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Bear Tavern Elementary School, in Hopewell Valley Regional School District, has the bragging rights to teacher Christina Overman, one of just four New Jersey science teachers who ha been named a finalist in the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) program.

The Presidential Awards, administered by the White House and the National Science Foundation (NSF), go to two teachers from each state and U.S. territory annually, usually one science teacher and one math teacher. It is the highest honor bestowed upon elementary and secondary school teachers of math and science in the United States. Yesterday, the New Jersey State Board of Education (NJBOE) recognized Mrs. Overman and the other state finalists at a luncheon awards ceremony.

2014OvermanMrs. Overman is currently a fourth-grader teacher in HVRSD’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) magnet program at Bear Tavern.

“When I learned I was a finalist, I thought this really recognizes Bear Tavern and my colleagues in this building,” said Mrs. Overman, who has been in the district since 1999 and at Bear Tavern since 2000. “I wouldn’t be at this point in my career without my colleagues. I’m extremely honored and excited, but I’m most excited to have Bear Tavern recognized in this way.”

The White House and NSF will do an extensive review of all the state finalists this summer and announce one math and one science winner from each state sometime next fall, according to New Jersey PAEMST Coordinator John Moore. The competition, started by Congress in 1983, alternately honors primary teachers (grades K through 6) one year, and then secondary (grades 7 through 12) teachers the next. The state winner will get a $10,000 award from the NSF for their school, a certificate issued by the White House, and a trip to Washington, D.C. where they will take part in professional events including meeting President Obama.

Mr. Moore, who headed the committee of mathematicians, scientists and math and science educators who chose Mrs. Overman and her fellow New Jersey finalists, said she competed with more than 125 applicants.

“This honor validates what we have known for a long time; Mrs. Overman is an awesome teacher who inspires her students every day,” said Hopewell Valley schools Superintendent Thomas Smith. “We are fortunate to have her in our district.”

According to the PAEMST website, the award “recognizes those teachers who develop and implement a high-quality instructional program that is informed by content knowledge and enhances student learning. . . Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science (including computer science) education.”

Teacher candidates are evaluated in the areas of: subject mastery; use of instructional methods that engage students; successful use of student assessment methods; life-long education and learning to improve as a teacher; and leadership in education outside the classroom.

The Hopewell STEM program, which Mrs. Overman currently teaches and which is in its first year, teaches science and all of the fourth-grade curriculum subjects through a problem solving, inquiry-based, learning lens. For example, while doing a scientific unit on water and weather, the class may read books about water during reading class and do water-related problems in math. The magnet program, which includes students from all four Hopewell Valley elementary schools and several students from neighboring school districts, continues in fifth grade.

Applications for the STEM program for next school year will be available on the district website (www.hvrsd.org) in January.

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe, a lawyer. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. In her free time, Mary fills her life with mild germaphobia, excessive self-reflection, enthusiastic television viewing, and misguided adventures in random hobbies.

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