Filipino American Math Teacher Named State Finalist of Presidential Award of Excellence In Mathematics and Science Teaching

From right to left, teacher Marcella Clark with mother Bernice Clark and Hawaii State Superintendent of Education Keith Hayashi

by Jim Bea Sampaga

Filipino American math teacher Marcella Clark has been teaching mathematics for the past 16 years at Kawananakoa Middle School (KMS). Last month, she was named as one of Hawaii’s five state finalists for the prestigious Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“I was definitely honored to hear that I was a State finalist for the Mathematics award, and in some ways, it gave me some reassurance that I’m making progress in my teaching journey and having an impact on my students,” Clark shared.

“I am humbled, though, because even after 16 years of teaching, I still consider myself a work in progress. I am constantly looking for better ways to keep students curious about math.”

PAEMST is the highest honor awarded to K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teachers by the United States government. The award recognizes teachers with deep knowledge of the subjects they teach while actively motivating their students to achieve success.

Nominated by KMS’s Vice Principal Dr. Bebi Davis, Clark admitted that the application packet was comprehensive and time-consuming to complete. However, this process gave her the opportunity to reflect on her career and the evolution of her teaching.

Born and raised in Honolulu, Clark was a 2001 graduate of Sacred Hearts Academy where she developed a love for math. “I was inspired by my math teachers, especially Mrs. Deborah Kula, who introduced me to a graphing calculator back when it was a fairly new form of technology used in the classroom,” she said.

Clark later attended Fordham University in New York City and earned her BA in Mathematics with a minor in Visual Arts in 2005. As a true believer in continuing her progress, she earned her teaching certificate from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2008 and an M.Ed. in Curriculum Studies (Mathematics) in 2013.

“While in college and during summers between school years, I took jobs that either involved tutoring or working with young people.  As a tutor for math, I especially enjoyed helping students make sense of difficult concepts,” she added.

Clark values the importance of strategy, teamwork and brainstorming. At the KMS faculty, Clark and her colleagues have a strong support group that shares teaching strategies and ideas with one another.

In the classroom, she encourages students to share their thought processes and understanding of mathematical ideas.

“I also get very excited when students have “healthy” arguments about mathematical ideas. I’ve made it a priority to have students share their thinking and justify their reasoning and have tried to cultivate a learning environment that welcomes all voices. I also enjoy seeing a student persevere until he/she finally understands a challenging problem,” she shared.

Moreover, she also nurtures her students’ educational well-being through Math Team advisorship and Volleyball coaching.

Growing up Filipino American, Clark is a granddaughter of sakadas Angel and Rose Ramos of Kahuku. She credits her grandparents who inspired her to pursue her teaching career.

“Something I value the most is having a strong work ethic and putting forth my best effort. I emphasize that in my math classes. My grandparents valued education. In fact, my grandfather earned a GED while working as a plantation laborer. He led by example,” she explained.

When asked about her message to aspiring teachers, she said: “Never stop learning. What you value, your students will value. Take risks in the classroom. Try new lessons and strategies and have high expectations for students.”

As for her PAEMST finalist award, Clark emphasizes the need to support and honor the teachers in our community.

“While I am just one teacher who has received recognition, there are countless other deserving teachers working every day to make a difference in students’ lives. We should all continue to support their efforts as a community. Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience,” she said.

Get the latest stories from Hawaii Filipino Chronicle straight to your inbox! Subscribe to our FREE newsletter here.

About Author

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.