Michelle Dillard, Fifth Grade Teacher at Twain, a Finalist for Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching

Michelle Dillard, a fifth grade teacher at Twain Elementary School, has been named a finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) for Colorado. She’s now moving on to the national level!

About PAEMST (taken from paemst.org)
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is the highest recognition that a kindergarten through 12th grade science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States. Up to 108 teachers are recognized each year.

Presidential Awardees receive a certificate signed by the President of the United States, a trip to Washington D.C. to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

Getting to Know Ms. Dillard
How long have you been teaching in Littleton Public Schools? Have you always been at Twain?

I have been teaching for 15 years, 8 in LPS. My 8 years in the district have all been at Twain Elementary School in fifth grade.

What grades have you taught?
I have taught third, fourth, and fifth grades. I love the passion, independence, engagement, and thoughtfulness of my fifth graders.

What piqued your interest in science and math subject areas?
I love teaching at the elementary level because we're lucky enough to see our learners across all disciplines and connect their learning to big ideas, so I love teaching every subject. As a learner and a teacher, I am equally interested in all subjects. While I don't view myself as only a math person, I believe everyone can be a math person!

As a finalist in the math category of this award, I enjoy engaging students in math as it provides such a great opportunity for students to try ideas on as “rough draft thinking,” to develop a growth mindset as they add layers to their conceptual understandings, to model novel situations, to problem solve, critique, communicate, and collaborate--it's inherently engaging. It has always been one of my favorite parts of the learning day.

What do you hope to instill in your students as mathematicians and scientists (or as writers, etc.)?
I want my students to find a safe place to explore all the possibilities within themselves as learners and people. I want to connect them to the bigger world, big ideas, and others who can help them along the way. I hope my mathematicians are confident thinkers who can test themselves and others, and communicate their ideas to audiences big and small.

If you are selected as an awardee, what will you do with the $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation?
I would probably add to our savings for some potential big-ticket future items: an electric car, kids' college fund, trip to Paris with my oldest daughter? I'm open to suggestions!

What hobbies do you like to pursue in your spare time?
I'm an avid reader. My favorite place is reading next to the fireplace under a cozy blanket. I also like to golf and sing. I love my family! My husband and I have been married for 16 years and we have three kids: Caroline (12 and a student at Euclid), Jackson (9 and a student at Twain), and Lilah (6 and a student at Twain).

Is there anything else you'd like our community to know about you?
I am an LPS graduate myself and have benefited greatly from the quality educational experiences LPS provides to families and our community. I love teaching in LPS; we are encouraged to explore, innovate, and collaborate, all for the benefit of our amazing students! Our LPS learners and their families value their educational experiences, which makes our jobs so rewarding. I love every single day with my students. 

I am also a National Board Certified Teacher, and both professional opportunities have greatly benefitted my students as the processes enabled me to be reflective, innovate in the classroom and engage with colleagues both in the district and nationally. I highly recommend other teachers pursue either board certification or the PAEMST award if they are interested in a self-driven, reflective process where you work alongside students to improve your classroom practices.