Niskayuna High School teacher to be honored with Presidential Award

Niskayuna high school teacher Daniel F. Mattoon will be honored by President Obama for excellence in mathematics education.Niskayuna high school teacher Daniel F. Mattoon will be honored by President Obama for excellence in mathematics education.

— President Obama will honor Niskayuna High School teacher Daniel F. Mattoon with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching on Sept. 8.

Only two math and science teachers of grades 7-12 from each state are honored each year. A similarly small group of K-6 teachers are honored as well.

The honorees were announced Aug. 22.

“I am honored to be chosen for this, the most prestigious award for a mathematics educator. The Presidential Award is a testament to the effect every student and educator had on shaping me into the teacher that I am. Achievement for this award is a credit to the hard work from my students and my passion for teaching mathematics. This award opens up opportunities for me to grow and challenges me to strive for even higher excellence in my teaching,” Mattoon said.

He has been a mathematics educator for 11 years and currently teaches geometry, multivariable calculus and computer science at Niskayuna High School.

Before coming to teach at Niskayuna, Mattoon was a mathematics coach at Capital Region Boards of Cooperative Educational Services and a teacher at Heatly High School in Green Island.

Mattoon earned a bachelor’s in mathematics and computer science from Siena College and his master’s from Union Graduate College. He is certified to teach grade seven to 12 mathematics and is a National Board Certified Teacher in mathematics for adolescents and young adults.

Mattoon’s teaching style focuses on mathematical discussion. He encourages his students to go beyond merely solving math problems to cultivate an understanding of how math and computer science work.

He is also involved in the teaching community as the data manager for the Association of Mathematics Teachers of New York state and as a member of the Math Content Advisory Panel, which guides the mathematics section of the Common Core tests.

“The process started almost two years ago when I was nominated by a parent of one of my students and a colleague,” Mattoon said.

After turning in his application in spring of 2015, Mattoon waited as a panel of mathematicians, scientists and educators from across the state reviewed and whittled down the applications.

For the past year, Mattoon knew that he was a finalist for the award, but he said that actually winning was a surreal moment for him.

According to a news release, Mattoon wanted to recognize Cheryl Stockwell and the entire Niskayuna math department as key influencers in his teaching career thus far.

“Even though it was my work submitted, I have learned so much from my colleagues at Niskayuna; it’s really a culmination of my work through them. This is their award,” he said in the news release.

Along with the award, Mattoon will receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation to use at his discretion. On Sept. 8, he will travel to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony, as well educational and celebratory events and visits with members of the Obama Administration.

Although the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching has been awarded since 1983, Obama’s administration has placed an emphasis on it and has been working to further STEM programs since 2009 with its Educate to Innovate campaign.

For Mattoon, it was an honor to be nominated for doing what he loves the most, helping his students gain an appreciation for mathematics.

“Congratulations to Daniel on this tremendous honor,” said Niskayuna Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. “He is highly regarded for his work in computer science, calculus and geometry, as well as his contributions to his colleagues and profession. I also believe that recognition such as this is representative of the level of professionalism and excellence that Niskayuna teachers bring to the classroom every day.”

Mattoon said he will set aside some of his $10,000 award for his 3-year-old son’s education and for the new house that he is working to build with his wife, Elizabeth.

Reach Gazette reporter Indiana Nash at 417-9362, or @indijnash on Twitter.