July 25, 2017
USC math teacher selected as finalist for national award
Steve Miller, Upper St. Clair High School mathematics teacher and curriculum leader, was recently named one of four Pennsylvania finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
Mr. Miller’s application has advanced to the National Science Foundation to be evaluated by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators for the national award.
Up to 108 teachers – representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools – are recognized with a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching each year. Awardees receive a certificate signed by the President of the United States, a trip to Washington D.C. to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.
“Mr. Miller is to be commended for his unwavering dedication to and relationship with our students. It is clear, based upon his instructional practices alone, that he places the needs of his students ahead of his own,” Dr. Louis Angelo, Upper St. Clair High School principal, said. “Only the most committed educators are willing and able to customize learning, and our students recognize this commitment.”
According to the organization’s website, “the award recognizes those teachers who develop and implement a high-quality instructional program that is informed by content knowledge and enhances student learning. Since the program's inception, more than 4,700 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.” The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
“Mr. Miller sees the future of education with clarity, models a growth mindset and is voracious in his desire to learn more about trends,” Dr. Tim Wagner, associate principal for program planning & innovation, said. “He is an authority in ‘best practices;’ however, Mr. Miller never abandons what is best for students as he explores new ways of thinking about teaching and learning.”
Anyone—principals, teachers, parents, students, or members of the general public—may nominate teachers for the award. Michael Nastac, a 2016 Upper St. Clair High School graduate, nominated Mr. Miller for the award.
“I was deeply honored to be nominated by Michael,” Mr. Miller said. “I try hard to provide meaningful learning experiences to all my students, and to know that a student of Michael's caliber found enough value in my classes to consider me worthy of this nomination is very gratifying and humbling.”
All nominees are invited to continue the application process, which consists of three components: administrative, narrative and video. The components allow the applicant to provide evidence of deep content knowledge and exemplary pedagogical skills that result in improved student learning.
“The application process provided me a great opportunity to reflect deeply on many aspects of my teaching, such as instruction and assessment,” Mr. Miller said. “Regardless of the outcome, going through the process was worth it to me because it made me reconsider how I use class time and how I can restructure some of the things I do to better engage all students.”
Mr. Miller joined the Upper St. Clair High School faculty in 2004 after a successful career as a senior software developer where he designed, developed and tested software for Carnegie Learning’s Cognitive Tutor program, a nationally-recognized mathematics curriculum.
“Prior to teaching I was a software developer for about 5 years. I enjoyed my work, but I did not find it fulfilling,” Mr. Miller said. “I was drawn to teaching after doing volunteer work with high schoolers at my church. Teaching high school math enabled me to use my abilities to help kids grow in a subject for which I have a passion.”
He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in teaching secondary mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh.
Applications for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are evaluated using the following five Dimensions of Outstanding Teaching:
- Mastery of mathematics or science content appropriate for the grade level taught.
- Use of instructional methods and strategies that are appropriate for students in the class and that support student learning.
- Effective use of student assessments to evaluate, monitor and improve student learning.
- Reflective practice and life-long learning to improve teaching and student learning.
- Leadership in education outside the classroom.