Idaho teachers named finalists for Presidential Award

Three Idaho educators have been named finalists for the country’s highest award for math and science teachers. On Tuesday, the State Department of Education announced the state finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST):

  • Galileo STEM Academy’s Kellie Taylor.
  • McCall-Donnelly School District’s Deirdre Abrams.
  • Boise School District’s Vonda Franklin.

The award is the highest recognition that a K-12 mathematics or science teacher can receive for outstanding teaching in the United States. The awards are given to teachers from each state.

Awardees serve as “models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education,” according to the PAEMST website.

Meet the finalist

Kellie Taylor

Kellie Taylor has been a kindergarten through fifth-grade engineering teacher at Galileo STEM Academy in the West Ada School District since 2012. 

She was a 2014 state finalist for a PAEMST award. Taylor has won a number of regional and national honors for her work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She is a three-time Teacher of the Year at her school, in 2018 she was named as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. 

She started teaching in 2004 and earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in Educational Technology from Boise State University.

Among other things, she has participated in the Maven Elementary Educator Summit, NASA Microgravity University for Educators, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office fourth annual National Summer Teacher Institute on Innovation, STEM and Intellectual Property and a member of the Space Exploration Educator Crew through Space Center Houston.

“Impacting students’ futures and helping them find their passions is always amazing,” she said.

Deirdre Abrams has taught in the McCall-Donnelly School District for 24 years, the last 12 as a fifth-grade teacher at Donnelly Elementary School.

Deirdre Abrams

She described her teaching style as helping her students become immersed in place-based learning that focuses on science opportunities “in this beautiful, friendly, resort town.”

“I am grateful to be in the position to share my love of learning and passion for STEM with a class full of curious students each year,” Abrams said.

A graduate of the University of Montana, she earned a master’s degree in education from Boise State University. She has been featured as a best practices speaker at educational conferences in Idaho, and has been the author of several papers in professional publications. In 2011, she was the Idaho recipient of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.

The White House will announce the winners next year. Those selected for this Presidential honor will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion. They also will be invited to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony, educational events, and visits with members of Congress and the Administration.

The PAEMST award was established by Congress in 1983, and the program authorizes the President of the United States to honor up to 108 awards each year.

Vonda Franklin has taught at Spalding STEM Academy in the West Ada School District and in 2014 moved to Washington Elementary in Boise.

Vonda Franklin

She participated in a five-year professional development program through Boise State University, and regularly mentors future math and science teachers through Boise State University’s “I Do Teach” Program. 

“It is an honor being selected as one of Idaho’s state finalists for the PAEMST Award,” she said. “This is a tribute to all of the instructors and colleagues who have inspired me to excel in mathematics instruction.”

Franklin is a graduate of the University of Montana and earned her master’s degree in mathematics education from Western Governors University.

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