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Two Kansas teachers named finalists for math, science awards

Luke Henke and Meg Richard have been named finalists for math and science awards.
Luke Henke and Meg Richard have been named finalists for math and science awards.(KSDE)
Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 3:24 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Two Kansas teachers are being recognized as finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence.

The Kansas State Department of Education says two Kansas teachers, Luke Henke and Margaret “Meg” Richard, have been selected as finalists for the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching program, which is the nation’s highest honor for math and science teaching.

The KSDE says Henke is a math teacher at Columbus Unified High School, Colombus Unified School District 493, and Richard at the time of the award was a science teacher at Summit Trail Middle School, Olathe USD 233.

According to the Department, Henke and Richard, as well as three other state educators, were named as finalists for PAEMST in June of 2019.

The Department says President Trump announced the recipients of the national PAEMST on Monday, Aug. 3, and awardees were selected from schools in 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity schools, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rich and the United States territories, including American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

According to the KSDE, PAEMST was established in 1983 and is the highest award given by the U.S. government to kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers of math and science, including computer science. It says since 1893, over 5,000 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to the teaching profession.

The KSDE says nominees complete an intensive application process requiring them to demonstrate their excellence in content knowledge and ability to adapt to a wide range of learners and teaching environments. It says the winners are selected by a panel of scientists, mathematicians and educators following a selection process done at the state level.

The Department says Henke has been an educator since 2010. It says he taught at Pittsburg Community Middle School, Pittsburg USD 250, before his position at Columbus.

According to the Department, Henke earned a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, in mathematics education and a master’s in mathematics from Pittsburg State University.

“The Presidential Award is an unexpected honor that validates my desire to become the best educator possible to meet the needs of my students,” Henke said. “Achieving this recognition speaks highly of my mentors, colleagues, administrators, families and students who help hone my craft every day of the year. Without them to serve, none of this is possible. The Presidential Award is a milestone for my career that will refill my tank many times over as I continue to empower the next generation.”

The Department says Richard was a seventh-grade science teacher for over a decade and spent two years as a seventh-grade science teacher at Summit Trail Middle School. It says before that, she was a teacher at California Trail Middle School for eight years and joined the Kansas State Department of Education as an education program consultant in July of 2020.

According to the KSDE Richard earned a bachelor’s degree at Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri, and her Master of Business Administration at Baker University in Baldwin. It also says she earned a Master of Arts in teaching at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri.

“Within my classroom, my students have the opportunity to be seen and dream – to make sense of the world and change it for the better,” Richard said. “The Presidential Award is validation to my students that this process works. It shows them that it’s OK to dream big, make mistakes and learn a lot. The award demonstrates that not only do I believe in them, someone else does, too. It elevates our practice as educators in a meaningful way. This award renews my commitment to the world’s most important job – teaching!”

The KSDE says each awardee receives a certificate that is signed by the President of the United States and a $10,000 award from the NSF.

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