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Two Kansas educators named national finalists for math, science awards

Posted: Aug 4, 2020
Categories: KSDE
Author: Ann Bush

Awardees receive $10,000 cash award from National Science Foundation

Two Kansans are among 107 educators being recognized as national finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) program – the nation’s highest honor for math and science teaching.

Luke Henke, a math teacher at Columbus Unified High School, Columbus Unified School District 493, is the Kansas national finalist in mathematics.

Margaret “Meg” Richard, who at the time of the award was a science teacher at Summit Trail Middle School, Olathe USD 233, is the Kansas national finalist in science.

Elementary and secondary educators are recognized in alternating years. This year, secondary teachers are being recognized.

Henke and Richard, along with three other Kansas educators, were named state finalists for PAEMST in June 2019.

President Donald Trump announced the recipients of the national PAEMST on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. Awardees are selected from schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the United States territories, which include American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

Nominations and awards are facilitated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

PAEMST, established in 1983, is the highest award given by the United States government to kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers of math and science, including computer science. Since 1983, more than 5,000 teachers have been recognized by PAEMST for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.

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.

Henke has served as an educator since 2010. He was a teacher at Pittsburg Community Middle School, Pittsburg USD 250, before accepting a math teaching position at Columbus Unified High School. He has been teaching at Columbus for seven years.

He received a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, in mathematics education and a master’s in mathematics from Pittsburg State University.

“The Presidential Award is an unexpected honor that validates my desire to become the best educator possible to meet the needs of my students,” Henke said. “Achieving this recognition speaks highly of my mentors, colleagues, administrators, families and students who help hone my craft every day of the year. Without them to serve, none of this is possible. The Presidential Award is a milestone for my career that will refill my tank many times over as I continue to empower the next generation.”

Richard served as a seventh-grade science teacher for nearly a decade. She spent two years as a seventh-grade science teacher at Summit Trail Middle School. Before that, she taught at California Trail Middle School for eight years. Richard joined the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) in July as an education program consultant.

She received her bachelor's degree at Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri, and her Master of Business Administration at Baker University in Baldwin. Richard also received a Master of Arts (teaching) at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri.

“Within my classroom, my students have the opportunity to be seen and dream – to make sense of the world and change it for the better,” Richard said. “The Presidential Award is validation to my students that this process works. It shows them that it’s OK to dream big, make mistakes and learn a lot. The award demonstrates that not only do I believe in them, someone else does, too. It elevates our practice as educators in a meaningful way. This award renews my commitment to the world’s most important job – teaching!”

Each awardee receives a certificate signed by the president of the United States and a $10,000 award from NSF.

More information about PAEMST is available at https://www.paemst.org/recognition.

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