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CdA math instructor named Idaho Teacher of the Year

Canfield Middle School math teacher Katie Pemberton was named Idaho Teacher of the Year during a ceremony this morning at the school in Coeur d'Alene. (Kathy Plonka)
Canfield Middle School math teacher Katie Pemberton was named Idaho Teacher of the Year during a ceremony this morning at the school in Coeur d'Alene. (Kathy Plonka)

A Coeur d’Alene mathematics teacher who embraces technology in the classroom and carves out lots of time for her students was named Idaho Teacher of the Year in a surprise assembly at Canfield Middle School this morning.

Katie Pemberton was presented a $1,000 check from the state Department of Education and will receive a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet President Barack Obama as the state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.

Coeur d’Alene Superintendent Hazel Bauman, who spent time in Pemberton’s class last week, said the honor is well deserved.

“She is the consummate professional. She puts hours and hours into her planning and preparation, and it shows,” Bauman said. “The kids are highly engaged. The lessons are at a very high level of cognition, so kids are straining their brains. And so consequently the learning is amazing.”

State Schools Superintendent Tom Luna announced the selection in the school gym, packed with nearly 800 students, Pemberton’s fellow teachers and family members, and school district officials.

Her selection recognizes the importance of innovation and new ideas in education, Luna said.

“Mrs. Pemberton has embraced technology and shown how it can engage more students and make education more relevant and rigorous for students,” he said.

A state committee of teachers, education leaders, parents and legislators selects the Idaho Teacher of the Year from among school district nominations.

This is the seventh teacher in the Coeur d’Alene School District to receive the top state teacher award in the past 13 years.

“She is the most positive person you could ever be around. She is amazingly dedicated to our profession,” Canfield Principal Nick Lilyquist said.

Pemberton is known for making time before and after school to meet with students who need extra help, Lilyquist said. “She wants all of her students to succeed.”

Pemberton also works as an adjunct professor at Lewis-Clark State College. In 2011, she won the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

She said she knew at age 7 she wanted to teach. She is in her eight year of teaching, all of it at Canfield.

“You inspire me each and every day,” an emotional Pemberton told the students who gathered to cheer her.

Two of her eighth grade students praised Pemberton for devoting extra time to help them, and for making learning easier with the use of laptop computers and digital tablets in the classroom.

She even turns to technology to keep teaching when absent, said Kallen Langley, 14. “When we have subs, she’ll make a video in the classroom teaching the lesson,” he said.

“She’s just very kind and soft-spoken,” added Megan McPhee, 14, who has met with Pemberton before school for help with pre-algebra.

Pemberton recently told her students not even a big lottery jackpot could pull her away from her profession. “She said like even if she won she’d still want to teach just because she likes it so much,” Langley said.