Four Iowans named winners of prestigious math, science awards
Four Iowans were among 213 mathematics and science teachers named as recipients of the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
- Ann Johnson, a second-grade mathematics teacher at Sageville Elementary School in the Dubuque Community School District
- Joshua Steenhoek, a science teacher at Jefferson Intermediate School in the Pella Community School District
- Lynnetta Bleeker, a life sciences teacher at Parkview Middle School in the Ankeny Community School District
- Richard Brooks, a math teacher at Johnston High School in the Johnston Community School District
They will receive their awards at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 8.
Johnson has been teaching for 16 years, the last four at Sageville.
Johnson’s students work toward a common learning target on differentiated paths.
“Students learn math skills through hands-on activities, collaborating with other students and making connections to previous learning and the world around them,” she said. “My classroom environment celebrates all student learning while challenging students to make connections between strategies to encourage the most efficient and accurate problem-solving skills.”
Johnson has a B.A. from the University of Iowa in elementary education and a M.A. in literacy from Northeastern Illinois University.
Steenhoek has taught fifth grade at Jefferson Intermediate School for the last 12 years. He previously taught elementary special education for three years in Clinton.
Overcoming the preconceived notion that science is a non-preferred subject is a challenge, he said.
“People are social, naturally curious, and passionate about things that matter to them,” he said. “In my science classroom the questions that students pose around big ideas help drive our investigations and fuel their passion.”
Steenhoek has a B.A. in elementary education from Central College. He is certified in elementary special education with a multi-categorical endorsement.
Bleeker, 25-year teaching veteran, said that in order for the United States to compete globally, students need a top-notch education in both math and science.
“As our world becomes increasingly globally interconnected, we as a nation must stay on the forefront of innovation and technical expertise or we will fall behind other countries with people willing to work for less money and in conditions that are less safe and environmentally friendly than those we have come to expect in this country,” she said.
Brooks, a 24-year teaching veteran, said that to get students interested in math and science, you have to compel them to want to learn.
“I think we need to put our students into situations where they ‘need’ math and science to answer a question important to them,” he said. “We have to allow students to use math and science without having to know every detail before they dive in.”
The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is awarded to outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The winners are selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians, and educators following an initial selection process at the state level.
The awardees represent all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools.
In addition to the ceremony, winners receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion.
To learn more about the teachers, visit the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching website.