Woodside Elementary School science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teacher Kris Hanks is among 102 educators from across the nation to be named a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  In addition to being personally honored by President Barack Obama later this year at the White House, Hanks will receive a $10,000 award to use at her discretion.

Hanks has spent 11 years teaching in county schools. Although she took a five-year hiatus, she returned to the profession seven years ago at Woodside.  She credits her experiences at Woodside as a key to this achievement. There, she created a unique STEM program where even the school’s youngest learners are conducting lab activities.

“I am not surprised that Kris is being recognized for such a prestigious award,” said Anthony Alston, former Woodside Elementary School principal.  “When we began our STEM initiative, I had no doubt that she was the right person for the job.  Her knowledge of STEM curricula is only surpassed by her positive interactions with students and staff.  She has a way of pushing everyone around her to be their best.  Because of this ability, all of our students excelled and became better scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and overall learners.”

Hanks is being specifically recognized for her work in mathematics.  From robotics to computer programming to geocaching, she has her students designing solutions through problem-based learning.

“I’m thrilled to receive this award. I started out doing something new and I, thankfully, received a lot of support and encouragement,” Hanks said. “The students meet me with such enthusiasm every day, so it is important to me that they be recognized as a part of this. They’re my inspiration and the reason we’ve been able to be successful.”

The National Science Foundation organizes the award on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Awards are given annually to up to two teachers representing math or science in each state and three U.S. jurisdictions, as they “are critical to getting more students engaged in the increasingly important STEM fields.”

The other Maryland recipient for this year’s award is Timothy Emhoff of Indian Head Elementary School in Charles County.