Inspiration through collaboration

Camas teacher is one of five state finalists for national math and science award

A local teacher is one of five state finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Tara Obermiller, a third-grade teacher at Woodburn Elementary in Camas, learned about being a state-level finalist from State Superintendent Randy Dorn’s office the first week of school.

“I was speechless,” she said. “I absolutely love my job. I feel extremely lucky that I get to wake up each morning excited about what I get to do every day. But I wouldn’t be the teacher I am without my teammates. It is their support, and the collaborative work we do, that have made me who I am today.”

She continues, “Ask any teacher and I am sure they will say that they ‘beg, borrow and steal’ from the teachers around them. Well, I have ‘begged, borrowed and stolen’ from the best of the best. Because of this, I think we all should be considered finalists.”

The finalists were selected by a statewide committee comprised of content area experts and award-winning teachers.

Their nominations were recently confirmed by the national PAEMST program.

Fellow state finalists include Deborah Halperin of Laurelhurst Elementary in Seattle, Sadie Brumley of Cathcart Elementary in Snohomish, Lorianne Donovan-Hermann of Finley Elementary in Finley and Meredith Gannon of Sacajawea Elementary in Vancouver.

“What makes these five teachers so great is the hands-on learning that’s happening every day in their classrooms,” Dorn said. “Under the guidance of Deborah, Tara, Sadie, Lorianne and Meredith, students are solving real-life problems, collecting scientific evidence and presenting their findings to each other and the communities. That’s how we build a new generation of scientists and engineers, and I’m proud to call each one of these amazing individuals Washington teachers.”

The national PAEMST program typically announces national award recipients in the spring. State-level finalists are recognized by regional and state math and science associations and invited to several annual state events for award winning educators.

Obermiller is in her seventh year of teaching with the Camas School District. Prior to receiving a bachelor’s degree in education from Washington State University, she taught preschool for 10 years while raising her two young daughters.

To be considered as a finalist, Obermiller had to submit 45 minutes of video footage featuring her teaching and students learning, as well as an in-depth written reflection and analysis on a mathematical concept being taught in the classroom.

Jan Strohmaier, Woodburn Elementary principal, said she wasn’t surprised when Obermiller was selected as a finalist for the award.

“Tara was on my team at Lacamas Heights Elementary and also did her student teaching here in Camas,” she said. “She is a team player and everything she does is for the kids. That is her whole focus. She is an excellent math teacher and takes the whole child into consideration.”

Obermiller noted the district provides professional development and collaboration opportunities throughout the year, so that teachers can develop the needed skills to help their students.

“I enjoy working for the Camas School District because we are a district that believes all students deserve a quality education,” she said. “We truly are a village working together to support each and every one of our learners.”

The national award recipients will be announced in the spring of 2015.