JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Rick Pinchot has been a teacher for 12 years and currently teaches fourth grade math and science at Chet's Creek Elementary School.
He got the surprise of his career Friday morning when he was told he'd been selected as a state finalist for an award given by the White House.
Pinchot is up for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation's highest recognition that a K-12 math or science teacher can receive. He said the honor and surprise made him speechless.
"Surprised, a little overwhelmed, but happy," Pinchot said.
He said that although he was caught off guard, there was a part of his morning that made him think something was up.
"My wife picked out my clothes for me this morning," he said. "She wouldn't let me wear a T-shirt today, 'cause it's our spirit day and I was going to wear a T-shirt and jeans, and she said no, and she never does that."
"He is like a hero to me," Pinchot's wife, Alisha, said. "He is an amazing father, an amazing husband, but he is an amazing teacher."
Pinchot's wife and other supporters were in the crowd to cheer him on and wish him luck as he now waits to find out if he will be the overall winner of the award.
"He's very well-rounded, he's taught students that struggle a lot, he's taught students who are very advanced and students in between, and he's found ways to meet each other -- their needs and move them farther along," Duval County Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals said.
President Barack Obama can give up to 108 awards each year on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Pinchot is one of three finalists in the state. Duval County Public Schools has had three winners selected for this award in previous years.
"You know, you do it for the kids, and anything else that comes along is fantastic, and this is just something that helps me understand that what I'm doing makes sense," Pinchot said.
If Pinchot wins, he will receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation and a trip for two to Washington D.C.
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