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Two Miami alumni awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Brian McDowell, ‘94 MAT '02 and Helen Corveleyn, MAT ‘20, credit Miami experience for inspiration in their science teaching

Helen Corvelyn and Brian McDowell
School teachers and Miami alumni Helen Corveleyn MAT '20 (left) and Brian McDowell '94, MAT '02, were among 117 individuals and organizations honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
Student Success

Two Miami alumni awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

#School teachers and Miami alumni Helen Corveleyn MAT '20 (left) and Brian McDowell '94, MAT '02, were among 117 individuals and organizations honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching ()

President Joe Biden has named Global Field Program graduate Helen Corveleyn MAT ’20, STEM teacher at Hopewell Elementary School in New Jersey, and Brian McDowell ’94 MAT '02, science teacher at Highlands Middle School in northern Kentucky,  as recipients of the 2020 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). 

Corveleyn and McDowell are among 117 individuals and organizations honored with the Presidential Award, which is the highest award kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics and science teachers can receive from the U.S. government.

“I am deeply appreciative of the inspiration that America’s teachers and mentors provide every day to support the next generation of STEM professionals,” President Biden said. The White House announced the PAEMST awardees on Feb. 8.

“STEM education is paramount for creating future leaders and innovators in science which is at the heart of understanding our complex world,” Corveleyn said. “This award recognizes the dedication to my deep love of science, conservation, the environment, and the importance of the human connections between a teacher, her students, and her community.”

Corveleyn earned a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in the biological sciences from Miami through Project Dragonfly‘s Global Field Program while working full-time as a science teacher at Hopewell Elementary School in Hopewell, New Jersey. In addition to being an MAT graduate, Corveleyn also serves on the instructional team of Miami’s Earth Expeditions.

Corveleyn’s international fieldwork with Project Dragonfly included studying island biogeography and whale sharks in Baja, Mexico; investigating orangutans and sustainable palm oil solutions in Borneo; and creating a multimedia-based conservation campaign to support the Belize Zoo and Maya Forest Corridor. Corveleyn connected many of her master’s assignments into her work as a science educator. She facilitated student action groups including “Plastic Pollution Preventers,” “Pollinator Protectors,” and “Little Locavores.”

“Project Dragonfly helped me rediscover myself as a scientist,” said Corveleyn said. “After 20 years in the K-8 classroom, I was reinvigorated by the international field work, incredible instructors, and stimulating coursework offered in this unique field-based master’s degree. I am forever grateful to Dragonfly for giving me wings to reach new heights in conservation.”

McDowell also expressed his gratitude after receiving the same honor.  

“The Presidential Award is validation of time spent writing grants to purchase resources, developing relationships with the community, learning the skills needed to offer the latest technology, and exploring strategies to ensure all students' needs are met,” McDowell said. “The work of continuous improvement is tough but infinitely rewarding. It is awesome that by doing what you love, you are able to receive recognition that will support your ongoing efforts to do even more.”

Prior to becoming a STEM and science teacher at Highlands Middle School in northern Kentucky, McDowell earned a degree in teacher education from Miami. He also earned a master of arts in teaching, biological science, from Miami in 2002  He spent the first 17 years of his 26-year teaching tenure facilitating STEM and science experiences for Mason County Middle School, where he developed the Teaching in the Margins trail. 

Margin activities included a dinosaur trackway, bone assemblage, bird blind, and others, all intended to foster excitement, spontaneity, and improvisation to prompt students to take risks. Using the dinosaur trackway as inspiration, he also co-authored an article for the NSTA's Science Scope called "Making Sense of Dinosaur Tracks."

The article was co-authored with McDowell’s former Miami professor, Ann Haley MacKenzie, associate professor of Teacher Education.  

“Dr. Ann Haley MacKenzie was my Science Methods teacher as I was learning to be a teacher,” McDowell said. “I vividly remember being in her office and noticing her Presidential Award. At that moment, becoming a Presidential Award winner became a goal. It took me 27 years, but we got it done. I say ‘we’ because Dr. Ann and I have stayed in contact. Her work was the inspiration for the Margins Projects that was the foundation of my application for the award.”