Cynthia Burke, who received her master’s degree from West Virginia University in mathematics, is the winner of the 2010 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).
PAEMST is the highest recognition that a kindergarten through 12th-grade mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the U.S.
Enacted by Congress in 1983, the program authorizes the president to bestow up to 108 awards each year. The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. As part of the award, each teacher named will receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation.
Burke was nominated to complete an extensive application, which was due a year ago. In July 2009 she was told she was a state finalist, and in June 2010 she received a notice that she and 103 others would receive the award.
Her first reaction to the news that she had won was how proud she was to be in such good company. She also stressed her love of teaching.
“I love seeing the enthusiasm in students when they understand what you’ve been trying to explain to them,” she said.
Since 1976, Burke has taught at Sherrad Middle School in Sherrad, W.Va., a town near Wheeling. She teaches seventh- and eighth-grade math, which includes algebra and geometry.
Joyce Cole, the principal of Sherrad Middle, said Burke is an exceptional teacher and deserves this award.
“We are both honored and pleased to have such a distinguished member of our faculty receive this well-deserved award,” Cole said.
She also said Burke is an innovative teacher who has unique and effective methods of teaching.
“She is a proponent of problem-based learning, enhancing student engagement with differentiated instruction, and believes all students can learn,” Cole said. “She makes even the most difficult math concept easy to understand.”
Cynthia’s daughter, Kathleen Burke, is pursuing a doctorate in chemistry at WVU. She said her mom stressed the importance of an education for her children at an early age.
“One of my brothers is an optometrist, one is a physical therapist, and the other is in aerospace engineering,” Burke said. “She wanted me to know that women can have the same kind of powerful, successful jobs in science and math.”
“I’m very grateful for what she instilled in me about education,” she added.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will present the award at a ceremony to take place later this year.
Follow @wvutoday on Twitter.