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Superintendent Announces Finalists for National Award
Four elementary teachers in running for math and science teaching honor

OLYMPIA — August 24, 2010 — Four teachers from Washington have been selected as state level finalists for the selective Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

Barbara Franzof North Elementary (Moses Lake), Nancy Pfaff of Horace Mann Elementary (Lake Washington), Dawn Sparks of Thorp Elementary (Thorp) and Debra Strong of Forest View Elementary (Everett) were selected in June by statewide selection committee comprised of content area experts and teachers. Their nominations were recently confirmed by the national PAEMST program.

State Superintendent Randy Dorn thanked the selection committee and praised the finalists for their dedication to excellence in education.

“By generating enthusiasm for math and science in our classrooms today we can help create the technologies of tomorrow,” he said. “I am so grateful that our youngest students have teachers like Barbara, Nancy, Dawn and Debra to inspire, encourage and challenge them.”

The national PAEMST program typically announces national award recipients in the late spring or early summer. State level finalists are recognized by regional and state math and science associations and will be invited to several events for Washington’s Exceptional Educators during the next year.

Barbara Franz: North Elementary School, Moses Lake School District

Franz is a National Board Certified Teacher of kindergarten in Moses Lake and has taught in both public and private schools for over 25 years. She is a building leader who has thrown herself into the study of mathematics education and built a curriculum for her kindergarteners that is informed by standards in future grades and far exceeds district requirements. As a member of the district’s Math Vertical Team, Franz works to align curriculum throughout the grade levels and lead her building through new curriculum adoption. What really sets Franz apart is her abilities in the classroom where “she integrates mathematics and science into all aspects of her teaching,” said Principal Shannon Dahl. Dahl praised Franz saying, “Barbara’s passion for teaching and learning renders me speechless. When a student needs assistance or appears to be struggling, she refuses to allow that child to fall behind.”

Nancy Pfaff: Horace Mann Elementary School, Lake Washington School District

Pfaff is an accomplished educator who has developed and taught interdisciplinary curriculum for gifted programs, has served as the district’s math professional development specialist and is also an associate faculty at City University. In her building and across the district Pfaff has made tremendous impacts through her web based tools for parents and families, facilitation of a district math committee and online professional development for teachers. Nancy moved back to the classroom last year and took on the sixth grade general education class. Her principal, Megan Spaulding, said, “I have the benefit of watching Nancy daily apply what she has learned into her classroom. It is not an easy task, but Nancy has taken on the challenge with grace, humility, humor and enthusiasm. She is a caring thoughtful and dedicated educator.”

Dawn Sparks: Thorp Elementary School, Thorp School District

Sparks is an influential leader in Thorp where she teaches a self contained sixth grade class and serves as the district’s science coordinator. Sparks is an expert presenter and mentor to other teachers in her school, district, region and state and has even travelled as far as China to provide foundational professional development. Among her many accomplishments: creating a successful model for family science nights and serving as a faculty for the Washington State LASER Strategic Planning Institute. According to her principal, Jim Hainer, Sparks is also “an exceptional classroom teacher . . . she employs questioning strategies that cause students to delve into the science concepts they are studying and require students to support their ideas, positions and conclusion with evidence from their inquiries.”

Debra Strong: Forest View Elementary School, Everett School District

Strong, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches fifth grade at Forest View. She is widely respected for her creativity and ability to harness a variety of resources to enhance her classroom. In addition to securing grants for environmental field trips, Strong has connected her students to brain research via the University of Washington and utilized the Disney Planet Challenge to propel students into leadership roles as they taught their peers about Puget Sound’s storm drain runoff. Strong’s efforts make her classroom alive with real world experiences that engage her students in a lifetime of inquiry. As one parent said, “I have seen my child’s interest in science heighten when in turn causes her curiosity to expand. Mrs. Strong gives her students the encouragement they need to finish what they start, gain knowledge from it and most of all to grow from it.”

About the Award
The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is the highest honor for a K-12 mathematics or science teacher. Awards are given annually to teachers from each of the 50 states four U.S. jurisdictions (Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; Department of Defense Schools; and the U.S. territories as a group: American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

Each year the award alternated between elementary and secondary teachers. To be considered for the PAEMST, teachers must be nominated and complete a comprehensive application. A state selection committee reviews completed applications and may forward up to three nominations from each discipline to the national program for consideration.

According to the PAEMST Web site, “Teachers are recognized for their contributions to teaching and learning and their ability to help students make progress in mathematics and science.”


About OSPI

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine Educational Service Districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

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For More Information

Education Awards (OSPI)

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching


   Updated 8/24/2010

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