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Kirkland teacher Pfaff wins Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching

Thoreau Elementary teacher Nancy Pfaff - Lake Washington School District
Thoreau Elementary teacher Nancy Pfaff
— image credit: Lake Washington School District

Kirkland elementary teacher Nancy Pfaff was named the Washington recipient of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching for mathematics. The award is the nation's highest honor for teachers of mathematics and science, including computer science.

“I am thrilled by the positive focus on elementary mathematics education the Presidential Award brings to our community and school district, and I am honored by the recognition,” said Pfaff.

“Nancy shares with her students her passion for problem-solving,” said Lake Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce. “She is truly dedicated to helping students learn mathematical thinking. She is very deserving of this recognition.”

The award is given annually to outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The winners are selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators following an initial selection process at the state level. Each year the award alternates between teachers teaching kindergarten through sixth grade and those teaching seventh through 12th grades. The 2012 awardees teach kindergarten through sixth grade.

Winners of this honor receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, to be used at their discretion. They also are invited to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events.

Pfaff has been an educator for more than 30 years, specializing for the past two years in sixth grade mathematics at Horace Mann Elementary in Redmond and Inglewood Middle School in Sammamish in the Lake Washington School District. This school year, she is teaching gifted students in an enrichment program at Blackwell Elementary School in Sammamish and Thoreau Elementary School on Kirkland's Finn Hill. Her 26 years in the district include work in gifted and general education classrooms for third through sixth grade.

Pfaff shared her enthusiasm for mathematics by developing a school-wide Math Night at Mann Elementary. Her sixth graders led kindergarten through fifth grade students and their parents in mathematics games and activities. She built online extensions for students through personalized problem-solving and discussions. She adapted games to build confidence and fill in skill gaps for struggling students.

Themes evident in Pfaff’s work with students and teachers include developing mathematics concepts and building meaning through mathematics discussions. Beyond the classroom, she is involved in mathematics professional development work for Lake Washington School District. Pfaff is also involved in teacher education at City University in Seattle.

Pfaff has a B.A. in mathematics and education and an M.Ed. from Washington State University. She is National Board Certified in early adolescent mathematics.

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