UNCP professor receives Presidential Award

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Dr. Kayonna Pitchford, (center) pictured with John Holdren, assistant to the President for Science and Technology and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director and Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy, assistant director, Directorate for Education and Human Resources with the National Science Foundation

Dr. Kayonna Pitchford, (center) pictured with John Holdren, assistant to the President for Science and Technology and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director and Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy, assistant director, Directorate for Education and Human Resources with the National Science Foundation.


 

Dr. Kayonna “Kay” Pitchford, an elementary education professor at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, recently received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. 

Dr. Pitchford was among 213 educators nationwide to receive the prestigious honor. She was presented the award during a ceremony at Constitution Hall in the nation’s capital on September 8. 

Dr. Pitchford joined the UNCP faculty in August. She won the award for her outstanding talents as a math teacher at Stoney Point Elementary School in Fayetteville. 

The Presidential Award is the nation’s highest recognition that a K-12 math or science teacher may receive.

“It is an honor to represent the many exceptional elementary mathematics teachers in North Carolina by accepting this Presidential Award,” Dr. Pitchford said. 

“Conferred by the President of the United States, this award communicates the importance of effective teaching at the elementary level and validates our efforts to provide children with the best possible educational foundation for achieving in the elementary grades and beyond,” she said. 

“Teaching is my passion, and I am grateful to be recognized for what I love to do,” Dr. Pitchford said. 

While in Washington, D.C., she attended events at the National Zoo and Grand Hyatt Washington and toured the East Wing of the White House. She met Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy and Megan Smith, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. 

“I was honored to be recognized by the White House,” she said. “We were treated very well and I especially enjoyed the opportunity to network and fellowship with other awardees. I also thought about other fantastic teachers I know who need to be recognized for their work with children. 

"There are many teachers who are making a difference in the lives of children, and there should be more ways for these teachers to feel appreciated.” 

As an educator for 20 years, Dr. Pitchford has supported teachers through leading professional development, selecting educational materials, assisting with lesson planning, monitoring instruction, and presenting model lessons. 

She shares and promotes a strong belief in building a solid mathematical foundation through the use of manipulatives, worthwhile tasks, reasoning, and cooperative learning. 

“The award and the ceremony served as an affirmation that our instructional choices help children engage in important learning experiences now and prepare them for success in the future,” Pitchford said. 

Dr. Pitchford is thrilled to take this next step in mentoring future teachers at UNC Pembroke’s School of Education. To her, it’s exciting to lead those who will educate the future of our country. 

Originally from New Bern, Pitchford received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from UNC Greensboro, a M.Ed. in elementary education from Fayetteville State University, and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from North Carolina State University. 

She recently completed an add-on licensure program for school administration at UNC Wilmington. She is a National Board Certified Middle Childhood Generalist and certified in elementary education and as a curriculum-instructional specialist. 

UNC Pembroke is a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina system. For more information, contact Jodi Phelps, executive director of University Communications and Marketing, via email (jodi.phelps@uncp.edu) or by phone (910.521.6863). Connect with UNC Pembroke on social media or online at uncp.edu to learn how the university is changing lives through education.