Science and Math Teachers Earn $10,000 Awards From President Obama

By Ross Brenneman — July 07, 2015 2 min read
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President Barack Obama named the newest winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching last week, adding over 100 educators to those who have previously won the honor.

Every year, the National Science Foundation, acting on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, selects 108 teachers for the award—two from every state, plus Washington, Puerto Rico, the other collective U.S. territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools.

“The work these teachers are doing in our classrooms today will help ensure that America stays on the cutting edge tomorrow,” President Obama said in a White House press release.

This year, 50 math teachers won the honor, and 58 science teachers.

“The Presidential Award is validation and recognition for those teachers who reflect on their practice and strive to continually learn and improve upon it,” said Robin O’Brien, a secondary schools math teacher in Palm Beach County, Fla., per the Sun Sentinel. “Trying to make mathematics useful and fun for my students is a joy to work at every day.”

Other teachers used the announcement as a chance to press the need for better science and math education.

“The Presidential Award validates my core belief that all students can learn mathematics in authentic, rigorous, and impactful ways,” said Darshan Jain, a high school math educator in Lincolnshire, Ill., in India West on Monday. “Students’ experiences in mathematics must fundamentally change in order to support our national vision for equity, access, and competitiveness.”

Applicants for the prize must meet several requirements, including possession of a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of full-time employment as a STEM teacher, and must use the majority of their time teaching.

More than 4,300 teachers have received the honor since Congress started the program in 1983. (If you’re wondering about the math: Between 1990 and 2002, the PAEMST award had double the number of annual recipients, per an NSF representative.)

The winners each get $10,000 and a trip to Washington for the awards ceremony, where President Obama will likely play up the need for more science teachers—a long-term objective of his administration—as well as the need for a stronger embrace of the sciences, a theme he often trumpets when it comes to education-related White House events.

Image credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.