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CBHS Math Teacher State Finalist for 2017 Presidential Award

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CBHS Math Teacher State Finalist for 2017 Presidential Award
Posted on 11/21/2017
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Casco Bay High School math teacher Priya Natarajan recently was named a state finalist in the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) program.

Natarajan and other state finalists will be honored at state ceremonies this year and will have a chance to become Presidential Awardees at the national level, potentially winning $10,000 from the National Science Foundation.

CBHS Principal Derek Pierce recommended Natarajan for the award. “Priya does not just fulfill the rigorous criteria for this national honor, she exemplifies them,” Pierce said. “Most every student and educator I know would like to be (much) more like Priya.”

The Maine Department of Education recently announced the names of teachers the Maine state selection committees has chosen for the awards. Natarajan is one of two state-level finalists for 7-12th grade teachers of mathematics. Ellen Payne from Nokomis Regional High School was the other. The state-level finalists for 7-12th grade teachers of science are Sharon Gallant from Gardiner Area High School; Sara McQuarrie from Hodgdon Middle/High School; Bill McWeeny from Adams School; and Alyson Saunders from Dexter Regional High School.

Natarajan was a math teacher and department head at Deering High School for 12 years before coming to CBHS three years ago. Prior to that, she was a founding teacher at Boston Arts Academy. She has a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University and a master’s degree from Harvard.

Pierce said, “She took the risk of leaving a lead teacher position at a neighboring high school (DHS)– where she was as beloved as she was vital – to join our startup high school. Not only was Priya giving up her status, but she had to re-invent much of her practice as she moved from a traditional high school to one that was project and proficiency-based, where faculty are more than just collaborative; they’re interdependent.”

She has excelled, he said. “Priya’s humble but persistent advocacy has elevated the status of math at our school, whether it’s through “Paiku” or a new “intensive” in Sabermetrics,” Pierce said. “Priya is especially passionate and effective at inspiring young women and students of color to pursue STEM. (Priya’s family is from India, but she grew up in rural West Virginia.) She volunteers with Portland Empowered to better engage our multilingual families and promotes authentic opportunities for our students of color to lead and share their voice.”

Pierce continued, “Priya is equally revered by students and colleagues. Priya’s math alums seek her out long after their course is over. (And her dance workshops are teeming.) Students know Ms. Natarajan will support them with a generous heart and clear, flexible instruction. Priya is prized as a colleague because she is as hard-working as she brilliant, as fun to be around as she is impeccably reliable and ethical.”

The names of up to five state-level finalists for each content area are forwarded to a national selection committee composed of mathematics and/or science educators, researchers, district officials, and past awardees, who will meet to select the PAEMST awardees at the national level. The teachers chosen to be Presidential Awardees will be notified by the White House, honored at various ceremonies in Washington, D.C., and will receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation.

Nominations are now open for the 2018 PAEMST Awards. This year’s awards will honor mathematics and science (including computer science) teachers working in grades K-6. Nominations close on April 1, 2018 and applications are due by May 1, 2018. Nominate a teacher today!