Brewster High School teacher Dr. Brittany Kozlenko has been selected as one of three New York State finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). PAEMST is the highest honor a STEM educator can receive in the United States.
Over the next month, the National Science Foundation will review the nominations and choose one of three finalists to be the National New York winner. The winner will be announced by the White House Science and Technology Committee and will receive a prize of $ 10,000.
Physics professor Dr Kozlenko was appointed anonymously and had to complete a 13-page application on the five dimensions applicants are assessed on: content mastery, teaching methods, student learning assessments , reflective practices and leadership inside and outside the classroom. In addition, she had to provide a video from one of her classes, photos, three recommendations and more.
A lifelong student with honors, Dr. Kozlenko always knew she wanted to be a teacher.
“I really liked math and science,” she says. “When I started to think about what I would like to do for the rest of my life, I leaned towards science because I love the way you can explain the world through it.”
She credits her physics teacher, Dr Arthur Eisenkraft (himself a PAEMST laureate and former president of the National Science Teachers Association), for leading her to focus on physics over other sciences.
“He was just amazing,” she said. “He came every day super excited. You couldn’t help but be excited about what you were learning.
That excitement has certainly rubbed off on Dr. Kozlenko, whose enthusiasm for her work is impossible to fail when she begins to talk about it.
“My favorite part about teaching is that first of all it’s super fun,” she said with a laugh. “I like to watch students start by throwing words that have real physical meaning but they don’t use correctly. As soon as we explain why a certain phenomenon is happening and explain it, all of a sudden it clicks and they say “this is so cool! This is, for me, the most exciting – seeing how excited they are about understanding the world. “
Understanding the world around them is Dr Kozlenko’s hope for all of his students.
“I hope they understand that physics is everywhere and that they start to see the world in a different light; that they start to think about the impact of what is happening and why it is happening, ”she said.
But she doesn’t want it to end there.
“I want them to change the way they think and, rather than being passive learners and taking the world as it is, to take control and start thinking about it when they encounter a problem. Most of the class shows them something that is going on and asks them to understand why. This changes them from being a sponge to being more active learners in their own lives.
It is not just the students who are touched by his passion for his work. Peter LaMoreaux, a high school physics teacher and one of the people who wrote a letter of recommendation for Dr. Kozlenko, noted that his influence is felt throughout the school community.
“Dr. Kozlenko inspires learning through her innovative pedagogy and contagious enthusiasm,” said LaMoreaux. “She is a wonderful teacher and colleague and serves as an educational leader for her students and for the entire Brewster High School. . “