It’s not every day someone is honored by the president of the United States.
But for Delran High School science teacher Siobhan McVay, Oct. 15 was that day.
On Oct. 15, President Trump announced the recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. McVay was among the winners.
Established in 1983, the PAEMST is the highest award given by the U.S. Government to kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers. Awardees come from schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity schools and schools in the United States territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.
For McVay, the wait to learn she won the award was a long time coming. McVay was first nominated by a colleague in November 2015. She would then go through a long process that included sending three letters of recommendation, a resume, portfolio, documents describing her teacher philosophy and even a 40-minute uninterrupted video.
McVay found out she was a finalist in the summer of 2017.
“After that, I didn’t hear anything back for a long time because I guess they were reviewing it,” she said. “I received official word that I won probably about a week ago. All of the winners then went down to Washington, D.C. to be honored.
“It’s an amazing honor to be recognized for your work,” McVay continued. “It’s always a surprise when you win. Even though I applied, you know it’s not a foregone conclusion that you will win.”
McVay receiving the most prestigious award for education is actually an interesting twist given that she originally wanted to be a veterinarian. Prior to graduating and getting set to go to vet school, McVay started to question if becoming a veterinarian was what she actually wanted to do.
McVay’s shift to becoming a science teacher was not only due to her love of science, but also because she wanted to have a direct impact on the community and the youth. The talent and interest McVay displayed in the science and education fields was something one of her college professors noticed, then mentioning McVay would probably be a successful teacher and enjoy the profession.
Since changing her field, McVay hasn’t looked back and has been able to impact the students of Delran, as well as many professionals, through her involvement in various organizations and conferences.