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Mississippi Math, Science Teachers Earn National Recognition


For Immediate Release: August 20, 2019

JACKSON, Miss. – Four Mississippi teachers have been named 2019 state finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The PAEMST Program is the nation’s highest honor for teachers of mathematics and science (including computer science).  

Mississippi’s 2019 PAEMST finalists:

Dr. Shani Bourn

Dr. Shani Bourn, 7-12 Science teacher, Hancock High School, Hancock County School District

  Kenneth Peagler

Kenneth Peagler, 7-12 Science teacher, Starkville High School, Starkville-Oktibbeha School District

Paige Cobb

Paige Cobb, 7-12 Mathematics teacher, Pass Christian High School, Pass Christian School District

  LeShundra Young

LeShundra Young, 7-12 Science teacher, Germantown High School, Madison County School District


Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education. 

“I am incredibly proud of Mississippi’s PAEMST finalists and commend them for their dedication to teaching,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “These teachers are models of the extraordinary teachers who teach in classrooms across the state.”  

A 27-year veteran teacher, Dr. Shani Bourn said her goal “is to provide all students with as many opportunities as possible for growth while fostering an appreciation and excitement for science.” 

Paige Cobb, who teaches the Foundations of Algebra and Algebra I, said, “All student should be held to high expectations, feel valued and safe, and be given an equal opportunity to learn.” 

Kenneth Peagler, who teaches AP Physics and AP Computer Science, among other courses, said, “Education is not about finding or creating the most rigorous and/or entertaining tasks; instead, it’s about building engaged students, who love to learn, who can take any task and will think, persevere, and exceed any goals set for them.” 

LeShundra Young, a nine-year veteran high school teacher who teaches Biology, Chemistry and AP Biology, said, “The art of teaching is to ignite the imagination, inspire creative expression, and instill a love of learning.” 

The PAEMST program, established in 1983 by the White House, allows each state to select up to five state finalists in mathematics and up to five state finalists in science. One of the state finalists in each content area will be selected as the Presidential Awardee for the state, which is the highest recognition that a kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States.  

The Mississippi State Board of Education will recognize Mississippi’s 2019 PAEMST finalists later this fall. National winners are announced approximately a year and a half after state level finalists are identified.


Media Contact: 

Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications

Jean Cook, APR
Director of Public Relations