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National Math and Science Initiative Inspires Presidential Teaching Awardees

Two NMSI consultants recently received Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), the nation’s highest honors for mathematics and science teachers. Recipients receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a trip to Washington, D.C., where many are afforded the opportunity to meet the President. PAEMST is a White House program administered by NSF. NSF recently sat down with mathematics teachers and NMSI consultants, Patrick Flynn and Luke Wilcox, to learn more about their special connection to NMSI and some of their best advice for new teachers.

Luke Wilcox

Patrick Flynn

Describe your work with NMSI.

Patrick Flynn: I am lucky that NMSI sends me to schools across the U.S. to conduct Saturday review sessions for students to help them prepare for AP Calculus exams.  I am amazed at their willingness to come in on Saturday to study. I have done this for the past four years.
Luke Wilcox: This is my second year as a NMSI consultant. I have done Saturday review sessions with students from NMSI schools and will soon be facilitating a mock AP Exam Reading with teachers.

What does the NMSI mission mean to you?
Patrick Flynn: NMSI's mission of improving STEM teaching and increasing student engagement in STEM is awesome! The teachers I meet are grateful for the professional development provided throughout the year. By working with a teacher over three years, real differences are made, not just for that teacher, but for the school and this country.
Luke Wilcox: NMSI has the goal of making AP classes accessible for students not traditionally considered for these courses. This is important in my high school, with 60 percent free and reduced lunch students.  Like NMSI, we encourage all students to take these rigorous classes. NMSI has changed the way I recruit students for AP Statistics classes, pushing me to reach farther.

How do you get your students enthusiastic about math?
Patrick Flynn: I try to provide opportunities for students to see the beauty of mathematics. That mathematics is not a set of procedures to memorize and apply, but rather a way of making sense of the world. 
Luke Wilcox: Hopefully students see my passion for the subject and it becomes contagious.  I share stories from my own life in which mathematics enabled me to answer important questions.

What advice would you give to new teachers?
Patrick Flynn: Spend time reflecting on how you are teaching and modifying your lessons. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Search out teaching blogs and twitter feeds for inspiration. Maintain balance in your life.  If you spend 18 hours a day with teaching related activities, you will burn out.
Luke Wilcox: Teaching is hard work, but incredibly fulfilling. It is a profession that allows you to positively influence the lives and futures of thousands of students. There is no other profession where one can have a significant impact on such a large audience.

Tell us about the experience of winning the PAEMST award and visiting Washington, D.C.
Patrick Flynn:  It was an amazing experience.  My wife and two children are so grateful for the week we had in our nation's capital. I met so many people who have a deep passion for education and really recharged my drive for teaching. Sitting in the White House and being asked my opinions on increasing the number of STEM teachers was great.  
Luke Wilcox: This was an incredible moment in my teaching career.  As I was standing in the White House waiting to shake hands with the President, I wondered how my career of public school teaching afforded me this opportunity.  I felt so proud of my students, my school, and the whole profession of teaching.  Winning the PAEMST award has forced me to consider how I can have more impact outside of my classroom.
In the future, Flynn and Wilcox plan to continue to do what they love best - actively engage students in mathematics and inspire and motivate teachers across the country. To hear more from Flynn, you can visit his Twitter handle (@TiFlynNspire) and to learn more about Wilcox, check out his blog (http://www.thestatsmedic.com/). To learn more about the PAEMST award, visit www.paemst.org.