An Armour kindergarten teacher was nationally recognized recently for her contributions to teaching science and mathematics.

Kelly Preheim, who teaches kindergarten at Armour Public School, was among the recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching recognized last weekend at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and/or computer science teaching. The awards were established by Congress in 1983 and the president may recognize up to 108 exemplary teachers each year.

Recipients of the award also receive a certificate signed by the President of the United States, a trip to Washington D.C. to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation. Preheim said it was an honor to receive the award.

“I was so happy and excited when I read the email while we were in rural Colorado on a camping trip this past June,” Preheim said. “I had a week to get several forms filled out and have a photo taken. We cut our trip short and headed home, so I could meet the deadline.”

Preheim, who grew up in the Turner County town of Monroe, has taught as an elementary teacher for over 30 years and has taught all subjects of kindergarten for the last 27 years at Armour Public School after also having taught at Hurley. She said she taps into her own interest of science and birds to engage her students in lessons.

“I always loved nature and taught about it throughout the years," she said. "In 2010, I went to my first birding festival, which happened to be South Dakota’s first birding festival. The University of South Dakota’s Dave Swanson presented a slideshow on local birds and I was so surprised at the variety of birds that were in my area that I didn’t know about.”

She was soon sharing that love of birds with her students.

“I was so excited about what I had learned about birds and what I was seeing that I started talking about it with my kindergarteners. I noticed they caught on quickly and loved talking about birds. That next year and thereafter, I started teaching about birds from the beginning of the school year,” Preheim said.

The enthusiasm of her students is just one reason when enjoys teaching as a profession.

“I enjoy their sense of wonder and how they are trying to figure out this world and their surroundings,” Preheim said. “I love seeing the progress kindergartners make throughout the year. By the end of the year they can read and write. Their vocabulary has blossomed and they know so many things.”

Preheim earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of South Dakota. She also recently became a National Geographic Certified Educator and is certified in elementary education. In addition to her work with birds and kindergartners, she also heads up the after school Chickadee Bird Club for students in the second-through-eighth grades.

Preheim got to spend some time in Washington, D.C. as part of the award ceremony last weekend. Betsy DeVos, the United States Secretary of Education, was in attendance and thanked the teachers for their dedication to teaching. It was a chance to interact with other award recipients and take in the attractions of the nation’s capital.

Preheim said she would not have been able to do the work that helped bring her the award without the support of her fellow teachers, administrators and the students themselves, whose enthusiasm for the sciences is reflected in their own dedication in the classroom.

And she encourages other teachers to embrace a passion of their own and introduce that passion to their students. The results can benefit the students and the teacher, she said.

“When I began teaching my passion of birds and nature to my students, I saw a big change in my kindergartners as they became experts on something that most adults know little about,” Preheim said. “I would recommend teachers incorporate something that are passionate about.”

She also said there are many teachers worthy of the PAEMST, but the only way they will receive the recognition is by putting themselves out there and applying.

“I realize there are many teachers worthy of this award, so I’d like to encourage math and science teachers to consider applying for it,” she said.

The award has been a nice recognition, she said, but it won’t change her dedication to her students and their continued learning about the natural world around them. She sees that continuing this year and into the future.

“I have no plans of retiring anytime soon. I love teaching and I can only imagine how much I’d miss it,” Preheim said.

The National Science Foundation administers the awards on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.