Dave Baird’s smile is a familiar sight in the upstairs hallway at Charlotte Central School; it’s not always an easy feat to keep smiling when one is in the company of 10- and 11-year-olds all day, but he keeps it steady.
His congenial manner and teaching style is appealing to students and is now being recognized nationally – the White House Office of Science and Technology and the National Science Foundation recently announced that Baird won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
As one of 140 teachers across the U.S. and its territories who were presented the award, and the only one from Vermont, Baird received $10,00 from the NSF, a presidential citation, and an invitation to the White House for an awards ceremony and opportunities for discussions with other educators about STEM education. Baird, who lives in Shelburne, said he did not attend the ceremony in Washington, D.C. in part because he was running a Rube Goldberg summer camp at CCS that week. Even though he missed out on some interesting STEM education workshops, he said, “I was learning about it right there with the kids at camp.”
The award is given to teachers who are outstanding for their contributions to science and math teaching and learning. Baird teaches both subjects at CCS, and said though he initially enjoyed teaching science more, math education has become his true passion.
“I love being a part of the process of students discovering how things work and having “Aha!” moments,” he said. “I love watching students who have little self-esteem transform into confident, risk-taking mathematicians.”
He also said that he gets as much out of the process as the students do. “I really believe I’m lucky to have the job I have, because I get to learn more about math every day, right alongside the mathematicians in my class. Most of all, I love that I change students’ perceptions about math, and that many students leave fifth grade loving math and truly believing that they are the incredible mathematical thinkers that they are.”
Baird was nominated for the award in 2015 by CCS principal Stephanie Sumner. He has taught at the school since 2005.