ARCANUM - Elizabeth Pitzer, a math teacher at Arcanum Middle School, has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST).
She was one of two K-6 teachers in Ohio who were honored at the event in Washington, D.C., on March 5. The other teacher was Natalie Harr, a science teacher.
PAEMST, according to a news release, recognizes two teachers from each state who excel in teaching math and science at the primary and secondary level. During the annual recognition event, awardees took part in professional development activities, networked with fellow STEM educators from across the nation and most notably met with President Barack Obama.
“Some people refuse to watch the news because it is all bad,” it was indicated in the news release. “Perhaps our society buys into the negative news and scandals. There has been a lot of negative press regarding education in recent years, which is not flattering to all the wonderful educators out there who put their heart and soul into the profession. The news does not reflect the true picture of our nation’s educators. The Presidential Award celebrates the good that is happening in our classrooms across the country today.”
Pitzer has been an educator for nearly 30 years and has spent the past 25 years in the Arcanum-Butler Local School District. She is currently teaching mathematics at the fifth-grade level at the middle school. Previously, she taught second grade at Randolph Eastern in Union City, Ind.
According to Pitzer, the award is actually for 2012.
“They are very far behind,” she said. “We were supposed to find out in the summertime but didn’t learn about it until before Christmas. I wasn’t at work when it was announced as I was off for surgery.”
She said 102 educators received the award, but four didn’t make it to D.C. because of inclement weather.
Pitzer said the weather in Darke County was bad the day before she left, and when she got to Washington, D.C., it was bad there, too.
“They shut down all of the transportation…the buses, and taxis,” she said. “We walked two blocks in the snow and got on the Metro, and then walked another 3/4 mile to go to the White House. We stood outside an hour in 6-degree weather and went through four checkpoints. It was quite an adventure.
But, it was worth it, she said.
“It was very exciting,” Pitzer recalled. “They had us line up on risers and the President spoke to us a little while and wanted to shake everybody’s hand. I am short and was on the front row and was the first to get my hand shaken. He said, ‘Thank you for all you do,” and I thanked him for all that he does.”
Pitzer is a leader in the classroom and the district. She serves on the district leadership team and is the district’s Value-Added Specialist. She has a passion for learning best practices and analyzing the district’s mathematics data and she shares this information with others. Pitzer has hosted student teachers and mentored teachers within the district. She served as a fellow with the Dayton Regional STEM Center.
Pitzer, the former Elizabeth Marshall, was part of a grant-writing collaborative with Wright State University supporting National Board candidates in the region. She was a 1998 Milken Educator, and currently serves on the mathematics team for the Ohio Network Regional Leaders through the Ohio Department of Education.
Pitzer, a 1981 graduate of Mississinawa Valley High School and a 1984 and 1988 graduate of Ball State University, said she has also won the Time Warner Cable Crystal Apple Award three times and the Ashland Oil Achievement Award in 1987. She was also Teacher of the Year at Arcanum one year.
She has a bachelor of science and a master of arts, both in elementary education, and became a National Board-Certified Middle Childhood Generalist, one of the first in the state and the nation, in 1996.
There were 5,000-plus nominations across the country for the Presidential Award, she said. That also included the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Department of Defense schools.
“In the process to go to state, they pick out four or five, whose names are sent on to nationals,” Pitzer said. “Two hundred fifty went to nationals.”
She said she was nominated by a previous awardee, who saw her at a baseball game and questioned her about her teaching.
“I was a state honoree in the late 1900s and never did it again,” Pitzer said.
Why does Pitzer think she won the award?
“My state testing scores are very high for value-added,” she replied. “I can’t say all students pass, but the growth measure is high. I’ve done a lot with other teachers in development situations and I write curriculums for teachers.”
Pitzer has been married to Jim Pitzer for 14 years. He is a case manager for Dayton Eastway Behavioral Health. She has two grown sons, Trey Perkins, a pharmacist in Richmond, Ind., and Kyle Perkins, a project manager for Reynolds and Reynolds and living in Dayton, as well as a 10-year-old son, Chad Pitzer, who will be in her math class next year. She also has two stepchildren.
“My mother, Dixie Marshall, was a teacher, at Mississinawa Valley,” Pitzer said.
PAEMST is currently accepting K-6 applications through May 1 for those who feel they know a teacher who should be recognized for their dedication to STEM education. For more information on PAEMST, call Nickie Forrester at (855) 723-6780 (PAEMST-0) or email the PAEMST team at firstname.lastname@example.org