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Edith Bowen Math Teacher Receives Presidential Award

Thursday, May. 12, 2011

Linda L’Ai, Edith Bowen School 4th grade teacher

Edith Bowen Laboratory School teacher Linda L'Ai is a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

An Edith Bowen Laboratory School teacher was named recently as a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Linda L’Ai, who teaches fourth grade at Edith Bowen, was one of 85 mathematics and science teachers honored by President Barack Obama for their efforts to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Edith Bowen Laboratory School is based in Utah State University’s Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is awarded annually to outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers from across the country. Winners of this Presidential honor receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion. They also receive an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and the Administration.

“It is a high honor to be a recipient of the Presidential Award in Mathematics and Science Teaching,” L’Ai said. “It is a validation of my belief that providing students with the opportunity to explore mathematics in a meaningful context engages them and excites them to see mathematics everywhere. Such recognition encourages me to continue striving to implement best practices and to create lessons that will motivate students to make mathematical connections in their lives.”

L’Ai teaches fourth grade at the Edith Bowen Laboratory School on the campus of Utah State University, where she also mentors USU pre-service teachers. Her special interest is in the integration of math and science in all areas of the curriculum and in providing students with learning experiences in a meaningful context. She believes that hands-on, inquiry-based lessons promote conceptual understanding and enable students to use critical thinking skills to solve real-world problems.

She has directed a school-wide family math program at Edith Bowen, written a “Light the Math Within” curriculum during the Utah Winter Olympic Games and collaborated with the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art developing lessons that integrate math and art. Recently she worked with a Mayan fourth grade math teacher and her students in the Highlands of Guatemala.

She is a recipient of the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics Karl Jones Award for Excellence in Math Education, the KSL Broadcasting Teacher Feature Award and a Fulbright Memorial Teacher Scholarship to Japan. 

L’Ai’s colleagues recommended her for the award. Jim Barta, USU professor and associate department head of Regional Campus and Distance Education at the Granite Education Center, said L’Ai is a respected teacher and colleague both in her school and in her community. Her efforts have created significant ripples of influence through teaching, of course, but also through numerous conference presentations and written scholarship.

“She makes math come alive for the students she teaches,” Barta wrote in a nomination letter. “Linda strives to make math real for her students, and she seeks every opportunity to help her students experience the relevancy of these subjects in their lives.”

The award comes as part of President Obama’s commitment to prepare 100,000 effective science and mathematics teachers over the next decade. These commitments build on the president’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign, which has attracted more than $700 million in donations and in-kind support from corporations, philanthropies, service organizations, and others to help bolster science and technology education in the classroom.
“The teachers we honor today have demonstrated uncommon skill and devotion in the classroom, nurturing the young minds of tomorrow’s science and math leaders,” said President Obama. “America’s competitiveness rests on the excellence of our citizens in technical fields, and we owe these teachers a debt of gratitude for strengthening America’s prosperity.”

Related links:

Edith Bowen Laboratory School

USU Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services

Writer and contact: Tim Vitale, 797-1356,

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