Algonquin teacher Lisa Feltman, one of 102 recipients nationally of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, says her absolute passion is teaching math.
The award, announced Friday, is just the latest among several accolades for Feltman, a fifth-grade teacher at Neubert Elementary School, who also was a state finalist for the award in 2008.
"I'm very strong at math, and I've always excelled in math. I love math," said Feltman, 46, of Lake in the Hills, who is in her 24th year teaching at Carpentersville-based Community District 300.
"I think I'm still a little numb that it actually has happened."
The presidential award is given annually to two outstanding science and math teachers from each state. K to 6th grade teachers, and 7th through 12th grade teachers, are named on alternate years.
A panel of scientists, mathematicians, and educators selected this year's winners.
The winners will receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation and are also invited to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events.
As an elementary schoolteacher, Feltman is in charge of teaching everything from math and science to literacy, vocabulary, grammar and social studies.
Teaching math wasn't that easy at first, she said.
"It was too easy for me, and I didn't get why other people didn't get it," she said.
It was only when she took special education coursework as part of her master's degree from Northern Illinois University that things clicked.
"I developed ways to bridge that gap," she said. "I teach to the individual, no matter how large my class."
Feltman initially taught in District 300's program for students with behavior disorders for about a decade, first at Algonquin Middle School and then at Perry Elementary School.
When the program moved across the district, Feltman switched to teaching regular education at Neubert, where she's lead 5th grade classrooms for the last 13 years.
"It was a good time to decide, 'What do I want to do?'" she said.
Feltman was the Kane County Elementary Teacher of the Year in 2006, according to her online biography. She received National Board certification in 2010.
Teachers like Feltman inspire young students to become the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and innovators, President Barack Obama said in a statement. "Through their passion and dedication, and by sharing their excitement about science, technology, engineering, and math, they are helping us build a promising future for all our children."
Feltman and her husband Mark have three sons ages 12, 16 and 18. The couple met at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store in Hanover Park and were high school sweethearts at Streamwood High School, she said.
They eventually became owners of that store, which became a Kaleidoscoops in 2001 along with a second store in St. Charles. The stores eventually closed as a result of the economic recession, she said.
Feltman said she's looking forward to carrying the award's torch.
"I'm very excited because at the elementary level, most teachers' passion is literacy," she said. "I hope this award will help me to lead others down the path of best practices in math and being aligned to the Common Core standards."