DoDEA Pacific teacher becomes state-level finalist in National awards program

by Larry Torres
DoDEA Pacific

OKINAWA, Japan — A Department of Defense Education Activity Korea District teacher was recently selected as a state-level finalist in The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching—an honor reserved for the most distinguished mathematics and science teachers in the United States.

Lisa Marie Roberts, a third grade teacher at Seoul American Elementary School in South Korea, was chosen by selection committees composed of prominent mathematicians, scientists, educators, and classroom teachers brought together by the National Science Foundation.

Roberts said the PAEMST program supports the future of students by recognizing educators who are passionate about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

“STEM is our future,” said Roberts, who is working on her graduate certificate in STEM with Valley City State University in Valley City, N.D.  “Children need to learn to problem solve and collaborate with others.  Starting early and exposing children to hands-on activities that ignite their passion in these fields helps children decide to pursue these areas later in their educational career.”

Exceptional mathematics or science teachers of grades K-6 may be nominated by principals, teachers, parents, students, or members of the general public. Additionally, teachers may nominate themselves. The application process requires three letters of recommendation, a resume, a written narrative on a chosen topic or concept, and a video component consisting of a recorded classroom lesson aligned to the chosen narrative topic or concept.

All applicants are evaluated through the Five Dimensions of Outstanding Teaching:

  •  Mastery of mathematics or science content appropriate for the grade level taught.
  •  Use of instructional methods and strategies that are appropriate for students in the class and that support student learning.
  •  Effective use of student assessments to evaluate, monitor, and improve student learning.
  •  Reflective practice and life-long learning to improve teaching and student learning.
  •  Leadership in education outside the classroom.

“I love to do hands-on science that excites the children,” said Roberts, who is married to U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Casey Roberts.  “The students consider a lot of it magic but then discover all the science and math that is behind it.” 

Amber Cottrell, a parent of one of Roberts’ students, said that there has been a noticeable difference in her child’s outlook towards learning.

“Mrs. Roberts is patient, kind and always uses positive reinforcement to help her class improve,” said Cottrell, who has lived in Seoul for five years. “She has brought reading and writing to life, but her true gift is her ability to engross the minds of her students as she teaches science.”

Cottrell said Roberts is extremely organized and doesn’t just lecture about a topic, but plans elaborate, large-scale experiments with roles for each of her students to play.  She also enjoys the ability as a parent to be involved, not only as a supervisor but also learning along with the students.

“Parents loved coming in to volunteer with activities so much last year that they asked to come back to help with ‘Weird Science’ this year.  During Weird Science in October, we make dry ice bubbles, glow slime, glow worms, and discover how to wash our hands properly,” added Roberts, who also has a masters in elementary education/special education from the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Roberts’ state-level finalist application was sent to the National Science Foundation. The NSF brings a national selection committee together composed of prominent mathematicians, scientists, mathematics/science educators, district level personnel, and classroom teachers to review the applications of the state finalists. They recommend up to two finalists in mathematics or science (including computer science) from each state or jurisdiction. The director of the NSF then submits the recommendations to the director of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Final Presidential awardees will be notified officially by the White House at the end of May 2015.

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