KPBSD educator receives prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching


Years ago, her high school mathematics teacher predicted, “You will become a high school math teacher.” Stephanie Cronin’s response was to laugh, and say, “No Way!” However, she didn’t forget Mr. Sellnow’s words to her, and although she initially went to college to “be an artist” and study economics, it was, “somewhere in those college years it struck me how mathematics became an awesome and powerful tool.” 

Cronin’s favorite number is an irrational number, 3.14159265, commonly known as pi. When asked about a favored mathematical formula or equation, Cronin promptly replied, “Euler’s formula. It’s a beautiful formula, and shows an amazing connection between seemingly random numbers. Mathematics becomes interesting when we use mathematical theories to describe the world around us.”  

Recipient of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, Cronin is one of two educators from the state of Alaska, and one of 97 in the nation who will be recognized in Washington, DC, later this month. In a June 11, 2012, press release, President Obama said:  

“These teachers are the best of the best, and they stand as excellent examples of the kind of leadership we need in order to train the next generation of innovators and help this country get ahead.”  


Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education; Stephanie Cronin, Seward High School math teacher and award recipient; Cora Marrett, deputy director, National Science Foundation


When he learned about the award, Trevan Walker, principal at Seward High School said, “Duh! It’s funny that the White House is finally figuring out what we’ve known all along. In all honesty, the reality is that as an instructional leader, there are certain teachers and staff I rely on. She is one of those teachers I depend on. Ms. Cronin is enthusiastic, progressive, and ‘endearing.’ Her students truly love her, and rightfully so. She is not only a great math teacher, but a reform leader as well. The fact that she joined and successfully completed the Aspiring Principals cohort training also demonstrates that.”  

Dr. Steve Atwater, KPBSD superintendent said, “All of us at KPBSD are thrilled to learn that Ms. Cronin is being recognized in this way. I have observed Stephanie teach on several occasions and have always been impressed by her instruction. The most telling indicator of her effectiveness is how well Ms. Cronin’s students respond to her teaching; they are always engaged in the lesson and are at ease asking questions or seeking help outside of class.”



Cronin explained that during freshman orientation, the students have to decipher the meaning of PMA. Students painted the letters on her classroom window and swiftly learn PMA equates to a Positive Math Attitude. Early on, Cronin realized that many students come to mathematics with an attitude of, I can’t. If they can shift their attitude they learn they can be successful. Students started asking, “What’s PMA?” when Cronin and the teacher in the room next to hers, would say to each other “PMA!” Now a mantra for her, she recalls a young lady exclaiming, “For the first time, I get it!” The young student changed her entire attitude, and mathematics became her favorite subject. Cronin’s advice: “Be persistent—approach mathematics with a positive attitude.” 

Smart Board interactive whiteboards are used regularly in her classroom, so too are interactive graphing calculators. Both help students learn concepts quickly. She utilizes DiscoverEd, and Con Academy for resources to use at home, particularly with videos about specific content to aid student learning. Visualizing the future, she is intrigued by the potential of utilizing iPads in class, and the concept of a flipped classroom. (In a flipped classroom students listen or watch a class topic at home and during class time interact with each other and the teacher or facilitator to solve difficult problems and concepts. For a flipped classroom to be effective, it is crucial that every student has Internet access in their home.) 

After learning she was the recipient of the Presidential award, Cronin said, “I’m humbled and honored. There are a lot of amazing teachers.”  She will travel to Washington, DC, June 27 to June 29, 2012, where she will be honored at recognition events, participate in professional development sessions, and meet with policy-makers. In addition, she will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at her discretion.