Paula Shuford-Callender, biology teacher at NCHS was named a recipient of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) in Washington D.C. The PAEMST is the highest award given by the U.S. Government to kindergarten through 12th grade teachers of mathematics and science, including computer science. Awardees are selected from schools in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, as well as several United States territories and commonwealths. Nominations and awards are facilitated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation.
A panel of distinguished mathematicians, scientists and educators at the State and National levels assess the applications before recommending nominees to OSTP. Teachers are selected based on their distinction in the classroom and dedication to improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Callender, who calls Pleasant Hill home, has an outstanding education background. She is not only certified in biology, but in general science (grades six-12), chemistry and physics. Callender became a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence Science in 2007 and continues to hold this certification. She also has a Bachelors of Science in Health and Human Performance from Northwestern State University. She received her Instructional Coaching Certification from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) in 2015.
Last year she added Teacher Mentor to her certification and is currently pursuing her M.ED in Educational Leadership. Professionally, Callender has continued to strive to be the best. She has been a NSU 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. Her teaching career began at Converse High School (CHS) 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, she moved to Pleasant Hill High School (PHHS) where she not only taught all high school sciences, but also served as Graduation Coach, Cross Country/Track Coach and was named Teacher of the Year in 2007-08.
In 2013, the door was opened for the opportunity to serve as Instructional Coach at CHS, which Callender felt was her calling in the educational field at that time. There, she had the privilege of presenting professional development to the teachers, working with the 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 2014-17.
In 2017, her calling once again turned to the classroom, her first love in education. She began to consider a significant change in her education career. Her desire for change led her to NCHS, where she returned to her classroom teaching biology. At NCHS, she is not only a classroom teacher, but also Advisor to the Leo Club and FCA co-advisor. She also serves on the School Improvement Plan Committee. While at NCHS she has had the opportunity to work closely with NSU providing a classroom teaching experience for student teachers and in 2018 was recognized with a NSU Outstanding Mentor Teacher Award.
Not only is this science educator busy honing her teaching skills, she is also very involved in her community. She is the music director at Wallace Baptist Church, and also serves on the Youth Committee. She participates as an actor/musician with Back Alley Theater in Grand Cane. Her dedication to Renee’s Dance Studio is well known, not only does she love having her children dance there, but is also the bookkeeper.
To round out her life, she is married to Doyle Callender and they have two children, Kate, a freshman at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and Allison, a sophomore at NCHS. In her spare time she enjoys running with her Sole 2 Soul running team raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where her daughter Allison has been a patient for 10 years, and several other non-profit organizations. Finally, her instructional goal is intentional: Students who pursue careers after graduation, in or out of STEM fields, should have enough knowledge about STEM topics to make sound life choices at the local, state and federal levels. “In 2010, I spent time at St. Jude Hospital with our daughter.
That experience defines this award to me. There, I saw STEM modeled by people from different cultural and economic backgrounds. Winning PAEMST draws attention to the importance of this type of collaboration in science. Rural, minority students must be given opportunities to engage in speaking, listening and writing skills vital to STEM. Only then will doors open for equal participation in convergent science discussions,” she said.