A Norman teacher is being recognized for her nearly two-decade commitment to making math engaging and accessible amid several hundred teachers who were honored in Washington, D.C. this week.

On Tuesday, the White House announced that Norman High School’s Julie Klingensmith won the highest national award for K-12 STEM teachers, becoming of the 2017-2018 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) recipients.

The award went to four teachers from every state, recognizing educators who stand out in their STEM classrooms and work to improve their field. STEM subjects include science, technology, engineering and math.

Other Oklahoma winners from the 2017-2018 awards, which were presented in D.C. this week, include teachers from Sapulpa, Yukon and Byng.

“These innovative Oklahoma educators have demonstrated excellence throughout their careers in creating new opportunities for children to engage in mathematics and science,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said in a news release. “They are incredibly deserving of this national award and represent the exceptional talent of teachers in our state.”

Klingensmith, who said she found out about the award shortly before her trip to D.C. this week, said her celebratory week at the capital has been packed with events and meetings. Winning the PAEMST has been “amazing,” she said.

“It was great to network with other STEM teachers from Oklahoma and nationwide,” Klingensmith said in an email. “We had a beautiful dinner at the Kennedy Center and had wonderful professional learning with experts and STEM leaders...it was also so lovely that I got to bring my husband Chan with me to celebrate.”

A University of Oklahoma graduate, Klingensmith is now in her 16th year with Norman High. Klingensmith was formerly with Moore and Putnam City middle schools for about a year and a half. Her achievement hasn’t gone without recognition from her district.

“I am personally so very proud of Julie and all her accomplishments,” NPS Superintendent Nick Migliorino said in an email. “This is an incredible honor and one that is well deserved. Julie is a model professional educator who represents the absolute best of Norman Public Schools. She is dedicated to being a lifelong learner and is always working to improve her craft.”

Klingensmith teaches tough courses — her students are learning AP calculus, pre-calculus and beyond — but Migliorino said she’s focused on making her classroom accessible for all her students.

“(Julie’s) focus on making mathematics accessible and achievable for students has made an impact throughout our district and is an inspiration to teachers everywhere,” Migliorino said in an email. “I’m thrilled for Julie and I know she will represent Norman and the state of Oklahoma incredibly well.

Klingensmith’s teaching and mentoring goes far beyond Norman High. She serves on the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of Mathematics board, where she was formerly president, and mentors interns from OU. She said she also keeps busy with her two sons, one of whom is a NPS kindergartener this year.

In working to create an accessible math environment, Klingensmith said she focuses on keeping things interesting and applicable for her students. Her “caring, easy-going nature” makes it easy for students to get the help they need in her classes, she said.

“I strive to mix it up in the classroom and have group activities where students can discuss their thinking,” Klingensmith said. “My pre-Calculus team has incorporated projects that are engaging each unit, giving students voice and choice when they apply the math they are learning to real world applications.”

Along with giving teachers national recognition, the PAEMST award also gifts $10,000 to each winner through the National Science Foundation. Klingensmith said her award will likely be split between her classroom and personal use.

After 18 years in the classroom, Klingensmith said she’s been left with a love for building relationships with and fostering growth in her students.

“Teaching can be joyful and fun. I’m always proud when seniors ask me to write recommendation letters for them for college,” Klingensmith said. “It is so fun to reflect and see how much they have learned and grown. I also love sharing the letters with them so they know how amazing I think they are.”

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