Writing your PAEMST Addendum

PAEMST symbol

Congratulations on becoming a PAEMST state finalist. Just when you think you can breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate that you are a state finalist, you realize you still have a week to write another 9000 very carefully chosen words. 

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teachers, or PAEMST, is the highest award that the US government dedicated to math and science educators. It was created by an act of Congress in 1983. Read Ariel's previous post about the application process HERE.

Your head might be swirling with a ton of questions: Where do you start? What goes in the supplemental materials? Didn’t you do enough already? How did the reviewers actually expect you to write more stuff in the narrative when you already had to decimate your draft and get rid of every spare space to meet the 27,500 characters limit?  How are you supposed to go through this again?


I got you:

1st: Breathe and celebrate! Have a treat. Do a puzzle. Binge some really terrible TV. Read something for fun. Celebrate with your friends and colleagues who helped you get this far.

2nd: Find a cohort of other PAEMST finalists that you can work through this together. They could be your team for the next two years. Shoutout to Katy Dorbos and Johanna Brown who have been my go to supports since we worked on our 2021 applications together.


Now: down to business

3rd: Read through your reviews. Make a google doc where you write down the feedback from the committee and then brainstorm your goals for the pieces of feedback. I highly recommend breaking this down by section. Have fresh eyes look at your narrative because you might not be able to see what you need to add.

For example I received the following piece of feedback for Dimension 1.

DIMENSION 1: Clear writing that spoke to both the importance of understanding science content and the importance of developing models; this was a standout in terms of clearly describing their interrelationship

At first, it didn’t seem as though I had anything to add so I had to consider what my goal for the section was to determine what specific pieces of content I needed to expand upon. I used some suggestions from friends such as Scott Milam to help me clarify my thinking.

Goal: add more details about proportional reasoning and common misconceptions 

  • To me this is about students having an incomplete understanding and using human language to fill in the gaps (particles WANT to take up a smaller volume)

  • I'd try to connect proportional relationships with Kelvin and contrast with Celsius here

  • Or proportional reasoning here might be better


I did not feel a need to address each of the specific questions, but tailored what I wrote to answer the feedback and what would make the overall section better.

4th: Remember the sections are valued in descending order, so after addressing the feedback from the reviewers, spend more attention to the first couple dimensions. 

5th: My suggestion from the supplemental materials comes from Katy Dornbos. If you have a tablet, upload your images to a place  where  you can annotate with what you want to comment. I used my iPad and the notability app and was able to easily upload screenshots, pictures, and even entire documents that I was able to resize, mark, and annotate.

Image from annotated supplemental material for addendum

6th: This application is about you. Add the stories and evidence to make yourself shine. Show the emails, cards, tweets, that show your impact on people. Give specific examples of how your practice is used in the classroom and its impact on your students, school, and larger community. This is your opportunity to brag about how amazing you are.

7th: Consider saving and uploading your supplemental materials as PDFs. While the pagination might work fine on your own device, the uploading and downloading might change it to beyond the requirements. Saving and uploading as a PDF will eliminate all your supplement being sent back by PAEMST.

8th: WAIT. Sorry. While the initial application deadline to state finalist has become a relatively quick turnaround, we 2021 folks have been waiting 2 years for the White House announcement.

Regardless if you became a state finalist or national awardee, be proud of your accomplishments and enjoy the journey.