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Press Release

State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler on Monday praised Melvina Murray, a mathematics teacher at Dakota Elementary School on the Minot Air Force Base, who has been honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

“As we celebrate the Month of the Military Child in North Dakota, it is especially fitting that an outstanding educator of military children is one of the handful of educators across our country who is receiving this award,” Baesler said.

Murray has taught at Dakota Elementary since 2020. Aside from her second-grade math instruction, she began an effort to spread kindness throughout the MAFB community by having students write letters and give treats to young airmen. Her initiative was recognized by Gen. Anthony Cotton, who is now the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

Murray also created monthly cultural bulletin boards to ensure students feel heard and represented.

“Her commitment to excellence in teaching has not only enriched the learning experiences for our students but has also set a high standard for academic best practice at Dakota,” said Kathryn Lenertz, principal at Dakota Elementary. 

“Mrs. Murray’s mastery of the subject matter is exceptional,” Lenertz said in a letter in which she recommended Murray for the honor. “It’s apparent that she has a profound understanding of the content she teaches, and this knowledge is the foundation for the meaningful and fun learning experiences she provides.”

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Teaching (PAEMST), which were established in 1983, are the highest awards given by the U.S. government for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science teaching. Recipients receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation, an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for recognition events and professional development opportunities, and a presidential certificate.

Up to 110 teachers are recognized each year from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands), and Department of Defense schools.

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