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Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST)

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There are many ways to get involved as a mathematics educator in Colorado, including a listserv, several organizations for teachers and supervisors of mathematics, and events you can attend.


Nominations Are Due January 7, 2022.

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The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are the highest honors bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teaching. The Awards were established by Congress in 1983. The President may recognize up to 108 exemplary teachers each year.

Awards are given to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teachers from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Department of Defense Education Activity schools, or the U.S. territories as a group (American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands).

The award recognizes those teachers who have both deep content knowledge of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate and enable students to be successful in those areas. Since the program's inception, more than 5,000 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.

Eligibility, Nominations, Applications, and State Finalists

To be eligible for a PAEMST award, applicants must teach a STEM subject, teach at least half time, and have at least five years of full-time experience. Nominations for the 2021-2022 award cycle are due January 7, 2022. To review all of the eligibility requirements and to nominate a teacher, see the PAEMST website.

Once nominated, the teacher will need to complete an application including a resume, a video of their teaching, a written narrative, supplemental materials, and three letters of recommendation. Mentoring is available and encouraged to ensure teachers submit high-quality applications. Applications for the 2021-2022 award cycle are due February 6, 2022.

A state selection committee reviews the applications and selects one or more applications to forward to the national selection committee. To be selected as a Colorado state finalist is the highest honor given annually for the teaching of mathematics in the State of Colorado.

Why Apply?

Recipients of the award receive the following:

  • A certificate signed by the President of the United States.
  • A paid trip to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities.
  • A $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.
  • An opportunity to build lasting partnerships with colleagues across the nation.

Colorado's 2020-2021 State Finalists

Three Colorado mathematics teachers have been named Colorado Finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), the nation's highest honor for U.S. K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teachers. The awards program is administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. State finalists represent the most outstanding teachers Colorado has to offer and serve as both a model and an inspiration to students and fellow teachers.

Elissa Pitts, a 24-year veteran teaching at Poudre High School in Fort Collins, part of the Poudre School District, is being named a state finalist for the second time. "I am honored to be named as one of Colorado’s PAEMST finalists," says Pitts. "In over two decades of teaching, I have learned from countless mentors, colleagues, and students and I know that I still have much to learn," Pitts says, humbly. "I hope that this recognition can represent the work that all teachers have done this year to provide education to students in the midst of the many challenging situations we have faced." In her application, Pitts stressed how she tries to take fresh approaches to make math useful for students. "I know that math education can open the doors to many career opportunities, allow students to be flexible in the workplace, and help them better understand the world around them." Pitts’s principal, Kathy Mackay, highlighted the work Pitts does to help all students. "Reaching kids who can’t see higher education in their future is difficult. That is why Elissa tries to identify struggling students even before they walk through our doors," says Mackay. "Elissa collaborates with middle school teachers to make sure students are correctly placed and given proper support."

Jacob Thompson, an eighth-grade teacher at STEM Lab K-8 in Northglenn, part of Adams 12 Five-Star Schools, is in his 7th year as a teacher. "To be able to walk away from this school year with this recognition means a lot to me," says Thompson. "My application would not have been successful if it were not for the perseverance of my students or the resilience of my coworkers throughout the year." The lesson Thompson submitted with his application showed students, some in class and some learning remotely, engaging in real-world applications of mathematics. "I truly believe that all students have the ability to learn mathematics at a high level given the right opportunities, and it is important we find ways to provide these opportunities for all students, because you never know who will come up with an idea that will change the world," adds Thompson. "His teaching and classroom environment is the perfect blend of guided curiosity and best teaching," says Tracy Tellinger, the principal of STEM Lab K-8. "Jacob is creative in his thinking and is always willing to challenge and break down the barriers in an effort to achieve the utmost success for students."

