VBCPS - Charting the Course
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Sondra Woodward
Date: 10/17/19 Phone: 757.263.1797
News Release No. 010 Fax: 757.263.1010
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Email: sondra.woodward@vbschools.com

Two Virginia Beach educators receive nation's top honor for math and science teachers

Melissa Follin and Dianna McDowell, teachers at Old Donation School (ODS), have been given the Presidential Excellence Awards in Science Mathematics and Engineering Teaching (PAEMST). President Donald J. Trump announced the recipients of the 2017 and 2018 PAEMST awards Oct. 15, 2019. The honors are granted to science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and 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).

"Virginia Beach City Public Schools strives to be the vanguard of STEM education for the Commonwealth, providing transformational learning experiences for each of our students" said Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence. "Our teachers pour their hearts and souls into this effort, and it is gratifying when they are recognized on the national stage."

Follin received the 2018 PAEMST for kindergarten-sixth grade mathematics. Having worked in Virginia Beach City Public Schools for all 15 years of her teaching career, Follin started at Holland Elementary School where she taught first and third grade. She later became a gifted resource teacher at Shelton Park Elementary School and Glenwood Elementary School. She currently teaches all subjects to third graders at ODS.

"As educators, it is our moral and ethical responsibility to remain vigilant in having learners open to new ideas and to reach every one of our students," Follin said. "The Presidential Award, to me, means I am successful in that endeavor, all while knowing I have so much I can still learn. The award is an honor and a reminder that we owe our students, the future of our nation, our very best."

McDowell received the 2017 PAEMST for seventh-12 grade science. She has spent the past decade at Old Donation School, and currently teaches eighth grade Earth science. She previously taught at Landstown High School and Kellam High School.

"Receiving the Presidential Award is humbling and inspiring in equal measure," said McDowell. "In fact, the reflection and synthesis required in responding to the nomination were invaluable. Just as 'answers' aren't the end goal in science, but instead serve as catalysts for new questions and discoveries, I see this award as an opportunity for new perspectives and discoveries as a teacher, not as an end goal. I hope to use my growth through this process to benefit students and fellow educators."

Established in 1983, PAEMST is the highest award given by the U.S. government to kindergarten through 12th grade teachers of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science. A panel of distinguished mathematicians, scientists and educators at the state and national levels assess the applications before recommending nominees. Teachers are selected based on their distinction in the classroom and dedication to improving STEM education.

For more information about the PAEMST program, visit www.paemst.org.

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Department of Media and Communications, vbcpsweb@vbschools.com

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