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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #20-107
December 22, 2020
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces 2020 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today congratulated six outstanding mathematics and science teachers who are finalists from California for the 2020 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are incredible educators, role models, and mentors to all those around them, and through mastery of their craft, they inspire students to study math, technology, engineering, and science—including computer science,” Thurmond said. “They’re bright stars and prime examples of excellence in our educational system, and we hope that all students can enroll in great STEAM and computer science programs with educators like them, to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners with the California Mathematics Council and the California Association of Science Educators to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program. Each applicant must display subject mastery, appropriate use of instructional methods and strategies, lifelong learning, and leadership in education outside the classroom. Each candidate is also required to submit a 30-minute video lesson in support of their application.

Mathematics Finalists

Anamarie (Mia) Buljan, Fairview Elementary, Hayward Unified School District, Hayward. Mia has been teaching for 24 years. She has been a district Math Coach as well as the Coordinator of Professional Development and the Director of Primary Education for the Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative. She’s written yearly tool kits for teachers to guide the analysis of student work for the primary Mathematics Assessment Resource Service assessments. Mia has provided professional learning at summer institutes in California, Oregon, and Illinois, and the Inside Mathematics website featured her elementary formative assessment lessons and how to set up a classroom for math talks.

Khamphet Pease, Wilson Middle School, San Diego Unified School District, San Diego. Khamphet has been teaching for 14 years and is currently a grade six Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) teacher. At her site, she is teaching Introduction to Coding; Gateway to Technology: Design and Modeling, Automation and Robotics; and Computer Science for Innovators and Makers. Khamphet is a champion for underrepresented girls in the STEM fields. From 2014 to 2016, she mentored 16 high school girls from schools across San Diego County to design, program, and build a microlab experiment that was deployed to the International Space Station to test zero gravity.

Leslie Whitaker, Esencia Elementary, Capistrano Unified School District Rancho Mission Viejo. Leslie has been teaching for 20 years and is currently a grade three teacher. She’s also supported many student teachers, been a Math Teacher on Special Assignment in her district, and worked with a team at the Orange County Department of Education to provide professional learning for transitional kindergarten through grade five teachers. This summer, Leslie wrote Canvas third grade math lessons for the first two trimesters of Capistrano Unified School District distance learning. The topic for her lesson was comparing fractions by reasoning about their size, number of parts, and relationship to benchmarks.

Science Finalists

Angela Chavez, Vena Avenue Elementary, Los Angeles Unified School District, Arleta. Angela has been teaching for 19 years and currently teaches grade three. She was a reviewer of Science and History-Social Science instructional materials, developed engineering design extensions for district kindergarten through grade five teachers, and currently is a Girls Who Code Facilitator. Angela has presented at district and national science conferences regarding girls in science. She also provides professional learning to colleagues on the California Next Generation Science Standards, specifically on the Science and Engineering practices.

Judy Cook, William Collier Elementary, Lake Elsinore Unified School District, Wildomar. Judy has been teaching for 28 years and is a first-grade teacher. For multiple years, she was an Induction Coach and mentored teachers new to the field. Judy taught in summer literacy camps that provided support in science, reading, and art. She also works with full inclusion aides as they support their students.

Marlys Williamson, Wolf Canyon Elementary, Chula Vista Elementary School District, Chula Vista. Marlys has been teaching for 13 years and is a fifth-grade teacher. She has been a member of the grade five instructional leadership team, led professional learning with a focus on the Science and Engineering practices, led the creation of Wolf Canyon’s Design Den makerspace, and mentored student teachers from multiple teaching programs. Marlys’ class is featured on the San Diego County Office of Education website, and she has presented at multiple Next Generation Science Standard rollout events.

The PAEMST program is administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Presidential Award recipients are honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., and receive a $10,000 special award from the NSF.

Awards are given to teachers who teach science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Department of Defense schools, and four U.S. territories (as a group).

For more information, visit the CDE Presidential Awards for Math and Science Teaching web page or the PAEMST website External link opens in new window or tab..

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

Last Reviewed: Tuesday, December 22, 2020
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