Sean Nank
To: PAEMST Recipients

Presidential Book

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is the only K-12 education award issued by the President of the United States.  It is the highest award in the entire nation that anyone can bestow on mathematics and science teachers.  During one of the award weeks in Washington DC, a guest speaker told the new awardees that when they returned to their schools and communities, people might wonder, “What makes you so great (as a teacher)?”  This book is, in part, an answer to that query.

This book is a collection of 50 autobiographical stories of PAEMST educators’ journeys through life and their educational experiences, both as students and as teachers.  Their candid stories are inspirational as they offer metaphorical and practical insight into the making of outstanding teachers.  Inherent in the stories is an understanding of what education is from the teachers’ perspectives.  The insight captured in these stories makes this collection an invaluable window into teachers’ endeavors to become great.

Click the cover or here to purchase The Making of a Presidential Mathematics & Science Educator

Excerpt from the Foreword

    This book is a gift to the teaching profession and to other groups concerned with teaching from 50 experienced schoolteachers – all recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  It is a collection of the teachers’ individual stories, written by them, about how they first went about becoming teachers, then outstanding teachers, and ultimately career-teachers.  All their stories are about practice – about taking action in the world, specifically in schools, in hopes of making them more humane places.  As such, the collected stories speak unequivocally about the central place that practicing goodness occupies in teaching. . .

    This book exemplifies the promise inherent in schoolteachers’ stories about their development as teachers. Wonderfully accessible and richly detailed, the collected stories succeed in taking readers into the teachers’ “world” so that, however vicariously, we feel that we are “there” with them, able to understand their world as they do.  The stories call to us, compelling our interest because, instead of the usual generic list of “best practices” or stereotypical platitudes about teaching’s joys, they put us in touch with the particulars of teaching.  We see the multidimensional, strenuous, and always uncertain effort that is involved in determining how to act well with others.
    One of the volume's most striking features is the vividness of the teachers' biographies and how deftly the teachers connect them with their practice.  Like good lessons, the stories show us rather than tell us how the teachers teach. . .
    The reach and the evocative sensibility expressed in this teacher’s story characterize the other teachers’ stories, making the volume as a whole remarkable.  For instance, a speaker at the 2009 PAEMST award ceremony posed a provocative question to the awardees, one the editor subsequently asked them to take up in these stories: “What makes you so great [as a teacher]?”  The prompt led me to expect evidence of teaching “greatness” - perhaps a table of average yearly progress (AYP) or advanced placement (AP) test scores, an extended version of a vitae, or letters of commendation from students or colleagues.  However, the teachers do not respond directly to the prompt (except for a few who state flat out that their teaching is “nothing special”).  Instead, the teachers politely, almost surreptitiously, modulate the prompt to talk about good teaching, not great teaching.  Good teaching makes sense in their “world,” where connections with students, colleagues, and the profession in the real-time intimacy of practice are of the essence, rather than hierarchy, academics, competition, and distance.  Such small but deeply thoughtful shifts are indicative of the care with which these teachers regard teaching.  They make this collection an invaluable resource for use in university courses intent on putting teachers’ knowledge of practice into play in education.

Reba N. Page, PhD

University of California, Riverside