Alumnus earns national accolades for his teaching prowess in math

Nathan Shields ’02 has been awarded the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

President Barack Obama named 97 mathematics and science teachers as recipients of the award, which is the highest honor for outstanding K-12 math and science teachers in the United States.

Winners of the Presidential Teaching Award receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation to use at their discretion, in addition to an invitation to a Washington, D.C. awards ceremony.

“The award is a validation of the support I have experienced from family and colleagues,” Shields says. “I am very grateful to the many talented educators in my school and district for fueling my personal growth, but I am more grateful to the many students whose beautiful minds and hearts I have had the privilege of beholding.”

For the past six years, Shields has taught mathematics at Fort Vancouver High School. He has created interactive web sites and online tools for his department and classes, coached the school’s Mathematics Team and organized mathematics competitions.

Shields has also led students and colleagues in the creation of mathematics videos, including his “Pi Rap Battle,” which has been viewed more than 150,000 times in classrooms around the world.

Shields graduated magna cum laude from Willamette, with degrees in mathematics and computer science. He received his masters in teaching from Western Washington University, and he is National Board Certified in secondary mathematics.

Shields credits Willamette and his liberal arts education with preparing him to be a successful teacher.

“I had many engaging instructors at Willamette, primarily in the math and computer science departments,” he says. “The liberal arts experience has been quite valuable for me, helping to broaden my worldview, which affects my relationships with students.”

The annual Presidential Teaching Award recognizes teachers’ commitment to students and their contributions to the profession of teaching. Following an initial selection process at the state level, a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators select the winners.

Each year the award alternates between kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers and those teaching seventh through 12th grades.