Paula S. Callender, a biology teacher at Natchitoches Central High School, is one of three teachers in the state of Louisiana to be named a state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is one of the highest recognitions a kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States, with approximately 108 teachers being recognized each year. Callender will attend a luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion Tuesday, Sept. 24, where the finalist will be honored.
These teachers’ portfolios will be forwarded to the national level where they will join math and science teachers from across the nation as they compete in the final round of evaluations, where one overall winner will be chosen. The Presidential Awardees receive a certificate signed by the President of the United States, a trip to Washington D.C. to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation. Callender has an outstanding education background, which includes being certified in all areas of science grades 6-12, as well as being National Board Certified in Early Adolescence Science once in 2007 and renewed in 2017. She also holds a Bachelors of Science in Health and Human Performance from Northwestern State University along with an Instructional Coaching Certification from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
In the future, Callender hopes to complete a master’s degree in higher education leadership and work at a university one day. Professionally, she has continued to strive to be the best. She has been a Northwestern State University Writing Project teacher consultant since 2006, as well as serving as Project Technology Liaison for NSUWP for two years. She has not only presented professional development workshops at the state level, but on the national education scene as a teacher consultant with NSUWP.
One research study through NSUWP resulted in the publication of “It’s My Story and I’ll Tell It Like I Want,” in which teachers and students in rural areas of North Louisiana told their own special life stories. Recently, Callender was named the 2018 Northwestern State University Outstanding Mentor Teacher. Her teaching career began at Converse High School in 2001, teaching a variety of high school sciences. While at CHS, she served on the parish curriculum team and was named Teacher of the Year 2001-02. In 2005, Paula moved to Pleasant Hill High School, where she not only taught all high school sciences, but also during her tenure at PHHS she served as Graduation Coach, Cross Country/Track Coach and was named Teacher of the Year in 2007-08.
In 2013, she returned to Converse High School to serve as Instructional Coach. During her time there, she had the privilege of presenting professional development to multiple grade levels and content area teachers, and worked closely with administration and faculty on strategies to seek improvement in school scores. This work with the faculty, staff, administration and students at CHS saw a significant growth in their SPS scores from 2014 to 2017. In 2017, she decided to return to her first love of being a classroom teacher. Her desire for change led her to Natchitoches Central High School, where she has been teaching biology for three years.
At NCHS, Callender is not only a classroom teacher, but also advisor to the Leo Club and FCA Co-Advisor. Since returning to her classroom she has had an opportunity to work with Northwestern State University’s Department of Education as a student teacher mentor and is currently enrolled in the LDOE’s Mentor Teacher Training program. Outside education, Callender leads a very active life. She is a member of Wallace Baptist Church where she serves as Choir Director and as a member of the Youth Committee. In her spare time, she participates as an actor/musician with Back Alley Theater in Grand Cane and has numerous musicals to her credit. Her dedication to Renee’s Dance Studio is well known; not only have her daughters danced there for the past 13 years but she has also served as a front desk receptionist/bookkeeper for many of those years.
Lastly, Callender is a member of the Sole 2 Soul running team, founded by herself and her close friends after her daughter’s battle with cancer. The Sole 2 Soul team travels all over the south running races, raising money and awareness for Childhood Cancer, Juvenile Diabetes and several other causes dear to their hearts. Callender is married to Doyle Callender and they have two children: Kate, who is a senior at NCHS, and Allison, who is a freshman.