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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #23-39
May 17, 2023
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces 2023 California Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today honored six outstanding math and science teachers from California who are finalists for the 2023 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“Let me offer my sincere congratulations to these educators who we honor for their leadership and instructional practices and how they are inspiring a new generation with passion and talent for science, technology, engineering, and math,” Thurmond said. “They model excellence in how we are preparing California students for the challenges and advancements of the future.”

The PAEMST program is administered by the National Science Foundation on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The PAEMST is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government specifically for kindergarten through grade twelve science, mathematics, engineering, and computer science teaching. For 2022–23, those who teach grades seven through twelve were eligible for the award. Presidential Award recipients are honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., and receive a $10,000 special award from the National Science Foundation.

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).

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 required to submit a 30-minute video lesson in support of their application.

Math Finalists
Kristen Donavan, Woodbridge High School, Irvine Unified School District, Irvine (ninth through twelfth grades)

Kristen has been teaching for 15 years and currently teaches Enhanced Math III Honors, Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus BC, and Integrated Math I. Kristen previously worked as a Teacher on Special Assignment, where she built relationships with secondary math teachers throughout the district and led district math teams in creating new classes, implementing integrated math courses, and re-examining high school grading practices. She has created guidelines for standards-based grading for her Math Department and has mentored teacher candidates and early career teachers. Kristen is a National Board Certified Teacher and has presented at the California Mathematics Council—South, the Orange County Mathematics Council, and the annual National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference in Washington, D.C. The lesson Kristen submitted for consideration was taught in her Enhanced Math III Honors class and helped students to discover the relationship between Cartesian graphs and their corresponding polar graphs.

Cheyanne Freitas, Dixon High School, Dixon Unified School District, Dixon (ninth through twelfth grades)

Cheyanne has been teaching for eight years and currently teaches AP Calculus, Integrated Math 2, and Integrated Math I Support. She is the Department Chair as well as a mentor teacher. Math I Support is an intervention class that grade nine students take in addition to their Integrated Math I class. Cheyanne is a Teacher Leader with the University of California, Davis Math Project. She has presented on effective math teaching strategies to teachers throughout the state. She has also published articles and presented on equitable mathematics teaching strategies in Edutopia, the California Teachers Association Educator magazine, and the California Mathematics Council’s ComMuniCator. The lesson Cheyanne submitted was taught in her Math I Support class and showed linear functions using multiple representations of a graph, table, and equation.

Richard Kick, Newbury Park High School, Conejo Valley Unified School District, Newbury Park (ninth through twelfth grades)

Richard teaches AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles. A teacher for 42 years, he is a member of the Computer Science Teachers Association editorial panel. He has written and presented papers for regional and national Computer Science Teachers Association conferences. Richard served as a writer on the Computer Science Standards for California Public Schools: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve and as a committee member on the California State Standards Committee for Computer Science Education. Richard was a contributor to both the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics journals. He was a member of the Special Interest Group on the Computer Science Education International Conference Committee and has published and presented several papers on computer science education at international conferences. Richard is also a sponsor of the Code Nation Club and the American Computer Science League Club. The lesson Richard submitted was taught in his AP Computer Science Principles class and focused on using programming abstractions to create computer simulations.

Jonathan Southam, New Technology High School, Napa Valley Unified School District, Napa (ninth through twelfth grades)

Jonathan has been teaching for 10 years. He currently teaches Math I, Math III, and Precalculus. He has spoken at the California Mathematics Council North and South conferences as well as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference. He served as a STEM teacher mentor with Trellis Education in the San Francisco Bay Area to support middle school and high school STEM teachers in their first five years of teaching. The lesson Jonathan submitted was taught in his Precalculus class and explored the product law of logarithms.

Science Finalists
Maria Hernandez-Gonzales, Lorbeer Middle School, Pomona Unified School District, Diamond Bar (seventh and eighth grades)

Maria has been teaching for 24 years and currently teaches seventh grade Integrated Science, eighth grade Integrated Science, and an eighth grade Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) elective. She is the Department Chair for Science and the AVID Coordinator. Her responsibilities include assessing the importance of instruction, culture, and leadership and how they fit together with positive behavioral interventions and supports and her school’s participation in a multi-tiered system of support to help create a positive learning environment for students that promotes equity. Maria works with teachers in other curriculum areas to recognize the connections between science and other content areas, which led to a professional learning community that develops lessons to create activities across content areas. Her video and narrative focused on a lab activity on the law of conservation of mass.

Amber Lancaster, Raoul Wallenberg High School, San Francisco Unified School District, San Francisco (ninth through twelfth grades)

Amber, who has been teaching for 13 years, teaches Next Generation Science Standards Biology and Marine Biology. She plans and executes numerous outdoor field experiences for students, including sand crab monitoring, tide pooling, and using remotely operated vehicles (built in class) to explore bodies of water. Amber has been a San Francisco Teacher Residency Cooperating Teacher, Exploratorium Teacher Institute Leader Fellow, and a leader for the Grading for Equity Study Group and Book Club. She has obtained multiple grants, including the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Community Challenge Grant, that helped create an outdoor science classroom. The topic discussed in her video and narrative was an interdisciplinary lesson on fire ecology and fire management.

Samantha Stickley, San Marcos Middle School, San Marcos Unified School District, San Marcos (seventh grade)

Samantha has been teaching for 16 years and currently teaches seventh grade Integrated Science. She is part of the OpenSciEd Level Two Facilitator Team and develops and leads professional learning for adult learners. She has mentored teachers through student teaching and the induction process. Samantha has also co-taught with teachers from the special education and dual language programs. Her classroom has been featured in research through Northwestern University and the University of Kansas. Samantha was also a Spotlight Teacher for the University of California, San Diego Science Project. She was selected to showcase her classroom with California Educators Together, and the last three videos made will be used for professional learning. Her submitted video and narrative focused on chemical reactions at the particle level.

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: Wednesday, May 17, 2023
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