Education alumnae receive Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching

Two Penn State College of Education alumni have received the nation’s highest honor for math and science teachers. Susan Bauer (Class of 1996, elementary and kindergarten education) and Erin Marsh (Class of 2005, elementary and kindergarten education) have been named recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Bauer has been a teacher for 18 years, the past 16 teaching sixth grade science at Eyer Middle School in the East Penn School District in Lehigh County. Marsh has taught second- and third-grade mathematics for seven years at Pierre Indian Learning Center in Pierre, S.D.

“These teachers are inspiring today’s young students to become the next generation of mathematicians and innovators,”said President Barack Obama when the White House released the names of the 102 teachers who were recognized nationwide.

“Through their passion and dedication, and by sharing their excitement about science, technology, engineering and math, they are helping us to build a promising future for all our children.”

The winners were selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators, following an initial selection process done at the state level. Recommendations were sent to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for final selection.

Awardees receive a certificate signed by the president, a trip for two to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

Bauer’s passion for science led her to co-develop the sixth-grade curriculum. Real-world applicability, hands-on experiences and technology integration are essential components of Bauer’s science instruction.

“I was completely surprised and excited when I heard about winning the award. There are so many talented teachers who deserve recognition of this level; to have been chosen is amazing. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to meet other teachers and learn more about being an effective teacher,” Bauer said.

“My building principal called me when the Office of The President sent out the press release of the winners. Within an hour my superintendent, assistant superintendent and assistant principal all called to congratulate me. It was an exciting night.”

After completing a three-year mathematics leadership program called South Dakota Counts, Marsh began changing her approach from direct instruction to cognitively guided instruction (CGI) within her classroom. CGI includes the practice of listening to children's mathematical thinking and using it as a basis for instruction. Her students’ state standardized test scores increased from 57 percent proficient to 75 percent proficient and/or advanced in mathematics.

“When I found out I won, I was shocked and surprised. I had waited over a year and half for the announcement of winners. By December, I had kind of thrown in the towel and forgot about it. The day I found out, I was home visiting family in Pittsburgh, so it was nice to be able to tell my family in person and celebrate,” Marsh said.

Not surprisingly, both Bauer and Marsh said the reaction to their recognition was overwhelmingly positive.

“Many of my former students have gotten in touch with me to congratulate me. Some even posted an article from the local newspaper on Facebook to thank me for being a great teacher,” Bauer said.

“I am also lucky that I work with an incredible group of teachers who always put students first. We work together to create opportunities for all students to find success and enjoy being a middle school student. They have been extremely supportive and genuinely happy for me. The administration has also been supportive and is excited for me as well. They have asked me to attend the next school board meeting so they can honor me,” continued Bauer.

Marsh enjoyed similar reactions.

“My principal/superintendent, Veronica Pietz, was very proud of me. She has been an amazing support system in all my years of teaching. I feel I owe a lot of credit in this award to her. She has always believed in me and never turned down my new ideas,” she said.

“My colleagues have always been supportive and fun to work with. One teacher even plastered several copies of a local newspaper article all over the school. It was very humbling to hear some of them say, ‘You deserve it.’”

Last Updated March 20, 2014