A Coeur d’Alene mathematics teacher who embraces technology in the classroom and carves out extra time for struggling students was named the 2013 Idaho Teacher of the Year in a surprise assembly Thursday morning at Canfield Middle School.
Katie Pemberton, in her eighth year of teaching, was presented a $1,000 check from the state Department of Education and will receive a free trip to Washington, D.C., to meet President Barack Obama as the state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.
“You inspire me each and every day,” an emotional Pemberton told students and colleagues who gathered to cheer her.
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, teachers, school district officials, Pemberton’s husband, Eric, and her parents and in-laws.
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 since 1999.
“It’s not a fluke,” Bauman said of the winning streak. “It’s because of intentional hiring practices and professional development and nurturing and supporting our teachers.”
The committee noted Pemberton’s penchant for applying for grants to get more technology in her school and classroom – each of her students has a laptop – as well as her collaboration with other teachers locally and across the country.
“She is the most positive person you could ever be around. She is amazingly dedicated to our profession,” said Canfield Principal Nick Lilyquist.
Pemberton arrives early and stays late 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 is a graduate of Ferris High School and Eastern Washington University.
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.
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