Monday, September 5, 2016

How Do You Win the PAEMST?

Well, first off, I'm not entirely certain I know the answer. I do think that it's important to share some information, including my process, with people who might apply and people who have applied and are waiting on pins and needles now. I have read Mike Soskil's blog account of his PAEMST many times, so I feel obliged to add to the collection of firsthand information about this award.

PAEMST General Info

It starts with a nomination. Nominations open in the fall and anyone can nominate a math or science teacher for the award. Teachers can also self-nominate. Elementary and secondary teachers are recognized in alternating years. 2017 will be a secondary teachers year, so teachers of grades 7-12 are eligible in 2017.

Once nominated, the nominee receives an email from PAEMST, encouraging an application. Applications are due in the spring and are composed of an unedited video of a lesson, a narrative explanation that answers specific prompts, and supporting artifacts. These materials are uploaded to a website.

A committee from each state then views the state applications and chooses up to five finalists in math and up to five finalists in science. The finalists then move on to the national selection process.

A national committee then reviews the state finalists' applications and chooses one math and one science winner from each state and the US territories. Up to 108 teachers can win each year. The winners receive a trip to Washington, DC to receive the award, a $10,000 stipend, and the award signed by the President. The award is the highest honor a math or science teacher can achieve in the United States.

Read more about the PAEMST here.


I was first nominated in 2013 my an assistant superintendent in my district. I was completely flattered to be nominated, but somewhat daunted by the demands of the application process. Still, I decided to try it because I had been nominated. I started by reading the prompts that must be answered to try to formulate a plan for what lesson I would showcase. I chose the lesson and arranged for videotaping.

Funny aside: On the day of my lesson, my videographer (a student in our interactive media program) was absent. My arranged class period came and went and I was not videotaped. During my lunch that day, I called my mother and frantically begged her to come to my school and videotape me. Thankfully, she did. We used a small Flip camera and followed me around. I had no special equipment, no fancy microphones. When I watched the video, I could see and hear what I thought was necessary, so I used it.

The writing I did was extensive. Choosing exactly what to say was a challenge, but I stuck exactly to the guidelines that are provided about how many pages should be devoted to each question and topic. Having earned my National Board Certification (and my renewal), I knew that following the guidelines was a must. I also included twelve pages of supplementary materials. Most of what I submitted was student work to show what I had written about in my narrative. I submitted my package in April 2013. In June 2013, I learned I was an Ohio finalist for 2013.

Then the waiting began. Finalists are told that it could take up to a year to learn whether or not you have won, so I knew we would be in for a wait. By summer of 2014, I was checking websites pretty regularly and searching out blogs. No word came in 2014. Toward the end of winter of 2015, we received an email from PAEMST explaining that because we had waited so long, we could choose to resubmit out entire package for the 2015 award cycle if we wanted to. I decided to do that.

I requested my state feedback on my 2013 submission and made just a few changes to my original submission for April 2015. Though I still had not heard about the outcome of 2013, I felt reasonably certain that I would not win for 2013 and was now looking toward 2015. There are Facebook groups and hashtags (#PAEMST) to follow. I noticed sometime in the spring that some people who had been actively tweeting about yearning to know were no longer tweeting. I suspected that some had learned they had won.

In July of 2015 we finally received word about the winners for 2013, but I had not won. At that time, I also received my national feedback. Oddly, it did not match up at all with my state feedback. It just goes to show that a group of people armed with a rubric can watch the same lesson and read the same materials with different ideas about what they saw. Still, there was nothing I could do at that point but hope. And search the internet.

In June of 2016 I received an email that I was being considered for the award. The email explained that I could not share the news with anyone outside of my immediate family and it requested permission for my FBI background check. All my internet creeping told me that this probably meant I had won, as long as my background check came back ok.

In August 2016 I received an email to say that I had won the PAEMST for Ohio! We still were not allowed to tell anyone until the official announcement came from the White House. On August 22, the announcement finally came! This month has been a whirlwind. This Wednesday I will travel to DC to participate in the three-day trip where I will receive my award. I hope I will have time to blog a little during the trip. Here is a link to a news article from our local paper.

If you're thinking about applying this year, go for it! It's a long wait and a lot of work, but it's definitely worth it!


  1. Hi Amy,

    My name is Stacy Menifee and I teach 6th grade science in Texas. I just received word that I was nominated for this award yesterday, and remembered that you recently won. I promise I won't stalk you, but I do have a quick question. The majority of our parents do not elect for photos of their children to be released to 3rd parties, so I'm struggling with the video. Do you know if there is a specific waiver from PAEMST that parents can sign to release this, or should I ask the district?

    Thank you for your time!
    Stacy Menifee

    1. Hi Stacy, I suggest you email and pose that question. Parents might be more willing to give permission if they know that only a committee of evaluators will ever see the video. They are never made public or displayed anywhere.