Monticello teacher among 5 MS math, science award finalists

Published 4:31 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Monticello Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Wendy Dean is among five K-6 Mississippi teachers who have been named 2022 state-level finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The PAEMST Program is the nation’s highest honor for teachers of mathematics and science (including computer science).

Two Mississippi teachers will be selected for the 2021-22 PAEMST award cycle. National honorees receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, recognition at a White House ceremony, and the opportunity to provide input on policies to improve science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science education. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.

Mississippi’s state-level finalists:

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• Wendy Dean, a fourth-grade teacher of all subjects at Monticello Elementary School in the Lawrence County School District. She has taught for 26 years. Her personal philosophy on teaching is, “Every child is a unique individual with the capacity to learn…it’s my job to push them to be their personal best social, emotional, and academic self!”

• Jana Chao, a fifth-grade computer science teacher at Eastside Elementary in the Clinton Public School District. Chao has taught for 15 years. Her personal philosophy on teaching is, “We as teachers have chosen the task to prepare, equip, and empower students to become responsible, productive members of society to lead through and problem-solve challenges that currently aren’t even in existence.”

• LeShae Collums, a third-grade math teacher at D.T. Cox Elementary in the Pontotoc City School District. Collums has taught for eight years. Her personal philosophy on teaching is, “All students are capable of learning when I meet them where they are and push towards higher levels of learning, which will prepare them for futures inside and outside of the classroom.”

• Jennifer Hite, a fifth-grade math and science teacher at Pearl Upper Elementary School in the Pearl Public School District. Hite has taught for 13.5 years. Her personal philosophy on teaching is, “The success of students and teachers comes down to the relationships we form with them and our enthusiasm, enjoyment, and connection of the content we teach.”   

• Dr. Marti Ladner, a fifth-grade science teacher at Pass Christian Elementary School in the Pass Christian School District. Ladner has taught for 19 years. Her personal philosophy on teaching is, “I believe that children are natural scientists and engineers; therefore, to help cultivate this innate ability, I must foster a relationship with each student and determine their unique strengths and abilities and teach them in a way so that they can reach their highest potential.”

The PAEMST program, established in 1983 by the White House, allows each state to select up to three state finalists in mathematics and up to three state finalists in science. One of the state finalists in each content area may be selected as the Presidential Awardee for the state, which is the highest recognition that a kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States.

The Mississippi State Board of Education will recognize Mississippi’s 2022 PAEMST finalists later this year. National winners are announced approximately a year after state-level finalists are identified.