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ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) — Jennifer Kennedy, a STEM Lab Specialist at the SPARK Academy at Cowart Elementary School, has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and
Science Teaching (PAEMST).

She is one of 102 teachers across the country to win the prestigious award. Those teachers are named by President Joe Biden with two educators selected from each state: one focusing on math, and the other on science. Kennedy won the science award.

The PAEMST awards are among the nation’s highest honor of distinction for K-12 mathematics, science, technology, engineering, and computer science educators.

When asked about being selected for the award, Kennedy told News 19, “I’m still trying to believe the fact that they chose me, I am incredibly honored.”

Kennedy has been teaching for 27 years, and her passion for teaching can be seen through her colorful classroom. The shelves are filled with teaching materials, toys, and 3D printers. Her students are currently learning how to grow vegetables. Right now different varieties of lettuce are growing under special lights.

Kennedy said winning the award is a great honor. She said it also brings attention to what SPARK Academy is doing to promote STEM from a young age.

“It was a way for other people who aren’t in our school to and who aren’t familiar with our program to say you know what, you’re doing the right thing for kids, and you’re doing a great job doing it,” Kennedy stated.

SPARK stands for scientific project-based academic research by kids. The curriculum is focused on following the process: ask, imagine, plan, create, test, improve, and share.

Kennedy said she loves watching the lightbulb turn on in kids when they learn something new.

“I love being with the kids and watching them discover new things,” she told News 19. “When their faces light up because they figure something out, its really amazing.”

Part of winning the award includes a trip to Washington, D.C. There she will get to meet with other award recipients and share ideas. She said she also hopes they will get to meet President Joe Biden and First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden.

The award also comes with a monetary component. Kennedy said she is extremely grateful.