by Becky GINOS
CLEARFIELD—A sixth-grade teacher from South Clearfield Elementary has been selected as one of five 2018 Utah finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Kirk Redford is one of two elementary mathematics finalists.
“When he first got here he was good but he’s become amazing,” said Principal Buck Ekstrom. “He thrives on feedback so he can be better. If he gets criticism he doesn’t care; he wants to improve his craft.”
The PAEMST is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 science and mathematics teaching, according to a district release. It was established in 1983 and allows the President to give up to 108 awards each year, two from each state and four U.S. jurisdictions.
Ekstrom nominated Redford for the honor. “At the beginning of the year he sets up his class with high expectations,” he said. “He doesn’t expect them to be perfect but he pushes them and works them. He’s not mean – he just cares about them. He doesn’t treat them like they’re sixth graders he treats them like adults.”
He doesn’t allow any bullying or boloney in his classroom, said Ekstrom. “He doesn’t want anyone putting down another race; he wants everyone to be treated with great respect. I hardly ever have discipline issues with his kids and the special education kids perform and excel beyond what is expected.”
Redford is a masterful math teacher, Ekstrom said. “The way he teaches is with questions. I went into his class one day and they were talking about the solar system. At the end the class was very proficient but he didn’t teach he just asked questions,” he said. “I walked out and thought ‘how did he do that?’”
Although he’s a teacher now, he didn’t start out that way. “I was in marketing and business,” said Redford. “I worked as a logistics specialist then I found out about the alternative route to licensure. I’m glad I did. I started out in fourth grade and I was enjoying that but ended up moving to sixth grade.”
A shy person, Redford said he decided to take some training at Weber State University. “I’m fine in front of kids but not adults. They would have us videotape ourselves teaching and show other teachers who would critique us,” he said. “It was daunting. I’m not a perfect teacher but watching myself I learned so much. I saw that I was doing most of the talking. They taught us to step back and guide the discussion with questions.”
He’s always learning because he wants to be the student he expects his students to be. “I show by example,” said Redford. “I threw away the math answer key because if I can’t solve it, it’s not fair to make them do it.”
Redford uses fun games and stories to help students solve problems. “I ask them what they want to talk about. It keeps me creative and thinking of other things,” he said. “Most of the time kids get to the answer on their own without me even teaching it. It’s amazing. I enjoy it more and I think they enjoy it more.”
After a national selection committee reviews the applications, the White House will announce the results in the summer or fall of 2019, the release said. The two Utahns selected will receive a certificate signed by the President of the United States, a paid trip for two to Washington, D.C. to attend several recognition events and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.
“I’m just fortunate to have a great team to work with,” said Redford. “The principal always allows me to take risks and try new things and I love the district. If I were trying on my own I wouldn’t succeed. It’s not just me it’s a grade level team. I want everyone in sixth grade to succeed.”