McDonald County teacher recognized as science award winner in nation's capital

Shelley Paul (right) celebrates with her daughter, Emily Paul, after receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching last week in Washington, D.C. Paul is a first grade teacher at Anderson Elementary School in McDonald County. COURTESY | SHELLEY PAUL

A McDonald County teacher was among four educators from Missouri to be honored by the White House last week as recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Shelley Paul, a first grade teacher at Anderson Elementary School, was named the Missouri winner in science as part of the 2018 class.

"I am truly honored to represent my rural Southwest Missouri community on this distinctive national stage," she said Friday from Washington, D.C.

More than 200 individuals earned the recognition last week as awardees for both the 2017 and 2018 cycles. The awards, established in 1983, are the highest honor given by the U.S. government to K-12 teachers of math and science.

Other awardees from Missouri were Katherine Lodes, of St. Louis, and Terri Politte and Stacey Wade, both of Wentzville.

“We are extremely excited for this announcement that recognizes the passion and dedication these Missouri teachers display every day,” Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said in a statement. “These awardees are making strong contributions to their classrooms and are providing the necessary tools for their students to achieve success.”

All award recipients received a presidential citation during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., and participated last week in discussions on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education priorities. In addition, each winner will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, which manages the awards program on behalf of the White House.

Paul, who is in her 30th year of teaching at Anderson Elementary, was previously announced as a finalist for the award in 2016 before being named a finalist and then a winner for the 2018 cycle.

She said she regularly emphasizes science in her first grade classroom.

"Science is transforming into problem-solving and includes all of the multicurricular activities moreso than in the past; we incorporate math and language arts and even some social studies," she said in an interview with the Globe. "I just make sure I have hands-on investigations. I don't give kids answers — I pose problems to them and give them the materials they can use to solve problems. And I let them pose problems, and then we experiment and see what happens.

"We read about things and look at pictures ... but you've got to have it in their hands and (allow them) to do things to make learning more real to them," she said.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.

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