NSF celebrates achievements of nation’s award-winning teachers in nation’s capital

Photo credit: Philippe Nobile (PAEMST and PAESMEM Awardees at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

This summer, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the latest recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), the nation’s highest honor for teachers of mathematics and science (including computer science). The teachers traveled to Washington, D.C., where they were joined by the latest recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) and where NSF celebrated the achievements of these outstanding educators and mentors.

The event kicked off with a welcome session where awardees heard from several NSF officials and had an opportunity to introduce themselves. During introductions, awardees shared why they chose to become teachers and gave advice to new teachers.

Find the colleagues that inspire you in your school and district. Motivate and celebrate them — Zachry Christensen (Iowa, Mathematics)
Don’t be afraid to get dirty and let the kids do the talking. You might be surprised about what you learn! — Nancy Wright (California, Science)
Be open to all possibilities and opportunities that come your way in life — Angelica Jordan (Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), Mathematics)

On the second day of the event, PAEMST awardees participated in the White House State-Federal STEM Education Summit. The summit brought together more than 200 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) leaders from across the country, including all five territories and several tribes. Together with these STEM leaders, the teachers discussed their recommendations for the administration’s upcoming Federal STEM Education 5-Year Strategic Plan. The plan is required by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 to be updated every five years.

Some of the key takeaways from the summit included:

  • Forging stronger connections for students between education and work;
  • Focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship;
  • Integrating computer science principles across the educational experience; and
  • Improving access to STEM programs for all Americans.

Featured speakers included: Dr. France A. Córdova, NSF director; Dr. Jeff Weld, senior policy advisor and assistant director for STEM education in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); and Colonel Benjamin Alvin Drew, United States Air Force, NASA.

Photo Credit: Philippe Nobile (Awardees, Heather Landreth (North Carolina, Mathematics), Tayana Thadal (New York, Science), and Kristen Smith (New York, Mathematics), at the awards ceremony.)

On the evening of the second day, awardees and their guests were welcomed at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery for an awards ceremony and dinner. During the ceremony, deputy assistant to the president for technology initiatives and deputy U.S. chief technology officer, Michael Kratsios, and Dr. France Córdova, NSF director, spoke about the importance of quality STEM education.

Awardees received both a certificate and a congratulatory letter signed by President Trump, thanking them for their devotion to the nation’s students and recognizing the importance of their work. The ceremony was followed by a celebratory dinner.

On the final day of the event, teachers attended a working breakfast, which focused on building partnerships between awardees from the Excellence Awards in Science and Engineering (EASE) program at NSF. EASE oversees both the PAEMST and PAESMEM awards.

Awardees also spent time discussing how they, along with NSF, can work to empower future teachers and mentors. They also had a chance to hear from PAEMST alumni currently serving as National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)/National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) STEM ambassadors. These alumni shared their own PAEMST experiences and offered advice for what would come next.

After breakfast, awardees toured the White House before ending their time in D.C. with a celebratory lunch, featuring representatives from two of the presidential awardee alumni organizations: the Council of Presidential Awardees in Mathematics (CPAM) and the Association of Presidential Awardees in Science Teaching (APAST).

Photo Credit: Philippe Nobile (PAEMST and PAESMEM Awardees)