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Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST)

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There are many ways to get involved as a mathematics educator in Colorado, including a listserv, several organizations for teachers and supervisors of mathematics, and events you can attend.

Nominations for 2024-2025 7-12 teachers will open in Fall 2024.


The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are the highest honors bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teaching. The Awards were established by Congress in 1983. The President may recognize up to 108 exemplary teachers each year.

Awards are given to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teachers from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Department of Defense Education Activity schools, or the U.S. territories as a group (American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands).

The award recognizes those teachers who have both deep content knowledge of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate and enable students to be successful in those areas. Since the program's inception, more than 5,000 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.

Eligibility, Nominations, Applications, and State Finalists

To be eligible for a PAEMST award, applicants must teach a STEM subject, teach at least half time, and have at least five years of full-time experience. Nominations for the 2024-2025 award cycle for 7-12th grade teachers will open in the Fall of 2024. To review all of the eligibility requirements and to nominate a teacher, see the PAEMST website.

Once nominated, the teacher will need to complete an application including a resume, a video of their teaching, a written narrative, supplemental materials, and three letters of recommendation. Mentoring is available and encouraged to ensure teachers submit high-quality applications.

A state selection committee reviews the applications and selects one or more applications to forward to the national selection committee. To be selected as a Colorado state finalist is the highest honor given annually for the teaching of mathematics in the State of Colorado.

Why Apply?

Recipients of the award receive the following:

  • A certificate signed by the President of the United States.
  • A paid trip to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities.
  • A $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.
  • An opportunity to build lasting partnerships with colleagues across the nation.

Colorado's 2022-2023 State Finalists

Sidney Cerise is a 10-year veteran teaching at Early College Academy in Greeley, part of the Greeley-Evans School District 6. "I feel very honored and proud to be a state finalist," says Cerise. "I am excited to represent Early College Academy and the Greeley-Evans School District and showcase the wonderful work we are doing for our students." Cerise’s PAEMST application highlighted her combination of content knowledge and ability to relate to students. "My goal as a math teacher is to make students believe in themselves," says Cerise. "Watching students gain confidence in their problem-solving skills is rewarding," added Cerise. "Sidney is undoubtedly one of the strongest teachers I have had an opportunity to work with in my more than twenty years as an educator," says Kim Silva, Cerise’s principal at Early College Academy. "Sidney is an invaluable member of our school community and we are very fortunate to work with her."

Erin Wahler-Cleveland, a seventh-grade teacher at Atlas Preparatory School in Colorado Springs, part of the Harrison School District 2, is in her 16th year as a teacher. "I am incredibly excited and honored to be named a finalist," says Wahler-Cleveland. "This recognition has led me to reflect deeply on the magnitude of support I’ve gotten from my colleagues and students." Wahler-Cleveland’s PAEMST application highlighted her knowledge of effective approaches to teaching mathematics. "All students can and will think mathematically if we can provide the right conditions," says Wahler-Cleveland. "I find joy in the experience of guiding students to new connections and satisfaction in fostering habits and mindsets that will serve students in the long term," added Wahler-Cleveland. "Erin displays her leadership as a role model for content knowledge, instructional practice, data analysis, and continuous improvement," says Aaron Pomis, Wahler-Cleveland’s principal at Atlas Prep. "I cannot think of another teacher who is as consistently a positive representation of our organization and our teaching profession as a whole."

Colorado's 2021-2022 State Finalists

Amanda Jaquette is a fifth-grade teacher at Brown International Academy in Denver Public Schools and a 15-year teaching veteran. "I am so honored to be one of Colorado’s state finalists for the PAEMST award," says Jaquette. "There are so many amazing math teachers in Colorado and around the country, and I am humbled to be recognized among them." Jaquette’s PAEMST application noted her excellence in both knowledge of content and use of instructional approaches. "Learning math is so much more than just computing numbers," says Jaquette. "It develops reasoning skills and enhances problem solving in all aspects of life," added Jaquette. "Amanda has become the leader for math professional development for our fourth and fifth grade teachers," says Jennifer Woolf, Jaquette’s principal at Brown International Academy. "Amanda deserves to be recognized as the exceptional educator that she is."

