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Three Aggies Receive Presidential Teaching Award for Math, Science

Monday, Dec. 09, 2019


2019 PAEMST awards ceremony

USU alum Debbie Morgan, second from left, receives a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching at a Fall 2019 ceremony in Washington, D.C. from NSF and OSTP officials. Courtesy OSTP.


2019 PAEMST awards ceremony

USU alum Mike Spencer, second from left, receives a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching at a Fall 2019 ceremony in Washington, D.C. from NSF and OSTP officials. Courtesy OSTP.


2019 PAEMST awards ceremony

USU doctoral student Rachel Reeder, second from left, receives a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching at a Fall 2019 ceremony in Washington, D.C. from NSF and OSTP officials. Courtesy OSTP.

Three Utah State University Aggies are among four Utahns selected for the national Presidential Teaching Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Awarded by the White House and the National Science Foundation, the recognition is the nation’s highest honor for K-12 teachers of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science.

Honorees are alums Deborah Stringham Morgan (BS’02, Geology) and Orson “Mike” Spencer (BS’07, Mathematics; M.Ed.’12) and USU doctoral student Rachel Checketts Reeder. The trio were honored in a Fall 2019 awards ceremony, which included both 2017 and 2018 awardees, in Washington, D.C. 

“We are very excited by this prestigious and well-deserved recognition for our Aggie STEM educators,” says Maura Hagan, dean of USU’s College of Science. “These awards are a testament to these exceptional professionals, as well as the education and preparation they received at Utah State.”

A veteran educator of 17 years, Morgan teaches 9th through 12th grade science at rural Monroe, Utah’s South Sevier High School. She serves as the advisor to the school’s STEM Club and as the school district’s technology coach. Monroe, who earned a master’s degree in geosciences from Mississippi State University, was named the 2018 Teacher of the Year (K-12) by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. She’s among the first cohort of Utah educators selected as Utah Teacher Fellows, a program sponsored by the Hope Street Group and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year.

“The Presidential Award means the culmination of years of mentoring and collaboration from education professionals,” says Morgan, who was featured in the Spring 2018 issue of the College of Science’s Discovery alumni magazine. “Educators who taught me with passion instilled in me a desire to emulate that passion.”

An educator for 12 years, Spencer teaches 11th and 12th grade calculus, statistics, college algebra and secondary mathematics at Juab High School in Nephi, Utah. He has conducted workshops for other teachers for the State of Utah and is a facilitator for the Mathematics Vision Project, a national, educator-driven initiative to support mathematics teachers.  

“It is a tremendous honor to be a recipient of this award,” says Spencer, who serves as the high school representative for the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “It’s a tribute to the amazing educators who have supported and played a role in shaping my beliefs about mathematics education. It’s also recognition of the role my students have played in my growth as an educator.”

A Cache Valley resident, Reeder earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and is currently a doctoral student in mathematics education in USU’s Department of Teacher Education and Leadership. An educator for 13 years, Reeder most recently taught first grade for six years at Logan’s Bridger Elementary School. She has conducted multiple classroom research projects, coauthored a number of peer-reviewed papers and presented at professional conferences.

“This recognition validates and celebrates my role as a professional educator,” Reeder says. “The award adds esteem and credibility to my labor of love: teaching children mathematics.”

Established in 1983, the PAEMST program, administered by the NSF on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, recognizes outstanding teachers for their contributions to the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science. Each honoree receives a certificate signed by the President of the United States and a $10,000 cash award from the NSF.


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