Two Union Teachers Receive National Awards

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TOP HONORS: Denise Thomas, left, and Paige Bergin following the awards ceremony in Washington D.C. that was held recently for the recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award has never before been awarded to two teachers in the same school, let alone who teach across the hallway from one another.

Courtesy of Paige Bergin

Denise Thomas and Paige Bergin were recently honored with the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Both teachers focus their efforts on reaching out to their fifth grade students in Jarman Elementary School. The award has never been given to two teachers from the same school, let alone who teach across the hallway from one another.

Thomas and Bergin enjoy being a part of the classroom and finding unique ways to teach core concepts to students. “One of the lessons that many of my students remember is learning how to build and launch rockets into the sky,” says Thomas. Students also have a lot of fun with a special assignment that I call Sweet 16 which helps them learn even more about math, adds Bergin.

Both teachers decided to apply for the award together and helped one another through the process. The announcements of names would come through a press release we were told, says Bergin. When I got the emailed release, I ran into Denise’s classroom and told her. She came running in with me saying ‘scroll down’ over and over again while we looked through the names. We couldn’t believe it when we saw both of our names there.

Both teachers were given $10,000 and an all expense paid week-long trip to Washington D.C.

While there, the teachers attended an awards ceremony that was hosted by the White House Office of Science and the National Science Foundation where they were given certificates signed by President Obama. “We also met with representatives of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. They discussed how important that math and science education is for young children,” says Thomas.

The teachers also met with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology along with the senior education policy staff. Bergin explains, “We were all so honored since they wanted to hear our opinions and ideas about education. Many took our contact information so that we could stay in touch with one another.”

Following a tour of the White House by Dr. Jill Biden, the teachers eagerly awaited to meet with President Obama. “We were all sitting in a large beautiful room and were so excited to be there. President Obama walked into the room with a big smile and said that the real reason that we were all there was because his daughters needed help with their homework,” laughs Thomas.

President Obama noted the teachers honored today have demonstrated uncommon skill and devotion in the classroom, nurturing the young minds of tomorrow’s science and math leaders. America’s competitiveness rests on the excellence of our citizens in technical fields, and we owe these teachers a debt of gratitude for strengthening America’s prosperity.

For more information about Union Public Schools, visit or call 918-357-4321.

Updated 07-12-2011

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