By Colby Gable
On October 15th, The White House announced the recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) and the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). Among the recipients this year was Katie Matthews, a first grade teacher at Valle Crucis School, who was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award honors individuals or organizations that have demonstrated excellence in mentoring individuals from groups that are underrepresented in STEM education and workforce. Individuals and organizations in all public and private sectors are eligible including industry, academia, primary and secondary education, military and government, non-profit organizations, and foundations. Nominations are encouraged from all geographical regions in the U.S., its territories or possessions, particularly jurisdictions designated by Congress under NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).
Awardees come from schools in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools, and schools in the United States territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation facilitate nominations and awards. With this award, teachers will receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation; a certificate signed by the President; and trip to Washington, D.C. to celebrate their accomplishments. While they are in D.C., they will participate in professional development activities and network with fellow STEM educators from across the nation.
In a comment about her trip to the nation’s capital, she mentioned, “This has been an amazing 2 and a half days for teachers all across the state. And it was top-rate. We had lunch at the Kennedy Center and dinner at the Department of Interior. We heard the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, at lunch. The true highlight was being surrounded by colleagues which gave me hope for the future of education.”
Matthews began her teaching career in 1997. She taught kindergarten in Wake County and Richmond City Schools. Since 2010, she has taught first grade at Valle Crucis Elementary School. She earned a B.S. in elementary education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.Ed. in curriculum, instruction, and supervision from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She is certified in kindergarten through sixth-grade elementary education and is a National Board-Certified Early Childhood Generalist.
In a statement released by Watauga County Schools, the county’s Superintendent, Dr. Scott Elliott, said Matthews’ work represented a tremendous impact on science education in Valle Crucis School and across Watauga County Schools as a whole.
“It is an honor to share the great news that our very own Katie Matthews from Valle Crucis School is a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching,” Elliott said. “The award is in recognition of Katie’s dedication to the teaching of science and the development of professional development for her fellow teachers.” Elliott also went on to mention that Matthews was a crucial part of the Science Pals program – a science class that pairs middle schoolers with younger students for a combined science education and is utilized at each of Watauga’s K-8 schools.
Matthews also spoke a little about what the award meant to her and the inspiration she has carried from her own teachers from the past. “The Presidential Award represents all the incredible educators who have influenced my life, invested time and energy into who I’ve become, and guided me on my teaching journey,” Matthews said. “This award encourages me to continue seeking new and exciting teaching methods and to advocate for my colleagues and the educational community to be able to provide the best learning environment for all students. I look forward to the opportunities on the horizon that will further my passion for teaching.”
Education in general stretches back to Matthews’ family, as she talked about how her grandmother and parents were in education and that her family’s past makes recognition for her work “Like my life had been leading up to all of this. It’s truly humbling.”
For more information on Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, visit www.paemst.org.