Alumna finalist for presidential award

A CSU Monterey Bay graduate has been nominated for a national teaching award.

Stefanie Pechan teaches at the Monterey Bay Aquarium during the summerStefanie Pechan is one of six teachers chosen as California finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. The fifth-grade teacher in the Pacific Grove Unified School District was nominated in the science category.

In 2001, Pechan earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with an emphasis in computer science and technology, and then pursued a teaching credential at Sacramento State.

“I’m really excited,” she said of the nomination. “I’m proud to represent CSUMB and Monterey County.”

She has been teaching for 13 years, five of them at Robert Down Elementary School in Pacific Grove, and is a member of the school’s instructional leadership team. She’s also a member of the education staff at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This summer, she’s showing other elementary school teachers how to refine their skills at the aquarium’s Coastal Systems Teacher Institute.

“I absolutely love teaching,” she says on her website. “It runs in the family as both my mother and grandmother were teachers.” Her father was a microbiologist.

Pechan’s teaching philosophy is based on a hands-on learning approach. Everyone has his or her own unique way of learning, she believes. “It is my job as an educator to meet those needs and to help my students reach their fullest potential.”

The Presidential Awards are the nation's highest honors for math and science teachers. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.

Nominees for the state award had to submit a 45-minute video lesson. A panel of their peers reviewed each candidate’s content knowledge, teaching effectiveness, achievement results and professional involvement.

State finalists have been forwarded to the National Science Foundation, which administers the awards on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. An NSF committee will recommend one or two award winners from each state. They will be invited to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities, meet President Obama and pick up a check for $10,000.

Pechan, 35, said her students are excited about the possibility of their teacher winning national recognition. “I promised them that if I win, we will go to Miyo to get yogurt and celebrate,” she told the Monterey Herald.

©Monterey Bay Aquarium, photo by Tyson Rininger

Visit Pechan’s class website

Learn about teacher education programs at CSUMB