Oklahoma Educators Receive National Awards in Mathematics, Science
Two Oklahoma educators have been named recipients of the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). PAEMST, established in 1983, is the highest recognition a K-12 mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States.
The following educators, recognized as the 2019 awardees, will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation:
- Brigit Minden of Central High Public Schools
- Cheryl Fentress of Bartlesville Public Schools
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister congratulated the awardees for their innovative work in developing learning opportunities for Oklahoma students.
“These dedicated educators have excelled in crafting engaging, hands-on lessons in science, technology, engineering and math for students in Oklahoma,” Hofmeister said. “They are incredibly deserving of this national award and represent the exceptional talent of teachers in our state.”
Brigit Minden teaches math at Central High Public School in Marlow. She was the district’s Teacher of the Year in 2016, was on the writing team for the Oklahoma Mathematics Frameworks for three years and currently serves on the OKMath Advisory Board. She uses hands-on learning such as ziplining dolls for right triangle trigonometry functions, building solar hot dog cookers for parabolas, and discovering conic sections made out of modeling clay. Minden has been teaching for 10 years.“I am passionate in sharing that no one is ‘bad at math.’ Most people just haven't had the right experiences yet,” Minden said.
Cheryl Fentress has more than 35 years of experience and teaches at Bartlesville High School in Bartlesville. She is a member of the Bartlesville District Science Fair Board, was the 2019 Bartlesville High School Teacher of the Year and is the sponsor of student science fair projects at the local, state and international level.To build critical thinking skills, lab experiences make up 40% of her curriculum, and every lab includes a component of inquiry. All students complete an independent research project in the spring that is entered in the regional science fair. Through the years, hundreds of student projects have gone on to compete at the state and international levels, and many former students are now working in scientific fields.
“The teacher's task is to initiate the learning process and then get out of the way,” Fentress said, describing her teaching philosophy. “My job is to provide meaningful science experiences for students, then work together with them to build understanding of science concepts."
In addition, an Oklahoma professor was recognized as one of only 15 educators in the nation to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). Joe Cecil is a professor in the computer science department at Oklahoma State University.