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Dorn Announces Finalists for National Award
Five elementary educators are finalists for math and science teaching honor

OLYMPIA — September 15, 2014 — State Superintendent Randy Dorn announced that five teachers from Washington have been selected as state-level finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

The state-level finalists are:

Deborah Halperin, Laurelhurst Elementary (Seattle Public Schools)
Tara Obermiller, Woodburn Elementary (Camas)

Sadie Brumley, Cathcart Elementary (Snohomish)
Lorianne Donovan-Hermann, Finley Elementary (Finley)
Meredith Gannon, Sacajawea Elementary (Vancouver)

The finalists were selected over the summer by a statewide selection committee comprised of content area experts and award-winning teachers. Their nominations were recently confirmed by the national PAEMST program.

“What makes these five teachers so great is the hands-on learning that’s happening every day in their classrooms,” said State Superintendent Randy Dorn. “Under the guidance of Deborah, Tara, Sadie, Lorianne and Meredith, students are solving real-life problems, collecting scientific evidence and presenting their findings to each other and the communities. That’s how we build a new generation of scientists and engineers, and I’m proud to call each one of these amazing individuals Washington teachers.”

The national PAEMST program typically announces national award recipients in the spring. State-level finalists are recognized by regional and state math and science associations and invited to several annual state events for award winning educators.

For more information on Washington’s PAEMST program.

State Finalists for Math:
Deborah Halperin
Laurelhurst Elementary, Seattle
Deborah is a 20+-year veteran teacher. She began her 14th year at Laurelhurst this fal,l where she teaches third grade. Deborah receives high praise from parents who credit her with, “As much teaching math, as she is teaching her students how to think.” Colleagues and parents both marvel at her ability to gently guide both adults and students in their mathematical thinking. Her technique of posing questions instead of giving answers and promoting academic discourse among her students results in a lively and fast-paced classroom. For the past two years, she has delivered very much praised professional development course called “Developing Mathematical Ideas.” Two former parents, who are also college math professors, say, “We each routinely put enormous effort into finding ways to guide our own students to find answers to deep questions, each on their own terms. If only we had a greater measure of Debby’s brilliance for doing so.”

Tara Obermiller
Woodburn Elementary, Camas
Tara is in her sixth year of teaching. She currently teaches third grade at Woodburn. Tara’s classroom is alive with hands-on instructional tools including manipulatives, iPad apps, visual models, whiteboards, fraction strips and more. She has embraced technology and integrated it into her daily lessons. These tools aren’t just props. They kindle a classroom culture full of vibrant discussions and risk-taking. Tara is also an expert at using data to guide instruction. Her efforts have recently led to the creation of a Wednesday math intervention time that engages volunteers to work with specific students on the specific skills they are struggling with. Tara’s skill as a communicator and her dedication to the profession also make her a standout. One parent observes, “I cannot think of any other who so full exemplifies dedication to and excellence in teaching. Being a teacher isn’t just something Tara does; it is who she is.”

State Finalists for Science:
Sadie Brumley
Cathcart Elementary, Snohomish
Sadie taught at Gold Bar Elementary from 2001 to 2014. This fall, she took on a new position at Cathcart as the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade highly capable teacher. Sadie is also a recent recipient of the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence. As a teacher and the science coordinator, Sadie helped Gold Bar progress from a school with no schoolwide science curriculum to one that both exceeds the state average in testing and ranks among the best in Snohomish County. Colleagues credit the school’s success to Sadie’s commitment to professional development and her uncanny ability to bring science to life. She has cultivated numerous partnerships to connect students to science in the “real world,” and has worked hard to bring science to all students, including Life Skills students. As one community member says, “We need teachers who try to imbue their students with a scientific way of thinking.” In Sadie’s class, “science isn’t just a subject. It’s a way of thinking that can be applied to many learning situations.”

Lorianne Donavan-Hermann
Finley Elementary, Finley
Lorriane has taught in Finley School District since 1994. She currently teaches fourth grade at Finley Elementary. She has also served as a teacher leader in her school and region for Leadership & Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER). Lorianne has been instrumental in bringing STEM education to Finley and providing the professional development her colleagues need to implement it. Lorianne refers to her students as scientists and engineers and she eagerly seeks out “real world” problems for them to solve – even a broken back pack wheel is a teachable moment in her classroom. This steadfast belief in students’ abilities combined with her focus on perseverance builds a classroom community that is focused on solving problems and not afraid to fail in the process. Recently her principal heard a remark in Lorianne’s class that exemplifies what Lorianne does in class. While working on a difficult problem, a fourth-grade boy remarked: “This is really hard, but I will persevere.”

Meredith Gannon
Sacajewea Elementary, Vancouver
Meredith is a National Board Certified Teacher who has taught at Sacajewea since 2005. She took a one year break during that time to serve as a district math coach. She currently teaches fourth grade. In 2013, Meredith and the student “green team” she coordinates wrote the application that earned Sacajewea the Washington Green Ribbon School award. Her use of interdisciplinary study and her genuine enthusiasm for science instill a hunger for knowledge in her students. That hunger is put to good use in Meredith’s classroom where opportunities for real world application are all around. Her students are engaged in numerous labs and other hands-on activities, but they also collaborate with groups outside of the school – such as taking water samples and presenting their findings at an annual conference. One of Meredith’s colleague says, “As a result of my interactions with her, I have become a more effective, enthusiastic teacher. The science opportunities she has brought to our school are unmatched and invaluable. Her leadership and dedication benefit both students and colleagues.”

About the Award
The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is the highest honor for a K-12 mathematics or science teacher. Awards are given annually to teachers from each of the 50 states four U.S. jurisdictions (Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; Department of Defense Schools; and the U.S. territories as a group: American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). To be considered for the PAEMST, teachers must be nominated and complete a comprehensive application. A state selection committee reviews completed applications and may forward up to five nominations from each discipline to the national program for consideration. According to the PAEMST Web site, “Teachers are recognized for their contributions to teaching and learning and their ability to help students make progress in mathematics and science.”


About OSPI
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.

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Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.

Communications Manager
Nathan Olson
(360) 725-6015


   Updated 9/15/2014

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