President Barack Obama named the award winners in August, and Donna Patten was among 213 mathematics and science teachers who were invited to Washington on Sept. 8 for the awards
ceremony. PAEMST is awarded to outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The winners are selected by a panel of scientists, mathematicians and educators following an initial selection process at the state level. Winners of this presidential honor receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion.
"I believe we need to help children/teens understand that math is a language that allows them to communicate in science, technology and engineering — the career pathways of the next generation. I believe the most effective way to train them in this language is to help them develop a deep conceptual understanding of mathematics through strong pedagogical strategies like the Southern Regional Education Board's Mathematics Design Collaborative. As students become fluent in the language of mathematics and connect that language to career opportunities, their interest in math will be stimulated," Patten said.
Patten now works as the Mathematics Design Collaborative local trainer and middle/high school math curriculum coordinator for the Ouachita Parish School System. She has been a classroom teacher for the past 29 years. For the past 13 years, she taught Algebra I at West Monroe High School. She also taught seventh and eighth grade mathematics, geometry and various levels of algebra.
She said the award is about more than her as an individual.
"This award is about my parents, who instilled in me a love for education at an early age. It's about my dedicated elementary teachers at Paradise Elementary School in Ball and my high school math teachers at Tioga High School. It's about the first person to recognize my God-given gift for teaching and who gave me my first teaching job at a small Christian school," Patten said. "It's about all the administrators in both private and public schools who supported me in my pursuit of excellence in teaching. It's about my colleagues who always pushed me to excellence.
"Most importantly, it's about all the students who worked past their math phobias and learned to appreciate, sometimes even love, mathematics. This award is a culmination of many years of striving to always be better this year than last year."
Patten said Maribeth Holzer, who was then the middle/high school math curriculum coordinator, nominated her in January 2015.
"The application process involved a narrative describing a particular instructional strategy with a justification for using that strategy, a video documenting my use of that strategy, letters of recommendation supporting my pursuit of this award, and a resume' indicating a trend of ongoing educational excellence," Patten said.
In September 2015, accompanied by Superintendent Don Coker, WMHS Principal Shelby Ainsworth and her husband, Bobby, Patten was honored as a PAEMST state finalist at an award's luncheon at the Governor's Mansion.
Earlier this month, she and her husband attended the awards celebrations in Washington. The trip included an award dinner, a trip to the Smithsonian National Zoo, professional development sessions, a symposium on active learning in STEM education, a resource exchange, an awards ceremony at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall, the Next Generation STEM High School Forum and a tour of the White House.
Patten said another awards luncheon acknowledging receipt of the award at the Governor's Mansion was postponed because of flooding in the Baton Rouge area and is still pending.
PAEMST awardees represent all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools.
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