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Texas State Board of Education Honors 2019 National Awardees and 2020 State Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

AUSTIN, Texas – March 17, 2021 - The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) honored eight outstanding Texas teachers that were named as Texas representatives for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) at the January 2021 Board meeting. PAEMST is the highest recognition a Mathematics or Science teacher in the United States can receive for exemplary teaching. The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The 2019 awards recognized Mathematics and Science teachers in 7th-12th Grade whose innovative methods bring teaching to life in the classroom. 

The 2019 Texas national awardees are:

Bridget Matamoros-Mota (Mathematics) - Ms. Matamoros-Mota began her teaching career 12 years ago at John H. Guyer High School. She is currently serving as the Mathematics department chair and teaches Statistics, Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics, and dual credit Statistics. 

Kay Fincher (Science) - Ms. Fincher has been an educator for 30 years. She has taught physics for 20 years at Amarillo High School, and for the past 11 years, has also taught introductory physics at Amarillo College. For a decade prior to that, she previously taught 7th-8th Grade science. She currently teaches 10th-12th Grade AP Physics 1 and 2 at Amarillo High School.

The 2020 Texas finalists for K-6th Grade Mathematics are: 

  • Kristen Butler – 6th Grade Math teacher at Medlin Middle School in Northwest Independent School District, Ft. Worth, Texas
  • Desirae Harcrow – Kindergarten teacher at Timber Creek Elementary School in Tomball Independent School District, Tomball, Texas
  • Kassidy Wagner – 6th Grade Pre-AP Math teacher at Rogers Middle School in Prosper Independent School District, Prosper, Texas

The 2020 Texas finalists for K-6th Grade Science are:

  • Kelli Abueita – 5th Grade Math and Science teacher at Creekview Elementary School in Tomball Independent School District, Tomball, Texas
  • Hannah Cotton – 5th Grade Science and Health teacher at Hill Elementary School in Austin Independent School District, Austin, Texas
  • Lori Garrett – Pre-K – 4th Grade Science and Enrichment teacher at Cactus Elementary School in Dumas Independent School District, Dumas, Texas

To achieve recognition through this program, a teacher must first apply to enter the competition or be nominated for the award. A state panel consisting of master teachers, content specialists, and administrators reviews the applications and selects the most outstanding Mathematics and Science teachers for the National Science Foundation to consider for national awardee status. After this initial selection process, a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians, and educators may select two teachers from each state and U.S. jurisdiction for the national award.

PAEMST awardees receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, a certificate signed by the President of the United States, and a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend recognition events and also take part in professional development opportunities. 

For additional information about the PAEMST program, visit