California Educator

February/March 2021

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Excellence in Math and Science Teaching CTA members are finalists for presidential STEM awards By Gabriella Landeros C T A I S P R O U D of the six 2020 finalists from California — all CTA members — for the Pres- idential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). e awards, administered by the National Science Founda- tion, are the nation's highest honors for K-12 teachers of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science. (Not e: C TA re c og ni z e s ST E AM an d th e imp or t an c e of arts education, but for this article we use STEM, the official award designation.) The awards alternate years between elementary and sec- ondary school educators. Winners are typically announced and honored the year following receipt of the application. For example, BRIAN SHAY , San Dieguito Faculty Association, was a finalist in 2019 and was announced in August 2020 as one of California's PAEMST winners. In the most recent competition, the par - t i c i p a n t s w e r e a l l e l e m e n t a r y t e a c h e r s . Nominations for STEM teachers in grades 7-12 are now open and will close on March 1, 2021. Applications are now open and must be completed by April 1, 2021. For more information, visit ANGELA CHAVEZ, United Teachers Los Angeles. Chavez has been teaching for 19 years and currently teaches third grade. She was a reviewer of state science and history–social science instructional materials, developed engineering design extensions for district K-5 teachers, and is a Girls Who Code facilitator. She also provides professional learning to colleagues on California Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), specifically on science and engineering practices. Chavez believes STEM is important for students because of the skill set they develop when they engage in experiences that promote innovation and new ways of thinking. Strong STEM instruction builds students' confidence in their ability to solve problems, and encourages them to take intellectual risks. LESLIE WHITAKER, Capistrano Unified Education Association. Whitaker has been teaching for 20 years and is currently a third grade teacher. She has also supported multiple student teachers, served as a math teacher on special assignment, and worked with a team at the Orange County Department of Education to provide professional learning for TK-5 teachers. Whitaker believes STEM provides a natural intersection for curiosity and innovation. "When students can wonder, explore and experiment with ideas, they express their own creativity and get hooked on learning," she says. MARLYS WILLIAMSON, Chula Vista Educators. Williamson is a fifth grade teacher in her 13th year. She has led professional learning focused on science and engineering practices, helped create Wolf Canyon's Design Den makerspace, mentored student teachers, and presented at many NGSS events. She calls science and STEM education's great equalizers: Students of all abilities, backgrounds and genders enter the science classroom at the same level and experience the same content and phenomena. Every scientist in her classroom has a voice and adds to the learning of others. "Often the most rewarding part is seeing students with an IEP or my English learner students show increased confidence and success in math and language arts, because of the communication and writing skills that they have learned in science." 58 CTA & You

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