Athletes often count success by milestones. For golf and tennis players, it's winning the Grand Slam; for baseball pitchers, it's achieving 3,000 strikeouts; for hitters, it's reaching 3,000 hits (a milestone we just saw Derek Jeter reach).
What if we celebrated milestones in education with the same enthusiasm with which we celebrate achievement in sport?
We can, and we should. That's why my wife, Amy, and I are so proud that the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teacher's Academy has now trained more than 3,000 teachers from across the country in ways to inspire excellence in math and science education in their classrooms.
Near the end of July, I had the opportunity to visit the third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade teachers attending the national academy at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, and I can tell you that the enthusiasm about math and science education has never been greater.
That's good news for America's students and for America's future. We know we have room to improve in math and science education. U.S. students often rank lower in these subjects than their peers in other countries; keeping our kids competitive in a global economy means giving them the tools they need to succeed.
As parents, Amy and I recognize the importance of this mission. And as a company that depends on scientists and engineers, ExxonMobil recognizes it, too. So in 2005, we set out together to inspire the next generation of astronauts, doctors and engineers by developing a program that trains teachers in ways to amaze students with math and science lessons in the classroom.
Working in conjunction with the National Science Teachers Association and Math Solutions, we started a weeklong, all-expense-paid, professional development program in Fairfax, Va. Since then, the program has evolved to academies in Houston, New Orleans and the national academy in Jersey City--hosting a total of 600 teachers each summer representing all 50 states.
Amy and I know that extraordinary teachers make a difference in the world, and we truly believe in their talent and passion. The teachers I met at this year's national academy ranged from those with just a few years of experience to those with decades of experience - but they all shared the same excitement for returning to the classroom this fall and trying out new ways to get kids interested in math and science.
While we celebrate this 3,000-teacher milestone, we know the challenge is still far from over. There are still thousands of good teachers out there with the desire to improve math and science education in the classroom - all they need are the tools to make it happen.
If you know educators like this, please go to Send My Teacher and nominate them to attend the 2012 Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. It takes just a couple minutes of your time, but the results can be life long for both teachers and students.
After all, every teacher we train increases our chances of inspiring a student to pursue a career in math and science - and for us, that's a true grand slam.