CVU teacher gives $5,000 teaching award to African school

Observer staff report

Champlain Valley Union High School biology teacher David Ely will give $5,000 to a school in Africa.

Last month Ely received the 2006-07 National Teacher of the Year Siemens Award for Advanced Placement at a ceremony at the AP Annual Conference in Las Vegas. A monetary award of $5,000 accompanied the award. Ely’s selection for the honor was announced earlier this year.

Ely was selected for the national award from a pool of 50 teachers who’d been selected as the outstanding teacher from his or her state. The teachers were selected from a pool of more than 15,000 high schools, according to James Whaley, president of the Siemens Foundation.

Ely, 63, has taught at CVU High School since 1979. He has won numerous awards over the years including the Distinguished Teacher Award, White House Commission on Scholars and the Vermont Teacher of the Year. Ely has taught AP biology to 800 students, more than 750 of whom have taken the national exam, with 98 percent receiving qualifying scores and 450 receiving the highest score of five.

For five of the past nine summers, Ely has trekked to Costa Rica with groups of up to 30 of his AP Biology students, according to a press release. As a biologist, he feels compelled to pursue biodiversity studies abroad, and serve the local community. This year, he traveled with family and friends to Kenya and visited three schools. When traveling, Ely makes a point to deliver necessary supplies to children. This year, in addition to purchasing school supplies, he used his Siemens award money to give a most unusual gift to a school run by women disowned by their tribe – a cow.

“In this part of Africa, wealth is measured by the number of livestock you own,” Ely said in the release.

The Siemens awards for Advanced Placement are designed to promote excellence in math, science and technology education. The program celebrates high school students who excel in AP science and math courses, as well as teachers and schools who are leading the nation in participation and performance in AP science and math courses.