At a September ceremony in Washington, DC, two NAIS-member teachers were honored as recipients of the 2016 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the highest commendation the U.S. government gives to K–12 science teachers. The teachers — Kari Newman from Durham Academy (North Carolina) and Jaunine Fouché at Milton Hershey School (Pennsylvania) — are among 105 teachers of students in grades 7 to 12 nationwide to earn the honor.
“I feel very proud and at the same time very thankful,” Newman, a chemistry teacher at Durham Academy, says of the honor. “I don’t think I’d be where I am without the support of the faculty at Durham Academy and the mentors I’ve had over the years teaching me different techniques that I’ve pulled into my classroom. It feels really good.”
Durham Academy Head of School Michael Ulku-Steiner says that since Newman’s arrival at the school in 2000, she has been an exceptionally strong teacher— passionate about chemistry and helping every student unravel its mysteries. “What makes her truly remarkable, however, is her insatiable hunger to improve her instruction,” Ulku-Steiner says. “She seems always to be tinkering, experimenting, learning, and growing as a teacher and mentor of young scientists.”
Fouché is the science curriculum supervisor at Milton Hershey School. “My success as an educator is a testament to the mission of Milton Hershey School, our amazing students, and the opportunities afforded to me in the service of children from families of lower income,” she says. “I believe in empowering students and providing a top-notch education that, when paired with STEAM and innovation opportunities, harnesses their restless curiosity to solve local and global challenges.”
Milton Hershey School takes great pride in Fouché’s work and her selection for the Presidential Award, says school president Pete Gurt. “She has remained focused and dedicated in her efforts to develop exceptional science instruction that meets the individual needs of our students and prepares them for postsecondary success.”
Award winners — selected from a pool of state finalists by a National Science Foundation-appointed panel of prominent mathematicians, scientists, and educators — receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation and are offered professional development opportunities. Awardees also received a certificate signed by the president of the United States at the September ceremony.
“The recipients of this award are integral to ensuring our students are equipped with critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are vital to our nation’s success,” President Barack Obama said at the event. “As the United States continues to lead the way in the innovation that is shaping our future, these excellent teachers are preparing students from all corners of the country with the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills that help keep us on the cutting edge.”