Wendy Bartlett, a math teacher at Reagan High School in Pfafftown, says she will do what it takes to make sure her students learn.

“I try to create the lesson so that it makes it easier for them to understand,” said Bartlett. “I don’t know why I’m so driven, but it’s just always been me. If it’s not going to be great, I don’t want to do it. I like things to be done right and done well.”

She said she feels blessed to be a teacher.

“Teaching is a calling and I feel like I get to do what I was put on earth to do every day, so that’s kind of fun.”

In mid-October Bartlett, along with three other North Carolina teachers, joined teachers from across the country in Washington, D.C., to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

The PAEMST is the highest honor bestowed by the federal government specifically for K-12 mathematics and science teaching. The award comes with a certificate signed by the president of the United States and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

“You’re excited because it’s an honor and an affirmation of the hard work that you’ve done for so many years,” Bartlett said. “But I also recognize that there’s so many great teachers out there, so I’m humbled as well.”

Energetic and relentless

Students in Bartlett’s math classes at Reagan High School talked about how excited they are about her national award.

“It was really nice to hear that someone who has been a great help for me was recognized for her hard work,” said Abby Wyss, one of Bartlett’s honors math 2 students.

Abby said that Bartlett has a lot of energy and will joke with students.

“She always has a ton of energy, which makes class exciting,” Wyss said. “Math isn’t always like the most exciting thing, but she finds a way to make it really exciting.”

Semaj Turner, a student in Bartlett’s math 1 class, said he is proud of his teacher.

“She shows that she really cares about us,” said Semaj. “I just see her as a family member …. She treats us like we are her kids. I’m really happy for her.”

Semaj considers it a small world that Bartlett is his teacher.

“Years ago, she taught my mom and years later she teaches me,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

Brad Royal, the principal of Reagan High School, described Bartlett as someone who is “absolutely relentless.”

“I say that because she has this drive that every child is going to learn the material and that they are going to achieve not just at an OK level, or an average level, but they are going to surpass all expectations,” Royal said. “She holds this very high bar for every kid, and she won’t lower it. The cool thing is she helps to get to that place, to help get you to where the bar is.”

For Bartlett to be a recipient of the PAEMST award, Royal said, is outstanding and an honor for her, her family, Reagan High and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system.

He also said she is deserving of the award.

“We could sit here and talk a lot about her mathematical abilities and the way she teaches math, but it’s also the love and the compassion and the passion she has for every single child in her classroom,” Royal said. “You put those two things together and you have a recipe for amazing success.”

More about Bartlett

Bartlett, 44, grew up in Fenwick Island, Del. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Wake Forest University, a master’s of education in math education from UNC Charlotte, and her National Board Certification in mathematics/adolescent and young adulthood.

She is in her 23rd year as a teacher. She joined Reagan High four years ago and previously worked 19 years at Parkland High School.

Other awards Bartlett has received are the Marcellus Waddill Excellence in Teaching Award from Wake Forest University, the Career Award in Science and Mathematics Teaching from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and the Outstanding Secondary Mathematics Teacher for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

She is married to Tim Bartlett and has two children, Jacob Wuwert, 18, a senior at Reagan, and Jessi Kate Bartlett, 13, an eighth-grade student at Meadowlark Middle School.

When asked about the energy that her students praise her for, Bartlett laughed.

“I drink a lot of coffee,” she said.

She added that she runs to stay healthy and keep her energy up.

“I have a wonderful group of running friends,” Bartlett said. “We get up at 4:45 a.m. and we meet three days a week.”

Bartlett and her friends also run on the weekends and participate in half marathons twice a year.

Bartlett is also a band mom. Both her children are in the Reagan High School Band of Raiders Marching Band. Her son is a drum major and her daughter plays a mellophone.

Embracing technology

Bartlett said that she wants her students to own their learning, to be in charge of what they learn because she can’t make them learn.

But she said that part of her job is to “facilitate teaching them how to learn."

“Just because I taught it doesn’t mean they know it,” she said. “How can we make sure they know it together?”

She said she always does test corrections, allowing students to come back and look at a test.

“We have this unit,” Bartlett said. “What did you learn? If you didn’t learn it then we need to go back and figure out why and what you didn’t understand at the time of the test.”

Bartlett has embraced technology in her classroom.

She likes to use desmos.com, a collection of digital activities that are free for teachers to use in their classrooms. On Friday, in her math 1 class, students were writing the equation of a line that would land a plane on a runway.

Bartlett knows firsthand how smartphones, which she calls students’ best friend, can sometimes be the bane of a teacher’s existence.

But she is using the device to engage and communicate with her students through a messaging app called Remind.

“Because I teach them every other day, it’s a way for them to communicate with me since I don’t see them every day,” Bartlett said.

She uses several other technologies for informative assessment, including the Nearpod, Quizizz and Quizlet live websites.

“They are tools for formative assessment so that I can gather data from the students to figure out what they know,” Bartlett said. “I use that to drive instruction, to figure out where I need to go — whether the students have it or I need to stay where I am and continue to practice that.”

She said that the grading component is tough for her.

“If I can use technology to get a sense of what my kids understand and know so that I can move on, that’s important to me, because I can’t always get the feedback to them quickly."

She said that she cares about her students, and tries to get to know them and talk to them one-on-one.

She praises them if they have worked hard but gives them a hard time if they are not doing what they need to do.

The trip

The trip to Washington, D.C. occurred Oct. 16-18, and Bartlett got to take her husband and children along. Her parents, Jeff and Paula Mumford of Delaware, were also there.

Although Bartlett did not get to meet President Donald Trump, she was able to tour the White House and get pictures.

Most of her trip consisted of conference meetings.

She said she and the other award winners from across the country met with a panel from the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy about how to help implement the Federal STEM Education 5-year Strategic Plan.

STEM means science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Bartlett said: “It was neat to see at the federal level what they are trying to do to support STEM education and getting kids into STEM. The report was interesting to read in that they recognize that our country needs to stay competitive in the STEM field if we are going to continue to be successful on an international level. They recognize that it starts with the education that our kids receive.”

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