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Farmington High School teacher wins NMSU award

Janet Hunter, a mathematics teacher at Farmington High School, has won New Mexico State University's 19th annual French Award for Improvement of Secondary Teaching.

The $3,000 award sponsors research and creative ideas. Hunter will use the award money to develop an algebra lab course for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Hunter (center) was honored recently at a luncheon given by the NMSU College of Education and attended by NMSU President William B. Conroy and Interim Education Dean Michael Morehead (right). Farmington High School Principal Larry DeWees (left) and his wife, Judy, traveled with Hunter to Las Cruces.

The French award, founded by Ralph and Josiah French of Las Cruces, honors the memory of their aunts, Fannie and Floy French, education pioneers at the turn of the 20th century.

During the 1999-2000 school year, Hunter plans to reach 75 students at risk of failing algebra and dropping out of school. The following year, she hopes the course also will be offered to junior high school students.

Although Farmington High School has had an Algebra I graduation requirement for five years, 60 percent of students receive failing or near failing grades, Hunter said. Teaching approaches, based on a traditional combination of lectures and homework, have not worked, Hunter said.

The French award will help pay for Algebra Bundle computer software, which includes activities for students and resources for teachers. Students also will use graphing calculators and other materials. They will work together in the lab to solve algebra problems.

"Computers are one of the ways to motivate kids to do mathematics," Hunter said.

Hunter's course design is based on techniques she learned recently in a master's degree program funded by the National Science Foundation. She plans to train fellow teachers to use the techniques as well. Eventually, Hunter said, about 200 students will be reached each year as teachers introduce new techniques.

The course will be evaluated by students' academic success and their attitudes toward school, cooperative learning and mathematics, Hunter said.

As a French award winner, Hunter follows the example of sisters who devoted their lives to education. Floy French, born in 1878, worked in library management in New Mexico and later as head librarian at Carnegie Library in Indiana. Fannie French, born in 1883, graduated from NMSU in 1902 when it was the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. She organized the first Las Cruces High School and was its first principal. She later became an education teacher at Morton College in Illinois. Both women returned to Las Cruces after they retired.