Natalie Sprigg, a 16-year veteran at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Highlands Ranch, part of the Douglas County School District, is being named a state finalist for the second time. "It is truly an honor to be recognized among one of many talented, dedicated, and intelligent Colorado educators. Especially after the last year and a half of teaching, when I know every educator has gone out of his/her way to engage in teaching like never before," says Sprigg. "I am humbled by the strengths of those in my school, community, and across the state and am looking forward to continuing to grow as an educator." Sprigg’s PAEMST application highlighted her skills in orchestrating productive discussions in her classroom. "Use of structured discourse combined with standards-based and student-centered tasks offers opportunities for all students," says Sprigg. Sprigg supports other staff members in addition to supporting students. "Natalie has successfully hosted student teachers and has worked diligently as a mentor to many of our newer staff members," says Brian Singleton, Sprigg’s principal at Mountain Ridge Middle School. "She’s been an integral member of our teacher leader team."

Each year, a national committee of prominent mathematicians, scientists, mathematics/science education researchers, district-level personnel, and classroom teachers recommends up to 108 teachers to receive PAEMST awards. Up to two teachers—mathematics or science—from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Territories as a group (comprising American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), and schools operated in the United States and overseas by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) receive the award. Teachers who are selected as PAEMST awardees receive a trip to Washington, D.C., where they attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities. They also receive a $10,000 award from NSF, a Presidential certificate, and join an elite cohort of award-winning teachers who can influence state/jurisdiction and national STEM teaching.

Colorado's 2019-2020 State Finalist

Download the Press Release (PDF)

Michelle Dillard, a fifth-grade teacher at Twain Elementary School in Centennial, has been selected as a Colorado Finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

Dillard, a 14-year veteran teaching in Littleton Public Schools, is now Colorado’s sole teacher of elementary mathematics eligible to receive a PAEMST award for the 2019-2020 school year, the nation’s highest honor for U.S. K–12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teachers. The awards program is administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The state selection process for 2019-2020 finalists was delayed until 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

State Finalists represent the most outstanding teachers Colorado has to offer and serve as both a model and an inspiration to students and fellow teachers.

“I am thrilled to be a Colorado finalist in mathematics as a representative of the great work our educators are doing in providing empowering and meaningful STEM education to our students,” says Dillard. Dillard’s application materials showed a strong commitment to engaging her entire classroom in rigorous mathematical activity. “I want my students to find a safe place to explore all the possibilities within them as learners and people. I want them to connect to the bigger world, big ideas, and others who can help them along the way,” added Dillard. “All kids are math kids and everyone has the capacity to learn and perform at high levels.”

Colorado's Latest Awardee in Mathematics

Linda Cochran, Altona Middle School, St.Vrain Valley School District

2019 Awardee for 7-12 Mathematics

Photo of Linda Cochran, PAEMST awardee

"It is truly an honor to be recognized with the Presidential Award. In receiving this award, I feel that I represent one of many untold numbers of teachers who are all deserving of recognition for the tireless support they give to one another, for the countless hours spent investing in enriching curriculum, for the time spent off the clock tutoring, nurturing, and encouraging those learners who need more than mere instruction. I am humbled by the multitude of amazing people found in education."

Linda Cochran has been an educator for 18 years. She has taught eighth-grade mathematics at Altona Middle School for 14 years and previously taught at Silver Creek Junior/Senior High School for four years. Prior to teaching, Linda was a computer systems programmer at IBM.

Linda believes all students are capable of excelling at mathematics and empowers them to learn at their own speed through inquiry-based strategies. By helping students visualize mathematical concepts through real-world applications, she enables students to deepen their own understanding through tactical experiences.

Linda is a founding member of the Rocky Mountain math teachers’ circle and established a students’ math circle with an intent to ignite and sustain girls’ interest in mathematics. She is a co-advisor for the National Junior Honor Society. Linda serves as the program leader for the living history through travel program exploring our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. The program includes a focus on national patriotism, which culminates in a student-led, schoolwide assembly paying tribute to home-town veterans. In addition, Linda has completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training and brings mindfulness, breathing, and meditation into the classroom to inspire calming practices for a generation of stimulated learners.

