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PPS Teacher Receives PAEMST Award!

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PPS Teacher Receives PAEMST Award!
Posted on 02/10/2022
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Talbot Community School teacher and literacy coach Cindy Soule, Maine’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, has received another high accolade: a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), which carries a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

Soule, who is a literacy coach at Talbot, is one of just two Maine teachers to be awarded a PAEMST this year. Both Soule and a Deer Isle-Stonington teacher, Michele Flores, won in the science category. They are among only about 100 educators from around the nation to be 2022 PAEMST awardees. President Biden recognized the award recipients on Feb. 8.

These awards honor the dedication, hard work, and important role that America’s educators play in supporting learners who will be future STEM professionals, including climate scientists, mathematicians, innovators, space explorers, and engineers.

“Cindy Soule is an amazing teacher who continues to make us proud!” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “She exemplifies the outstanding educators we are fortunate to attract and retain in the Portland Public Schools. In addition to having won Maine’s top teaching award last fall, Cindy now has received this award recognizing her exceptional skills in inspiring both teachers and students to learn about and love science.”

According to a biography about Soule on the PAEMST website, “Cindy shares her passion for the natural world by grounding learning in real-world contexts. She encourages students to construct scientific understanding through questioning, investigation, observation, and collaborative thinking. Through inquiry, discourse, and activism, she empowers students to see themselves as meaningful contributors to their community.”

Talbot School Principal Ann Hanna said, “We are so proud of Cindy and the work she is doing at Talbot. She is a dedicated educator who has a deep understanding of how to teach children literacy skills through engaging science topics. Our students are so excited to learn about the natural world around them as part of their reading and writing instruction, and Cindy’s role as a literacy coach is crucial in helping our teachers implement an inquiry-based approach.”

Soule was nominated for the award by Dr. Kate Cook, education specialist with the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance.

Soule, who has taught at Talbot for about two decades, said an inspirational teacher helped her get to where she is today. “Being selected for the Presidential Award is a source of immense pride,” Soule said. “My sixth-grade science teacher, Mr. Corbett, saw beyond my shy exterior and challenged me in ways that taught me to believe in myself, ask questions, find answers, and dream big. Reflecting on this award prompted me to realize that Mr. C's legacy lives on through me. I also feel a deep sense of gratitude for my brilliant students, colleagues, mentors, and family for their collaboration, innovation, laughter, and inspiration.”

She said other PPS teachers deserve credit as well. “This award highlights the ways Portland Public Schools teachers' classrooms are tapping into student's curiosity and engaging students in relevant, purposeful, and inquiry-based learning in science instruction,” Soule said. “I am proud to represent the work of Portland Public Schools educators and the ways implementing integrated science instruction fosters intellectualism, joy, and activism for all students.”

In addition to PAEMST awardees, Biden also honored mentors who won Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM).

“I am deeply appreciative of the inspiration that America’s teachers and mentors provide every day to support the next generation of STEM professionals,” President Biden stated in a White House press release. “The dedication these individuals and organizations have demonstrated to prepare students for careers in STEM fields, during what has been a difficult time for teachers, students, and families, plays a huge role in American innovation and competitiveness.  The work that teachers and mentors do ensures that our Nation’s children are able to unlock – for themselves and all of us – a world of possibilities.”

The PAEMST program is administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. NSF is planning on holding a virtual celebratory event later this month for award recipients.  In addition to the $10,000 award, each awardee will receive a certificate signed by President Biden and will also travel to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and professional development and advocacy in their fields at a future date.

Soule is not the only PPS educator to have been awarded a PAEMST in recent years. Priya Natarajan, now the district’s high school math instructional coach, won the award in 2019 in the mathematics category when she was a math teacher at Casco Bay High School.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. 52 percent of the district’s students are white and 48 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals