By Lori Lyn Lirio
DUE to his outstanding contributions in teaching or mentoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM, a science teacher from the Garapan Elementary School in Saipan will received the highest award the government could bestow a science and math teacher.
Science teacher Peter Loken is among the 140 teachers and mentors who will receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) in Washington D.C..
Loken, who has been teaching in CNMI for a decade, is the 10th PAEMST recipient from the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands since the warding body was established in 1983.
It was from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) website that the names of this year’s PAEMST recipients were announced.
PAEMST program director Nafeesa Owens said each awardee will receive a citation signed by President Trump and a US$10,000 award from NSF. The awardees will also travel to Washington, DC, for an awards ceremony.
According to Loken, Public School Research and Evaluation program coordinator Annette Pladevega nominated him in 2015.
“She nominated me for this award after she observed a science lesson I gave during her visit to Garapan Elementary School with the Office of Curriculum Instruction,” Loken said in an email to this writer.
After his nomination, Loken has to complete a three-part application process.
“The first step made sure I met all the requirements of the award. The second part was a series of essays about my teaching philosophy and style. The last part consisted of a 40-minute video of a classroom lesson, an explanation of the lesson and any materials I created for this lesson,” he stated.
Loken said his application was evaluated at the State level by a committee based five Dimensions of Outstanding Teaching: mastery of mathematics or science content appropriate for the grade level taught; use of instructional methods and strategies that are appropriate for students in the class and that support student learning; effective use of student assessments to evaluate, monitor, and improve student learning; reflective practice and life-long learning to improve teaching and student learning; and leadership in education outside the classroom. His application was then sent to a committee formed by the NSF for review.
Loken said the committee who evaluated his application consisted of prominent scientists and science educators.
“It is a true honor to win this award and represent the CNMI in this capacity. It is humbling to win such an award when I see all the great teachers at my school and in our district. I would like to thank my wife for helping me in this and everything I do,” said Loken.
PAEMST is the highest award kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics and science, including computer science, teachers can receive from the U.S. government. The award alternates years between kindergarten to sixth grade and seventh to 12th grade teachers.
This year, on the award’s 35th anniversary, kindergarten to sixth grade teachers will be honored.