June 22, 2024

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Georgia teacher JoAnn Harvey recognized with Vermont STEM teaching award | Local News

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GEORGIA – JoAnn Harvey, a second grade teacher at Georgia Elementary and Middle School, was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching in Vermont. 

Having gone through the selection committee and been awarded in-state, Harvey is now in contention for the national award against other teachers around the country. 

According to the PAEMST website, the award is the highest honor a K-12 teacher can earn from the U.S. government.

Started in 1983, the presidential awards are handed out to 108 teachers each year for their exemplary teaching. Teachers from all 50 states are given awards which recognize their knowledge in the subject they teach as well as their ability to motivate and engage students. 

Harvey said the award was a nice accomplishment for her years teaching. 

“I was feeling kind of celebrated for being invested in teaching science the way I do,” she said. 

JoAnn Harvey Award

GEMS teacher JoAnn Harvey accepting her award in Vermont. 

Harvey has been an educator for 40 years and a Georgia Elementary School staff member for 21 years. A graduate from the University of Vermont in 1984, Harvey has moved around during her educational career, starting first as a preschool teacher in 2002 and before moving to Kindergarten in 2008. 

In 2012, Harvey became a STEM coach and math specialist before finally becoming a second grade teacher in 2022. 

Harvey describes her teaching style as more hands-on with integrated units. She’ll choose a science topic and then have students explore through other subjects, like reading and math. Having these hands-on activities helps her students be more engaged in lessons and learning. 

“I believe when you think about your own elementary school experience you don’t remember worksheets and day-to-day things, so when I base things off a science idea that’s the in-point,” Harvey said. “Very few children don’t like science experiments; it’s an inroad that helps engage and give memory. It’s connected to their world.”

The work Harvey puts into her students’ learning is extended outside of the classroom. She runs after school programs at GEMS including STEM clubs. Harvey created a planet walk inside the building and she’s worked to engage the local community by creating out-of-school experiences. 

For example, she built a bird sanctuary and a labyrinth outside of the school building for the community to engage in alternative educational experiences. 

During her time as a STEM coach, Harvey said she could recognize the students who were not engaged during their science lessons, and when she was moved to elementary school teaching it was a problem she set out to address. 

“Hopefully kids will come back even from college and say I remember when we built a windmill and designed a plane in elementary school,” Harvey said. “It really engages them and keeps a strong memory they take on to middle and high school. That’s exciting for me.”


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