Amanda Sutton, a 13-year teacher at Lesher Middle School in Fort Collins, part of the Poudre School District, is a first-time PAEMST finalist. "I took a risk in applying for the math award despite being more confident in my science teaching," says Sutton. "I
try to model risk-taking for my students and being selected as a state PAEMST finalist is a great honor." Sutton’s PAEMST application noted her desire to support all students and help them not just develop their skills but also to develop a positive attitude towards mathematics. "I struggled through most of my math classes and developed a mindset that I didn’t have what it takes to be successful," says Sutton. "Now, I strive to help all students find a connection to mathematics in a way that encourages them to find success," added Sutton. "Amanda is a driven and highly motivated educator," says Jesse Matthews, a former colleague of Sutton’s at Lesher Middle School. "She is highly deserving of recognition for her leadership in teaching and her desire to provide the best opportunities for
her students."

Colorado's 2020-2021 State Finalists

Three Colorado mathematics teachers have been named Colorado Finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), the nation's highest honor for U.S. K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teachers. The awards program is administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. State finalists represent the most outstanding teachers Colorado has to offer and serve as both a model and an inspiration to students and fellow teachers.

Elissa Pitts, a 24-year veteran teaching at Poudre High School in Fort Collins, part of the Poudre School District, is being named a state finalist for the second time. "I am honored to be named as one of Colorado’s PAEMST finalists," says Pitts. "In over two decades of teaching, I have learned from countless mentors, colleagues, and students and I know that I still have much to learn," Pitts says, humbly. "I hope that this recognition can represent the work that all teachers have done this year to provide education to students in the midst of the many challenging situations we have faced." In her application, Pitts stressed how she tries to take fresh approaches to make math useful for students. "I know that math education can open the doors to many career opportunities, allow students to be flexible in the workplace, and help them better understand the world around them." Pitts’s principal, Kathy Mackay, highlighted the work Pitts does to help all students. "Reaching kids who can’t see higher education in their future is difficult. That is why Elissa tries to identify struggling students even before they walk through our doors," says Mackay. "Elissa collaborates with middle school teachers to make sure students are correctly placed and given proper support."

Jacob Thompson, an eighth-grade teacher at STEM Lab K-8 in Northglenn, part of Adams 12 Five-Star Schools, is in his 7th year as a teacher. "To be able to walk away from this school year with this recognition means a lot to me," says Thompson. "My application would not have been successful if it were not for the perseverance of my students or the resilience of my coworkers throughout the year." The lesson Thompson submitted with his application showed students, some in class and some learning remotely, engaging in real-world applications of mathematics. "I truly believe that all students have the ability to learn mathematics at a high level given the right opportunities, and it is important we find ways to provide these opportunities for all students, because you never know who will come up with an idea that will change the world," adds Thompson. "His teaching and classroom environment is the perfect blend of guided curiosity and best teaching," says Tracy Tellinger, the principal of STEM Lab K-8. "Jacob is creative in his thinking and is always willing to challenge and break down the barriers in an effort to achieve the utmost success for students."

Natalie Sprigg, a 16-year veteran at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Highlands Ranch, part of the Douglas County School District, is being named a state finalist for the second time. "It is truly an honor to be recognized among one of many talented, dedicated, and intelligent Colorado educators. Especially after the last year and a half of teaching, when I know every educator has gone out of his/her way to engage in teaching like never before," says Sprigg. "I am humbled by the strengths of those in my school, community, and across the state and am looking forward to continuing to grow as an educator." Sprigg’s PAEMST application highlighted her skills in orchestrating productive discussions in her classroom. "Use of structured discourse combined with standards-based and student-centered tasks offers opportunities for all students," says Sprigg. Sprigg supports other staff members in addition to supporting students. "Natalie has successfully hosted student teachers and has worked diligently as a mentor to many of our newer staff members," says Brian Singleton, Sprigg’s principal at Mountain Ridge Middle School. "She’s been an integral member of our teacher leader team."

Colorado's Latest Awardee in Mathematics

Michelle Dillard, Ford Elementary School, Littleton School District

2020 Awardee for K-6 Mathematics

Photo of Michelle Dillard, PAEMST awardee

"Every student deserves to be continually awed and humbled by all there is to learn about our world, and we as teachers should provide exceptional educational opportunities for all students to explore and grow. We as educators pursue excellence in our field on behalf of our students who deserve the very best every day. To me, the Presidential Award represents a tremendous honor and wonderful opportunity to partner with great educators to learn how to be the best we can be for our students."

Michelle Dillard has been an educator for 15 years and has taught all fifth-grade subjects at Mark Twain Elementary School for the past eight. Previously, she taught at Thornton Elementary School. In 2021-2022, she is part of a team opening a new school, Dr. Justina Ford Elementary School, where she teaches fifth grade.

