Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill teacher wins Presidential Award for Excellence

From staff reports


Springfield Middle School science teacher Gail Vawter has been awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

The Presidential Award for Excellence is the nation’s highest honor for math and science teachers. Applicants must complete a 17-page application packet that requires detailed information from the teacher, including a videotaped classroom lesson.

Winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching receive a $10,000 prize and a trip to Washington, D.C., this month for several days of events and recognition, including professional development opportunities and a meeting with legislators.

Vawter has taught for 10 years at Springfield Middle School. She has been an educator for 29 years. This was the third time she applied for the award and previously was named a finalist. Vawter said she continued applying because she wanted the opportunity to represent Fort Mill on a national level.

“I want to toot Fort Mill’s horn,” she said.

“The opportunities to grow here as a professional have really helped me reach this goal. The administration and the teachers here are phenomenal. I so appreciate being here and being encouraged to grow.”

Vawter said it’s a lesson in perseverance.

“I want to use this as an example for my students,” she said.

“I started in 2011 and I was willing to try again two or three more times if I needed too. If it’s something you really want badly, you keep working for it.”

In addition to teaching science at Springfield Middle School, Vawter serves as a mentor and adjunct professor at Winthrop University. She works with priority schools in South Carolina as a science curriculum specialist, and she trains scorers for National Board Renewals. She has presented at state and national conferences and serves on the Board for the South Carolina Association for Middle Level Educators. In 2004, Vawter was named Fort Mill District Teacher of the Year and in 2013 was named a Siemens STEM Institute Fellow.

“Mrs. Vawter is the embodiment of the spirit of excellence we strive for in the Fort Mill School District,” said Superintendent Chuck Epps.