Mississippi Math, Science Teachers Earn National Recognition as State-Level Finalists


For Immediate Release:  January 26, 2021

 Mississippi Math, Science Teachers Earn National Recognition as State-Level Finalists

JACKSON, Miss. – Four Mississippi teachers have been named state-level finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) for the 2019-2020 award cycle.  The PAEMST Program is the nation’s highest honor for teachers of mathematics and science (including computer science).

Mississippi’s 2019-2020 PAEMST state-level finalists are:







State-level finalists serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.

“I am incredibly proud of Mississippi’s PAEMST state-level finalists and commend them for their dedication to teaching,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “These teachers are models of the extraordinary teachers who teach in classrooms across the state.”

A 28-year veteran teacher, Laura Bivins said, “I believe that each child has unique strengths, varied prior learning experiences, and different learning styles. Therefore, it is my responsibility to ensure my instruction is differentiated enough so that it provides support for each learner.”

Millicent Gunter, who currently teaches 3rd grade, said her educational philosophy is “that ALL children can learn. I believe that all children are unique and must have a stimulating educational environment. It is my desire to create this type of atmosphere where students can meet their full potential.”

Tonnette Kellett, who teaches 5th grade Math and Science said, “I believe strongly that all children are able to learn.  It’s my job as an educator to instill within each one of them the desire to learn.”

Erica Wilson, a 13-year veteran teacher who teaches Reading, Language Arts, Science and Social Studies, said “that all children are special in their own way and must have an invigorating educational environment to reach their fullest potential.  I hope I bring this type of stimulating educational experience when I walk into the classroom each day.”

Each state-level finalist will be recognized by the MDE during local programs later this school year.

The PAEMST program, established in 1983 by the White House, allows each state, through an anonymous State Selection Committee (SSC), to select up to three state-level finalists in mathematics and up to three state-level finalists in science.   At the most, one state-level finalist in each content area (Science or Mathematics) will be selected as the Presidential Awardee for Mississippi.  National-level winners are announced approximately a year after state-level finalists are identified and receive a $10,000 award.

Due to COVID-19 school closures in spring 2020, the number of completed applications for the 2019-2020 award cycle was lower than in recent years across all states.   Educators who successfully completed all 12 steps of the PAEMST application process and submitted all supporting materials by the extended deadline were forwarded to the SSC for review.

“Currently, Mississippi is seeing a tremendous increase in the number of applications for the 7-12 award cycle from mathematics and science teachers across the state.   Interested 7-12 teachers are encouraged to apply and complete the entire application process by the April 1 deadline to be considered for the current cycle,” said Dr. Marla Davis, state director of curriculum and instruction.

For more information, visit MDE or the national PAEMST website.