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From the Spring 2020 Edition of Discovery

Three Aggies Receive Presidential Teaching Award for Math, Science

Debbie Morgan BS’02, Mike Spencer BS’07, M.Ed’12 and Rachel Reeder Receive Nation’s Top Honor for K-12 STEM Teachers

Physician Uyen Lam

Debbie Morgan BS’02 (left), Mike Spencer BS’07 (center), M.Ed’12 and Rachel Reeder (right) Receive Nation’s Top Honor for K-12 STEM Teachers

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.

Lam’s work traverses cultures, resources and continents, but her focus remains the same: Discerning patients’ needs, providing them with care and empowering them to make healthy lifestyle choices.

“The old adage, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ rings true,” says the 2012 graduate of the University of Utah’s School of Medicine. “I can employ cutting-edge medicine to keep you alive, but I can’t improve your quality of life without your partnership.”

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.

Debbie Morgan

Debbie Morgan

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 n amed 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.

Mike Spencer

Mike Spencer

This award means the culmination of years of mentoring and collaboration from education professionals,” Morgan says. “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. “This is a tremendous honor,” 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.”

Rachel Reeder

Rachel Reeder

A Cache Valley resident, Reeder earned a bachelor’s degree from BYU and is currently a doctoral student in mathematics education in USU’s Department of Teacher Education and Leadership.

“This recognition validates and celebrates my role as a professional educator,” says Reeder, who has been a teacher for 13 years.“ The award adds esteem and credibility to my labor of love: teaching children mathematics.”


By Mary-Ann Muffoletto

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