UAB alumna receives nation’s highest honor for teaching

Kindergarten teacher Heather Simpson has been awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Written by: Tiffany Westry

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heather simpson webUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham alumna and Georgia native Heather Simpson has been selected for the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award is the highest recognition that a K-12 mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States. 

Simpson is one of 140 math and science teachers selected for the award. She was presented with an official commendation signed by President Donald J. Trump during a visit to the nation’s capital and a $10,000 grant from the National Science Foundation in June.

“Knowing that all students are capable of becoming mathematicians and engineers is the driving force behind my instruction,” Simpson said. “Receiving this prestigious award further encourages and affirms me in my work equipping young minds for the world that awaits them. I am honored and very humbled to accept the Presidential Award and am so thankful to my family, friends, administrators and colleagues who have shaped me into the educator I am while pushing me to become the educator I want to be.”

Simpson received a master’s degree in early childhood education in 2010 and an education specialist degree in teacher leadership in 2016 from the UAB School of Education. She is a teacher at Hueytown Elementary School, where she has taught all subjects of kindergarten, including mathematics, for 10 years. She previously taught kindergarten at Sumter County Primary School in Americus, Georgia.

“I credit much of my success to UAB’s School of Education,” Simpson said. “Many of my professors were currently serving or had recently served local school districts as faculty members or administrators, which means our graduate school curriculum was not far removed from the current realities of America’s schools. Though I was immersed in educational theory, a large focus of my coursework was on best practices, which translates to student success.” 

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is presented annually to outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers. Winners are selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators following an initial selection process that takes place at the state level. Each year, the award alternates between teachers of kindergarten through sixth grade and those teaching seventh through 12th grades.