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Love of science paves path to prestigious award

Cathy Kindem won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Cathy Kindem was a young girl when she discovered the joys of scientific exploration. Now the work she has done helping other kids find similar joy has earned her a prestigious national award.

Kindem, currently coordinator of innovative programs in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District, was a teacher the district’s Cedar Park Elementary STEM School when she was nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. That nomination led first to an extensive application process, then a notification in June of 2012 that she was one of two Minnesota science nominees for the national award. Selection of national winners usually takes about a year, but Kindem did not find out until Dec. 20 that she had won.

By that time, she had mostly put the award out of her mind. She got the good news in an email.

“It was a name I didn’t recognize, and there it was,” Kindem said. “I was very excited. I read it and I kind of jumped up from my seat.”

The national award is given each year to up to two teachers from each state — one in math and one in science. As part of the recognition Kindem will travel to Washington, D.C. for an official ceremony. She will also receive a $10,000 prize to spend however she sees fit.

Kindem discovered her own love of science early on. She entered science fairs in elementary school and was a member of the science club in high school. One high school project explored the use of garlic juice as an herbicide.

“I just really enjoyed the process of wondering and asking questions and exploring the natural world,” she said.

Later, she discovered the joy of watching her students go through the same process.

When she started teaching, Kindem founded a co-curricular science club for students. She spent six years as a fifth grade teacher at Diamond Path Elementary School of International Studies, then spent five years at the Cedar Park Elementary STEM School in Apple Valley before taking her current position.

“Cathy is an outstanding educator and innovative thinker who is constantly looking for ways to enhance the learning experience for students,” superintendent Jane Berenz said. ”She is truly a deserving recipient of this prestigious award.”

Kindem was nominated for the award by a colleague she’s worked with in science and technology camps. But the nomination was only the start of the process. She spent months filling out an application that included questions related to science education and an essay about an area of science education where students struggle. She also had to videotape her lessons and talk about how she had grown professionally.

“It was a very involved process, but I was happy to do it knowing I was nominated,” Kindem said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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