Teaching Is Problem Solving

It’s that time of year again: Time to nominate a great math or science teacher for the Presidential Award!

by Rob Schoen | March 6, 2018
Special Topics

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is our nation’s highest honor awarded to K–12 mathematics and science teachers. Awardees receive $10,000, a personal letter from the POTUS, a trip to Washington, DC, and more.

Presidential Award and NSF logo

To be eligible, a teacher must be a full-time teacher in a U.S. school. The teacher must have at least five years of experience teaching mathematics or science before the current year to be eligible. Anybody can nominate a teacher, and teachers can even self-nominate. Read here for more information about the award and eligibility requirements.

Up to two awards for teachers from each state are made each year: one for mathematics, one for science. The years alternate between grades K–6 and grades 7–12. The 2018 nominations are for grades K–6 teachers.

After being nominated, the nominee will need to complete an application package. The application package contains a narrative component, a video component, and an administrative component. Nominees can request a mentor for the application process through the paemst.org website, and I recommend using this option. The next few paragraphs offer a bit of advice based on my own experiences with the program over the years.

The video component is often the piece that separates the award winners from other strong applicants. A few years ago, my colleagues and I created a list of recommendations to help applicants create a high-quality video for their application. We gave a presentation on the topic at the annual meeting of the Florida Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 2009. These video tips are still relevant, so I am re-posting them here in a slightly updated form. In a nutshell, we recommend careful attention to the technical aspect of the audio recording so that everybody can be heard clearly. We strongly recommend that the video doesn’t focus only on the teacher but also captures what students are saying and doing. If you plan to submit an application, be sure to read the video tips sheet.

This didn’t make it to the video tips sheet, but I also recommend wearing a shirt with a high collar; G-rated videos are generally preferred by the selection committees and applicants alike.

The written component is important, and you should work on it over a period of several weeks if possible. Plan to spend time writing sections of it, revising it, sharing it with a trusted colleague and asking for feedback, revising it again, and so forth. Many people find the writing process to be somewhat grueling, but they also find that they learn a lot about themselves in the process. I recommend that the written component of the application discuss the lesson and students featured in the video.

In their résumé, which is part of the administrative component of the application, applicants should be sure to list all the things they have done to show leadership in mathematics or science education beyond their own classroom. For instance, organizing parent involvement programs, serving on district curriculum committees, giving presentations at state or national conferences, serving in leadership positions for professional organizations of teachers, mentoring other teachers, or writing articles for websites or professional journals all demonstrate leadership. These activities are important to showcase in the résumé and in the written application, and they often make the difference between a strong application and a top application.

Feel free to contact me through the comments section or by e-mail if you have questions or would like any advice on the application process.

Without further ado, click the paemst.org link and nominate a great teacher. If you are the nominee, then get cracking on that application!


Robert Schoen (rschoen@lsi.fsu.edu) is the associate director of the Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, a research center at Florida State University with a mission to improve mathematics and science teaching and learning in Florida. Dr. Schoen previously served as the state coordinator for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and has served on selection committees for the elementary and secondary awards mathematics and science awards at both the state and national level.