This post has been updated with reaction from the award winners.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday named four Idaho teachers as recipients of the country’s most prestigious award for math and science teachers.
Two of the teachers work in the Boise School District. Three are women. And all of them have a passion for STEM. The winners are:
- Deirdre Abrams — Donnelly Elementary School, McCall-Donnelly
- Sean Boston — Timberline High School, Boise
- Vonda Franklin — Washington Elementary School, Boise
- Erin Tiderman-Gross — Rocky Mountain High School, West Ada
The four teachers were selected from seven Idaho finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2017 and 2018. They join some 200 educators from all 50 states who received the award Tuesday.
The winners receive a $10,000 check from the National Science Foundation and are invited to Washington D.C. for an awards ceremony and professional development opportunities.
Deirdre Abrams, of Donnelly Elementary School
Abrams is a fifth-grade teacher at Donnelly Elementary School and has worked in the McCall-Donnelly School District for more than 24 years.
The State Department of Education nominated Abrams for the presidential award in 2018.
Abrams aims to help her students learn through place-based techniques that focus on science in the McCall area.
“I’m so grateful to be given this prestigious award and am honored to be recognized beside so many incredible educators,” Abrams said in an email. “This celebration doesn’t come without the acknowledgment of my colleagues at Donnelly Elementary, who each have a striking part in shaping our students before they get to 5th grade. Our entire staff has a true gift in cultivating an excitement about learning and positive attitude about education that is the hallmark of our small, rural school. This award is truly a reflection of the impressive work by everyone from our office staff and paraprofessionals to every classroom teacher and the progressive leadership of our administrators and school board. I couldn’t teach the way I do without their support, creativity, wisdom, and trust. So grateful!”
Abrams graduated from the University of Montana and earned a master’s degree in education from Boise State University. In 2011 she won the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.
Sean Boston, physics teacher at Timberline High School
Boston got a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Idaho. He found a good job and made good money. But be remembers being uninspired.
“I was a restless youth, looking down the long barrel of 40 years of a working career ahead of me,” Boston said in an email. “It seemed impossible.”
So, Boston turned to teaching instead; chopping his salary in half to become a public school science teacher.
“I always loved helping people and lifting them up. I remembered my teachers and coaches giving me confidence when I was young and it made all the difference to me,” Boston said. “I wanted to do that for others.”
Boston worked for seven years at Boise’s Capital High school and moved to Timberline High in 2018. Between Capital and Timberline, he took a leave of absence to create AP physics content for Khan Academy, an online education non-profit.
Boston created Capital High’s first computer science and calculus-based physics courses and helped high school students earn internships at NASA, research posts at Boise State University and he recommended two Gates Millennium Scholars.
“It’s really something when you can hook a kid on what you’re teaching them, get them to work hard and achieve,” Boston wrote in an email. “It’s meaningful work and I am so very lucky to have it.”
Vonda Franklin, fourth grade teacher at Washington Elementary School
Franklin, who teaches fourth graders in the Boise School District, was nominated for the presidential award in 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Montana and holds a masters degree in mathematics education from Western Governors University.
In addition to teaching her own students, Franklin has mentored future math teachers through Boise State University’s “I Do Teach” program.
“I am honored and grateful to be a recipient of the Presidential Award; it is truly the highlight of my career,” Franklin wrote for a science award publication. “This award is a tribute to all the instructors and colleagues who have provided me with learning opportunities and who have inspired me to excel in mathematics instruction. I also believe this recognition celebrates my students for their willingness to take risks, collaborate and participate in discourse as they explore the wonderful world of mathematics.”
Erin Tiderman-Gross, biology teacher at Rocky Mountain High School
Tiderman-Gross teaches AP biology in the West Ada School District, and serves as the National Honor Society adviser at the school.
She has spent the last 24 years teaching and learned she was a finalist for the presidential award in 2017.
“I am so humbled and honored to be receiving this award,” Tiderman-Gross said in an email to EdNews. “I cannot accept this award without giving credit to all of the West Ada administrators who continue to support my AP Biology program, to the awesome educators…I learn from each and every day, to the parents who value education & instill that in their children and, of course, my awesome students who never cease to amaze me & inspire me daily to keep teaching.”
Former Idaho EdNews staffer Andrew Reed contributed to this report.