Michelle believes every person can be a mathematics person and loves to find engaging pathways for all learners that lead to high levels of mathematics. In her classroom, she encourages students to try on ideas as “rough draft thinking,” develop growth mindsets as they add layers to their conceptual understandings, and model novel situations. She facilitates mathematics forums and congresses to increase student discourse. Her learners love utilizing problem strings to use what they know to solve what they don’t know yet and to model a variety of connected strategies.

Michelle has served on district teams developing units of study, adopting and training others in curriculum, and acting as a model training classroom. She also served on a core team for her school’s transition to an International Baccalaureate school. She is trained in Add+Vantage Math Recovery to advance numeracy development for younger mathematicians and loves using this to help with interventions. She enjoys continually learning professionally as a member of the Colorado Council for Teachers of Mathematics.

Michelle has a B.A., summa cum laude, in elementary education from Dallas Baptist University and an M.S., summa cum laude, in linguistically and culturally diverse education from Fort Hays State University. She has a Colorado Master Teacher certification in elementary education and English as a Second Language and is a National Board Certified Middle Childhood Generalist.

Past Awardees in Mathematics

Vaughan Aandahl
George Washington High School
Denver Public Schools

Christine J. Comins
Pueblo County High School
Pueblo County School District 70

Fred A. Lees, Jr.
Carmody Junior High
Jeffco Public Schools

Ronald Schnackenberg
Steamboat Springs High School
Steamboat Springs School District Re-2

Althea Goss Pearlman
Boulder High School
Boulder Valley School District

Barbara Pond
Parker Junior High School
Douglas County School District

Patrick Mara
South High School
Pueblo School District 60

Brenda Love
Rocky Mountain Elementary School
Adams 12 Five-Star Schools

John Putnam
Washington Irving Junior High School
Colorado Springs School District 11

Eva Brandsma
Lasley Elementary School
Jeffco Public Schools

Marilyn Stor
Arvada High School
Jeffco Public Schools

Janeane Golliher
Columbine Elementary School
St. Vrain Valley School District

Diane Weaver
Morey Middle School
Denver Public Schools

Joseph Modica
Hoehne Elementary School
Hoehne School District

Ronald Ritchhart
Graland Country Day School

Lois Blackwood
Central Elementary School
St. Vrain Valley School District

Art Wilson
Abraham Lincoln High School
Denver Public Schools

Thomas Hibbs
Cheraw Secondary School
Cheraw School District

Marjorie Lindskog
Pueblo School District 60

Judith Koenig
Nevin Platt Middle School
Boulder Valley School District

Sharon Simpson
Ponderosa Elementary School
Cherry Creek School District

Jean Bradac
Byers High School
Denver Public Schools

Nyla Bristow
Centennial Elementary School
Greeley-Evans School District 6

Roslyn Egan
Sedalia Elementary
Douglas County School District

Dorothy Kielian
Skyline High School
St. Vrain Valley School District


Catherine Martin
South High School
Denver Public Schools

Carmen McDermott
Prairie Hills Elementary School
Academy District 20


Anne Thrasher
General William Mitchell High School
Colorado Springs District 11

Kristie Venrick
Longmont Estates Elementary
St. Vrain Valley School District

Patricia Bell
Shepardson Elementary
Poudre School District

Melissa Colsman
Campus Middle School
Cherry Creek School District

Lisa Mesple
Heatherwood Elementary
Boulder Valley School District

Julie Murgel
Slavens School
Denver Public Schools

Jason Cushner
Eagle Rock School

Beth Peters-Terry
Village East Elementary
Cherry Creek School District

Heidi Ringer
Skyline High School
St. Vrain Valley School District

Anna Holm
South High School
Denver Public Schools

Lana Hansen
Willow Creek Elementary School
Cherry Creek School District

Carrie Heaney
Sky Vista Middle School
Cherry Creek School District

Susan Parsons
Columbine Elementary
Boulder Valley School District

Andrea Wiseman
Denver School of the Arts
Denver Public Schools

Joan Standefer
Heatherwood Elementary
Boulder Valley School District

Kirstin Oseth
Cheyenne Mountain Junior High
Cheyenne Mountain School District 12

Carolyn Jordan
Normandy Elementary School
Jeffco Public Schools

Lisa Bejarano
Aspen Valley High School
Academy District 20

Sarah Ogier
Field Elementary School
Littleton Public Schools

Jennifer Moriarty
CEC Early College
Denver Public Schools

Jina Bradford
STEM Magnet Lab School
Adams 12 Five-Star Schools

Kate Pacheck
Prairie Winds Elementary School
Pueblo County School District 70

Linda Cochran
Altona Middle School
St. Vrain Valley School District

Michelle Dillard
Ford Elementary School
Littleton Public Schools