Tessie Ford, a two-time College of Education (COE) alumna, is the recipient of a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). An educator for all grades at Waipahu High School since 2013, Ford teaches engineering, technology, physics, and astronomy among other seminars and capstone projects. She earned her BEd in Secondary Education with a focus in physics as well as her MEd in Curriculum Studies STEMS² program.
“Tessie is a passionate, intelligent, committed, and inspiring educator who, through her teaching of physics and robotics, has heightened the quality, rigor, and joy of science teaching and learning at Waipahu High School,” said Professor Tara O’Neill, director of the STEMS2 master’s concentration. “She is a transformative educator who constantly seeks to expand her own knowledge and encourages her students to expect more from themselves. Tessie empowers her students to see a future for themselves in the STEM fields.”
Ford says she had many great, caring teachers who had a passion for what they were teaching and served as an inspiration to her. She tutored and mentored students along the way to becoming a teacher herself, which confirmed her dream to help and impact others. She attributes her confidence to participate and present at professional development activities, international STEM competitions, and national conferences to receiving her graduate degree.
About her time at the COE, Ford said, “During my BEd program, both Bebe Davis and Tara O’Neill gave me great advice and modeled instructional strategies that I still use today. Bebe encouraged me to get involved through robotics, Science Olympiad, etc., and that’s where I saw how fulfilling it was to be a greater part of a school. When I was in the STEMS² program for my master’s, everything from the types of place/project-based lessons that we had to how close our cohort became to the importance of relationship building and deep understanding of why the students have to learn something became more apparent.”
The PAEMST awards, established nearly 40 years ago, are the highest honors bestowed upon K–12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science teachers by the United States government. Recipients of the award receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF), a paid trip to Washington, D.C. to attend recognition and professional development events, and a certificate signed by the President of the United States.