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Oklahoma State University

OSU Educators Honored with Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Friday, August 5, 2016

Oklahoma State University alumnae and College of Education adjunct professors Rebekah Hammack of Stillwater and Moriah Widener of Jenks were honored with Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the White House announced this week. It is the highest recognition that a K-12 mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States.

Presidential 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.

In addition to teaching a middle-level education course for pre-service elementary teachers at OSU, Hammack has been a science educator at Stillwater Middle School for 10 years. She teaches robotics, environmental engineering, biomedical science and 3D computer-aided design to sixth and seventh graders. Hammack earned a B.S. in agriculture from The Ohio State University, a M.S. in animal science from Oklahoma State University, and a Ph.D. in science education from Oklahoma State University. She holds National Board Certification in Early Adolescent Science and certifications in fifth through eighth grade science, biological sciences, physical science and chemistry.

Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching recipient, Rebekah Hammack.

Hammack is rewarded for creating an after-school engineering mentoring program for girls and teaches at engineering-focused summer camps. She also started a Technology Student Association chapter at her school and takes students to state and national competitions. She has received over $90,000 in grants and awards to enhance engineering education in her school and state. Hammack served as the project manager for a Math Science Partnership grant to provide engineering-focused professional development to Oklahoma elementary teachers. She has also presented professional development at numerous local, state and national events.

“Receiving the Presidential Award is incredibly humbling. The award is validation for the countless hours I have spent inside and outside of the classroom fostering creativity and a love for science and engineering in my students,” Hammack said. “I am extremely honored to receive this award, but it is not mine alone. It is only through the hard work and support of my students, colleagues, family, and community that I am able to devote myself to my passion for teaching and continue to grow and improve my craft.”

Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching recipient, Moriah Widener.

Widener has taught fifth grade mathematics and science at Jenks West Intermediate School for the past four years. She spent the previous five years teaching elementary and middle school students in the Tulsa Public Schools. She has a B.S. in elementary education and a M.S. in teaching, learning, and leadership with an emphasis in elementary mathematics, from Oklahoma State University.

Widener has an overwhelming love of mathematics and teaching. She enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for learning with her students through the use of problem-centered learning and student-focused approaches. Additionally, she actively embeds literature, science, technology, and engineering into her mathematics lessons to help her students develop their own mathematical talents and apply mathematics outside of the classroom.

As a lifelong learner, Widener consistently seeks out opportunities to grow as a professional educator through a myriad of professional development opportunities. She has presented sessions and published articles for the Oklahoma Council for Teachers of Mathematics, served on curriculum and testing committees for her district and state, and has taught a Primary Mathematics Methods course for preservice teachers at Oklahoma State University's Tulsa campus for the past two years. Her certifications include elementary education as well as intermediate mathematics.

“The Presidential Award is truly an incredible honor,” Widener said. “Having my work as a teacher acknowledged in such a prestigious way, among so many other inspiring educators, is both humbling and empowering. It provides me with affirmation that what I am doing as a teacher is in keeping with best practices and current research, and provides a quality mathematics experience for my students. I am so thankful to those who have helped me develop my passion for learning so that I may do the same for my students.”

Learn more about the award and see a list of all of the recipients at