Christiansburg teacher honored with Presidential Award

It's the nation's highest honor for math and science teachers


CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – For 11 years, Kathy O’Dell has taught at Christiansburg Middle School.

In July, she was recognized by the National Science Foundation with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching for K-6 Math.

This award is the nation’s highest honor for math and science teachers.

O’Dell traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive the award and also took part in the State-Federal STEM Summit, sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

“I am honored to be chosen for this award,” said O’Dell. “As I worked with representatives from other states, I saw how lucky were are in Montgomery County to have a strong instructional vision and a focus on technology and STEM resources.”

During the two-day awards event, O’Dell participated in a small-group tour of the White House and dinner at the Smithsonian.

The Presidential Award for Teaching includes a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation. O’Dell plans to use the funds for higher education expenses for her and her daughter.

O’Dell was nominated for the award in 2015 by Jonathan Schulz, then administrator of mathematics curriculum. To be considered, O’Dell submitted essays and video that demonstrated evidence of deep content knowledge and exemplary teaching that results in improved student learning.

She learned she was a state finalist in 2016. She was notified that she was a Presidential Award winner when she arrived in Washington, D.C. for the awards event.

“I assumed that all finalists would attend the event and that the winners would be announced there,” said O’Dell. “It was a surprise and an honor to realize that I was the math teacher honoree from Virginia.”

O’Dell received a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in 1992.

She worked in the field of child care for 15 years and completed a career switcher program to receive her teaching credentials. She received her master's degree from Virginia Tech in 2017.