We are pleased to announce that Newman’s 6th grade science teacher, Ms. Lisa Swenson, is the recipient of the 2018 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). This is the highest award given by the United States Government for teachers of science and mathematics in grades kindergarten through 12. Swenson recently traveled to Washington, D.C., where she attended a ceremony for award winners (with all 2018 winners actually receiving their award in 2019), visited the White House, and met with fellow education professionals and policymakers.
Nominated by a colleague at Newman, Swenson applied for the award by submitting a paper and video footage detailing her work at Newman. Specifically, she documented her year-long Water Watch program, a service-learning project conducted in partnership with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. In the program, sixth graders sample and test the waters of Bayou St. John throughout the year, testing characteristics such as oxygen levels, pH, and turbidity. Students then analyze the data to see what effect pollution (or lack thereof) has on the waterway’s ecosystem. The students also participate in a Design Thinking project, “Nurturing Our Waterways,” meant to develop solutions for improving water quality in our community.
Swenson was selected out of hundreds of applicants, first as a state finalist, and then the PAEMST winner. She joined teachers form each of the 50 states, U.S. Territories, and Department of Defense schools at the Department of the Interior Building in Washington, D.C. She also had the opportunity to visit the White House and meet and discuss STEM initiatives with high-level policymakers. In addition to a certificate signed by the President, Swenson was awarded a cash prize intended for professional development or leisure.
Winning the award has been a fulfilment of an aspiration, but more importantly, a recognition of a life devoted to science and to learning. “Receiving the Presidential Award means that my professional journey has brought a quality teaching experience to my students and school,” says Swenson. “This would not have been possible without all the excellent teachers and mentors I have had along the way.”
Swenson is the second Presidential Award winner from Newman; she joins Lower School Science Chair Jennifer Williams, who was named the 2006 winner of the Presidential Award in Science and Mathematics Teaching.
Lisa Swenson began her teaching career in 2003 and has taught science at Newman since 2009. Swenson embraces the School’s motto of “We learn to do by doing” and instills the love of science in her students, encouraging a desire to make a positive difference. Lisa has presented at numerous conferences as a member of the National Science Teaching Association. In 2018, Swenson was awarded the Louisiana Middle School Science Teacher of the Year. She was also named Outstanding Earth Science Teacher in 2015 by the National Earth Science Teachers Association.
Swenson earned a B.S. and a M.Ed. in elementary education specializing in middle school science from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, as well as a M.S. in geosciences from Mississippi State University. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and is certified in kindergarten through fifth grade elementary education and sixth through eighth grade science.