Delaware teachers Brandi Luloff and Leona Williams honored for excellence in STEM education
On Feb. 8, 2022, The White House announced the recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, two of which are Wilmington University alumnae: Brandi Luloff, instructional coach and mathematics teacher at Townsend Elementary School (Appoquinimink School District); and Leona Williams, Next Generation Science lead teacher at Wilmington’s Forwood Elementary School (Brandywine School District).
The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is the highest recognition that a K-12 teacher of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or computer science can receive for outstanding teaching in the United States. Up to 108 teachers are recognized each year.
“The Presidential Award is a recognition that I never thought I would experience,” said Luloff in a statement on the PAEMST website. “My early educational years were challenging. I was identified with a learning disability in elementary school and told that school would be difficult. Those challenging times, though frustrating, made me stronger. The trials I endured became my strengths and turned into my passion for education. I followed my heart, and my heart is overflowing with bliss from this recognition.”
Williams is equally grateful. “The Presidential Award is a tremendous national honor,” she said, also in a statement on the PAEMST website. “As a STEM educator, it’s been my goal to engage my multicultural classroom with hands-on projects and diverse role models so students can see their future in STEM. This award acknowledges educators who are developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills through STEM to prepare students for their future in a technology-rich world.”
The goal of the PAEMST program is to exemplify the highest standards of mathematics and science teaching (including technology, engineering and computer science), in addition to honoring individual achievement. Awardees serve as inspiration to their colleagues and communities, and leaders in improving mathematics and science education.
“Brandi Luloff and Leona Williams are exemplary role models to their students,” said Wilmington University President Dr. LaVerne Harmon. “They inspire them to develop confidence in their abilities to learn math and science, and that’s what gifted educators do. Brandi and Leona are true ambassadors of Wilmington University, and we are incredibly proud of their successes, professional accomplishments, and contributions to their communities.”
Added Dr. Jim Wilson, vice president for Academic Affairs at Wilmington University, “We applaud Ms. Luloff’s and Ms. Williams’ extraordinary dedication to teaching. Our College of Education faculty and graduates believe in the power of encouraging innovation, exploration and creativity. And when alumnae such as these committed teachers are recognized, it is deeply meaningful to all of us at Wilmington University.”
Historically, awardees receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, a certificate signed by the President, and a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend recognition events and professional development opportunities. This year, awardees will be recognized virtually.
PAEMST honors STEM teachers for the commitment they bring to the classroom and their efforts to meet the learning needs of all their students. Each state selects up to three mathematics teachers and three science teachers as state finalists every year. A national selection committee reviews state finalist applications and selects one awardee in each content area for every state. Awards alternate between teachers of kindergarten through 6th grade and those teaching 7th through 12th grades.