4 Minnesota math and science teachers earn presidential awards

- Four Minnesota teachers have earned presidential awards for outstanding teaching in math and science. The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is the highest recognition that a kindergarten through 12th grade math, science or computer science teacher can receive in the United States.

As the home of the Fox 9 Top Teacher Awards and Fox 9 Girls, Science and Technology, Fox 9 congratulates award-winning teachers Morgan Fierst of South High School in Minneapolis, Lisa Houdek of Central High School in St. Paul, Frances Stang of O.H. Anderson Elementary in Mahtomedi, Minn. and Carissa Tobin of Nellie Stone Johnson Community School and Webster Elementary in Minneapolis.

Teachers earning these presidential awards receive a certificate signed by the President of the United States, a trip to Washington D.C. to attend a series of recognition events and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

Since 1983, more than 4,600 teachers have been recognized as outstanding math and science educators. Up to 108 teachers are recognized each year.

Meet Minnesota’s award-winning teachers

Morgan Fierst
South High School, Minneapolis

“The Presidential Award honors the professionalism and sacrifices of educators. This award honors the complexity of navigating the endless obstacles teachers face due to the daily and deep impact of education reform. To be an effective educator is to be superhuman. This award honors the sacrifices made by educators and their families. It validates the countless unpaid hours, energy, reflection, and commitment needed to engage in the relentless pursuit of achievement for all of our students.”

Morgan Fierst is in her 8th year at South High where she teaches Advanced Algebra to grades 9–12 and Advanced Placement Statistics to juniors and seniors.

Morgan develops curious and engaged learners through work that asks students to notice and wonder. She is dedicated to building communities in which students understand how mathematics can help them investigate and engage in the social, economic, and political aspects of their world. Cultivating authentic relationships with every single student is her key strategy in developing mathematicians. Morgan is a leader in formulating a mathematics curriculum that connects her students to deep content in a culturally relevant context. Morgan is an advocate for social change and encourages students to use a critical lens at all times.
Morgan has presented at many conferences, educational fairs, and community events. This includes the national Summit for Courageous Conversations about Race, and both the Minnesota and Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conferences. Morgan is a mentor and alumna of the Minneapolis Teachers Institute. She guides, supports, and inspires fellows to think creatively as they navigate obstacles faced by educators.

Morgan earned a B.A. in economics from the University of Chicago and is a candidate for a M.A.T. at Hamline University. She is certified in 5–12 mathematics.

Lisa Houdek
Central High School, St. Paul

“The Presidential Award is a humbling honor. Our nation is filled with educators who pour their energy into students and our challenging, edifying profession. This recognition of my teaching inspires me to remain malleable and educate with energy and distinction. Effective teaching offers local and global connections, respect, and compassion. This award is the manifestation of my students' creative energy, the combined efforts of my colleagues, and the support of my family.”

Lisa Houdek is in her 15th year teaching science at Central Senior High School in St. Paul. She teaches a standard level and a co-taught Special Education Physical Science for freshmen and Advanced Placement Environmental Science for upperclassmen.

Lisa leads her classroom using real-world science applications, enriching activities within and outside the classroom. She emphasizes global awareness and cross disciplinary applications in her culturally and academically diverse urban student population. Peer collaboration, respect, and cultural expression underpin her classroom climate.

Within the district, Lisa has led professional development sequencing, aligned district and state standards, created Level 1 science curriculum for English Language Learners, mentored incoming teachers, and developed annual safety training. She represents her department as a District Science Lead, serves as a Faculty Delegate for the National Honor Society, leads her Professional Learning Community, and is Faculty Advisor to a student environmental group recently honored by Mayor Coleman. She was a coordinator for the Minnesota State Science Teacher’s conference.

Lisa earned a B.S. in environmental science from Northern Illinois University and a M.A. in education from St. Catherine University. Her licensure includes 9–12 life science and 5th through 8th grade science.

Fran Stang
O.H. Anderson Elementary School, Mahtomedi

“The Presidential Award inspires my students that with effort, perseverance, and motivation, you can achieve your goals. This award has afforded me the opportunity to reflect on the support of other educators, parents, and community members who encourage me to continue to strive for excellence in science instruction. My passion and joy is to bring the excitement of being a scientist to all students. I am filled with gratitude and humility that my energy and high expectations are recognized.”

Frances Stang has been an educator for 30 years. She has taught at O.H. Anderson Elementary School for 26 years where she developed the science curriculum and is the fifth grade lead science teacher.

Fran’s passion for developing engaging, rigorous curriculum has created a positive learning environment where students discover the "fun"damentals of science. She intentionally seeks to collaborate with support staff to make sure that every child, from special education to gifted education, is filled with wonder and joy as a curious practitioner of science.

As a result of her high energy and enthusiasm, her students become lovers of science and remember the lifelong lessons they learn in her class. She has been selected eight times as an honored teacher at the Academic Excellence Awards for the top graduating seniors.

A believer in outdoor and environmental science, Fran is Chair of the O.H. Anderson Nature Trail Committee. This committee oversees the restoration of the school prairie, promotes trail use and maintenance, and organizes a school-wide Nature Trail Day. She is currently working with H2O For Life about declining water levels in the community lake.

Fran has a B.S. in elementary education from the University of Minnesota and a M.S. in curriculum and development from the University of St. Thomas. She is a certified elementary school teacher.

Carissa Tobin
Minneapolis

“Receiving this Presidential Award is a special honor and recognition of the importance of mathematics in primary education. I feel grateful to my many mentors, formal and informal, including family, friends, teachers, coworkers, administrators, my students, and their families. They have taught me the importance of humor, self-care, and taking time to quietly and intentionally reflect on my teaching methods. My students work hard every day to improve. ¡Es perseverancia!”

Carissa Tobin most recently taught first grade in the Spanish/English Transitional Dual Language Program at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School, where she was a teacher for nine years. Her current position is at Webster Elementary School, where she is a Spanish teacher.

Carissa enjoys looping with students from kindergarten to first grade, as she is doing this year, because it gives her the chance to form ongoing relationships with students and families. She works to build a classroom culture of intrinsic motivation, independence, problem-solving skills, perseverance, and a love of challenges.

Carissa collects and analyzes data to assess students’ abilities and reflect on her own teaching. She collaborates with the mathematics specialist at her school to organize and teach differentiated mathematics and intervention groups that meet all students’ needs. She has written mathematics curriculum and filmed her number sense routine lessons for use in her school district. In her role as Transitional Dual Language Team Lead, she works to make sure that the school’s bilingual program best serves its Spanish-speaking students.

Carissa holds a B.A. in Spanish from Carleton College and a M.A.T. from Hamline University. She is certified in kindergarten through sixth grade elementary and bilingual/bicultural education.

2016 Fox 9 Girls, Science and Technology

Fox 9’s Girls, Science and Technology is Saturday, Nov. 12 at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. Text SCIENCE to 25899 to get 4 child admissions free with every paid adult.

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