Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo
California Department of Education News Release (with no CDE logo)
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #12-63
June 25, 2012
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Congratulates
Two California Teachers on Prestigious National Honors

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today congratulated two California teachers who have been named by President Barack Obama as recipients of the prestigious 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) award. The two teachers were among 97 educators named nationwide.

The California science winner is Dean Baird, a physics teacher at Sacramento’s Rio Americano High School in the San Juan Unified School District.

The California mathematics winner is Kentaro Iwasaki, a math teacher and chair of the Mathematics Department at San Francisco’s Mission High School in the San Francisco Unified School District.

"I’m proud and delighted to see two of California’s own honored by the President for dedication, talent, and hard work," said Torlakson. "They deserve our admiration and appreciation for their professional and personal efforts to encourage their students to pursue subjects that are so critical to the future of our state and our nation."

Baird has taught physics, computer science and electronics, and physical science since 1986 at Rio Americano High School. He is the recipient of numerous local, state, and national recognition awards. Baird also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science degree in instructional leadership in curriculum and instruction from National University. As part of the PAEMST application, Baird presented his "Why the Sky is Blue" video that actively explores a variety of alternative explanations through experimentation, demonstration, and discussion.

Iwasaki teaches math and serves as the Chair of the Mathematics Department at Mission High School, a high poverty school where 38 percent of its students are learning English. He not only teaches struggling students, but also teaches honors and Advanced Placement math courses, working to explain the most complex math topics in such a way that students can then become teachers of math themselves.

Recognition ceremonies for the 2011 Presidential Awardees will be held Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

PAEMST [] External link opens in new window or tab. is the highest recognition that a kindergarten through twelfth grade math or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States. PAEMST was enacted by Congress in 1983 and authorizes the President each year to bestow up to 108 awards to math and science teachers from each of the 50 states and four U.S. jurisdictions including Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; Department of Defense Schools; and the U.S. territories. PAEMST awards alternate yearly between honoring primary and secondary teachers.

Since the program's inception, 84 California teachers have been named PAEMST recipients.

# # # #

Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Monday, March 30, 2020
Related Content
  • Presidential Awards for Math & Science Teaching
    The Nation’s highest honors for mathematics and science (including computer science) teachers who are models for colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of science and mathematics education.
Recently Posted in News Releases