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Mississippi Teacher Named National Teacher of the Year

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The Wal-Mart Foundation donates $36,000 in educational grants to Pecan Park Elementary School

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Nov. 8, 2007 – A 27-year classroom veteran, who uses hands-on projects to instill a love of learning in her students, has been named the Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club 2007 National Teacher of the Year. Peggy Carlisle, of Pecan Park Elementary School in Jackson, Miss., was selected from a pool of state winners from all 50 states and Puerto Rico in the retailer’s 12th annual Teacher of the Year program.

The national award was announced during a surprise ceremony at the school in Jackson. Representatives from Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club joined students, teachers, representatives from PDK International and local dignitaries to honor Carlisle. As part of the award, Carlisle’s school received a $25,000 educational grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation. Additional grants from Wal-Mart for state and local recognitions Carlisle earned earlier this year in the program bring total contributions to the school to $36,000.

The National Teacher of the Year program is a part of Wal-Mart’s long-term commitment to support education throughout the United States. The program will provide more than $5 million this year to schools across the country in honor of top teachers. Since its inception in 1995, Wal-Mart’s Teacher of the Year program has recognized nearly 30,000 teachers nationwide. Last year, the company contributed more than $57 million in support of educational initiatives.
Hands-On Learning Gives Meaning to Lessons
Carlisle was selected as the nation’s top teacher because of her efforts to empower students to be independent thinkers, using scientific exploration and a hands-on approach to learning. A few years ago, she took a drastic step to inspire her students to learn, to explore, and to enjoy the process of discovery. She discarded the textbooks and integrated all subjects and curriculum benchmarks into hands-on science thematic units she had developed. Students found that learning is fun, plus their test scores rose, and their writing abilities improved.

The integrated approach to lessons is a natural fit for her current work as Pecan Park’s Open Doors/EXCEL teacher for gifted students in grades two through five. The Open Doors and EXCEL programs emphasize project-based learning using teacher-developed thematic units.

“Mrs. Carlisle has brought science to life in the classroom,” said Pecan Park Principal Wanda Quon. “Interwoven in their studies have been poems to recite, figurines to mold, books to publish, and amazing facts and trivia to quiz parents. Each unit has culminated with a ‘museum exhibit’ created on the stage complete with student tour guides for the student body and parents to enjoy.”

Students in Carlisle’s classroom also learn about compassion and cultural diversity through service projects. In 2004, a guest speaker from Kenya inspired her students to learn more about the life of students there and find ways to help them. In addition to their classroom projects, students opened a shop within the school to sell supplies and handmade items to Pecan Park students. Over the past three years, the student-run store has sent more than $1,800 to Kenya, and the students have learned business skills and the impact they can have on the lives of others.

How the Winners Are Selected
The Teacher of the Year program began in February when each Wal-Mart store, Sam’s Club, Neighborhood Market and distribution center accepted nominations from their community – parents, educators and school children – for local “Teacher of the Year” honors. Nominations were compiled and each of the company’s 4,000-plus locations surprised a local teacher with a $1,000 donation to their school in their honor during National Teacher Appreciation Week in May. Local winners had the option to complete a comprehensive application form for the state winner phase. All 51 state winners, including a winner from Puerto Rico, were automatically considered for the national Teacher of the Year award.

Since 2002, Wal-Mart has partnered with PDK International, a leading association of educational professionals, to select the state and national winners for the program. PDK International committees in each state reviewed these applications and selected the award winners. The National Selection committee is made up of five past National Teacher of the Year winners, as well as two PDK International board members. According to the committee, they selected Carlisle as this year’s winner based on her passion for helping students to become individual thinkers.

“Ms. Carlisle exemplifies what is absolutely right about our nation’s teachers,” said William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International. “She is a passionate and talented educator who helps her students reach their potential and who enriches the practice of her fellow educators.”

Bushaw said several criteria were used to evaluate the applications and determine the winners. Applicants answered four essay questions; judges gave each answer a numerical score.

1.    What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to students?
2.    What self-initiated practices, programs or projects have you implemented to produce a high level of student achievement?
3.    What do you consider to be the most critical issue in education that affects students? How do you attempt to respond to this and inform others of the importance of this issue?
4.    At what level and degree are you involved in community volunteer work? Describe how your involvement has influenced your teaching and impacted your community at the local and state level and beyond.

Applicants also submitted a current resume and two letters of recommendation – one from an immediate supervisor and one from a colleague, a community member, a student’s parent or a student. 

About Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT)
Every week, millions of customers visit Wal-Mart Stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, and Sam’s Club locations across America or log on to its online store at www.walmart.com.  The company and its Foundation are committed to a philosophy of giving back locally.  Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) is proud to support the causes that are important to customers and associates right in their own neighborhoods, and last year gave more than $270 million to local communities in the United States.  To learn more, visit www.walmartfacts.com, www.walmartstores.com, or www.walmartfoundation.org.