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Washington Teacher Awarded by Obama

  • June 3, 2011

 By Amy Sylvestri, Staff Writer
San Leandro Times

San Leandro teacher Katy McCarthy went to Washington, D. C. last month, met with President Obama and received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching.

Only one teacher per year from each state receives this award.

“I am just over the moon,” says McCarthy, who was a bilingual second grade teacher at Washington Elementary School before going out on maternity leave. “I want to thank my colleagues at Washington Elementary, the students and their families, because they have given me so many opportunities for learning.” 

The rewards are great for an outstanding teacher like McCarthy. Not only does she have a photo op with the president at the White House, she receives an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. plus $10,000. A week of networking with other outstanding teachers is included.




McCarthy came to the teaching profession at age 29 after working for several businesses, including the travel industry.




She always knew she wanted to teach, but had to pay off her student loans from Mills College first.



When she felt ready to make the commitment, she went back to school at Cal State East Bay for her teaching credential. She received a Bilingual Cross-cultural Language Academic Development credential and is fluent in Spanish.

McCarthy started teaching eight years ago, and has worked at Washington Elementary for the past six years. Three years ago she became certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. At a National Board advocacy meeting at Stanford, participants were encouraged to apply for the Presidential Awards in both Math and Science.

McCarthy submitted her application last year, including a videotape of herself teaching. She was also asked what else she did outside the classroom to enhance learning.

“My commitment to bilingual education and parent involvement was important,” she says. “I also incorporate art with math games, and design lessons to help children engage with each other while doing math. They’re not just sitting at their desks listening to me.”

Last July, Jack O’Connell, who was California’s Superintendent of Public Education, let her know she was a finalist for California. Then she received a surprise e-mail on April 28, 2011 informing her of the national award.

McCarthy met May 18 with the president to officially receive her award. The $10,000 is unrestricted, and she plans to buy an iPad with some of it.

“I’ll definitely donate some to my school too,” McCarthy says. “I value this profession. Nothing is as exciting, dynamic and rewarding as teaching. It’s also an enormous responsibility.”

More on the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching may be found at

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