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Four Kansas educators named national finalists for math, science awards

Posted: Oct 17, 2019
Categories: KSDE
Author: Ann Bush

Four Kansas educators are being recognized for their outstanding teaching skills through the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) program.

The White House Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, that Heidi Albin, Complete High School Maize (CHSM), Maize Unified School District 266; Monica Dreiling, Lincoln Elementary School, Hays USD 489; Sarah Rand, Central Heights Elementary School, Central Heights USD 288; and Stephen Smith, Christa McAuliffe K-8 Academy, Wichita USD 259, are among 215 individuals being presented with the honor.

Albin and Smith were named national finalists for 2017, and Rand and Dreiling were named national finalists for 2018. The 2017 and 2018 national finalists weren’t named by OSTP and NSF until Oct. 15, 2019.

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, which was established in 1983 by Congress, is presented annually to outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers from across the country.

Nominees complete a rigorous application process that requires them to demonstrate their excellence in content knowledge and ability to adapt to a broad range of learners and teaching environments. Winners are selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators following an initial selection process done at the state level.

Each year, the award alternates between educators teaching kindergarten through sixth grade and those teaching seventh through 12th grades.

Albin has spent the past 10 years as the science teacher and character education coordinator at CHSM. She co-authored “186 Days of Character,” a year-long character education curriculum that is freely distributed across Kansas. Albin also successfully implemented a facility therapy dog program at her school, helped CHSM receive recognition as a Kansas Association of Conservation and Environmental Education Green School of the Year and established a handicap accessible community garden.

Albin serves on the board of directors for WILD KS and has written and implemented curriculum for fishing, wilderness survival and camping. She also is a 2017 Milken Educator.

She has a bachelor’s degree in cellular molecular biology and a master’s in secondary education from Fort Hays State University with certifications in biology, chemistry, agriculture and earth and space science.

“Receiving the Presidential Award means that I have the responsibility to represent teachers well and help other teachers reach their goals,” Albin said. “The award places me in a position to serve the profession and step up in any way I can to help others. I also see this award as a reflection not of myself, but of my school and fellow staff members. The staff at Complete High School Maize have all dedicated their lives to helping struggling students and I am in awe of their passion and commitment.”

Smith has been an educator for 22 years. He worked at Christa McAuliffe K-8 Academy in Wichita for seven years before recently joining the staff at Allison Traditional Magnet Middle School, also in Wichita USD 259, as a technology teacher. He also spent 15 years teaching second through fifth grade at McLean Science and Technology Magnet School, Wichita USD 259. He has written computer applications and developed project-based learning activities to engage his students in math.

Smith has coached LEGO and VEX Robotics and works with Wichita State University to lead robotics summer camps. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a computer science minor; a bachelor’s in elementary education; and a master of education in curriculum and instruction – all from Wichita State University. He is certified in middle school math, elementary education, English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), technology education and is a National Board Certified Teacher.

“Receiving the Presidential Award is not so much a recognition of my accomplishments, but a celebration of those who have invested, guided, and inspired me to be a life-long learner,” Smith said. “Each day, I stand in the company of dedicated, hard-working and talented teachers who challenge and encourage me to be my very best. I strive to provide that same motivation to the students I teach. Being recognized for this is truly an honor!”

Dreiling has been an educator for more than 20 years, teaching fifth-grade science and language arts for the past five years at Lincoln Elementary School. She also has taught special education for 15 years at Lincoln Elementary, LaCrosse Elementary and Ruppenthal Middle School, Russell County USD 407. Dreiling has been an adjunct instructor at Fort Hays State University for 12 years.

She has been awarded numerous grants, which have created unique science learning opportunities, including an engineering unit to create a prosthetic leg for an injured dog and an intergenerational STEM partnership with assisted-living residents.

Dreiling received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in cross-categorical special education from Fort Hays State University. She is certified in kindergarten through ninth-grade elementary education and K-12 special education. She has endorsements for ESOL, gifted and building leadership. Dreiling is a National Board Certified Teacher.

“The Presidential Award is an immense honor. This prestigious award could not have been achieved without inspiration, guidance and encouragement from students, their families, colleagues and my own family,” Dreiling said. “These individuals, combined with a supportive work environment, are truly a blessing! Receiving this award further ignites my passion for teaching and validates that all students can successfully engage in rigorous lessons that increase confidence and cultivate an interest in science.”

Rand has taught at Central Heights Elementary School for the past five years. She spent her first three years in education teaching second grade at Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City, where she was trained in Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI).

Rand started her career at Central Heights as the Title I math teacher. In this position, she has visited kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms daily to teach CGI. For the past four years, she has served as a third-grade teacher. Rand has served on the math curriculum selection committee and co-wrote her district’s Science Curriculum Map. She also is a member of the District Improvement Team.

Rand received a bachelor’s degree in human resources from Ottawa University and a master of arts in teaching from the University of Southern California. She is a certified elementary school teacher with an endorsement in ESOL.

“This award is validation for my belief in children; they will succeed in mathematics if given the right problems to solve in their own way in an environment where it is safe to take risks,” Rand said. “It is a tribute to all my students who have done just that and taught me so much. It is a testament to the phenomenal teachers I’ve observed and the mentors I’ve been lucky to have. The Presidential Award is an incredible, humbling honor and recognition for teaching in a way about which I feel so passionate.”

Winners of this Presidential honor receive a $10,000 award from NSF to be used at their discretion. Finalists also are invited to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and the Administration.

Since 1983, more than 5,000 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.

For more information about PAEMST, visit www.paemst.org. For a list of all awardees, visit https://www.paemst.org/recognition.

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