Chemistry Teacher Visits the White House

By Nafeesa H. Owens on November 28, 2017

Chemistry Teacher Visits the White House
By Dr. Nafeesa H. Owens

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) exists to foster excellent teaching and honor the United States’ very best mathematics and science educators. According to American Association of Chemistry Teachers member and recent awardee Amy Roediger, national recognition for winning the award is wonderful, but another PAEMST reward is the application process itself.

A Rewarding Application Process

“The first time I applied I did not win, but my lesson, my video and my reflections provided incredible lenses into the work I do in my classroom,” she says. “For a profession that is overburdened with demands, PAEMST forces busy teachers to pause and deeply reflect on what is working and what is not.”

There are several parts to applying for PAEMST, including personal narrative, administrative appraisal and classroom video components. These provide teachers with a unique opportunity to reflect on the choices they make every day in the classroom. They also give applicants a chance to use experiences in their communities to reflect upon and illustrate the applicants’ impacts as STEM educators, a core aspect of the process.

The Power of the PAEMST Community

No teacher applies for PAEMST in a vacuum; Amy’s number one tip to new applicants is to recognize and utilize the communities around them. Fellow teachers, industrious students, supportive parents and school administrators are all important to a successful submission. While every PAEMST applicant must explore his or her own community to complete the application, Amy found that the most successful candidates also join new communities as they go. Through mentors available through PAEMST, interested applicants are paired with prior PAEMST awardees who provide advice and give feedback to strengthen applications. Not only does having mentors aide applicants in the process, it also allows them to join the community that makes PAEMST so special. Amy says being a part of, “a community of other teachers who were willing to spend this kind of time examining their own practices was one of the greatest benefits of the award.”

In 2015, Amy applied for PAEMST again and won, giving her the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for the PAEMST national recognition event. She met national STEM education policy leaders and received a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation. In addition to receiving this prestigious honor, Amy valued the lifelong community of teacher-leaders she joined as a PAEMST awardee. In her own words, “the connections I made with my fellow PAEMST awardees were one of many highlights of the recognition event. I only wish I would have made them sooner.”

Recognizing Outstanding Teachers through PAEMST

PAEMST are the nation’s highest honors for K-12 STEM teaching and have been awarded to over 4,700 teachers since the program began in 1983. Nominations and applications for K-6th grade teachers are currently open at

Nafeesa H. Owens is the Program Director and Program Lead for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF administers the PAEMST on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.