KAYSVILLE -- Despite only eight years of teaching experience, Davis County teacher Angela Stewart was recently named a finalist for the Presidential Teaching Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching.
Six finalists from Utah -- three in science and three in mathematics from grades K through 12 -- are chosen from nominees throughout the state. Stewart, a finalist in science, is eligible to win a state Presidential Teaching Award, considered the most prestigious honor for educators.
The honor is awarded by the Utah State Office of Education in conjunction with the National Science Foundation.
The winners receive a weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., to meet President Barack Obama and join in recognition ceremonies, and they receive a $10,000 gift from the National Science Foundation.
This year, the three science nominees are Andrew Neilson, of Logan, James Larson, of Salt Lake City, and Stewart, who teaches at Mueller Park Junior High School in Bountiful.
Stewart began her science studies at Brigham Young University, graduating with a degree in biology teaching. She then moved on to Utah State University, where she earned her master's in structured technology.
Stewart taught in Jordan School District for four years before moving to Mueller Park. It was during her third year at Mueller Park that she began the application process for the Presidential Award.
Stewart currently teaches seventh-grade science part time at Centennial Junior High School in Kaysville. In her classroom, she uses an interactive approach to learning, whether through labs or corralling her students for the "Mitosis Square Dance," in which they learn the phases of mitosis.
When asked, Stewart explains that her top goal for students is that they enjoy science now in order to continue that delight later in life.
"I don't think every student should become a scientist, but if they can learn to work through problems, they will make good citizens. It will lead to their success," Stewart said.
Her passion shows not only in teaching, but also in passing along her ideas to other teachers.
Joyce Jones, principal at Mueller Park, said, "Not only is (Stewart's) teaching above and beyond, but she is a leader among her colleagues and instills a passion in them to teach."
Stewart demonstrates this enthusiasm by spending her afternoons mentoring science interns on how to improve education.
Winners of the Presidential Award may not be announced until sometime between February and July 2012.
Aaron Hogge, principal at Centennial, said if Stewart won, it would be a "great honor for the whole state."