Gabriela Cárdenas Receives Highest U.S. Award for K-12 Teaching

UCLA Lab School Demonstration Teacher Gabriela Cárdenas has been named the recipient of a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) on June 25, 2018. The PAEMST is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government for teaching mathematics and science at the K-12 level. Cárdenas is among the 104 teachers from around the country who are PAEMST recipients this year.

In announcing the awards, Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the president for Technology Policy, said, “On behalf of the White House I am honored to express the nation’s gratitude for the tireless dedication that these men and women bring to educating the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians.”

Cárdenas, who team teaches a multi-age class for 5- to 7-year-olds (equivalent of grades 1 and 2) in the laboratory school’s Dual Language Immersion Program for Spanish and English, was recognized in the kindergarten through grade 6 category for her teaching of mathematics.

“It is truly a humbling experience to be accepting this award,” Cárdenas said. “This Presidential Award is a testament to the many outstanding mentors, colleagues, and students I have had across the years that have shaped the educator I am today. Receiving this award validates that valuing children’s thinking, allowing them to solve problems in ways that make sense to them, and helping them to persevere through the most challenging problems, makes learning mathematics effective, equitable, and accessible.”

Like her UCLA Lab School colleagues, Cárdenas uses CGI, or Cognitively Guided Instruction, to help children learn mathematics with understanding. A demonstration teacher at the school for the past seven years, she has shared her practice at conferences and workshops in Los Angeles, around the country, and internationally, including for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), UCLA Center X, Project EXCEL North East Region Center X Summer Institute, California Mathematics Council-Annual Conference, and Foro Internacional de Innovación Educativa (FIED) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She also has contributed to published works and online resources on dual language learning, formative assessment, and the Common Core State Standards.

Before joining the laboratory school, Cárdenas taught for seven years at Para Los Niños Charter Elementary School, where she worked with children and famiiles from one of the most economically challenged neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

“We are so proud to join in congratulating Gabby on receiving this highest honor for teachers in our country,” said Norma Silva, who has been Cárdenas’s principal both at UCLA Lab School and Para Los Niños. “Her commitment to diverse learners is exemplary. She is an avid learner and a teacher who listens intently and responds to the voices of children, honoring their strategies, ideas, and concerns while compelling learning to greater depths through questioning and experiential learning in a democratic learning community. Her skills in the CGI approach coupled with language development strategies promote academic discourse, engagement, and excitement in learning. Her teaching is the Dewey philosophy and the nexus of research and practice at the highest levels of teaching and learning.”

In recommending Cárdenas for the award, UCLA Professor Alison Bailey said “her instructional strategies are not only appropriate but often invented anew to support the mathematics learning of the ELL and English proficient/only students in her classroom. Her use of effective student assessment is at the forefront of the work she does and stands to teach the education world how best to seamlessly integrate formative assessment and instruction in mathematics with diverse learners at the elementary level.”

Bailey added that she believes Cárdenas is “preparing her students to be those 21st Century learners everyone is talking about but few know how to assist.”

During a visit to the nation’s capital, award recipients each received a presidential citation at an awards ceremony and participated in discussions on STEM and STEM education priorities led by OSTP and NSF. Recipients also receive $10,000 from NSF, which manages the PAEMST program on behalf of the White House.

gabriela cardenas and colleagues posing with award at ceremony
four women gathered at awards dinner and smiling in camera
presentation slide of gabriela cardenas from awards show
biography from commemorative program
presidential award for excellence in teaching signed by Donald Trump
cookie decorated with presidential award seal