Courtesy of the Office of Phil Roe
Kris Krautkremer teaches AP Biology at Dobyns-Bennett High School. In the past, she has taught in both the science and math departments at DB. This year, Krautkremer won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
The award is an achievement that reflects the strong contributions Krautkremer has made in the teaching profession. It is awarded to one 7-12 science teacher from each state every two years. Teachers must first be selected as a state winner, then 3 teachers are submitted to the National Science Foundation, who select the national winners.
Krautkremer has taught for 17 years in Kingsport and is a 29-year classroom veteran. Despite all of this experience, she had not originally planned to become a teacher.
“I went to school to be a lab scientist and while I was in graduate school I taught undergraduate courses and fell in love with teaching,” she said. “So, I added in the teacher education courses and became certified to teach secondary science and math.”
In her 29 years of teaching, she has taught both high school and college courses. She prefers high school, which most people think is odd.
“I think that by the time students are in college, they know what they want to study, but in high school I can hopefully ignite a love of science that students take with them to college, work and life,” Krautkremer said.
As a student, Krautkramer was studious in any grade, including college. She loved to learn and was very serious about school.
“I think that for me, by being overly studious, it helped me be organized and have good time management,” she said. “That way, I could still be involved in other activities and still keep up with school.”
Her fondest memory from her years as a student was coming to Dobyns Bennett High School. She lived in Memphis until she was 15. Her dad was the Hospital Administrator for LeBonheur, and when he retired, they moved to Kingsport because that was where all of her family lived.
“I started DB right after fall semester, so I was one of only two new students in the building,” Krautkremer said. “I had never gone to school with boys before and had only had the same 40 girls in my class every year. Those two and a half years at DB prepared me for college, because I needed to experience a school with lots of students and lots of rigor. I loved all of my teachers and have many friends who I am still close to today.”
As a teacher, Krautkremer learned grace from her student.
“I am such a different person now than I was when I first started teaching,” she said. “I don’t think my heart was as big as it is now. I didn’t consider how much high schoolers are dealing with. Now, I am still all about the work, but I am also all about taking care of my kids.”
Krautkremer believes her students may not know how much they truly mean to her.
“Because of how I started college and my degrees are all in science and lab management, I really should be working in a lab,” she said. “I love research, but I can’t imagine life without these students. So, every year I think about going to work somewhere else where I can do research, and then I quickly decide that is not for me anymore.”
How exactly did Krautkramer win the Presidential award? Teachers must be nominated. After the nomination, teachers submit a video of classroom instruction along with a long narrative that discusses the video, teaching strategies, includes a resume, and a list of awards and ways the teacher has supported science education in her school, district, and state.
“I received an email in January 2019 that I had won at the national level,” she said. “I had received the state level award over a year and a half earlier. This is a really long process once it goes to the national level.”
Because teachers will meet the President of the United States as they accept their award, there is a lengthy and complicated process of going through FBI clearance.
“They don’t let you know when they will bring you to Washington because of security issues and scheduling processes with the President,” she said. “After receiving the email in January, I wasn’t allowed to let anyone know I had won until it was announced officially. They did not make that announcement until October.”
Krautkremer felt incredibly honored.
“It is stressful to know that you will be given around 10 days notice and you have to be ready at any time to go to DC,” she said. “I don’t think I felt it was real until we were finally at the awards ceremony. They had so much planned for us in DC that it was a complete whirlwind; but a good whirlwind.”
This award means a lot to Kraukremer and her fellow award-winning teachers:
“The award means that teachers are receiving the highest award possible for a math or science teacher,” she said. “It is pretty daunting. While in DC, teachers are provided with many opportunities to become a leader in education. Most of the positions in Washington that concern education are filled with teachers who are previous winners. The expectation is high that awardees will become educational leaders on a state and national level.”
After winning, most awardees are approached with many opportunities to serve on committees and to have a voice in education in their state.
“In Tennessee, we have made so much progress in education and for the past 7 years, I have had many, many opportunities to engage in that work,” Krautkremer said. “I honestly don’t feel that being an awardee has opened any new doors, because Tennessee has been a leader in teacher-led educational change and I always felt like I was encouraged to have a voice.”
Krautkramer won, based on what she and her students do every day in class. She made one video, not many videos, so she could select the one I felt best about.
“That was the deal I made with my students when I started this process,” she said. “I told my students that we were going to submit what was real and what was our daily work. One take. You can’t edit the video so it was 45 minutes of exactly what we normally do every day. Recently, I went back and watched the video and I loved seeing those students because we weren’t trying to impress anyone, we were just being us.”
As far as Krautkremer is concerned, she won this award alongside her students.
“Essentially, we all won this award,” she said. “Every student I have ever taught. I felt unbelievably humbled to be able to represent all of them in DC and to know what we do every day matters.”