Linda received her B.S. in computer science and mathematics from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and her M.S. in curriculum and instruction at the University of Colorado Boulder. She holds a Colorado teaching license in secondary mathematics.

Past Awardees in Mathematics

1983
Vaughan Aandahl
George Washington High School
Denver Public Schools

1984
Christine J. Comins
Pueblo County High School
Pueblo County School District 70

1985
Fred A. Lees, Jr.
Carmody Junior High
Jeffco Public Schools

1986
Ronald Schnackenberg
Steamboat Springs High School
Steamboat Springs School District Re-2

1987
Althea Goss Pearlman
Boulder High School
Boulder Valley School District

1988
Barbara Pond
Parker Junior High School
Douglas County School District

1989
Patrick Mara
South High School
Pueblo School District 60

1990
Brenda Love
Rocky Mountain Elementary School
Adams 12 Five-Star Schools

John Putnam
Washington Irving Junior High School
Colorado Springs School District 11

1991
Eva Brandsma
Lasley Elementary School
Jeffco Public Schools

Marilyn Stor
Arvada High School
Jeffco Public Schools

1992
Janeane Golliher
Columbine Elementary School
St. Vrain Valley School District

Diane Weaver
Morey Middle School
Denver Public Schools

1993
Joseph Modica
Hoehne Elementary School
Hoehne School District

Ronald Ritchhart
Graland Country Day School
Independent

1994
Lois Blackwood
Central Elementary School
St. Vrain Valley School District

Art Wilson
Abraham Lincoln High School
Denver Public Schools

1995
Thomas Hibbs
Cheraw Secondary School
Cheraw School District

Marjorie Lindskog
Pueblo School District 60

1996
Judith Koenig
Nevin Platt Middle School
Boulder Valley School District

Sharon Simpson
Ponderosa Elementary School
Cherry Creek School District

1997
Jean Bradac
Byers High School
Denver Public Schools

Nyla Bristow
Centennial Elementary School
Greeley-Evans School District 6

1998
Roslyn Egan
Sedalia Elementary
Douglas County School District

Dorothy Kielian
Skyline High School
St. Vrain Valley School District

1999

Catherine Martin
South High School
Denver Public Schools

Carmen McDermott
Prairie Hills Elementary School
Academy District 20

2000

Anne Thrasher
General William Mitchell High School
Colorado Springs District 11

Kristie Venrick
Longmont Estates Elementary
St. Vrain Valley School District

2001
Patricia Bell
Shepardson Elementary
Poudre School District

Melissa Colsman
Campus Middle School
Cherry Creek School District

2002
Lisa Mesple
Heatherwood Elementary
Boulder Valley School District

Julie Murgel
Slavens School
Denver Public Schools

2003
Jason Cushner
Eagle Rock School
Independent

2004
Beth Peters-Terry
Village East Elementary
Cherry Creek School District

2005
Heidi Ringer
Skyline High School
St. Vrain Valley School District

2007
Anna Holm
South High School
Denver Public Schools

2008
Lana Hansen
Willow Creek Elementary School
Cherry Creek School District

2009
Carrie Heaney
Sky Vista Middle School
Cherry Creek School District

2010
Susan Parsons
Columbine Elementary
Boulder Valley School District

2011
Andrea Wiseman
Denver School of the Arts
Denver Public Schools

2012
Joan Standefer
Heatherwood Elementary
Boulder Valley School District

2013
Kirstin Oseth
Cheyenne Mountain Junior High
Cheyenne Mountain School District 12

2014
Carolyn Jordan
Normandy Elementary School
Jeffco Public Schools

2015
Lisa Bejarano
Aspen Valley High School
Academy District 20

2016
Sarah Ogier
Field Elementary School
Littleton Public Schools

2017
Jennifer Moriarty
CEC Early College
Denver Public Schools

2018
Jina Bradford
STEM Magnet Lab School
Adams 12 Five-Star Schools

Kate Pacheck
Prairie Winds Elementary School
Pueblo County School District 70

2019
Linda Cochran
Altona Middle School
St. Vrain Valley School District