff.
  • Science is my favorite class.
  • Mr. Schrankler always listens to our ideas and includes them in science lessons.
  • Mr. Schrankler reminds us to try hard, and then to try harder.