Six 7-12th grade Mississippi teachers including Center Hill High School teacher Judith Terry have been named 2022-23 state-level finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The PAEMST program is the nation’s highest honor for teachers of mathematics, science, technology, engineering and computer science education.
Two of these teachers will be selected for the PAEMST award. National honorees receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, recognition at a White House ceremony, and the opportunity to provide input on policies to improve science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science education.
Terry has taught math for 11 years, but her previous career was in banking. She said her time in banking was valuable to her current career as a teacher. Terry currently teaches ACT Prep, PSAT Prep, SAT Prep and AP Calculus.
“I spent the first 14 years of my adult life in banking,” Terry said. “My previous degree was in computer networking and programming. I was a computer network operator and head of the bookkeeping department at a bank in Tate County.”
After spending time working with local agricultural youth programs, Terry decided that she wanted to change career paths.
“While I was in banking, I worked with kids through the local 4-H and FFA chapters,” Terry said. “I coached and judged livestock teams, and I did a lot of things involved with agricultural education. That was a big part of my life growing up, so I just stayed involved with it. At one point, I said to myself, ‘why am I not doing this everyday?’ I went back to school and got my degree in math, history and sociology because math is my passion.”
Terry said her hands-on teaching style allows students to grasp topics better. She uses interactive exercises to teach concepts.
“Students really learn best and retain information best when they’re able to do hands-on learning where they can think on their own,” Terry said. “I don’t stand at the board and teach. We do a lot of hands-on investigative things. The students work on task problems where they’re paced through an activity with math content. They’re able to see how connections are made throughout the different levels of math.”
Although a hands-on approach can be difficult for teachers, Terry said she thinks the teaching style will continue to gain popularity.
“Hands-on can be hard for a younger teacher because it can be a classroom management challenge,” Terry said. “But, I do think that as time goes on, hands-on and investigative learning will be the future for education.”
In order to be considered for the Presidential Award, Terry had to submit an application that consisted of a narrative, lesson critique, and community service work. Terry is a sponsor of Mu Alpha Theta, Center Hill’s national math honor society. She said her nomination and finalist position for the award is a reflection of the support she has received over the years and the other teachers at Center Hill.
“I’m really grateful because it takes a lot to get to this level,” Terry said. “I’ve had so much support from friends and family over the years. The math department at Center Hill is a great team. We all work together, and I don’t see this as a reflection on myself but a reflection on the math department here.”
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