A physics teacher at Dutchtown High School in Geismar received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, a national honor announced by President Barack Obama.
Michael “Brenden” Simoneaux, who has taught science at the high school since 2003, is one of only two teachers in the state to receive the award.
“These teachers are shaping America’s success through their passion for math and science,” Obama said in a White House news release announcing the awards.
Each winner of the presidential honor will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at his or her discretion, and the winners will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., later this summer.
“The work these teachers are doing in our classrooms today will help ensure that America stays on the cutting edge tomorrow,” Obama said.
A native of Prairieville, Simoneaux comes from a long line of educators, with members of his family, including his grandmother, great-grandmother and her siblings, teaching a total of 100 years in Dutchtown high schools, a news release from Ascension public schools said.
Simoneaux earned his undergraduate degree in education from LSU in 1988, specializing in chemistry, physics and earth science.
He also earned a master’s degree in music education from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1993 and has performed in the Baton Rouge Concert Band for more than 30 years.
Simoneaux taught physical science, chemistry and honors classes at East Ascension High School for several years before moving to Dutchtown High, where he began teaching chemistry before switching to physics.
“I like it because it was a change for me,” Simoneaux said in a School Board news release.
“I had to work very hard at LSU in physics courses and never dreamed I would be teaching it, much less winning a national award,” he said.
“Having a faculty full of stellar teachers like Brenden Simoneaux is vital to the success of Dutchtown High School,” Ascension Parish Superintendent Patrice Pujol said.
“Mr. Simoneaux is a hard-working science teacher who holds high standards for himself and his students,” she said.
The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching was given this year to 108 math and science teachers in the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity Schools.
The winners are selected by a panel of scientists, mathematicians and educators, following an initial selection process at the state level.
Each year, the award alternates between teachers of kindergarten through sixth grade and those teaching seventh through 12th grade.
This year’s award winners teach seventh through 12th grade.
The other Louisiana winner is Lerri Cockrell, of the David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy in Lafayette.