Charlotte Central School’s (CCS) very own David Baird has been honored with a national award for his outstanding teaching in math and science.
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are awarded to 140 teachers from around the country each year for outstanding teaching lessons in their fields. Baird is the only one from Vermont to receive the honor this year.
Baird was nominated for the award by CCS Principal Stephanie Sumner in 2016. Baird and Sumner have had a close working relationship at CCS, beginning with Baird as Sumner’s mentor when she first got to the school. Baird has been teaching at CCS for 12 years and is currently the fifth-grade mathematics and science teacher. “When my principal first nominated me, I at first was very flattered. Then I went and looked up what I needed to do to apply. I was teaching and coaching full time and didn’t know if I could take on all of this,” said Baird.
“I think it’s a neat honor, but I like to think that I got this because I applied for it,” Baird said. He explained that it took over 40 hours of paperwork to submit the application and nearly two years for it to process since it has to cross President Trump’s desk.
“I try to—no matter what I’m teaching—make it fun. I believe that if you can make it fun, the learning kind of just happens,” said Baird.
It was his fun ideas for teaching that were highlighted in his application. Part of the application process is filming a 50-minute lesson plan. Baird created a game show to teach students the difference between the sharing and grouping models of division. “I designed this lesson for the kids to focus on the difference between when you share and when you group divide, and I made it into a game show. I asked, ‘Is it sharing or grouping?’ and the kids had to explain their reasoning,” Baird said. “When you embed learning into a game, the kids are more invested in it and it’s a lot easier to learn.”
The award included a three-day trip to Washington, D.C., to celebrate all the recipients, which Baird turned down in order to run his annual Rube Goldberg Machine summer camp.
Baird closed his application with “An Open Message to the Selection Committee” expressing his love for his students and the growth he sees in them every day. At the end of this letter, he said, “Most of all, I love that I change student’s 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.”